The state of Texas produced a crop of defensive linemen in the class of 2004 that filled out several state recruiting lists. Eight of the prospects along the defensive front found themselves ranked among the top 20 prospects in the state on at least one list.
The biggest name of the group was Lake Highlands' 6-foot-5-inch, 300-pound manchild Frank Okam. He had size, quickness, brute strength, and excellent grades which made him a can't-miss prospect in the eyes of many. He was one of the final players in the class to give a commitment as he chose Texas this night before signing day over Oklahoma State on FSN Southwest. Despite being burned by the likes of Adrian Peterson, Bobby Reid, and Rhett Bomar in the recruiting process Okam's commit put some shine on Texas' 2004 haul.
A five star prospect, Okam was followed in the rankings by four star tackles Chris Smith of Allen (Scout.com No. 11 end in the nation) and William Morrisey (No. 13) of Silsbee. Smith was seen as a very versatile athlete while Morrisey's first step and motor were off the charts. Also highly regarded were three-star prospects Walter Thomas of Galveston Ball, Kellen Heard of Wharton, and Denton Ryan's Derek Lokey.
On the edge McCollins Umeh of Klein Forrest was the overwhelming choice as the state's top end prospect with his blend of size, speed, and explosiveness as he looked to be the prize of Arizona's 2004 recruiting class. LSU inked a pair of talented ends from the Houston area in Fort Bend Dulles' Tim Washington and Trumaine Johnson of Galena Park. Houston Lamar's Brian Orakpo, Colleyville Hertiage's Alan Davis, Tyler Lee's Nic Redwine, and Belton's William Bell were all ranked among the 50 best ends in the nation by Scout.com.
How They Look at the End:
Not only did this group feature several busts, but it features several players whose impact on their respective programs is between minimal and non-existent.
Okam seemingly earned preseason all-American honors every year he was at Texas, but he never became the dominant tackle Longhorn fans expected him to be. Instead of being the cornerstones of the Aggies' defensive line, Morrisey left the program in 2005 and Smith has yet to record a sack has he enters his senior season. Johnson has been a solid role player at LSU and is expected to compete for a starting spot in 2008 while Washington left Baton Rouge and has landed on his feet at Division I-AA power Appalachian State. Oklahoma State got both Thomas and Bell to sign in 2004, but Bell never made it to Stillwater due to grades while Thomas lasted only one year with the program before becoming an academic casualty.
Two schools that did hit it big with linemen were Texas and Kansas.
Orakpo was injured most of his junior season but has been very good when he has been on the field, including during the 2005 season when he earned Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year honors during the Longhorns' national title run. He will enter his senior season as a preseason all-American. Lokey was a big time contributor at defensive tackle, and also at fullback as he scored a touchdown in his final game as a Longhorn.
James McClinton was a mere two-star prospect when he signed with Kansas out of Garland Lakeview Centennial, but he emerged into an all-American defense tackle for a Jayhawk team that won the Orange Bowl and won 12 games in 2007. Anthony Collins was a 6-foot-5, 230 pound defensive end prospect that blossomed into a 317 pound all-American offensive tackle for the Jayhawks. Collins was a second day selection in the 2008 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals.
Unfortunately this defensive line class is marked by tragedy as Umeh passed away on an Arizona practice field right after his arrival in Tuscon
Head of the Class:
This is a tough call because the nod is going to Orakpo, but that is based on his accomplishments thus far and what he has the potential to do as a senior. The fact that Orakpo, who has 10.5 career sacks, is takes the honor shows how short this group fell of expectations.
McClinton and Collins also get very strong consideration.
If there was a knock on Morrisey it was that he stood only 6-foot-1 on a good day, not an ideal height for a pass rushing defensive tackle. He had two sacks as a freshman in 2005 but he suffered a broken leg in practice before the Iowa State game that season. No record of him resurfacing in football could be found beyond that unfortunate incident.
When this look back at 2004 gets to defensive backs it will become even more evident that the Kansas coaching staff did an incredible job of scouting in this cycle. The Jayhawks pulled in two all-Americans from the defensive line crop which is more than nearly any school can say of any position group in the entire class.
Once again grades and injuries played a huge factor in the defensive linemen of 2004 failing to meet expectations, much like many of the other position groups in the class.