Now that the dust has finally settled on the 2014 recruiting cycle, let's see how OU's class graded out.
2014 Recruiting Class: 26 signees
Devante Bond, OLB
(6-3, 240, 4.6)
Isaac Ijalana, TE
(6-5, 240, 4.6)
Dallis Todd, WR
(6-5, 210, 4.5)
Justice Hansen, QB
(6-4, 200, 4.6)
Dimitri Flowers, TE/FB
(6-3, 225, 4.6)
Enrolling in summer
Vontre McQuinnie, DB
(6-1, 200, 4.6)
Samaje Perine, RB
(5-11, 225. 4.45)
Carson Meier, TE
(6-7, 220, 4.7)
Marcus Green, DB
(6-1, 175, 4.6)
Tito Windham, DB
Alex Dalton, OL
Jordan Thomas, DB
(6-2, 185, 4.5)
Jeffrey Mead, WR
Jonathan Alvarez, OG/OC
Tay Evans, LB
Curtis Bolton, LB
Mark Andrews, WR
Dwayne Orso, DE
(6-6, 255, 4.8)
Joseph Paul, OL
(6-5, 335, 5.3)
Joe Mixon, RB
(6-2, 200, 4.5)
Natrell Curtis, OL
(6-3, 340, 5.3)
Michiah Quick, WR
(6-0, 185, 4.45)
Steven Parker, DB
(6-2, 185, 4.5)
Kenyon Frison, OT
(6-6, 290, 5.2 OT)
Courtney Garnett, DL
(6-3, 280, 4.8)
Orlando Brown, OT
(6-7, 350, 5.3)
OU needs to sign a QB every year, and in Justice Hansen OU got an excellent passing QB with great mobility.
Hansen in many ways on film was similar to Trevor Knight. Hansen shows excellent accuracy in the passing game and the mobility to extend plays. OU was lucky to have Hansen in summer camps for the last three years, so he’s a well-known commodity for Josh Heupel and the OU coaching staff.
The only debate at QB was between Hansen and Norman North QB David Cornwell (Alabama signee). OU went with Hansen because of his mobility and execution in the QB run game. The only real disappointment was Hansen suffered a bad ankle limiting his season, so Sooner fans didn’t get to see Hansen versus the powers schools from eastern Oklahoma in the state playoffs. OU beat Texas A&M for Hansen’s signature.
Quality Grade: A
Quantity Grade: A
Baylor coach Art Briles is claiming that he signed the country’s best WR class, but I think that with the addition of Michiah Quick on signing day, OU is on top.
The addition of Dallis Todd early in spring got WR recruiting jump started. Todd verbaled to OU so quickly on an unofficial visit on his own dime that his recruiting barely got started, but he had more than 10 offers by February 2013. Todd had a great junior year with maybe the best overall film from a big WR that I have seen. Most big WRs don’t have the kind of quicks, acceleration and speed that Todd showed in that junior film. His senior year film is not quite at the same level – it appears defenses schemed to take him completely away.
If there’s a consistent trend in some top NFL players who fall through the draft rankings, it’s the basketball players turned football players. Well, OU is out in front of this with Jeff Mead, who before this year was really a small forward who played some WR.
I really think there’s no player in this whole recruiting class with as high a ceiling as Mead. Mead is every bit of 6-5. Often tall WRs will look kind of robotic running and cutting, but Mead is a super smooth athlete with crazy good hands. His highlight reel is a bunch of “how did he catch that?" grabs. And as a senior, Mead had more than 1,000 yards receiving, so his productivity at WR is already very good. Mead could end up being a slightly taller A.J. Green.
So, OU already received verbals from a 6-4 WR in Todd and a 6-5 WR in Mead. Obviously Jay Norvell needed to get a verbal from a 6-6 WR next. OU was fortunate that Mark Andrews had family connections that allowed OU to grab a big lead and kept him away from A&M, which signed his HS QB, Kyle Allen.
At 6-6, 225 pounds, Andrews has created much debate as to if he’s a WR or a TE. I think we’re missing the point. OU is just going to put Andrews out there and force the defense to match up with him. Sometimes he will be lined out wide; other times I can see lined up in the slot looking like a flex TE. Andrews is going to create a physical mismatch for DBs in coverage and a speed mismatch for LBs. He’s also a very effective blocker out on the edge – just imagine him as the blocker for Sterling Shepard on WR screens, etc. In addition, Andrews is going to make for a deadly red zone weapon. He will be able to physically shield off DBs on slants, or you can simply throw him a jump ball.
The final piece in WR recruiting is Michiah Quick from Fresno Calif. Mike Stoops had been recruiting him to be the next great cover CB for OU, but Quick wants to be a WR. No problem, he can instead be the next great slot WR for OU.
If Sterling Shepard doesn't provide enough of a presence to replace the firepower the departed Jalen Saunders, then Quick is ready to fill that role. He's an elite athlete with speed, acceleration and moves. Quick is a dangerous punt returner, too, so if the personnel on campus can't lock down the role, he will get a long look.
OU beat Notre Dame and the entire Pac-12 for Quick's signature.
Quality Grade: A+ (Quick could easily be a five-star player; Todd and Andrews are high four stars per several services; and Mead could turn out to be the real superstar of the group.)
Quantity Grade: A+ (Three big WRs and one slot WR makes for an entire four-wide set.)
OU badly need to restock the backfield with Trey Millard leaving a big gap at fullback and Roy Finch, Damien Williams and Brennan Clay leaving lots of carries at tailback. While Keith Ford has shown some flashes of his potential, it’s fair to say the RB spot is wide open.
OU signed two excellent RBs who will bring differing skill sets to the Sooners' offense. Samaje Perine committed early to OU and stuck with the Sooners through the whole process, choosing OU over 'Bama. He’s a powerful, big RB who is not a FB, but more of an elite power back. Perine runs a little like former Sooner RB Jerald Moore.
Joe Mixon has a different skill set, especially as a receiver out of the backfield. He’s a bigger version of Demarco Murray at nearly 6-2, 215 pounds coming out of HS. Mixon is arguably the top all-purpose RB in the country. Mixon chose OU over Florida State and UCLA, but really any school in the country would have taken him. His versatility is a big reason why so many recruiting guys believe he will have an instant impact at OU. Josh Heupel could do so many two-back formation looks with Mixon where he motions late out wide. Mixon has more home run speed than Perine.
I love the comparison suggested by several Sooner fans that OU got a 235-pound version of Chris Brown and the next All-Pro Sooner RB to choose an OU hat at the Army All-American Game. (Adrian Peterson and Murray did the same thing.)
Getting two backs in this class was crucial for OU, Based on the differing skill sets and the fact that they could easily play them together in some two-back sets, I think the Sooners signed the best RB class in the country. It’s going to be a battle royale in August with Mixon and Perine trying to make up ground on Ford, Alex Ross and David Smith.
Quality Grade: A
Quantity Grade: A
OU loses the best FB of the Bob Stoops era in Trey Millard. Brannon Green is also graduating, leaving a gap at TE. While OU has Aaron Ripkowski at FB, the team really needs some TE/H-Back players who are multiple threats from the same personnel groupings.
New TE coach Jay Boulware accomplished the goal of reloading with three new players. Two are on campus already and set to go through spring ball. With an HS TE, HS FB and JUCO TE, Boulware graded perfect on his first test in terms of addressing needs.
The star of the group is Carson Meier from Tulsa Union HS. Meier is everything you want from a TE: He has a huge frame, he’s athletic, he's an accomplished HS hoops player (which seems almost like a requirement to be a great TE now) and he shows a real willingness to block. He has great hands and the speed to get behind linebackers on the vertical seam routes that defenses hate. Meier looks like Trent Smith with a bigger frame, but OU ideally will be able to redshirt Meier so he can add weight and strength to become and every-down player.
One big reason why OU should be able to redshirt Meier is the signing of Isaac Ijalana, whose brother is a starting offensive lineman in the NFL. Ijalana did not have great stats in junior college while playing for a primarily running team. But his highlights show a good blocker with the athleticism to run the seam routes at TE. Ijalana will push Taylor McNamara for the starting TE job along with new OU TE Blake Bell.
Dimitri Flowers has the tough job of replacing Trey Millard. It’s the FB equivalent of replacing Roy Williams at safety. Millard redefined the spot. Flowers (son of NFL player Erik Flowers) has a great frame with speed and a real feel for the passing game. He caught for more than 1,000 yards as a senior. Flowers also can run the ball out of the shotgun in one-back sets. Flowers was headed to Boise State before receiving an OU offer that was accepted almost immediately. Like Meier, opposing defenses won’t know if it’s a run or pass because of Flowers' presence. In multi-RB sets, Flowers can easily flex out as a WR/TE, creating a mismatch for most LBs.
Quality Grade: B+
Quantity Grade: A
Offensive line recruiting has been a worry for Sooner fans all summer, fall and winter. Bill Bedenbaugh appeared to be working his tail off for OL recruits without getting much in return. At one point in December, Bedenbaugh had as many 2015 OL recruits committed as he did for 2014. However, no assistant in college football had as good a month in recruiting as Bedenbaugh’s January.
OU started with excellent center/guard Alex Dalton out of Ohio. Dalton continues OU’s smart process of signing a true center prospect at least every two years. He's athletic and powerful enough to help at guard as well while playing understudy behind Ty Darlington. Dalton easily projects at 6-4, 300 pounds in college.
After securing Dalton, Bedenbaugh offered Jonathan Alvarez from Mesquite, Texas, who had been moved to center for his senior year. His senior film shows a much improved OL prospect. Alvarez might stay at center or move to guard for OU. Either way, it’s a nice luxury having two true centers in a class. In the end, Alvarez was completely underrated by most services. He was named to his all-district and all-state teams. I just don’t know what the various services are not seeing.
Bedenbaugh was having zero luck landing tackles, either JUCO or HS. Right before the Sugar Bowl break, Natrell Curtis, a big-time offensive guard from Arizona, visited Norman. Curtis looked like a top 100 type player when he committed to Washington in December 2012. His junior year film is awesome.
However, Curtis had a huge personal crisis in 2013 and stopped working out. The lean, explosive 6-3, 290 kid had become a slow, out of shape kid who tipped the scales at 345 pounds. Every service dropped him precipitously in their rankings, save for ESPN. Curtis had a great visit to OU and chose the Sooners right after the Army All-American Game. If Curtis can get down to 6-3, 310, then OU has an all-conference/All-American type OG.
Right after the new year, OU offered New Orleans prospect Joseph Paul, who had previously been verbaled to Florida. Paul (6-4, 335) looks powerful on film and simply needs to drop some weight. At 6-4, 315, he would be an awesome OG or RT prospect. Bedenbaugh raved about the kid on signing day. Again, instead of signing lighter guys who need to add weight, Bedenbaugh is going with bigger guys who need to lean up.
The big fish for OU was Kenyon Frison, a 6-6, 290 OT from Utah. Frison looks like a true LT prospect on film and had a great Semper Fi All-American game. Originally a Utah commitment, Frison’s decision went right up until signing day. (I “guessed” OU would get Frison in my last update, but it was pure hope.) Frison was as big a pickup as Steven Parker or Michiah Quick, both national top 50 type players.
Frison has only been playing football for two years, and he’s yet another in a long line of former hoops guys redirected to football. The comparison I hear being throw around is Trent Williams. He’s that powerful and a natural athlete at OT.
Finally, like a bolt of lightning from Mt. Olympus, Orlando Brown, Jr. appeared on SoonerSports.com on signing day with a profile indicating that he had signed an NLI. Brown is the son of former NFL tackle Orlando “Zeus” Brown. Junior was a target back in April 2013, but he verbaled to Tennessee in May before visiting OU. Back then, I thought that OU might be able to sign Brown if the Sooners could get him on campus.
UT is signing some ridiculous quasi-legal 34-player class and getting players to grayshirt or go to prep school/juco. Apparently, Brown got caught up in the numbers crunch and decided to call OU instead. Did Tennessee ditch him, or did he ditch the Volunteers? Who knows. UT fans will swear Brown has no chance of qualifying, but OU seemed confident enough to sign Brown after walking away from other likely non-qualifiers.
Brown is a monster at 6-7, 350 with a huge wingspan and a nasty attitude. Like Paul and Curtis, he needs to redefine his weight – drop bad, add good – but his potential is high and his offer list is loaded with elite teams. On film, with his size and height, it’s not hard to think about ex-Sooner and current NFL OT Phil Loadholt. Presuming Brown makes it on campus, Bedenbaugh in first season signed six OLs, four of whom had four-star rankings by at least one service. It’s a big first step in undoing the recruiting issues of the previous two years.
Quality Grade: B
Quantity Grade: A+ if all 6 arrive on campus; A- if there are any casualties.
OU did not sign a true 3-4 nose guard this year after Brandon Glenn failed to qualify.
Quality Grade: INC
Quantity Grade: INC
OU originally went after the top DEs in the country, throwing out offers to DaShawn Hand, Andrew Williams, Myles Garrett and Solomon Thomas. When pursuit of those top-end prospects did not pan out, Jerry Montgomery became more creative and started looking for prospects under the radar.
Dwayne Orso from 'Bama certainly fit that description. It’s hard to imagine an athletic 6-6, 260 DE being under the radar, but prior to OU offering Orso, he was heading to Western Kentucky. I’ve looked at Orso’s film and I don’t understand how he did not have at least 10 offers from the SEC and ACC schools. Once OU offered, though, the entire SEC started circling with Mississippi State and South Carolina offering.
Orso has a huge frame that can probably carry another 20 lbs. He’s a perfect fit for the Sooners' new scheme, and I expect that after a redshirt season, he will start challenging for playing time.
The other DE in the class is Courtney Garnett. In years past, at 6-2, 285, he would have been a DT recruit, but for now he’s a DE. Garnett was committed to UT until the coaching change took place and he decided to reopen his recruiting. OU, Notre Dame, Oregon and Tennessee were all involved and offered Garnett, but he ended up choosing OU.
Garnett’s highlight reel flashes some great plays where he gets up field to stop the run and rush the passer. If Montgomery can get Garnett to consistently hit that level, then OU has another versatile DL to play inside or outside depending upon what personnel OU needs.
Quality Grade: B+
Quantity Grade: B+
OU’s LB recruiting really started the year from behind. The LB play in 2012 put other schools in position to negatively recruit, using the role of LBs in the Sooner defense. OU chased after some key LB recruits in California, Arizona and Texas. The Sooners got unlucky in that top in-state target Gyasi Akem grew up an OSU fan and never really gave OU a shot. Position coach Tim Kish was able to reverse the negativity in recruiting with a good three-player class.
Kish was able to find his first LB recruit in Allen, Texas, with Tay Evans, son of former Sooner hoops player Bobby Joe Evans. Evans played a variety of positions in HS (DE, OLB, safety, wildcat QB). He’s somewhat underrated since he did not get to play inside LB on that level. His athleticism is off the charts, and as a pass-rushing OLB/DE, he terrorized QBs. OU believes that Evans can moved inside and bulk up to the 6-3, 230 range while keeping his speed to play in space.
OU got Californian Curtis Bolton, who has awesome film to showcase his blitzing from the outside edge at OLB. He’s stopping the run and decking QBs.
Bolton verbaled to OU before his visit and stuck with that commitment while West Coast programs realized what an impact player he was. Bolton will move inside at OU and be an every-down LB capable of stopping the run and playing in space in the passing game. Furthermore, Bolton is going to provide another blitzing option for Mike Stoops on third down. Bolton just has a knack for getting to the QB.
Recruiting is usually about tomorrow, but the third LB recruit is really about today. Devante Bond was supposed to be playing LB at Miami last fall, but an academic mix-up left him ineligible, so Bond sat the fall. Bond did not fit the old OU defense. Fast forward nine months, however, and OU badly needed a big rush OLB for when opposing offenses lined up in big personnel groupings. Bond badly wanted an OU offer previously, and once OU reappeared on his radar with an offer, his recruiting was really over.
Bond is now perfect for the OU scheme. He is devastating on film from the OLB spot, making tackles for loss in the running game and sacking the QB in the passing game. OU can now partner Bond with Eric Striker to give offenses even more problems in pass protection.
Quantity Grade: B
Quality Grade: B
Mike Stoops offered a number of big-time DBs early in Texas and nationally. Before 2014 recruiting even really started, Mike offered safety Vontre McQuinnie from DB factory Lancaster HS in Texas. McQuinnie became the first verbal of the class.
There’s not a great deal of film on McQuinnie to evaluate. Mike sees him as a nickel LB/hybrid safety guy – basically a much bigger Julian Wilson.
Marcus Green is a versatile DB who will probably play a safety role for OU, but he has the speed and range to handle WRs as well.
Going from familiar recruiting territory to new, after a scouting trip by the Sooner coaches, OU offered CB Tito Windham from Mississippi. Windham is a physical, explosive CB despite being 5-9, 175. He has great film at CB where he’s a physical presence fighting WRs. OU is getting a very good player in the mold of Demontre Hurst with a mean streak.
After the Sugar Bowl, Bobby Jack Wright was able to get long-time target and Northwestern verbal Jonathan Thomas to commit. Thomas could be a big CB like Andre Woolfolk, or he could move to safety. He is a great athlete who literally did everything for his HS team – QB, DB, WR, RB. OU is going to let Thomas focus at DB, and he is badly underrated due to his film being all over the place.
The last DB to commit was the star of the in-state class. Jenks HS recruit Steven Parker is an elite athlete who always took the opposing teams' best WR. The film of Parker battling Jeff Mead is going to end up being a classic if both players reach their potential.
Parker looks like he could play CB or be physical enough to man a safety spot. The safeties on campus had better work on their game because Mike sounds like he thinks Parker could challenge for a safety spot this fall.
Quality Grade: B+
Quantity Grade: A
It’s a big class, so for the most part, the Sooners nailed all of their requirements from a numbers standpoint. When you consider who is leaving or leaving after this coming season, this class needs to be ready to provide depth for 2014 and some replacement options for 2015.
The overall quantity grade is going to be an A. However, I’m slightly wavering him on this grade due to my concern that the class is one HS LB short.
The quality grade is much harder to evaluate.
Reviewing the major recruiting services, OU had one five-star player (Mixon) and 14 players who received a four-star rating by at least one service (Perrine, Hansen, Todd, Mead, Meier, Andrews, Frison, Windham, Parker, Brown, Dalton, Curtis, Quick, Garnett). Then there are underrated prospects in Orso, Thomas, Bolton and Bond (who was never going to get a fair ranking after sitting out a semester).
With that much talent, I’m going to give this class a A- grade. I would feel more comfortable going with an A grade if OU had signed a four-star LB and one more four-star OL. In addition, the OL group had an uneven senior year, especially Curtis, Paul and Brown, all of whom had higher rankings last spring than they did after the fall.