Sooners’ recruiting class leans toward defense
Attempting to stiffen up a defense that faded late for a second
straight season, Oklahoma loaded up along the front line and in the
secondary Wednesday on national signing day.
Coach Bob Stoops and his staff received letters of intent from
seven defensive linemen and four defensive backs, making up nearly
half of a 23-player recruiting class. Junior college transfer
Quincy Russell is among four defensive tackles in the class, with
in-state products D.J. Ward at defensive end and Stanvon Taylor at
cornerback highlighting those position groups that Stoops called
”Toward the end of the year, we gave up just way too many
points, way too many yards,” defensive coordinator Mike Stoops
said. ”Even as good as those teams were, we need to be better
equipped to handle those styles of offenses. Certainly, I think
this group of players will help us move forward with our
Two more homegrown products, Dominique Alexander from Tulsa and
Jordan Evans from Norman, were the only linebackers in the
defense-heavy class aimed at offering better resistance against the
Big 12’s increasingly potent offenses. Seven of the league’s 10
teams ranked in the top 25 in scoring last season.
”We have to adjust to what we see in this league, and we feel
like we addressed a lot of those issues with our defensive line and
certainly our secondary guys,” Mike Stoops said. ”It’s one of our
strongest groups of secondary players. And the two linebackers give
us a lot of flexibility – two big, fast, physical guys that can
play in space.”
The Sooners have received increasing scrutiny on their defensive
line since the departure of Gerald McCoy, the No. 3 pick in the
2010 NFL draft. Elite-level, NFL-bound tackles such as McCoy,
Tommie Harris and Dusty Dvoracek have played key roles in
Oklahoma’s best teams contending for national championships.
Without one, the Sooners have given up yards at a record-setting
rate the past two seasons. Bob Stoops expressed hope that the new
crop will shore up the defensive line.
”On the defensive line, you have to be able to run – to be any
good anyway. That’s the only way you’re going to get penetration,
get to the quarterback, those kinds of things and be able to chase
a ball down to the sidelines,” he said.
”They’re hard to find. There’s just not a lot of them, but we
love these four guys.”
Oklahoma also added running back Keith Ford and quarterback Cody
Thomas, a major-league baseball prospect who Stoops says is
committed to playing football for the Sooners.
”Talking with Cody and his family through this whole recruiting
process, he is adamant that he truly wants to play football unless
he was picked so high that couldn’t turn away from it,” Bob Stoops
said. ”Most indications are that football is important enough to
him that he’s going to want to pursue that. … We wouldn’t have
pursued this and gone down this road if we didn’t feel there was a
great chance that Cody would be with us.”
The Sooners added just three offensive linemen in what has been
a thin position recently because of injuries. However, two of the
three are junior college transfers – Josiah St. John from Trinity
Valley (Texas) and Dionte Savage from Arizona Western, the same
school that provided starting running back Damien Williams in last
year’s recruiting class.
There’s also an influx of four high-school receivers – a
position that went from a big question mark during training camp to
a strength last season when Justin Brown from Penn State and Jalen
Saunders from Fresno State were allowed to transfer in without
sitting out a year. There will be openings, though, because Brown
was a senior and Kenny Stills left early to enter the NFL
Austin Bennett, Dannon Cavil, Jordan Smallwood and K.J. Young
make up the incoming receiver class. The other addition is Jed
Barnett, a punter from Laney College who could step in immediately
for departing senior Tress Way.
The class was rated 15th in the country by recruiting website
Rivals.com and 16th by ESPN, and Bob Stoops said he considered it
comparable to many in his 14 seasons as head coach.
Only time will tell how it really stacks up on the field.
”Who knows how all these kids are going to react once they get
here, to the disciplines and the structure and all that it takes to
be a great player at this level?” Mike Stoops said. ”But our hope
when we went into this recruiting season for me personally was to
recruit good, strong kids of character and toughness that it takes
to compete at the very highest level and can take the rigors that
come with the pressures of playing at Oklahoma. And we feel like we