Oklahoma's 2016 recruiting class came to a somewhat disappointing finale after a great final weekend made it seem like OU would finish with a great close. Still, two Rivals 100 players signed on signing day, including OU’s first five-star defender since Gerald McCoy and OU’s best receiver signee since a certain five-star receiver who had some off-the-field issues.
OU only signed 19 kids, but there are two more players technically in this class: Kyler Murray (transfer quarterback) and Geno Lewis (graduate transfer wide receiver).
Austin Kendall – 6-2, 210, 4.8
The most important recruit in the class. As we saw with Baker Mayfield, QB play makes the difference maker for the majority of college football teams. Lincoln Riley picked Kendall pretty much right after he started coaching at OU. Kendall passed on Tennessee and Auburn for the Sooners, and he never wavered.
He’s already on campus, and in light of Cody Thomas’ baseball sabbatical, Kendall will get a lot of work.
Quantity Grade: A (factoring in the trade of Trevor Knight for Murray.)
Quality Grade: A+ (two Rivals 100 QBs)
Abdul Adams – 6-0, 205. 4.45
If only all positions could be like the RB spot.
Basically, OU wanted Adams all year long. The Sooners waited out his early verbal to Michigan State. After he decommitted, instead of going to Alabama or Ohio State, Adams visited OU and recruiting was really done. Despite being a four-star recruit by most services, Adams is woefully underrated and looks more like a top 100 player. Demarco Murray, Part Two to me.
Some will lament the loss of Joshua Jacobs out of Tulsa, but Adams is as good or better.
Quantity grade: A (OU will need two RBs in 2017, though, with the loss of four RBs looming.)
Quality Grade: A (Adams really should be in the top 100.)
Mykel Jones – 6-0, 180, 4.45
Zach Farrar – 6-3, 210, 4.45
Adrian Hardy – 6-2, 185, 4.5
OU changed up their WR coaching staff in last January, and it showed in recruiting. Cale Gundy and Dennis Simmons were never quite able to click with some of the elite Texas kids. They were playing catch-up nationally as well.
However, OU kept involved with Zach Farrar all fall. When Ryan Parker, OU’s JUCO verbal, fell behind academically and Velus Jones committed back to USC, Farrar wasted no time choosing OU following a great senior year. The upside on Farrar is high, which he showed in dominating higher-rated defensive backs at the ESPN's The Opening. He only started playing football the last two years of high school.
Riley kept talking to Mykel Jones from Louisiana. When Ole Miss and Alabama filled their WR spots, OU quickly engaged Jones and got him on campus. Jones will be an awesome slot weapon.
Adrian Hardy is your classic best athlete on his HS team who played QB. The only question is how does the transition to wideout go. Riley raves about Hardy, and one of the QB-to-WR transitions he coached at Texas Tech was Michael Crabtree.
Quantity Grade: A- (We can argue that OU needed one more player, but factor in Geno Lewis and the Sooners met their needs. It’s a great WR class in Texas for 2017, and OU is off to a hot start.)
Quality Grade: A- (Hardy being a projection at WR is the only reason for the lower grade.)
Incomplete – No real targets. Couple of offers that went nowhere. OU just kind of sat out the position.
OU is going to hit this position next year and leverage the recent play of Mark Andrews, who looks poised for a bigger sophomore year. (I hope.)
Johncarlo Valentin – 6-4, 330
Erik Swenson – 6-6, 300
Logan Roberson – 6-3, 320
Ben Powers – 6-4, 315
Ashton Julious – 6-6, 330
Bill Bedenbaugh has been carefully rebuilding OU’s numbers on the OL since he took over, and now OU has 14 linemen this spring. The two JUCO OLs were key to provide depth and competition for the two guard spots flanking Jonathan Alvarez as he moves to center. Bedenbaugh expressed a desire to get bigger and more physical in the interior, and this class certainly accomplishes that.
Julious will be tried at left guard next Orlando Brown. Powers will get a look at right guard and Roberson will be given a look at center.
Valentin is the star of the group. His film is very impressive – he could play as a freshman.
Finally, Bedenbaugh managed to land a four-star offensive tackle recruit in Erik Swenson from Illinois. Swenson will probably stick at right tackle.
Quality Grade: B (Two four-stars, three three-stars.)
Quantity Grade: A (OU’s OL depth is becoming a strength of the roster.)
Just a weird ending. Dirion Reynolds did a great job connecting with kids, but in year one, he just could not find a fit. Have to think OU’s large DL class last year was heavily used against the Sooners.
OU will need to sign at least three DLs next year.
Amani Bledsoe – 6-5, 270, 4.8
Much better news here. Bledsoe could end up being an elite defender for OU, a real difference maker in the 3-4 scheme at DE.
If he had played ball in Texas or Georgia, Bledsoe would likely have been a top 100 player. He’s big, rangy and physical with speed. His frame can easily support 280-plus pounds while not losing speed.
Bledsoe had a huge list of offers, so this was a very good recruiting job by Diron Reynolds. OU really needs to sign two kids like this every year to have the depth/talent in the 3-4 to be a consistent College Football Playoff contender.
Quality Grade: A
Quantity Grade: B-
3-4 Rush Outside Linebacker
Mark Jackson – 6-3, 235, 4.6
The second big piece OU upgrading front seven's talent is Jackson, who will fill Devante Bond's OLB spot. If OU ever goes with a four-man front on third-and-long situations, then Jackson can easily line up as a 4-3 DE as well.
OU beat Texas A&M for his signature. Diron Reynolds did a good job taking over his recruitment after Jerry Montgomery left.
Quality Grade: A
Quantity Grade: C (OU really needed two players at this spot.)
3-4 Strongside Outside Linebacker
Emmanuel Beal – 6-2, 215, 4.55
Caleb Kelly – 6-3, 220, 4.65
The six-million-dollar question: Who is replacing Eric Striker?
How Mike Stoops adjusts the defense to the loss of Striker will be fascinating to watch. Let’s assume the role calls for a fast LB with pass rushing and some coverage skills.
If that’s the case, then JUCO LB Emmanuel Beal might be one of the players in line to help fill the void. Beal was a sleeper pickup for OU after OU got involved with his more heralded teammate Kapri Doucet. Beal was very productive last year at that OLB spot and looks pretty good on film. At a minimum, he provides depth.
Caleb Kelly is probably the most complete, impactful LB signed by the Sooners since Lance Mitchell. Kelly is a complete, every-down LB who could change how Mike runs this defense. Kelly compares with former Notre Dame LB Jaylon Smith. Kelly can play the run, he drop back in coverage and he shows excellent instincts in pass rushing.
Quality Grade: B+ (Kelly is that good.)
Quantity Grade: B+ (Two bodies to add to the mix at LB. I can see Curtis Bolton in spring getting getting the first shot.)
John-Michael Terry – 6-3, 235, 4.6
Kapri Doucet – 6-2, 235, 4.6
OU’s LB numbers were already down with four seniors and Dom Alexander leaving for the NFL, and efforts at ILB were derailed when Bryce Youngquist did not sign.
Terry is a big, physical, fast LB who had a great senior season dominating for Tulsa Victory Christian and topped it off with a great game in the Semper Fi All-Star game. Bob Stoops could not stop raving about him at the signing day press conference.
Once OU was down two ILBs, Doucet had an offer. I’m somewhat confused by comments wondering if he’s big enough to play inside. Kid has a big frame, and according to Bob, he’s 240 pounds. I think his film is excellent, demonstrating coverage skills when he drops back. He plays physical and fast against the run. I think he will push Tay Evans and Arthur McGinnis for playing time.
Quality Grade: B+
Quantity Grade: B+
Parnell Motley – 6-1, 175, 4.5
Jordan Parker – 6-1, 170, 4.45
Sadly, the CB class is always going to be judged on what might have been (as in keeping Parrish Cobb and landing Jared Mayden). That’s going to take away from OU adding two excellent athletes to a rapidly upgraded talent base in the secondary.
Jordan Parker is the most ignored player in this class. He dominated West Coast WRs at camp sessions and is probably the best CB from California this year. Depending on how the replacement for Zack Sanchez works out, you could see Parker find the field early as the backup nickel behind Will Johnson.
OU kept working Motley and pulled him in for a visit after Maryland’s meltdown season. Once he decommited from Maryland, he found himself with a host of offers, including Ohio State, Georgia, Michigan and Michigan State. Motley's senior year footage is impressive as he is making plays at both CB and WR. A Sooner comparison might be Andre Woolfolk.
Quality Grade: B+ (This was an A with Cobb.)
Quantity Grade: B+ (See above.)
Chanse Sylvie – 6-0, 185, 4.5
After taking three great safeties last year, safety was a not a big priority for OU in 2016 recruiting. OU did offer a number of prospects, but there was definitely a ceiling on how many safeties the Sooners were going to take, one.
The winner in the safety category was Sylvie, who would become a key recruiter inside the class as a verbal and early enrollee. On the field, Sylvie is a physical presence in the run game and is excellent in coverage. By way of comparison, the name Brandon Everage has been thrown around.
Quality Grade: A (Sylvie could be a real team leader and chemistry guy, along with a playmaker at safety.)
Quantity Grade: B+ (Did OU need two safeties? Hard to say, but 2017 could be very good to OU at the safety spot. Maybe having a free opening will be a good idea.)
The class is missing:
- One DT/DE;
- One more LB – the Youngquist impact;
- A mid-term JUCO WR – Geno Lewis going through spring lessens that gap); and
- One more DB – OU played four freshman DBs last year and probably should have redshirted one safety.
Factoring in the return of Dalton Wood and the transfer of Kyler Murray makes the quantity of this class look better.
The class consists of five OLs, three WRs, two QBs, five LBs and three DBs, so it’s a broad class that hit the major need at LB. OU may have a free scholarship or two later in the year around May/June if a player becomes available from either JUCO or high school. I don’t have anyone in mind, but Lacoltan Bester, Lane Johnson and Du’Vonta Lampkin are past examples of how that flexibility has worked in OU’s favor.
Grade: B (85/100)
Of the 19 players signed, 13 received a grade of four stars or higher by at least one recruiting service – Bledsoe, Jackson, Farrar, Jones, Kelly, Valentin, Powers, Sylvie, JMT, Kendall, Adams, Swenson and Parker. The other six signees all were rated three stars by at least one service. OU signed its highest-rated defensive recruit since Gerald McCoy and the best high school LB recruit since Chris Patterson. (Yeah, it’s been that long, and Kelly is actually going to show up on campus.)
There are some notable reaches/evaluations in this class. OU took players early in recruiting over a chance at some heralded prospects, but those evaluations were early in the process, and OU never moved off them. They were not panic offers at the 11th hour. The much-maligned JUCO LBs have good grades from several services.
Overall, there are potential difference makers in this class at QB, RB, WR, OG, DE, OLB, ILB, CB, S. Kelly, Jackson, Bledsoe and Parker are the clear stars on defense, continuing the process of significantly upgrading the Sooners' talent. Adams, Jones, Valentin and Kendall are the stars on offense – Jones, in particular, could shine in year one.
Grade: B+ (Call it an 89 percent.)