Taken in the fourth round by the New York Jets, Jalen Saunders was the first Sooner picked in this year’s NFL draft. The last time it took that long for the first Oklahoma player to hear his name called? 1997.
It was just an odd year for OU’s hopeful draftees. Saunders only played the equivalent of a one-and-a-half seasons in Norman. The other three players drafted – Aaron Colvin, Trey Millard and Corey Nelson – are coming off major injuries. Center Gabe Ikard, an All-American and arguably the most valuable player on a team that won 11 games and a BCS bowl, didn’t get a call.
Despite the weird circumstances, should the lack of high-end selections get Sooner Nation’s britches in a bunch over the talent on campus? The answer depends on your view of roster attrition.
Let’s take a look back at OU’s recruiting classes from 2009 to 2011, the groups that potentially could have produced this year’s drafted players, to get a better understanding.
(Note that I used some discretion to determine what counts as “attrition.” In general, I counted players who left the program before they had used up their eligibility with exceptions for those who declared early for the draft or utilized the graduate transfer rule.)
Rivals.com class rank: 13
Drafted in 2014: 0
Previously drafted: 1 (2012: Ronnell Lewis)
Still on roster: 1
Ikard, Jaz Reynolds, Gabe Lynn and sixth-year-senior-to-be Tyler Evans were the only remaining members of this class in the program last season. Nearly half the class flamed out, and that’s not counting Tom Wort’s Hail Mary draft declaration.
Rivals.com class rank: 7
Size: 29 players
Drafted in 2014: 3 (Aaron Colvin, Trey Millard, Corey Nelson)
Previously drafted: 1 (2013: Kenny Stills)
Still on roster: 8
Only eight casualties in this class, which looks pretty stable relative to the other two. This gigantic group had room for 11 redshirts still with the team, a handful of whom may get drafted in 2015. Also, one member of the class, backup lineman Austin Woods, played while taking chemotherapy treatments.
Rivals.com class rank: 14
Size: 17 players
Drafted in 2014: 0
Previously drafted: N/A
Still on roster: 6
This class would cover any potential early enrollees in the '14 draft. While the group contained a few contributors, it deserves to go down as an all-time bust. In particular, touted five-star recruits Brandon Williams and Trey Metoyer barely made a mark in the limited time that they were on campus. Note that I didn’t count Kendal Thompson in the attrition category. Also, while Frank Shannon is still listed on OU’s roster, signs point to him leaving the team.
The 2014 draft offered yet another reminder that you can’t develop players if they don’t stay in school. Of the 69 players recruited to OU between 2009 and 2011, 28 washed out. Some degree of roster turnover should be baked in with any program, but that ratio seems extreme. (The 2012 class isn't looking much better as an already JUCO-heavy group of 25 has shed five players.)
Four draft picks this year almost comes off as a win in that context, even if they all came on the third day. However, having gone three seasons without an outright conference title, the Sooners are certainly feeling the impact of the purging. OU should take heart in the apparent stability of its ‘13 class and hope it carries over with the latest crop of '14 recruits.