With the second signing day finished, it’s now time to review Oklahoma's 2018 recruiting class in full.
OU's class ranked in the top 10 by every major recruiting service for the second year in a row, a feat the Sooners have not accomplished since 2005-2006. Why is this a big deal? In the last 10 years, the national title winner has had at least two top 10 classes prior to winning the title. OU is poised to make it three top 10 finishes in a row following an awesome start to 2019.
National title winner Alabama had a combined 69 four- and five-star players on its roster this season. Georgia had 54. OU had 37. Once the 2019 class is enrolled, OU will likely have more than 50, bringing OU's talent in line with programs like LSU, USC, UGA, Florida State and Clemson.
Talent acquisition is heading in the right direction, and Lincoln Riley seems to be an upgrade over Bob Stoops in the closer role.
2018 offensive position grades
*Tanner Mordecai – 6-2, 200, 4.7
After Cam Rising's defection in April, Riley and OU did not have a great amount of time to find an alternative solution. OU settled on Mordecai, who had had some impressive camp workouts in the spring, but whose junior year was limited by an injury.
Mordecai had a great senior year, leading his team to the state finals while routinely putting up 400 yard passing games and flashing excellent functional mobility. His final tally was 48 passing touchdowns passing and 23 rushing TDs, with more than 1,000 yards on the ground.
Mordecai has gone from nice QB depth to legit starting QB prospect.
Quantity grade: A
OU is going to especially need Mordecai if Austin Kendall loses the QB battle to Kyler Murray and decides to transfer. Recruiting two QBs in the same class never works, so no point in OU going there.
Quality grade: B+
Based on his senior film, Mordecai is badly underrated by Rivals, the one service that doesn't consider him a four-star prospect.
*TJ Pledger – 5-9, 190, 4.5
Rivals100, four stars.
Pledger was the early star of this class, committing early and sticking with it despite rampant rumors of a wandering eye for UCLA and Nebraska. Hopefully, he's the start of a pipeline to IMG Academy.
Pledger is a perfect three-down back for the OU offense. He does not have Joe Mixon’s total mix of power and size, but his receiving skills are similar. He's likely to challenge for a spot in the RB rotation this spring.
Quantity grade: B+
OU lost one RB in Abdul Adams, so not bringing in two RBs in this class could hurt. Adams’ departure is offset by Pledger’s early enrollment, and Kennedy Brooks is coming off a redshirt year.
The bigger result of losing one-time commitment Tavion Thomas is in 2019. OU now needs to sign two backs with Rodney Anderson’s probable NFL departure coming.
Quality grade: A
Pledger is an elite all-purpose back who provides a great complement to power back Trey Sermon for the post-Anderson era.
*Kundarrious Taylor – 6-3, 200, 4.5
*Jaylon Robinson – 5-10, 165, 4.4
*Jaqualyn Crawford – 5-11, 175, 4.4
OU may not seem on the surface to need much WR help, but attrition in previous classes and upcoming graduation losses mean OU needed to reload. When three walk-ons are in the two-deep, an infusion of talent and competition is needed.
OU grabbed four verbal commitments early in recruiting while numerous higher-ranked WRs in Texas were available. The Sooners definitely faced some criticism that they took too many early verbals at the position. However, the senior years of all three eventual signees seem to have validated the coaches’ choices.
Crawford is the highest-ranked commit of the bunch and had a huge senior year. He’s got elite speed and could continue OU’s trend of elite small WRs who play outside (Sterling Shepard, Dede Westbrook, Marquise Brown) or become an elite slot in the mold of Ryan Broyles and Jalen Saunders. Jaylon Robinson is more of a classic slot WR. After recovering from an early injury, he had a great senior campaign. It’s easy to see how these two will fit into the OU offense.
Taylor had a slow start to his senior year, but once healthy, he showed elite playmaking skills. Receivers coach Dennis Simmons evoked comparisons to Michael Crabtree. Athletes with Taylor's frame should not move this fast or that quickly. Bottom line is that OU doesn't have a receiver like him on campus right now.
Quantity grade: A-
OU needed to bolster the WR room and accomplished just that. The Sooners added three WRs with differing skills and abilities.
Quality grade: B+
Everyone loves Crawford. Robinson also had a great senior year. Taylor could be a superstar.
Brayden Willis – 6-4, 220, 4.7
OU seemed inclined to ignore the H-back position in the 2018 recruiting cycle. However, OU showed renewed interest in adding an H-back after the Rose Bowl.
OU quickly offered the Dallas native Willis, who accepted before even visiting officially. Willis had offers from a number of Group of 5 schools – most notably Boise State – that do a great job of mining Texas for contributors. Once you review Willis’ film, though, all doubts about the offer quickly disappear.
Willis is very physical at the point of attack. He is an aggressive and willing blocker. As a receiver, he easily gets up the field and into the seams. You can easily envision him attacking the hashes off run-pass options that have become key in OU's attack.
Quantity grade: B+
Willis will help with the loss of Flowers and Mark Andrews and will complement Grant Calcaterra and Jeremiah Hall.
Quality grade: B
Willis is lower ranked by most recruiting services – just like JD Runnels, Matt Clapp, Dmitri Flowers...
Tramonda Moore – 6-5, 320, 5.2 (JUCO)
Darrell Simpson – 6-7, 330, 5.4
Brey Walker – 6-7, 310, 5.1
Rivals top 50.
There was a time under assistants James Patton and Bruce Kittle that OL recruiting was a constant battle to sign numbers and talent. Current line coach Bill Bedenbaugh in the last two classes has transformed OU's OL recruiting into a legit juggernaut.
Last year’s class featured fantastic interior players and an elite tackle. Meanwhile, this year’s class has elite OTs and one fantastic interior player. Bedenbaugh is building a monster in Norman and will be capable of fielding an the best unit in the Big 12 on an annual basisy.
The star of the group this year Walker. He has the potential to be a first-round NFL draft pick at tackled.
Simpson was simply the best OT in Texas this year. Somehow, he’s an even bigger body than Walker, a massive athlete with the huge wingspan you want in a tackle.
Two years after signing with Oklahoma State out of high school, Moore has finally signed with his real preference, OU. He had a very productive stint in junior college. Moore is enrolling in May and might start at right tackle, replacing Bobby Evans should he move to the left side. Moore could slide inside as well.
Quantity grade: B+
OU seemed to want a fourth offensive lineman.
Quality grade: A+
An elite OT, another who could be a top 100 player and possibly the best JUCO OL prospect in the country.