Let’s get to it: Justin Manning chose Texas A&M. It’s a huge blow for Oklahoma's recruiting, mainly due to the fact that he was probably the best defensive tackle in Texas. There are very few elite DTs in Texas this year (Manning and UT verbal A’Shawn Robinson). There are none in the state of Oklahoma, again.
Manning was not going to be a freshman star like Tommie Harris, but after a redshirt year, he could be a factor as a 3-technique DT in OU’s scheme. Of course, there’s also a downside with Manning. He’s not overly big – would he maintain his speed and explosiveness after adding some weight?
The situation with Manning illustrates a number of real concerns for OU's recruiting:
1. A&M’s move to the SEC is aiding the Aggies' recruiting, particularly in Dallas, an area where OU has dominated them in the past. Kevin Sumlin is turning A&M into a Texas-based recruiting juggernaut, creating all kinds of problems for OU.
2. Apparently, defensive line coach Jackie Shipp badly misread this whole recruiting situation. Is he getting stale and lazy on the recruiting road? Shipp’s only real recruiting role is signing blue-chip DTs. He signed no one last year.
3. OU is going to need to adjust its recruiting strategy and offer more out of region DTs. The Sooners have to get really aggressive in extending those offers, which is counter to Shipp’s M.O. Shipp hasn’t landed a big-time DT outside of Texas or Oklahoma, save for Jordan Phillips. Shipp has not shown an ability to recruit well nationally.
Moving on from the Manning debacle, OU still needs two JUCO DTs and ideally two high-school DTs. Nothing has changed. OU has three prime JUCO DT targets in Quincy Russell, Ben Bradley and Toby Johnson, along with two or three other targets on hold waiting on their decisions.
OU needs these JUCOs to go with the returning young players, but the Sooners also need young DTs to get into the program. High-school DTs are where the problems lie. Outside of Maquedius Bain, who just visited but also has interest from LSU and Miami, there’s no one on the board that’s leaning to OU: Greg Gilmore is with LSU; Keith Bryant is a great-looking DT prospect, but there's no sign of an OU visit; D’Asian Richardson has fallen off the map; Deadrin Senat seems locked into FSU.
Put simply, OU cannot keep putting off signing blue-chip DTs.
Verbal/Update: OU has added a potential January enrollee in cornerback Tee Shepard. Shepard, a top five CB in the 2012 signing class, enrolled early at Notre Dame, but ran into Clearinghouse issues.
In addition, in his attempt to enroll early at ND, Shepard changed high schools. Like D.J. Ward this year, Shepard was not allowed to play football during his senior year, so he’s been out of football for a bit. He left ND around spring practice. He spent all fall working on his testing and appears to now have a qualifying score.
Now, he’s on the record talking about enrolling at OU if the paperwork is all good. Shepard, if he can get on campus, is the highest rated corner signed by OU since Marcus Walker in 2004. He will have four years to play and will go thru spring football. He’s a huge addition in conjunction with Mike Stoops' efforts to rebuild the talent in the secondary.
(Note: Get up to speed on OU's current commitments and targets in the previous recruiting update.)