Two Weeks and Counting . . .
Two weeks into fall drills and two weeks before the opening kickoff, we only have a glimpse of what the 2006 Sooner team will look like, but we do know now that it will still be young and apparently much improved over last year. Two words explain the transformation, depth and experience, as the talent has always been there.
Injuries and a couple of offensive line defections derailed what was going to be a rebuilding year early on last year. This year, Oklahoma has not suffered any serious injuries - although the dismissal of Bomar and Quinn still linger like a slowly dissipating fog over this team.
Obviously, if Paul Thompson is playing as well as the coaches indicate, and better than what he showed in the Sooner's first scrimmage, the 'fog' with disappear with the first breeze of success.
Kevin Wilson has faith that Thompson will make the Sooners' offense work. "I don't think it's a stretch when we say we're very confident he'll play really well," Wilson says. "He has a tremendous supporting cast around him.
"It will come down to what the line can handle and what Paul is comfortable with," said Wilson. "We have a good enough team, playmaker-wise and defensively, that if we can take the negatives away, we could be explosive."
All probably true. But the initial scrimmage, while not designed to give away any offensive secrets, was inconclusive.
However the statements from all the members of the coaching staff, as well as other players, have all been optimistic. Either Thompson is running the 'new' wrinkles well behind closed doors, or someone has brainwashed 109 people into thinking he's doing well enough.
So What Can We Expect ?
The realistic expectation at this point should be somewhere in between. Only 'real-time' experience can offer any further proof either for or against all reports.
The fact is that Thompson was almost good enough to win the job last year, but fell flat against TCU, a team the Sooners should have handled by two or three touchdowns in the opener. But that forgettable performance can not all be laid at the feet of Paul Thompson. Some of the blame has to go to a very dull game plan, even more to an offensive line that, as a unit, looked lost in space on almost every snap. And perhaps a bit of blame on a defense that did not exactly smother opponents with successive three and outs. Bob Stoops agrees that coaching has to take some of the blame for the TCU debacle.
"We were still in the Jason White-Josh Heupel-Nate Hybl mode," said Stoops. "It had been awfully good for us, but did we play to Paul's strengths? I don't think that we totally did."
Out with the Old, In With the New . . .
No use re-hashing old news. That was then, this is now.
There were signs that the coaches are telling the truth, not just at QB, but all across the board. The first scrimmage drew praise from Sooner coach Bob Stoops who gave the first outing a thumbs-up review.
"We knew what we were going to work on today and what else is to come," Stoops said after last Saturday's outing. "(Hopefully), we'll keep progressing that way."
He pointed out the lack of penalties, the offensive line's play and a fumble-free evening as great positives OU can take pride in after only a week of drills. Perhaps those things seem trite, but if you recall last year the same thing could not be said mid-way through fall drills.
"There's more to come," Stoops said. "You can only work on so much in so many days. We're trying to bring the offense along in different stages. We have more to come in what we're going to do. There's no sense broadcasting it and putting it out for everybody to see."
Thank goodness for that disclaimer, or the Sooner fans would have left Owen Field thinking that perhaps Adrian Peterson had left town with Elvis and that Thompson was being groomed as a seven step drop back passer.
As a passing quarterback, Thompson struggled early, but finished the night 15-for-26 with two touchdown passes against one interception.
QB coach Josh Heupel also gave fans some hope:
"The past seven or eight days in camp, I've seen him continually progress, he's getting better and better and more comfortable with what we're doing offensively," Heupel said.
The scrimmage saw the Sooners, on both offense and defense, pretty well stick to the basics. Never at a loss for words, OC Kevin Wilson fired this shell over the heads of curious and somewhat anxious fans, with a reference back to the 'good ole days' under John Blake:
"We just wanted to see who would play hard. It was more about that than who would execute. If we wanted to, we could stack this thing to make us look good," Wilson said.
Perhaps the most promising stat of the evening was that the first team O-line didn't allow a sack, despite going up against the best group of DE's in the country.
When guys like Calvin Thibodeaux, C.J. Ah You, Larry Birdine, John Williams and Alonzo Dotson record zero sacks, you have to believe that Sooner coaches are telling the truth when they say the O-Line is playing very well. That's one huge advantage that this team will start with as opposed to last year's first half of the season when a successful snap was sometimes reason to celebrate.
New Wrinkles Arrive . . .
Like Bob Dylan's song 'Slow Train Coming' - the first of Kevin Wilson's Northwestern tainted QB Run tweaks finally arrived on Wednesday afternoon, out of sight by all but a handful of VIP somebody's. Wilson was generally pleased, but not overly excited about what jumped out of the package, against an arguably great Sooner defense.
"We got a couple of things close and sputtered on a couple of good drives. However, we were moving with some stuff and I think we are kind of moving in the right way. We are not there yet, but I think things went pretty good. We had a couple of glitches that got us behind the chains. It was a penalty here or a negative play, and we had a big play called back. It was not bad. We are getting pretty close and are getting better."
"The only thing that we have done significantly is slow down getting Paul a chance to get multiple reps of the same concepts. Getting a feel on what he does like it or doesn't like it. What does he feel good about and what are we good at? That has been kind of the deal."
That statement can generally be translated to suggest that if it ain't working the Sooners won't be using it, which is pretty good news as long as No. 28 is in the backfield.
So just what is Thompson doing that's laudable? Wilson explains some things that Paul is doing that has the offense headed in the right direction:
"I really like Paul's demeanor, his command of the huddle. The way he is talking to our offense is by far the best that he has ever done. I think he feels comfortable that now he is the guy, that this is his team and he just says let's go guys and here is what we are doing. Like I said earlier, we wanted him to manage us and I think he is getting comfortable at being our mouthpiece out there. He says, 'Here we go. Let's get it going.' And if you take Adrian out when he is not live, then Paul is playing as sharp as anybody on offense."
Tight End Joe Jon Finley throws his opinion of the quarterback's progress in general, and Paul in particular, into the fray:
"The quarterbacks are doing a great job. I think 'PT' does a great job leading the team. His leadership qualifies can't be matched. Everybody on the team is following him."
'OK,' - But Can He Pass?
Uhhh, first, let's ask it this way: "Can Thompson be the leader of a potent offense capable of driving 70 or 80 yards, and most importantly, putting points on the scoreboard?' Wilson, again, will be our first witness:
"Hopefully the defense plays well enough that it is going to be 70-yards, 60-yards, 50-yards or 40-yards. I think we are going to try every way that we can to be a big-play explosive team. We go out there in 7-on-7 drills the other day and we throw a go-ball and our receiver gets tired and doesn't get there. Then if he overthrows it, our receiver has got to be a DB. It is our ball or not! We had three picks the last scrimmage and we just thought that one was on the quarterback. We had none today. We had one fumble and we threw the ball a lot.
"To me, it is hard to run on our defense because of the way they play. It is hard because we don't cut (block) them, so we are actually working our pass game as much as any in these scrimmages. What can we protect, what can we get open, what does he (Thompson) like? Again, the ball was in the air a whole lot today with zero picks. That was with 7-on-7 skelly included.
"I think his confidence is growing and he feels very comfortable. He is playing right now really good and I think is getting set on the things that he likes. We are a long way away from having a game plan, but I like the way he is playing a ton. I am not trying to make him feel good, but he is doing well."
So yes, he can pass, he's not Jason White, but Jason after two ACL's, was not the runner Thompson is either. So the Sooners under Wilson will most likely become a sprint out pass team rather than a drop back and get sacked team.
On the first play of Wednesday evening's scrimmage practice, Thompson took the snap, faked a handoff and hit streaking tight end Brody Eldridge in stride for a 30-yard gain.
"He's played as well this week as he has the entire time he's been here," said offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson. "If he keeps playing the way he's playing, we're going to be awfully good."
It's no secret that Wilson wants Paul to run if he's not 100% sure of a completion. Kevin has often said that 'second and six' beats 'second and fourteen,' particularly when you have the best back in America who average six yards per carry.
The jury is still out on Thompson's acumen with the arm, but with only two weeks of practice, the Sooner coaches and his teammates are not near as worried about the outcome as the talk show mouths and some fickle fans. Our guess is that we really won't see any of the wide open 'wow' stuff until the Sooners head to Eugene on September 16. That formula may not sell tickets or newspapers, but it does give the Sooners the best chance to head into the Texas showdown with the best chance to win.
The incoming class was one of the best in Sooner history, and the class as a whole has held up and been impressive over the first two weeks of drills. While we don't have comments on all the newcomers, here are a few that we can update:
Jeremy Beal (6-2 / 250 / 4.7), will almost certainly red shirt, but the defensive coaches are ecstatic over his potential. Beal may play MLB or DE in the future, but he's proven to be big, fast football smart and tough. Sooner coaches did not miss on this one.
As Brent Venables said this week; "He doesn't know what he is doing, or where he is going yet, but when he gets there he is a knock-back tackler," - high praise from a guy that could run through a brick wall as easily as going through the doorway.
Chase Beeler, (6-3 / 285 /5.4), has pretty well locked up the back-up center position behind Jon Cooper. Beeler's ability to discern quantum physics and O-Line blocking assignments concurrently probably gives him an edge here.
"That's what makes Chase a good lineman," offensive line coach James Patton said. "He can assess thing. He's smart enough to know where to get to." Starting center Jon Cooper backed up the accolade with another compliment: "He's a big, physical guy, and he's so smart," Cooper said. "That puts him a lot farther along than most freshmen."
Quinton Carter (6-1½ / 180 / 4.5), may also red shirt, but with any injury at safety Carter would be quickly installed and receive some serious PT. Carter, whether he plays this year or next, will surely be an impact player before he leaves OU, if he keeps progressing at the rate he has since arriving as a mid term freshman in January.
Michael Cohen the transfer from Kilgore JC, has a solid lead in the race to become the starting punter. Cohen has been averaging close to 45 yards in practice, and more importantly, seems to have an edge in consistency. Last year the Sooners averaged 42 yards, but Cody Freeby, seemed to always save some of his longest boomers when the Sooners were inside the opponents 50, reminding old timers of John Carroll, who earned the nickname 'thunder foot' for his ability to sail one over the south stands every time the Sooners were hoping to down the ball inside the ten.
Brandon Crow (6-1½ / 215 / 4.7), will also red shirt, but no one is willing to toss this guy back in. Whoever the Sooners turned down last year to take Crow will have to go a long ways to out play this tackling machine from Comanche, Oklahoma. Before he leaves, he may prove to be the reincarnation of 2001 Butkus Award winner Rocky Calmus.
Jermaine Gresham, (6-7 / 260 / 4.5), has certainly gotten the ink this summer, and for good reason. The coaches are tired of trying to hide their pleasure here. Gresham is going to be great. "He's the 'A.D.' of tight ends," one OU coach said this week.
But don't expect Gresham to beat out the new and improved junior tight end Joe Jon Finley. Look for Jermaine to give defensive coordinators serious sleep disorders as he occasionally will line up in the slot, at wide out, at H-back, and in 'deuce' or two tight end formations. Paul Thompson is quickly drawing a connection to the big guy from Ardmore on quick slants over the middle, and with Gresham's eye popping 4.47 speed, we emphasize 'quick.' You gotta think that Kevin Wilson just smiles when he thinks of all the possibilities.
Joey Halzle, (6-4 / 215 / 4.6), is doing 'OK' considering his short time with the program. It's not his rocket arm that concerns the coaching staff, but the fact that Halzle is still trying to 'force' throws into situations where the completion chances are not great.
One OU coach explained that it's not exactly an uncommon trait among highly successful QB's. "It generally takes them a while going up against this quality of defensive coverage to learn that what they did in high school won't always work here. There's too much experience and athleticism all over the field. Sometimes you need to just throw it away, or take off and run."
However, when asked if the Sooners could win with Halzle, QB coach Josh Heupel quickly answered, "Absolutely."
It is a fact that Joey is getting better and that the staff is pleased with his progress.
Gerald McCoy had his first 'breakout' practice this week. By that we mean that all the sudden all the light bulbs came on and McCoy is quickly learning how to get in the best position to make tackles instead of just occupying blocking linemen. Everything changed for McCoy in mid-week, as he was learning how to offset those O-linemen who naturally must be thinking, 'this guy is really going to be good.'
Perhaps people were expecting to see superman in the first scrimmage, but at that point McCoy had only had three days in pads. Whether McCoy steps out of the phone booth in Dallas, or later on in College Station, at some point this year we will see what we all know is coming.
D-Line coach Jackie Shipp has been steadfast in his pleading for patience with McCoy, and at the same time reassuring everyone that McCoy will be as good as advertised, but it might take more than three days for that to happen.
Red shirt decisions will not be made for another two weeks, but it appears that the freshmen trio of DeMarco Murray, Chris Brown and Mossis Madu will all be fitted for one. All have had their moments, but DeMarco is fighting a turf toe, and there is no reason to waste the talents of Madu and Brown with A.D. and Allen Patrick at tailback.
Don't look for Daniel Tabon's photo on milk cartons just yet, the Altus freshman is still in an NCAA 'holding' pattern as the clearing hose approves his transcripts.
Adrian Taylor (6-4 / 285 / 4.7), may turn out to be the steal of the class, as he has earned the 'Biggest Surprise of the First Two Weeks' award. Because of his potential, the Sooners have decided that they do not need to recruit another DT this year. Taylor will redshirt if there are no injuries along the D-Line, but will certainly be in the rotation in 2007 and beyond.
Brandon Walker (6-3 / 305 / 5.2), gets better with almost every practice, giving great effort and showing that he has what it takes to start at the right guard spot. Walker is still making the adjustment from junior college to D-1 football, and while coaches do not expect him to be completely ready for another two or three weeks, they are apparently very pleased with his work ethic, attitude and potential.
Around the Horn on Defense . . .
On defense, the Sooners continue to play very well during camp and look to be in mid season form. DC Brent Venables admits that he's also been adding a few defensive wrinkles in with this year's talent:
"We continually go back and look what was good and what wasn't so good. We look at what we need to do to get better, what can help you and what can fit your schemes and some of the very subtle things that aren't apparent to the naked eye. We do what we do. People characterize us mainly a zone team, zone pressure team sprinkled in with some man-to-man. We play a lot of cover-two and we are going to stop the run, so whatever numbers we need to do that we use.
"Obviously, you would always like to steal coverage and use one less guy in run support if you can do that, and do it with consistency and still play good run defense and cover-two stuff. You would always like to do that. We are a balanced defense in regards to the variety of things that we do, but we hang our hat on playing good, physical, tough, disciplined defense. We are going to stop the run and create pressure. Whether we get that pressure by bringing people or pressure by an outstanding front four, remains to be seen and hopefully we are pushing to get pressure with the front four."
Finally, the competition at linebacker is now reflecting the intensity of defensive coordinator and LB coach Brent Venables. At middle linebacker, sophomore linebacker Curtis Lofton is now giving senior Zach Latimer a run for his money, and Lofton also played some this week at the strong side LB spot as Demarrio Pleasant was slowed by a minor injury.
Venables commented on the Kingfisher sophomore; "He (Lofton), is playing the SAM and MIKE extensively. He has not taken many reps off the last few days. He is just been rotating in at the two positions. I have been extremely pleased with his progress and how he is coming along. He is doing really well."
The biggest turn around in one year is the defensive secondary. Obviously, corners Reggie Smith, Lendy Holmes, D.J. Wolfe and Marcus Walker, who is 100% back from injury and is playing as well as anytime since he's been here, are now working as a solid, cohesive unit - traits that were not evident a year ago.
The move of Smith to corner in the spring, and his subsequent play, seems to be the catalyst that ignited the sudden development of the unit, and in the confidence of the staff.
"He's a playmaker of the highest order and showed off his closing speed on multiple occasions (last week). He's just so natural at corner," said Stoops. "He's got really good ball skills."
As of now, it appears more likely each day that Darien Williams is going to be the starting free safety and that Nic Harris will be the nickel back. Harris at 225 pounds lacks the coverage range of Williams, but has been spectacular in the 'Roy-back' or nickel back. Look for Harris to play a big role in the defense, blitzing off the corner and through the middle of the defensive line.
However red shirt freshman Keenan Clayton has been the big story in the secondary the first two weeks. was outstanding today. He is probably the guy who stood out the most in the secondary. At linebacker, Lewis Baker and Curtis Lofton made a bunch of nice plays. Jeremy Beal also got in and he is a very physical player. I was very happy with his effort. It is hard to tell up front, but a number of times I saw some of those freshman D-linemen in the backfield making plays. So that was encouraging to."
Apparently, Jackie Shipp does not agree with one radio commentator who says that the D-Line has the coaches worried, it would be far more accurate to describe the defensive tackle position as having maybe the highest upside on the entire team.
There are several options at DT and it will be worth watching to see who comes out on top, and if they stay there. Steven Coleman, Carl Pendleton, DeMarcus Granger and Cory Bennett appear to be the top four right now. However, that competition is far from over and Billy Blackard, Gerald McCoy and Cordero Moore are pushing for playing time. Both McCoy and Granger had very good days during the past week, as both are catching on quickly.
Venables concurs with Shipp's confidence in the young guys at the DT position.
"Cory Bennett, DeMarcus Granger and Billy Blackard, those guys in particular, along with Gerald McCoy are all going to have a chance to be really good players. Adrian Taylor has moved inside and he belongs in that group. Those guys are all going to have a chance to be awfully good players in time. We feel good about some of the guys who have had some experience like Bennett, and DeMarcus is really progressing well too. We are still working to get better and we need to get better between now and our first game, particularly inside. But progress has been made and we are pleased."
Another turn around is at defensive end, where two starters (junior John Williams and senior Larry Birdine), return after missing last year, and a couple of younger players are flexing their muscles. Williams is up to 270 and Birdine says he's ready, and more dedicated after missing last year.
"I feel great. I had my best summer of my college career. We have had some great weather for practice and have really got a lot accomplished so far."
Add those to the two seniors who totally carried the entire load last year (C.J. Ah You and Calvin Thibodeaux), and what was a nightmare position due to depth issues now is a strength.
Junior DE Alonzo Dotson is having a great camp, but can not move ahead of the top four more experienced players, and Auston English looks like he is going to be a great one as well, but will likely red shirt after being forced into action last year when Birdine and Williams were injured, and Dotson was out with academic issues.
'Big News' - or 'Bad News' on Offense?
While everyone moans about the offense, there are plenty of bright spots and play makers, besides the best player in college football, who distracters seem to forget will play this year.
The 'big news' this week was that Reggie Smith will challenge Peterson, Gresham, Kelly and Jon Cooper for the Offensive MVP award. The Sooners have experimented with Smith at the receiver position, and plan to use him there from 12 to 15 times a game, primarily in third down situations.
The move has reminds fans of the 2000-01 seasons, the last time a Sooner defender played on offense. Andre Woolfolk was a cornerback on defense and a receiver on offense, just like Smith. While playing both ways in 2000 and 2001, Woolfolk caught 56 passes for 836 yards and six touchdowns.
There is no doubt that Smith is one of the top playmakers on the team. And his insertion this year at punt returner confirmed the coach's confidence in him. However, one has to ask, 'how much wood can a woodchuck chuck, if a Reggie could chuck wood?'
Starting at corner is fairly taxing, running back punts can wind anyone, but combined with the job of running post patterns and out routes on third down may be enough to drain the last volts out of this 'energizer bunny.'
It a tough call, and it could mean that the Sooner staff is not totally comfortable at the wide out position after sophomores Malcolm Kelly and Juaquin Iglesias, who are both phenomenal athletes and are developing into 'go-to receivers'. Meanwhile sophomore Manuel Johnson has shown promise as well.
However sophomore Quentin Chaney needs to show consistency. One day he appears to be NFL material, and on the next below par. Meanwhile backups RS Freshman Eric Huggins, and sophomore Fred Strong still lack experience, and the same can be said of true freshmen Adron Tennell and Brandon Caleb.
We don't doubt the playmaking talents of Smith, but we would not be so cautious if other receivers were excelling. Granted, the entire receiving corps is very young, and we are not suggesting that they are behind schedule in their development. All are adjusting to a new QB who has only been throwing to them for two weeks now.
But you have to ask the question, was Reggie Smith's opportunity the result of disappointment of other receivers, or due to the promise of a Reggie Bush like talent?
With the star quality upside of Jermaine Gresham added to the maturation of Joe Jon Finley, , third down already looked to be somewhat crowded, unless of course Finley or Gresham line up at H-back. Which begs one more question; will Smith primarily be used as a decoy, going deep to open up Gresham or Finley underneath?
We'll probably know by October 9th.
More news was that converted DL Brian Simmons who was injured in a lifting accident this summer, was dressed out for practice this week. Wilson explained his presence at practice.
"He is still a couple of weeks out getting cleared to go. He is just going to be there and see things, getting coached up mentally. He is just trying to be a part of it. However, he is not cleared to practice and won't be for two to four weeks. They don't say it's is day-to-day, they just say it is a few weeks before they can give us a clear."
Whenever that comes, (and Sooner coaches expect that it will be in four weeks), it will be another two weeks after returning to full drills - before Simmons is able to play and provide needed depth. If that schedule holds, it does mean that Simmons could possibly return as early as the Texas game.
Offensive line coach James Patton is very happy with the play of his unit, particularly senior Chris Messner and sophomore center Jon Cooper. He is being very careful with him trying not to wear him out. However, Cooper is very tough inside and really gets after it. You can see Cooper blocking his man or another man 10 yards downfield sometimes.
At fullback, sophomore Matt Clapp is edging ahead in for the starting job, but he is now getting pushed hard by walk-on linebacker-turned-fullback Ian Pleasant. Edmond's Dane Zaslaw still has a chance, but has to show he can be as physical as the other two in upcoming scrimmages. If Pleasant is quick to pick up the assignments - he could easily be the winner in what's probably the most hotly contested position on the offensive unit.
Recruiting . . .
We are in the final two weeks of an NCAA mandated 'dead period' until September 1st, when coaching staffs will be once again allowed to make full contact with high school seniors. There is little change in these periods, and little gets done, except for continual text messaging, which is allowed.
COMMITMENTS - Projected: 15 / Current: 6
Here are Oklahoma's current commitments for 2007:
Jontae Bumpus - DE - Muskogee, OK
Desmond Jackson - DB - Seguin, TX
Jamell Fleming - DB - Arlington, TX
Austin Box - LB - Enid, OK
Mike Reed - LB - Yuba JC, CA
Phil Loadholt, - OL - Garden City Community College
QUARTERBACK - Projected: 1 / Current QB Commitments: 0
At present, here is OU's projected offer list (August 11) of Quarterback prospects- with their current Super Prep/Scout national ranking ('X'), and listed in order of signing possibility - as of this date:
Cameron Newton, (6-5½ / 225 / 4.5), Atlanta, GA (Westlake)
Stephen Garcia (QB 15)(6-3 / 212 / 4.7), Tampa, FL (Jefferson)
Kodi Burns (QB 9) (6-2 / 190), Ft Smith, AR (Northside)
Mike Greco (JC QB) (6-4 / 220 / 4.4) Pearl River Miss JC; HS: Ft. Lauderdale, FL (Cardinal Gibbons)
Josh Nesbitt, (QB 8) (6-1 / 200 / 4.5), Greensboro, GA (Greene County)
John Brantley, (QB 5) (6-2 / 180), Ocala, FL (Trinity)
After two weeks, the smoke is clearing a bit, and although it is a dead period, a few of the QB prospects have made contact with Oklahoma. At the moment, the three top candidates appear to be Newton, Garcia and Burns. Both Stephen Garcia of Tampa Jefferson and Kodi Burns Fort Smith Northside, did talk to OU coaches this week for the first time and by all accounts the conversation went very well. Both say they are considering OU at this time. Cameron Newton of Atlanta said he tried to reach the OU coaches, but wasn't able to, but said he would keep trying. Newton says he definitely has an interest in OU at this point.
However, throw the name of Mike Greco into the mix. Greco, a 6-foot-3, 220-pound lefthander from Lighthouse Point, Fla., committed to NC State and was redshirted as a freshman last season. This spring he transferred to Pearl River Community College in Mississippi after failing to unseat Wolfpack QB Marcus Stone, who will be a junior this season.
Greco, athletically is everything you want in a quarterback. Labeled the fastest quarterback nationally in the 2005 high school recruiting class, Greco has been hand timed as low as 4.35 in the 40-yard dash, (and that's at 6-3 / 215). A more realistic time would be closer to the 4.5, but that's plenty fast.
Mike had a 60-yard touchdown pass and 60-yard scoring run in NC State's spring game in April, but failed to win the favor of Wolfpack coaches, who selected the more experienced Stone as the starter.
He therefore decided to transfer to JC powerhouse Pearl River, with the understanding that he'd play one year, leaving him three years of eligibility over three years.
He's a left handed QB with a strong arm. At NC State, he had several NFL first-round defensive linemen rushing him all of last year so he knows how to deal with a good pass-rush, but he's also a guy who can hurt you with his feet. Due to NCAA transfer rules, Greco will be a spring graduate and will not participate in spring drills regardless of where he ends up.
In high school, Greco played for a run based offense, but still had QB offers from NC-State, Rutgers, Iowa, UConn, Auburn and Minnesota.
We'll get a much better feel for QB recruiting after September 1, when contact between prospects and coaching staffs is allowed.
ATHLETES: Projected: 1 - 4 / Current Commitments: 0
At present, here is OU's offer list of Athletic multi-position prospects- with their current Super Prep/Scout national ranking ('X'), and listed in order of signing possibility - as of this date:
Travis Lewis (RB ***) LB - S - Ath (6'2, 220, 4.4), San Antonio, TX (Lee)
Gerald Jones (19 RB) (6-1 / 190 / 4.49) OKC (Millwood)
Chad Jones (11 S) Ath (6-3 / 220 / 4.5) Baton Rouge, LA (Southern Lab)
Sam Proctor (RB ***) Ath (6-1 / 205 / 4.4), Pearland, TX
Jermaine Love (UR) Ath (5-11½ / 206 / 4.4), Garland, TX (North)
Kamar Aiken, (****) FS/WR, (6'2 / 205 / 4.4), Hollywood, (Chaminade Madonna Prep) FL
Doug Wiggins, (10 CB) Ath, (5-10½ / 185 / 4.5), North Miami Beach, FL
Billy Chavis, (5 TE) Ath - TE, (6'5 / 227 /4.7), Beaumont, (Westbrook), TX (future offer pending)
Cameron Jordan (UR ***) DE (6-4 / 240), Chandler, Arizona (future offer pending)
De'Von Bailey, (6-1/200/4.5), Lawton, OK (Eisenhower) (future offer pending)
RUNNING BACK - Projected: 1 / Current Commitments: 0
Running Back Prospects:
Lennon Creer (8) (6-1 / 195 / 4.45), Tatum, TX
Joseph Reese RB (6-2 / 190 / 4.4), of Pflugerville, TX ('Soft' A&M Commitment)
Caleb King (3) (5-11 / 197 / 4.4), Lilburn, (Parkview), GA
Lennon Creer, the #1 back in Texas this year, says he's almost ready to make a decision between four schools and he's in the process of setting up a press conference to announce his decision.
"It's down to Oklahoma, Tennessee, Oklahoma State, and Florida now," he said. "They're all great programs. They're all good with academic support. It's pretty much whoever can get me on the field first is what I'm looking at right now."
RECIEVERS - Projected: 2 / Current Commitments: 0
At present, here is OU's offer list of Receiver prospects- with their current Super Prep/Scout national ranking ('X'), and listed in order of signing possibility - as of this date:
Corey Wilson, (UR) (6-0 / 185 / 4.4), Carrollton (Creekview HS), TX
Ron Brooks (6) SR (6-0 / 170 / 4.5) Irving, TX (MacArthur)
Terrance Toliver (3) WR (6-5 / 188 / 4.4), Hempstead, TX
James Kirkendoll (UR ****) SR (5-11 / 178 / 4.4), Round Rock, TX
Greg Little (8 LB) WR (6-3 / 205 / 4.5) Durham, NC (Hillside)
Arrelious Benn (1) WR (6'2 / 205 / 4.4), Washington D.C. (Dunbar)
It still looks like a 'Corey Wilson plus one' type of situation at receiver this year.
The trio of Ron Brooks, Terrance Tolliver and James Kirkendoll appear to be in the running for the final slot, if Wilson pulls the trigger as expected. The Sooner staff loves all three, and would take any combination of the four prospects and 'go to the house.'
Ron Brooks (6-0 / 170 / 4.5), of Irving MacArthur, is the 6th rated wide receiver nationally and is naturally excited that football season is back, but he's also excited to move forward with the recruiting process.
"Florida, LSU, Notre Dame, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Texas A&M and Kansas State," Brooks responded when asked to list the schools he is favoring. "Everybody is recruiting me as an athlete except Texas. Texas is recruiting me as a defensive back.
Brooks has only set one visit, to Nebraska, the only school which has offered Brooks and two of his team mates. The Sooners along with LSU, Notre Dame and Florida are all in a strong position for one of the other four visits.
"I'll take a look at who is coming back and who is leaving," Brooks explained. "It's important to see who will have an impact when I come in. I don't want to red-shirt, but I don't have any problem competing for my position.
The big question here is will OU stop at two receivers? If several young receivers come through they likely will, but for a few guys that have been around for a couple of years - its time to 'put up or shut up.' By early October we should know just how comfortable the coaching staff is with the talent on hand. But, as of now, not counting true freshmen,(Adron Tennell and Brandon Caleb), only Malcolm Kelly and Juaquin Iglesias are game proven successes.
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN - Projected: 3 / Current Commitments: 1
At present, here is OU's offer list of Offensive Line prospects- with their current Super Prep/Scout national ranking ('X'), and listed in order of signing possibility - as of this date:
Phil Loadholt, - OL - Garden City Community College (Committed to Oklahoma)
Matt Romine ( UR ****) OL (6-6 / 275 / 5.2) Tulsa, OK (Union)
Javario Burkes (22) OL (6-6½ / 300 / 5.2), Phoenix, AZ (Moon Valley)
Matt Summers-Gavin (25) OL (6-4½ / 275) San Francisco, CA (St. Ignatius)
Po'u Palelei (25) OL (6-3 / 314 / 5.8) Las Vegas (Bishop Gorman)
Tray Allen (2) OL (6-4½ / 290 / 5.3), Grand Prairie, TX (committed to UT, but still talking to OU).
Donald Stephenson, (6-6 / 280) Kansas City, MO (Central) (committed to KU, but still talking to OU).
Christian Ballard, (6'4 / 273 / 4.7), Lawrence, KS (Free State) (committed to KU, but taking visits).
Christian Ballard the Georgia transplant now living in Lawrence, Kansas, has visited Athens, and now says that he may not take any more. Ballard considered taking visits to other schools, including Oklahoma, but after his trip to Georgia he knows he will choose between two.
"Georgia and KU are pretty much neck-and-neck," he said. "I am going to take official visits to both, and then I will be able to tell which school I will want to attend. I don't think I will visit anywhere else. I have made the decision after this visit that it's pretty much between Georgia and KU."
When asked of scheduling official visits Ballard replied, "I haven't set up any visits yet. I plan to set them up here soon. I would like to get my decision made by the middle of the season."
The determining factors for Ballard are clear, and the fans will play a big part.
"I am going to look at game atmosphere," he said. "I want to see how hyped the fans are at both schools. That will help me make my decision.
Perhaps Mark Mangino can persuade KU fans to break away from basketball practice and show up for a game on the date of Ballard's visit.
DEFENSIVE ENDS - Projected: 2 / Current Commitments: 0
Jontae Bumpus - (6-4 / 220 / 4.6) Muskogee, OK. (Committed to Oklahoma)
Defensive End Prospects:
Frank Alexander DE (6'4 ½ / 229 / 4.7), Baton Rouge, LA (Southern Lab)
Sam Acho, DE (6'3 / 247 / 4.67), Dallas, TX (St Mark's) (offer pending)
Michael Keck DE (6-4 / 210 /4.6) Harrisonville. MO
Everson Griffen (1) DE (6-4 / 265 / 4.55), Avondale, AZ
Richetti Jones (4) DE (6'3½ / 235 / 4.6), Dallas, TX (Lincoln)
Richetti Jones is expected to make a 'soft commitment' 'to OSU Sunday evening. But again, he says he will not make an 'absolute decision' until the season is completed. Take that for what it's worth.
The expected commitment of Jones to OSU moves Sam Acho and Frank Alexander up the Sooner probability list. We have Alexander listed first, but Oklahoma has an equal chance to sign either.
The Richetti Jones 'announcement' also opens the door for another prospect, this one being Missouri's Michael Keck, (6-4 / 210 / 4.62), of Harrisonville. Previously, Keck had it narrowed down to Mizzou and Arkansas after receiving offer from those two schools, as well as Colorado, Iowa, Kansas State, Nebraska and Wisconsin. It is not known if an offer from Oklahoma will change the dynamics here. He had planned on committing to one of the two early in September.
"I was seriously considering Nebraska and a couple other schools, but I don't want to go far away from home, and since Missouri and Arkansas have offered me and are only two and a half and three hours from home, I narrowed it down to just them," Keck said.
"Missouri has a slight lead because I've been there like a hundred times. I also know a lot of the team's players because they were from around here. I was just there over the weekend (August 5 and 6) and I watched a couple of practices. I would be a good fit on the team. I like the coaches as people because they are the type of people you can call up like friends and they will be there for you if you need something," Keck said.
"I visited Arkansas a couple weeks ago and stayed the night and half a day. Head coach Houston Nutt made a point to come introduce himself and talk with me when we were having dinner with the other coaches on campus. That impressed me, since I don't want a ‘corporate' staff. I also like the way the linebackers coach, (Reggie Herring), handles himself. He's coached in the NFL and he showed me his techniques and watched hours of film with me. I know he would help me become a better athlete, and possibly get to the next level," he said.
It is interesting to note that either or both coaches are rumored to be sitting on rather tenuous warm surfaces, and could be out after more surprising losses this season.
DEFENSIVE LINEMEN - Projected: 1 / Current Commitments: 0
With the performance of OU's young DT's and the surprise of Adrian Taylor, Oklahoma may not take any DT's this year. It is not known f they have withdrawn the offer to either player listed, but it would be unusual if it occurred. The most common way to drop a prospect is to cease making contact.
We still maintain that Barksdale does have an OU offer as an OL, and realize that at this time he does not see a Jammal Brown makeover in his future.
Defensive Line Prospects:
Joseph Barksdale (19 OL) (6-5½ / 315 / 4.9), Detroit, MI (Cass Technical HS)
Rolando Barragan DT/DE (6-3 / 262 / 4.8) El Camino JC (CA) (Possible offer pending)
DEFENSIVE BACKS - Projected: 3 / Current Commitments: 2
Desmond Jackson, (18) - CB (6'1 / 190 /4.5), Seguin, TX. (Committed to Oklahoma)
Jamell Fleming - (UR ***) CB (5-11 / 197 / 4.5) Arlington (Sequin) TX (Committed to Oklahoma)
Christian Scott (9) (6'0½, 189, 4.4), Dallas, TX (Skyline)
Jermaine Love (UR) (5-11½ / 206 / 4.4) Garland, TX (North)
Jeremy Kerley (UR) (5-10 / 175 / 4.5) Hutto, TX
Without question, the Sooners have one DB slot open and Christian Scott of Dallas Skyline will probably have to say 'no' in order for OU to go hard in other directions. Scott recently visited Texas.
"It was a good visit. I checked out the campus and they have a nice campus, big stadium. They are supposed to be putting in the biggest video screen in college football. That thing is supposed to be nice. I met the coaches and they were nice, and some of the players. Everything was nice there."
"At this point, I would say that the two schools that I have visited, (Texas and OU), would be in my top two, then I have LSU, Florida State and Texas A&M. Both of them are real nice and are located in nice cities. I did like the campus at Texas a little bit better, but I felt more comfortable at OU and felt more like family at OU."
LINEBACKER - Projected: 2 – Committed 2
LB Austin Box (1 - S)- (6-3 / 217 / 4.6), Enid, OK. (Committed to Oklahoma)
LB Mike Reed - (UR - JC) (6-3 / 250 / 4.6), Yuba JC, Marysville, CA. (Committed to Oklahoma)
PK / PUNTER: Projected: 0 - 1 / Current P/PK Commitments:
The Kicker / Punter Prospects:
Wesley Bryan (6-0 / 180) Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas (Florida) (offer pending)
Stephen Hoge, (6-2 / 200), OKC PC North (offer pending)
Jimmy Stevens, (5-6 / 150), OKC Heritage Hall (offer pending)
OU would like to wait until October to offer one of the above.
OUInsider Weekend Wrapup (8/19)
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