NCAA to Continue Losing Streak?
The glorious NCAA apparently has forgotten it's rather dismal record in court as it seeks to bring schools on it's hit list into the politically correct make-believe world of sunshine and feel good music.
Hats off to North Dakota officials who have had enough and voted yesterday to sue the NCAA for penalizing the University of North Dakota over its 'Fighting Sioux' nickname and Indian head logo.
The NCAA last year announced it was banning the use of ethically or racially "hostile" or "abusive" nicknames, mascots and imagery at championship events. It found 18 schools, including UND, to be in violation of the policy.
Several of those schools have since changed team names and mascots or won appeals after local tribes came to their defense. In UND's case, though, the NCAA rejected the appeal and told the school it may not use the Fighting Sioux nickname and Indian head logo during NCAA post-season tournaments, and it may not host a tournament if it continues to use them.
Of course certain NCAA pets, one being Florida State, have been given a free pass and allowed to retain their nicknames and logos due, in the case of FSU, to the intervention and support of the Seminole tribe of Florida.
No problem there, but do any of the 'Esquires' think it's somewhat paradoxical that Notre Dame is allowed to use the 'ethically hostile' moniker of 'Fighting Irish' while North Dakota is banned from using 'Fighting Sioux?' Does this somehow mean than an Irishman who fights is more gentile and less hostile than a Sioux who does likewise? And if indeed this is the logic applied, isn't THAT politically incorrect as well?
In order for the NCAA to have a chance here, they'd at least need to show that they apply their asinine rules to all member institutions equally. It could be argued that the Sioux tribe (apparently), has not come to the aid and defense of UND, but where's the official endorsement for Notre Dame from America's 35 million (plus) Irish descendants?
What Could Have Been . . .
Oklahoma announced that it will begin the 2006 season at 6 PM September 2 vs Watson Brown and the University of Alabama Birmingham at Owen Field. The game will be broadcast nationally by TBS, and will mark the 43rd straight time that an OU game has been televised.
Ironically, UAB head coach Watson Brown, (brother of UT coach Mack Brown), was actually 'stealth' hired by Donnie Duncan to serve as the offensive coordinator at OU under the somewhat beleaguered, and offensively challenged, Gary Gibbs, who admittedly was somewhat of a defensive genius.
When Gibbs resigned two years later, Watson sought the head job and patiently sat out the hiring process only to hear that brother Mack was being courted for the job. Mack flew to Norman where he met with Duncan, President Boren and a few regents at the former OU President's home on the corner of Lindset and Pickard. There, Mack tentatively agreed to take the job upon approval of his family.
However, that agreement lasted only a few hours, as Mack learned that OU AD Donnie Duncan had misled his brother and refused to work under an AD who had trouble keeping his word. Although Watson urged Mack to overlook that discretion, and take the job, Mack refused.
Ten days later, Duncan, desperate to save face after the Brown flip, announced that he had hired 'big name' coach Howard Schnellenberger. Instead Howard turned out to be the biggest bust since oil declined to $10 a barrel, and Oklahoma began a slow slide from mediocrity to embarrassment, (under John Blake), until saved and revived by Bob Stoops' arrival in 1999. It was a bizarre turn of events that would have changed the football histories at both Oklahoma and Texas.
Meanwhile Watson has quietly taken UAB from D1 up start into D1 up setter in ten short years. James asked Watson about OU and the September match up:
"Oklahoma looks really good!"
"We wait until somebody gets really, really good again before we put them no the schedule! I'm good at that, (laughing). This defense is fantastic from what I have watched and I am watching it as we speak to tell you're the truth. They are tall, nice looking kids that can really run, and they are very well coached. They are seldom out of position, and they don't give up. They play very hard all the time. There is just not a weakness on their defense. Then of course their offense has some lineman to replace and they need to do some things there, but when you have that number 28 in their backfield you are going to be pretty good. The quarterback got so much better at the end of the year and he started making play-after-play for them. They have a really solid group of wide receivers and I think they are all capable of making things happen. It looks like a team that has that shot at making that championship run again."
We asked Watson what he thought of Rhett Bomar's development.
"From the start of the year to the end of the year his progress is night and day. I think he is now a much better player, which is what you would expect from a guy who has just started to play. He is loaded with ability and he is the kind of quarterback that I like to coach in that he can run and throw. You can do a lot of different things with him. He seems to be very poised and smart. He seems to be a very tough kid. I know his daddy myself, so I know his background and gosh - I just think the future is so great ahead of him. He is going to be a great player."
Watson was asked why OU was scheduled instead of a 'directional' school:
"The AD (Brown himself) put this together. And the football coach and the AD have not liked each other very well here for a while! We have always played very tough schedule. When you start a program from scratch you have to have image, and the only way to get image is to play good people. Then, hopefully, you can compete and win some of those. Money is another reason. It is a money issue with us too. We are coming to Norman for a lot of reasons, but I also think there was a little something personal to it. I would like to come back and see a lot of people myself too."
The UAB opener will be followed a week later by a contest with the University of Washington on September 9, set to kickoff at 2:30 PM, and be televised by ABC. Washington is one of two Pacific-10 Conference opponents on the OU schedule for 2006. On Sept. 16, the Sooners play at Oregon in a game that also was picked up by ABC and set for a 2:30 PM (CT) start.
A starting time of 1:30 PM was announced for the November 25 Bedlam match-up with our friends from Stillwater. That game will be televised nationally by Fox - giving the Pokes some badly needed TV exposure.
Voluntary Workouts . . .
Former Sooner coach, Mike Stoops, now the head cheese at Arizona, was in town last week for a few days for big brother's golf tournament when one local media member asked him if summer workouts were really and truly 'voluntary' if over 98% of the team members participate.
"Of course they are," Stoops answered.
"Yeah, but the fact that almost everyone shows up in the hot summer to train makes you question if they are truly voluntary or mandatory," the media mogul persisted.
"Yeah, well I guess that's because they know that who I play in the fall is totally 'voluntary' on my part." Stoops answered. You just can't beat 'Stoops Logic.'
With that for an opener, almost all of the varsity is on campus and participating in voluntary workouts, which under Jerry Schmidt certainly have to be strenuous and sometimes bordering on torturous in 90 degree heat.
With some of the 'Scribes and Pharisees' in the local media looking for sophomore QB Rhett Bomar to magically transform himself into an angelic being, the question of Rhett's maturity comes into discussion. But while it's easy for us to pass judgment on a college kid, caught red handed sipping on a shameful suds at a Hornets basketball game 90 days before his 21st birthday, the worried editorialists can rest assured that Rhett is at least showing advanced maturity in taking over the offense, sans the distractions of a quarterback race last fall involving the ever popular Paul Thompson.
This summer the offense has become Rhett's offense, and he is taking charge. But maybe we'd all be happy if Rhett worked at the homeless shelter after practice each day, instead of - gasp, attending a party where the music was turned up too high.
With the Sooners throwing for only the first time Thursday, mixing freshmen and veterans in the same workout, most of the defensive players garnered the majority of the 'oooh's and ahhh's, over the first ten days of summer workouts.
C.J. Ah You continues to build on his Holiday Bowl MVP award and has turned himself into an incredible physical specimen. He is giant and yet can run a 4.6. John Williams, who coaches say might have been our best, (most consistent), DE prior to getting hurt last year, is recovering well and will be ready to go to by two a-days.
Rufus Alexander has become a tremendous leader on defense and a key to the LB position. The injury to Ryan Reynolds was a blow to the line backing corps, but Ryan is already working out a bit and staying in shape by working his upper body hard. Much like Jason White did after his injuries, Ryan is showing extreme leadership as he does everything he can at 100%. Reynolds has the total package and also has the confidence from the staff that will allow him to play any of the three LB positions.
Demarrio Pleasant was running just a step behind Reynolds, and now that the spot is his to take, he's making the most with all the pieces falling into place. He has also gained the physical maturity necessary to play and is now up to 235 pounds. And Lamont Robinson, who red shirted last year, looks like he is going to be a good one as well, and will likely play a lot on special teams this fall.
Young safeties Nic Harris, and Keenan Clayton continue to impress. Harris continues to get bigger, and is currently going through workouts at 225 pounds. Clayton is faster than Harris and currently weighs 218. Jason Carter is showing both the physical and mental maturity of a junior and getting stronger every week.
One highly touted young man came in last year and had a medical emergency in his first ten days that required immediate attention and prevented him from playing any last fall. Now however, DT DeMarcus Ganger is ready to contribute and outlined his summer goals:
"I want to improve my lower body strength and improve my agility and quickness. I am still trying to recover from my surgery when I first got here. I lost quite a bit of leg strength during that time and this is the time where I can get it back. I will get stronger, but I haven't put any goals or limits on how much. My weight is good at around 300 and that is where I want to be at this summer. Maybe at 305 or so - that all depends on what Coach Shipp and Coach Smitty want."
"The workouts are gong well, but it's been tough. It is always tough in the summer here with Smitty, but I know if I work hard I will get better and I will become a better player. We're doing all kinds of drills and I think as a team we are doing great so far."
Demarcus has been impressed by several returning players, but two in particular:
"I have been impressed with everybody, but especially C.J. Ah You and Rufus Alexander. Both of those guys work so hard and they set a good example for the rest of us."
Newcomers Drawing Rave Reviews . . .
All of the freshmen have had their impressive moments, but a few are beginning to stand out in summer workouts. This obviously is no guarantee, or indication, of talent or playing time, just some who have made an early impression on the Sooner Strength & Speed staff – this week.
Out of newcomers in OL the most impressive three thus far have been Chase Beeler, Trent Williams, and Brandon Walker. Beeler has taken an early leadership position in the freshman class and also has done very well in the workouts, posting a best consecutive bench of 315 pounds 18 times.
"He's been much better than we thought, so far," one S&S staff member said. "It would not surprise me to see him get to play some this year. He's going to be very good, if he continues to work this hard."
However the most impressive looking freshman OL has been Trent Williams of Longview, TX, who some staff members say already looks like ‘Son of Godzilla.' The early progress of both Beeler and Williams will have to give the coaching staff room to breathe a huge sigh of relief.
Brandon Walker continues his own version of 'Iron man' workouts and is setting a great example for future new arrivals in attitude and ambition.
Brandon Crow, who we have crowned as the reincarnation of former KSU LB stud Brent Venables, also proved to be very strong, benching close to 260 pounds 18 times. Crow is also an incredibly hard worker and is not afraid of the heat.
Sam Bradford has shown that he was no recruiting afterthought and is as athletic as advertised. At running back, Chris Brown and Demarco Murray are probably a bit ahead of Mossis Madu physically, at this point, but Madu is a hard worker and can not be overlooked.
Quinton Carter, who may still rank as the steal of the class, has gotten bigger and stronger and could be in the mix to play this fall. If not – certainly in the future. Meanwhile, Jonathan Nelson blew the doors off the Everest workout center with a blazing 40 time (4.42) and one of the best verticals seen in a while (40"). Reportedly, it could have been even higher, as he was coming ‘down' when the jump was registered.
One S&S observer noted, "Jonathon has a pretty light frame, but with his speed, instincts and ability to cover, he'll round into one heck of a player in a year or two. His bulk we can work on, but you just can't produce that kind of speed and leaping ability. He's the perfect specimen for our program."
Prior to passing drills, Adron Tennell had impressed with his athleticism as well over the first ten days, and yes, it's true that Jeff Capel may ask Stoops to allow Tennell to help on the hardwood come January. Jermaine Gresham looks like he is progressing well from minor knee surgery and has looked very good, while Gerald McCoy, is content with getting to his business and setting a work out standard, sometimes doing twice the daily assignment.
And now for some Bad News . . .
And, for those who relish bad news and cloudy days, red shirt freshman offensive lineman Brian Simmons underwent an MRI and the results are still inconclusive, with estimates ranging anywhere from a month to five months.
Simmons was lifting weights in the OU weight room when one of his knees gave out. At this point, the OU medical team is not sure how significant the injury as there is still some evidence for either scenario. Simmons was switched to OL in the Spring and showed remarkable progress. Although he was not slated to start this year, he surprisingly showed enough talent to at least challenge for playing time along a still somewhat depth depleted offensive line.
And the Chris Patterson saga continues. Patterson has worked hard in the classroom after a year of nonchalant effort, and is one course away from an NEO degree. However at this time the debate is within the OU admissions department, where it appears that the consensus says that a course or two at NEO would not count, particularly in Chris' declared major. On the other hand several others have suggested that a degree from an accredited JC is acceptable, and that Chris should be allowed to enroll upon completion of his final course in late July.
It all should be sorted out later next week, but right now it's a very 'iffy' situation. Reportedly, some other D1 schools in the Big Ten have been talking to Patterson and said that he is eligible at their schools upon completion of his final course this summer.
Evolutionary Changes on the Field . . .
Even teams that run the same offense year after year must make subtle changes to adapt to changing personnel and modifications dictated by new coaching changes. At Oklahoma, offensively, look for the Sooners to be a bit more multiple – and slightly less of a 'pro look' under new OC Kevin Wilson this fall.
The differences may manifest themselves more in attitude than alignment. The somewhat conservative Chuck Long preferred the more traditional methodical pro-style offense, that generally would not alter a game plan, and were somewhat predictable, but efficient, hammering away waiting for one mistake by the defense to break a big play.
Wilson on the other hand, prefers to design a game plan to attack the weak link(s) on the defensive side of the ball, and employs an offense that waits for mistakes as well, but in the mean time is harder to guess right against on every play. The offense could be markedly different, depending on the opponents strengths, from week to week.
As an example of each system, we'll see both contrasting styles in early upcoming opponents. Washington uses more of a conservative ‘pro' offense and UAB with a wide open - anything goes - but a somewhat more risky offense.
Neither system is fool proof, and there is no right or wrong, but perhaps more of what a particular coach is most comfortable with. Time will tell if the more multiple offensive schemes will bring the Sooners feast or famine this fall.
The current projected OL would be Chris Messner and Branndon Braxton at OT, Duke Robinson at LG, Jon Cooper at OC and either J.D. Quinn or Walker at RG. Then you will have Sherrone Moore, Trent Williams and or Quinn or Walker as back-ups. Don't be surprised if Chase Beeler is the not the back-up center. But that could also be Quinn, (who does very well against anybody not named Dusty Dvoracek). Also, TE Brody Eldridge has progressed well and could push for PT by October.
And speaking of Chuck Long, we suspect that he'll turn San Diego State into a West Coast powerhouse within three to five years.
We should also see some slight changes on the defensive side as well, most predicated by the talent and growing maturity of returning players.
The past two years, OU has been hobbled by inexperience, injuries and bad luck in the defensive backfield. Now that the numbers have been re-stocked, look for that area to be solid for time. As we have said, Bob Stoops believes that a sudden shortage in the defensive backfield shackles the entire defense. Although we joke about Bob not turning away DB's in the recruiting process, the last two years have proven him right. Now that the Sooners have their depth and talent upgraded considerably, and with the quality of new recruits and commitments, we'll see a return to Stoops dominating style defense over the next 3-4 years.
One positive result of spring ball was the development of the defensive backfield, particularly Lendy Holmes and Reggie Smith, but also the freshmen DB's that all progressed. This will allow the Sooners to play more DB's and do more things, instead of seeing four exhausted DB's in the fourth quarter, particularly against passing teams such as Oregon and Texas Tech.
Specifically, look for the Sooners to employ a bit more ‘man' coverage this year, and throw in some ‘cover 3' as well; (i.e. three ‘zones' with one DB ‘free'). Currently, the four corners expected to play next year are Reggie, Holmes, D.J. and Brian Jackson, who is getting close to a full recovery. But one of the freshman could slip through, and Marcus Walker will also be in the picture, but his health status is still up in the air.
The graduation of LB Clint Ingram figures in here as well. Ingram was often dropped into coverage last year, as he had a great knack for knowing how to play the run and pass without sellinjg out to either. But this year we'll probably see Reggie Smith take on a modified 'Roy' position on many passing downs, bringing in one of the younger DB's at the same time.
The DE rotation is most likely going to be Larry Birdine, C.J. Ah You, Thibs and Williams. However Alonzo Dotson continues to impress and will be ready when he gets a chance.
More Camp Fallout . . .
After a week of camps, the OU staff apparently has studied film and compared notes and has moved some prospects up on their charts.
We've mentioned OL Anthony Morgan (6-4 / 330) from Lancaster, Texas as a strong possibility for an offer. Morgan's camp performance garnered serious attention and he could have an offer by August.
Receiver Corey Wilson, (6'0, 185, 4.4), Carrollton (Creekview HS), Texas, brother of former Sooner Travis Wilson also made a smash hit impression, and ended up with OU's newest offer. Corey certainly does not shy away from Travis' shadow, but at the same time understands that he has his own reputation to earn.
"I really don't mind it, but I just want people to realize that we are two different players," said Wilson. "We do some of the same things and have some of the same abilities, but we are two different players. He has a bigger frame than I do, but I think I have more moves. We are both fast and explosive. He proved that he was a great player and is now with Cleveland (Browns). Now I am looking forward to proving that I am a very good player."
"Right now my decision is between OU and Texas Tech. OU is my favorite," said Wilson. "At first, I wasn't interested in OU because I didn't want to go somewhere where Travis went. I wanted to set my own mark. I talked it over with my brother and my mom and they said that Oklahoma is the type of school where I could set my own legacy, and that playing at Oklahoma would be better for me in the long run."
"I think I would have more of an opportunity early at Texas Tech, but I think Oklahoma is doing a better job getting wide receivers ready for the pros. My brother also says that if I went to Oklahoma that my life after football would be better for it."
Wilson says he'd like to make a decision before school starts in late August.
OU is looking hard at Chandler, Arizona DE Cameron Jordan, (6-4 / 240), son of former Vikings TE Steve Jordan. Jordan is currently being recruited by Hawaii, Nebraska and Oregon State at DE. Jordan currently leads the state of Arizona with a discus throw of 173 feet.
Hold One for a Kicker . . .
We mentioned a couple of kickers that OU would likely offer last week. We do know that OU will reserve a scholarship for one, if they can get one of the nation's best.
That's exactly how Matt Szymanski, (6'2, 190), A&M Consolidated, Texas is ranked as the #2 PK in the country. Szymanski has one of the strongest legs in the country and he is so good at what he does that he can control a game with his leg.
"My stats were pretty good last year, 85 to 90 percent of my kick-offs were touchbacks and out of the end zone. On field goals, I made 19-for-26 with a longest of 61 yards. I also had a 52, 48 and 47 yard field goals. As a punter, I averaged 39 yards per punt. I would like to do both in college and most colleges are recruiting me to both kick and punt."
Szymanski lives right next door to Texas A&M and committed to the Aggies a year ago this month. But Fran must have the faithful scared to death early, as Szymanski and other Aggie recruits are likely candidates to bolt at the first blowout.
"I am committed to Texas A&M, but there are other schools that are recruiting me that have offered me scholarships," said Szymanski. "Notre Dame, LSU and Oklahoma have offered me. Florida is also interested in me. I am really pretty open to anything right now."
Recruiting . . .
We'll hold to our prediction that OU will offer 14 or 15 scholarships, although when it's all said and done that number could be as low as 12 or as high as 17. To date, five are on board, leaving approximately 10 to go.
Because of the severe numbers crunch, OU coaches are being very cautious this year, and like last year, athletes capable of playing more than a single position are getting the majority of the attention. The current projected makeup of the class, by primary position is QB: 0 to 1; RB: 1; WR: 2 (one slot and one wide); OL: 3; DE: 2; LB 2 (done); DB: 3; K: 1; TE and FB - probably none.
Here are the prospects listed at their PRIMARY position.
QUARTERBACK - Projected: 0 - 1 / Current QB Commitments: 0
G.J. Kinne QB (6-1 / 215 / 4.6) Gilmer, Texas
If the Sooners find a fit they'll offer. Although the Sooners have not specifically offered Kinne, (6-1 / 215 / 4.6), as a QB, he's the one they like the best as of today, and the most likely at the position.
There was a report earlier this week quoting Kinne as saying his 'three favorites' were Florida, Tennessee and Baylor with no mention of Oklahoma being in the picture. But Kinne said later that he did mention OU, but the question he was asked was; "What schools are recruiting you the hardest as a QB?"
Our opinion is that Kinne is probably the best available, and certainly would get a shot at QB if he committed. Therefore we expect OU to offer him in the next 90 days as a QB. However, in the past Oklahoma has been totally honest with prospects and while it seldom gets them out of the gate the fastest, it generally pays off in their favor when the recruits realize that they have to totally trust the coaches that are courting them.
RUNNING BACK - Projected: 1 / Current Commitments: 0
Running Back Prospects:
Lennon Creer RB (6-1 / 195 / 4.45), Tatum, TX
Joseph Reese RB (6-2 / 190 / 4.4), of Pflugerville, TX ('Soft' A&M Commitment)
While there are many great backs out there, OU wants a 'perfect fit' and has their eyes on only two at the moment, Lennon Creer and Joseph Reese. It's possible that another great back that fits OU's system could emerge, but it's more likely that Oklahoma will bet the house on one of the above, taking the first one to solidly verbal.
Lennon Creer ranked among the nation's top ten running backs, has a final four of Miami, LSU, Oklahoma and Texas. It unclear whether Texas backed off of it's early June ultimatum. Mack had told Creer that if he did not commit by June 4, the Longhorns would probably go in another direction. Creer did not commit by the deadline, and now it's the Longhorns who have to walk, or admit that they were just bluffing.
RECEIVERS - Projected: 2 / Current Commitments: 0
Arrelious Benn WR (6'2 / 205 / 4.4), Washington D.C. (Dunbar)
Ron Brooks SR (6-0 / 170 / 4.5) Irving, TX (MacArthur)
Dez Bryant WR (6-1 / 203 / 4.6) Lufkin, TX
James Kirkendoll SR (5-11 / 178 / 4.4), of Round Rock, TX
Greg Little WR (6-3 / 205 / 4.5) Durham, NC (Hillside)
Terrance Toliver WR (6-5 / 185 / 4.4), Hempstead, TX
Corey Wilson, (6-0 / 185 / 4.4), Carrollton (Creekview HS), TX.
Washington D.C, Dunbar receiver Arrelious Benn, (6-2 / 205 / 4.4), is ranked as the top receiver in the nation, and you can bet that every D1 school has offered.
"I would say Illinois, Maryland, Florida State, Notre Dame and USC are my top five. I don't have a favorite. I've seen Illinois, Notre Dame and Maryland so far, and I am getting ready to see USC. I do have a little interest in Oklahoma. I have to get down there and see the place. I am not sure how I am going to be able to do that, but I want to see Oklahoma."
"I am looking for a coaching staff that will be straight-forward with me. I want to play in an offense that throws the ball and has a good reputation for recruiting quarterbacks."
One big receiver that the Sooners covet, Terrance Toliver, (6-5, 182, 4.5), is now ranked as the nation's #2 receiving prospect. This week, Tolliver returned from an unofficial visit to LSU and the visit put the Tigers at the head of the pack.
"Let's just put it this way, LSU is up there," Toliver said. "But I also like Texas A&M, USC, Miami, Oklahoma and Florida--but that's in no order."
"I was going to wait out the recruiting process but it's getting hectic with all these people calling me. So, I'm planning on committing sometime once the season starts after I take some more visits," Toliver said.
When you look at all of Tolivar's recent statements, the Sooners do have hope, particularly in two areas, winning and distance.
"I didn't think location would be a big factor, but now I realize it will turn out to be an issue if I go too far away. So, I'd like to go far - but not too far, because I hope my family can come to my games. When I'm looking at schools, I am looking to win. If they offer me a good education and I get along with the coaches--then that's real important too," Tolliver said.
OU will want one quick as lightning slot back and one taller big receiver. Brooks, Kirkendoll and Wilson project as slot receivers, the others fit the mold of a fluid outside receiver. Benn and Little are probably long shots, while any of the others are very possible.
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN - Projected: 3 / Current Commitments: 0
Offensive Line Prospects:
Tray Allen OL (6-4½ / 290 / 5.3), Grand Prairie, TX (committed to UT, but still talking to OU).
Javario Burkes OL (6-6½ / 300 / 5.2), Phoenix, AZ (Moon Valley)
Ryan Miller OL (6-8 / 280 / 5.1), of Littleton, CO
Po'u Palelei OL (6-3 / 314 / 5.8) Las Vegas (Bishop Gorman)
Matt Romine OL (6-6 / 275 / 5.2) Tulsa, OK (Union)
Lee Ziemba OL (6-7 / 295 / 5.2) Rogers, AR
The Sooners need three OL's, and are in on the nation's best, but so are other great programs. OU probably has an edge here because of low numbers that shout 'OPPORTUNITY' to any prospect that can reason and count, as well as consider the NFL picks that OU has had under Stoops. Any three from the above list would give Bob Stoops goose bumps.
In the future Oklahoma may opt for lighter OL's like Beeler, Cory Brandon and Trent Williams. Although Duke Robinson and now Curtis Bailey have done an admirable job of shedding pounds and getting into shape, it's unrealistic to believe that the Sooners can continue to have that kind of dedication in new arrivals. It's far easier to add size and muscle slowly from day one, than to begin the process by shedding 30 - 40 unwanted pounds and then turning what's left into muscle.
Po'u Palelei, (6-3 / 314 / 5.8), is the latest outstanding talent from Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas. BG has had a U.S. Army All-American for the past two years; first with linebacker Ryan Reynolds, and then last season with running back DeMarco Murray. Both opted for Oklahoma, does that mean Palelei might join them?
He might, but the odds have Palelei staying out west, as he currently lists Arizona, Washington, Oklahoma, Arizona State and Oregon as his top-five schools.
Five-star OL Lee Ziemba, (6-7 / 295 / 5.2), of Rogers, AR is in seriously looking for the right fit for him, and the Sooners are in the picture. search of the right fit for his college career. He is making a list of the pros and cons of each school remaining on his list.
He's about to hit the road for several more summer college visits. "I need to see LSU and Nebraska," he said. Over the past 12 months Ziemba has visited or camped at Michigan, Auburn, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Tennessee, Alabama and Arkansas.
Ziemba's father attended Auburn, which should at least make this a fair fight, as most Arkansas prospects feel an inordinate amount of pressure to commit to the Hogs.
DEFENSIVE ENDS - Projected: 2
Current Commitments: 1
Jontae Bumpus - (6-4 / 220 / 4.6) Muskogee, OK. Bumpus finished with 96 tackles, four sacks and 17 tackles for losses. Big frame projects a +250 lb DE in time. Bumpus runs the 200M (23.5) and 400M (54.9) in track and he will also play basketball next year.
Defensive End Prospects:
Frank Alexander DE (6'4 ½ / 229 / 4.7), Baton Rouge, LA (Southern Lab)
Everson Griffen DE (6-4 / 265 / 4.55), Avondale, AZ
Richetti Jones DE (6'3½ / 235 / 4.7), Dallas, TX (Lincoln)
The Sooners need two, and with Muskogee's Jontae Bumpus already in the fold, the Sooners would salivate over any of the three on the table. The three that are left could play for anyone anywhere, and OU hopes to land one of the three.
Big-Time DE Richetti Jones visited unofficially last week and the visit did not hurt the Sooners chances.
"It was kind of a spur of the moment thing. My parents and I had talked about it a week before and just decided to head to Norman. We said we might as well, because we didn't have anything else better to do. That was my first time to see OU and Norman. I loved everything about it, the facilities, players and coaches. Everything was nice."
"I fit perfectly with their defense. I want to be one of the best pass rushers in college football and that is all their defensive ends do — pass rush off the edge."
Jones says the Sooners are in his top five, (Texas, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, OSU and A&M), but has no clear cut favorite at the moment. But still - it looks like it might come down to Texas, OU and A&M.
"I have a lot of interest in Texas. They are one of the schools on my list, but not any more than Oklahoma or Texas A&M. Texas A&M has a very good recruiting process and they show a lot of love when I go there. They have let me know that they want me to be an Aggie. Texas has good recruiting techniques as well. Oklahoma is not as pushy, but Oklahoma is untouchable in some ways."
At first it seems unlikely, but Frank Alexander of Baton Rouge Southern Lab, is still hanging around the Sooners radar screen. Alexander fits right in with the very best DE's in the country. A tornado to block off the end, he never loses a battle on the outside and always finds a way to get into the backfield.
"I have quick feet and good hips," said Alexander. "I think I have good strength, and then the bottom line is that you just have to want it more than the offensive line."
If OU is to get Alexander, they have to beat hometown favorite LSU, but they do have a chance.
"I have to say that LSU is my leader because my cousin went there and I grew up around there. I like Oklahoma too. I would say that OU and LSU are my top two schools. I'll probably take an official visit to Oklahoma, but I don't think I will take one to LSU, it doesn't make any sense to take an official visit to a school where I can drive to it."
Meanwhile Arizona's Everson Griffin, who may be the nation's best DE, is believed by everyone except Oklahoma to be favoring a Pac 10 destination. But until he does, they will not give up on him.
DEFENSIVE LINEMEN - Projected: 1 / Current Commitments: 0
Defensive Line Prospects:
Joseph Barksdale (6-5½ / 315 / 4.9), Detroit, MI (Cass Technical HS)
Rolando Barragan DT/DE (6-3 / 262 / 4.8) El Camino JC (CA)
Two needed, and it will help if they are versatile enough to play another position. And the two most likely prospects are Barksdale and Barragan, although it's possible that another DT offer may come later if these two opt elsewhere.
The newest Sooner offer just went to Detroit's Joseph Barksdale, who is fighting the notion that he could be a great offensive tackle. However it's the truth, although he also excels on the defensive front, and if that's where he insists upon playing, he probably won't get too many arguments. Every top program in the country has offered, and as of now it's wide open.
DEFENSIVE BACKS - Projected: 3
Current Commitments: 2
CB Desmond Jackson, (6'1 / 190 /4.5), Seguin, Texas). Jackson is one of the top 2 or 3 CB's in Texas this year and so good that you can argue that he is the best cornerback in Lone Star State. And at worst, one of the top two corners in Texas. Desmond finished his junior year with seven interceptions, six of which were returned for touchdowns. He finished with 70 tackles, 13 tackles-for-loss and five sacks. He also returned one punt return for a touchdown (83 yards) and one kick return for a touchdown (91). As a sophomore, Jackson had 85 tackles and 13 pass break-ups.
CB Jamell Fleming - (5-11 / 197 / 4.5) Arlington TX - Sequin HS. Fleming is one of those lockdown, crackdown type of cornerbacks that allows a defense to do some crazy things in the secondary and with the rest of the defense. He can take away one side of the secondary and leave all the other three players to any number of zones.
Defensive Back Prospects:
Christian Scott (6'0½, 189, 4.4), Dallas, TX (Skyline)
Jermaine Love (5-11½ / 206 / 4.4) Garland, TX (North)
Two down and one to go, (although we have already mentioned Bob Stoops' propensity to grab all the outstanding DB's available to avoid the situation that OU found themselves in the past two years).
When Stoops and Co arrived in Norman in 1999, they outlined their defensive strategy to high school coaches at the initial Bob Stoops coaching clinic.
"Our defense starts with 'lock down' corners that can cover man to man and deny the football, Stoops explained. If we have those players on the squad, it allows us to install our preferred defense. Everything works off of those guys, they'll allow you to run all kinds of options and blitz's up front. If we don't have them, our defense is at risk on every play - and we have to make adjustments and gamble more than what we'd like."
It's no surprise then that Bobby Jack Wright went after the nations' best physical corners early, and now the Sooners have two, (Jamell Fleming and Desmond Jackson), that fit the above description.
That leaves Safety, and depending on what position they are listed at, it's still a pretty short list at the moment, wit the Sooners targeting two Texans, Christian Scott and Jermaine Love.
Free safety Christian Scott, (6'0½, 189, 4.4), from Dallas Skyline, is one of the top safeties in the country (ranked #9) and probably the best in Texas, has over 25 offers - that he has an interest in, including OU, Florida, Notre Dame, Florida State, A&M, Tennessee, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Texas, Arizona and others.
"I have a lot of options and I wish I had the time to visit every school that offered me," Scott said. "I'd like to play early and play for coaches that are laid back and honest. I want to be a better player and I need coaches to tell me what to do."
In talking with James this week he admitted that the attention was sometimes shocking. "It's hard to deal with the attention, but at the same time, it feels good."
Christian has not officially narrowed his list own, but the reported leaders are Florida, FSU, LSU, A&M along with Oklahoma. The Texas offer came after his unofficial OU visit two weeks ago, and it's not known how serious the Horns are, or if they really have the room.
We'll also list Jermaine Love (5-11½ / 206 / 4.4), of Garland, TX below as an 'athlete,' but make no mistake, he is very capable at safety, as well as several other positions.
NOTE: We have been asked about Norman's Ryan Broyles, who plays the game as well as anyone, anywhere, but is still without an official OU offer. The knock here is not ability, technique, speed, or talent. He has everything except good size. Ryan (5-10 / 170), could still grow an inch or two and add 20 pounds, but that hasn't happened - yet.
As much as OU loves him, they have to first take kids that project to the size requirements of top level D1 ball, and it's much safer to take prospects who have already reached them at the same age. Anything can happen here, but Ryan is one prospect that the entire staff is rooting for.
LINEBACKER - Projected: 2
Current Commitments: 2
LB Austin Box - (6-3 / 217 / 4.6), Enid, OK. Box is one amazing athlete, playing anywhere and everywhere, including QB last year when Box threw for 1,400 yards, rushed for and 28 total touchdowns, while also making 70 tackles and three interceptions on defense. Probably the top player in Oklahoma this year.
LB Mike Reed - (6-3 / 250 / 4.6), Yuba JC, Marysville, CA. Reed, a devastating middle linebacker, was the first to commit as Brent Venables wasted no time in getting this human wrecking ball on the dotted line on March 29. Played HS ball in Vero Beach, Florida, had offers form Florida, Auburn and several SEC teams but just missed qualifying and decided to hone his skills at JC.
Oklahoma is very happy with their two LB commitments and will close the door unless there are career ending injuries or other unforeseen events. They are confident that Mike Reed will tear the JC ranks up this year and also extremely excited about the future of Austin Box, who was this week elevated to the #1 prospect ranking in the country at safety.
Obviously, OU plans to play Austin at LB, but this ranking does indicate the talent level of Box, who probably will go both ways for Enid this year, (QB & LB).
PK / PUNTER: Projected: 0 - 1 / Current P/PK Commitments: 0
Kicker / Punter Prospects:
Wesley Bryan (6-0 / 180) Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas (Florida)
Stephen Hoge, (6-2 / 200), OKC PC North
Jimmy Stevens, (5-6 / 170), OKC Heritage Hall
Matt Szymanski, (6-2 / 190), A&M Consolidated, Texas ('Soft' commitment to A&M)
Oklahoma will likely go into early fall before deciding on who to go after the hardest, but these four standout as the leaders at the moment. Wes Bryan has the ability to punt and place kick, and Stephens is a huge favorite in Norman and may be the most accurate, but size may be his only drawback.
Putnam North's Stephen Hoge has come on strong after a solid camp showing, and Szymanski is probably waiting for the other shoe to drop in College Station, as continual rumors of dissatisfaction, fueled by UT's incessant National Championship bragging, have top flight Aggies and donors in a turmoil over Fran's dismal on field performance.
ATHLETES: Projected: 1 - 4 / Current Commitments: 0
Defensive Back Prospects:
Ben Bass DE/OL (6-4 / 260 / 4.9), Plano, TX (West)
Dewey Elliot (6-1 / 240 / 4.6), Fairfield, OH
Chad Jones Ath (6-3 / 220 / 4.5) Baton Rouge, LA (Southern Lab)
Gerald Jones (6-1/190/4.49) OKC (Millwood)
Cameron Jordan DE (6-4 / 240), Chandler, Arizona (offer likely)
Travis Lewis S - Ath (6'2, 220, 4.34), San Antonio, TX (Lee)
Jermaine Love Ath (5-11½ / 206 / 4.4) Garland, TX (North)
Sam Proctor Ath (6'1 / 205 / 4.4), Pearland, TX
These are the guys that are equally outstanding at more than one position, not just on the high school level, but projecting to the college level. They are particularly valuable in a short year due to the fact that several units (DB, DE, OL, LB, DL) can project a player playing in their group.
The reality of recruiting is not only school vs school, but each position coach on the squad also wants to restock. That's the coach's responsibility, to build a unit that's as good or better than anyone else on the schedule, and to have adequate depth to account for injuries and attrition.
Ideally, most teams want to recruit a 'full team' each year. By that we mean one payer for every position on the team. Anytime there are more than 22 scholarships available that's not difficult. But with only 12 - 15 currently on the board, it makes for tense staff meetings and can pit receivers against defensive backs or offensive linemen against linebackers.
When prospects come in that can play multiple positions, it allows a safety net for the position coaches to know that there are talented replacements available, for both the short and long term. Lendy Holmes 'transferring' from receiver to DB is an example this year of an 'athlete' moving from a position that is currently well stocked to a position where a shortage in numbers or talent is effecting the team.
We say that we project 1 - 4 athletes to come in with the class signing next February. Obviously, that number will be primarily dependant on availability, and openings in the above positions. Several of these prospects are excellent RB's, and they could get an offer if Creer or Reese elect another school, or be brought in to play multiple positions.
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