Blogging about college football by an Oklahoma Sooners fan.

Sooners Recruiting Update: Shooting up the rankings

For those who were freaking out eight days ago when OU was ranked 31st in Rivals recruiting rankings, please note that with 18 commitments, OU is now ranked 10th by Rivals and 19th by ESPN. Momentum.

So OU has 18 verbaled and anywhere from 5 to 7 ships left in play.

With the general fan panic over defensive and offensive line recruiting now somewhat mollified by an influx of verbal commitments, OU is heading into the home stretch of January. It’s going to be slow going for recruiting news until after the Cotton Bowl.

OU’s first visit weekend will be January 11th, and OU is already scheduling kids for that weekend. Right now visits are scheduled by verbal commitment Christian Daimler and defensive tackle target Charles Walker. Last year OU added nine verbal commitments after Christmas, so seven more verbals is easily possible. In addition, there are bound to be even more de-commitments throughout the nation. In the last seven recruiting classes, from Ryan Broyles to Zach Sanchez, OU has gotten a late de-commit from a rival. Will that trend continue?

OU took its shot at wide receiver Laquon Treadwell. Treadwell didn’t verbal to the Sooners and will probably wait until February. OU’s in the battle here, and it may swing on whether Michigan can re-engage with the kid. Otherwise, it’s going to be a battle between OU and Ole Miss for his sugnature. (OSU will get a visit as well, but Monken leaving might have hurt them.) A big day from the OU receiving corps in the Cotton Bowl could not hurt.

At tight end, it's tough to tell who is at the top of the wish list. Could OU skip the TE position in this class? Yes. A high-school TE would be great, unless there’s some can't-miss JUCO ready to help that was missed in recruiting initially. There are several excellent HS candidates, but none that looks ready to push for playing time.

The OL now has two clear verbals – one HS, one JUCO, both tackles. Ideally, OU should add three more HS OL. (If OU accepts John Michael McGee back, four total OL would be fine.)

Defensive tackle needs at least one more name, preferably an HS DT. Still, it would be nice if OU signed a four-DT class. That might depend on the status of OU’s young DTs Marquis Anderson and Torrea Peterson, both of whom had suspension issues this fall. Expect OU to keep talking to Justin Manning up until signing day. Apparently his mom and brother, Demarcus Granger, are not overjoyed with his commitment to Texas A&M.

Linebacker and defensive end are done unless some amazing prospect reappears on OU’s radar. Defensive back recruiting seems close to finished. OU just needs to play out January and see who will fill those last two or three spots.

Verbal update

OU added five commitments and lost one.

The loss was fairly predictable at this point. Dalton Rodriguez decided that he wanted to play DE in college and not even try out OT. OU needed him at OT, not DE. Better for Rodriguez to bail now and not later in the cycle, which would make it harder to replace him.

Now the five new verbals. I’ll admit to being surprised that OU took Ogbonnia Okoronkwo after backing off Dimarya Mixon several weeks ago. It looked liked OU was only focusing on Okoronkwo’s teammate Torrodney Prevot instead. However, OU last week visited his school and landed a commitment.

At 6-3, 220, Okoronkwo is going to need to add some bulk to his frame. (There's a legit chance that Okoronkwo might end up taller as his dad is 6-7.) Fortunately, he looks like he can easily handle another 20 or so pounds. There’s also a possibility that OU uses him as a big OLB on running downs and then a pass-rushing specialist on later downs.

His highlight reel is great – making plays and tackles all over the field and showing both power and speed in his game. He lines up inside and outside and is still making plays. He’s a powerlifter, and you can see that strength in how he disengages from blocks to make plays. OU has scored a very good, overlooked DE class at this point.

Now to the main event, the new verbal commitments at DT landed by OU.

After absorbing the Manning news, OU almost immediately landed the first DT commitment from Dallas Skyline's Kerrick Huggins. Huggins had been an early A&M verbal commitment from back in the spring. The M.O. with Skyline recruits tends to be: Grab an early offer, commit and then after the season is over decide where you want to go. So, either A&M dropped Huggins due to having four DTs committed, or Huggins decommitted in favor of OU. It’s hard to tell, since the Aggie spin is that Huggins won’t qualify. OU seems to think that he will.

Huggins is a big DT with the frame to easily be 6-4, 300 in a year or two. He’s a four-star DT according to most services, just below Manning and A’Shawn Robinson in the Texas rankings.

After getting the good news about Huggins, OU got more immediate help at DT with the commitment of Quincy Russell (6-4, 310), JUCO DT out of Texas. Russell originally signed with the Longhorns out of HS. He didn’t qualify and went to Trinity Valley Community College, where he sat out 2011 with an injury.

Russell had a productive second season, being named first-team NJCAA All American with 75 tackles, 5 tackles for loss and 2 sacks.

The story on Russell in HS was that he had an amazing frame and big-time athleticism for a guy his size, but he was raw technique wise and took some plays off. He certainly seems to have solved the production/energy issues, and he gets to enroll at OU for winter conditioning and spring ball. It’s not exaggerating to say Russell is the most important player that OU will sign in this recruiting campaign. (His letter of intent is already in.)

Russell increased the numbers, talent, experience and competition at DT this spring. Finding replacements for the departing trio of senior DTs is very much job one this spring.

Trinity Valley also provided OU with the addition of the verbal commitment of Josiah St. John (6-6, 300). St. John is not a mid-term enrollee like Russell, but he’s in good academic shape and should be in Norman by August. St. John should be able to compete for a spot at OT, or St. John will be provide depth at OT and OU can perhaps go with another three-player rotation: St. John, Tyrus Thompson and Daryl Williams. St. John also provides depth against any kind of injury issues at OT. He’s rated the top JUCO OT by ESPN.

If St. John is projected to help OU’s present situation at OT, then Christian Daimler represents the future. Daimler, who decommitted from Arizona State when he received his OU offer, is a 6-6, 275 OT from Houston. Daimler’s film from junior to senior year shows great improvement, but his best days at OL are likely ahead of him.

He shows a nasty attitude in run blocking and has great agility and a huge wingspan that could make him an elite pass protector down the road. It’s not hard to project Daimler as a key contributor on the Sooner OL down the road. He’s the kind of prospect OU has done a good job developing on the OL.

Class prediction

QB: Cody Thomas
RB: Keith Ford
WR: Jordan Smallwood, Austin Bennett
OL: Aaron Cochran, Christian Daimler, Josiah St. John
DT: Quincy Russell, Kerrick Huggins, Charles Walker
DE: D.J. Ward, Matt Dimon, Ogbonnia Okoronkwo
LB: Jordan Mastrogiovanni, Jordan Evans, Dominique Alexander
DB: Stanvon Taylor, Hatari Byrd, Ahmad Thomas, Lamar Robbins, Tee Shepard

Mid-term players: Russell, Ward, Bennett, Shepard

Position updates

TE: Well, Emmanuel Bibbs is back to Iowa State. Cam Clear is with A&M. Beau Sandland is going to Miami.

Position coach Bruce Kittle is 0-3 for JUCO TEs. Not a very good return rate at all. I’m sure OU’s limited use of the TE didn’t help. Somehow, Jermaine Gresham and James Hanna being NFL TEs is not aiding OU.

There are a number of HS names out there. I’m not sure if OU will offer any of them. Personally, I’d offer a TE a year to keep a solid development line in the program. The position is that versatile in OU’s offensive scheme.

Also, OU has offered a preferred walk-on spot to Nick Jeffreys (6-4, 235, 4.9) from Bishop McGuinness HS in Oklahoma City. He looks very good for a walk-on offer. He could be a bigger, more athletic Trent Raterree or a potential Aaron Ripkowski at H-back/fullback.

*Jason Reese (6-4, 228, 4.7) – Reese is a relatively new name in recruiting circles. He plays for powerhouse Euless Trinity, which usually has a power running game. In his highlight reel, he shows excellent hands and speed. He’s often playing almost as a big flanker. He’s really used all over the place: traditional TE next to the tackle, H-back lead blocker. When asked to block, Reese looks pretty good, but the majority of the highlights are as a receiver.

*Mitchell Parsons (6-5, 230, 4.6) – A top-flight HS TE who shows great ability to get downfield. Parsons would be a great addition to OU’s young TE corps if OU offers a HS TE. Looking for a comparison? Trent Smith easily comes to mind.

OL: It’s time for OU’s two coaches dedicated to OL to finish off the class.

Nico Falah (6-5, 275, 5.0) just visited for the banquet weekend. Not sure that OU has a real shot at this USC commitment, so until some news changes, I’m going to leave him off. Caleb Beneoch chose UCLA, Na’ty Rodgers is completely off the board and Trenton Brown chose Florida, as expected.

So, OU now has one JUCO OT committed. Do Kittle and James Patton continue to recruit the other two August enrollees in OTs Desmond Harrison and Matt Finnin?

I think OU will go with three HS kids. I love the potential of Harrison at OT, but OU doesn’t need two JUCO OTs, not with two redshirt junior OTs with extensive playing time returning in Williams and Thompson. OU has also offered two in-state kids preferred walk-on positions: center Heath Newland (6-2, 290) from Edmond and Sam Noble (6-5, 295) from Oologah. Both have some potential and could help OU down the road and earn scholarships.

Christian Morris (6-6, 295, 5.1) – Another UCLA verbal who has blown up in recruiting. OU has offered and will try and get him on campus. He’s a big athlete who looks like he could be a great LT/RT. OU visit seems like it’s been pushed out until Jan. 20. Not sure it will even happen.

Aaron Cochran (6-7, 330, 5.3) – A big RT prospect from California who is still on OU's radar.  He visited for the Baylor game. California, where his brother plays, may not be the leader everyone thinks with Jeff Tedford gone and Sonny Dykes now hired. Will that help OU??

Kyle Meadows (6-6, 285, 5.0) – Meadows is from a big-time Ohio program that produces D-I talent. Meadows is a very athletic big man with a frame to add more weight.

Desmond Harrison (6-8, 310, 5.2) – A tall, mobile JUCO OT prospect with the potential to turn into an absolute star. Unreal ceiling. OU visit went well from all reports.

Matt Finnin (6-8, 330, 5.3) – Finnin is the latest OT offer and is scheduled for a visit in early January. His film looks good, but his offer list is pretty average right now. His offer list could blow up as folks find his film. He’s a big aggressive RT. Some talk he might have three years to play.

DT: I don’t think that OU will continue to pursue Toby Johnson now that Quincy Russell has signed. That leaves only one remaining name: Charles Walker, who seems very interested in OU.

So how do Huggins and Walker compare to Justin Manning and A’Shawn Robinson? Manning has the best collection of film over the last thee years. He’s a perfect 6-2, 285 3-technique DT in a 4-3. There’s little risk at all unless you try to bulk him to 300-plus, where he might lose the explosive burst that is the best part of his game.

A’Shawn Robinson is a huge DT (6-5, 310) who might end up being a much better OG. His film is good, but he’s very raw. If he adds any more weight, he won’t have the burst to stay at DT. Frame and potential are off the charts, though. He has a higher ceiling than Manning, but the risk is greater.

Huggins' senior year is so much better than his junior film. It’s easy to see why Jackie Shipp offered him in September and made a big push. Huggins is 6-4, 285 and has an elite frame and mobility. He looks light at 280, so he can easily add another 15 pounds to his frame. His technique was much better as a senior, and he’s making more plays in the backfield and in pursuit. He looks a little like Gerald McCoy in HS. He could be an elite run stopper with pass rush potential.

Everyone is looking for DTs, so how does Charles Walker fall between the gaps? No film due to injuries the last two years.

The injury issue is a big red flag. Ignoring that and solely focusing on his senior year film, Walker has the best film of any DT in Texas. He’s making plays constantly in the backfield. He’s explosive with a powerful frame that can add additional weight at 6-4, 285. The level of physicality is just impressive. Run stopping and pass rushing both are featured in the highlights. You watch it and wonder where the hell he came from.

If he can stay healthy, Walker’s ceiling is probably the highest of any DT in Texas. But he carries the greatest risk. So a DT class of Huggins and Walker has serious potential (similar to the DE class of Tapper and Onouha last year), but would have serious bust risk as well. Manning is a much more certain product at DT.

Demetrius Campbell (6-4, 270, 4.8) – Campbell plays both inside and outside and has racked up some great stats with more 30 tackles for loss. Great athleticism and a frame to add some weight. Does OU want another JUCO DT mid-term guy? With Russell being the big nose guard, Campbell could be the speed 3-technique guy.

DB: Four down, 2 to go.

Mike Stoops has got a great four-player class going (counting Shepard for now) and just needs to get some official visits/verbals from his remaining targets. Lamar Robbins just visited along with teammate Jamal Carter. Adrian Baker visited for the banquet weekend and has officially de-committed from FSU. You also have to wonder if Mike makes a call to Tyler Foreman, who had verbaled to Wisconsin, now that Bret Bielema has left. L.J. Moore has reappeared on the OU radar with a January visit scheduled. Lamar Robbins could drop at any moment, but I’m starting to wonder if distance is an issue.

Lamar Robbins (6-3, 185, 4.45) – One of the top big CBs in Florida. Very similar to OU CB Gary Simon. Mike has made great progress in getting him to consider OU. OU fans should be loving the thought of an OU secondary loaded with top DBs from Florida and California. Robbins visited for the OSU game and now appears close to committing to OU. Robbins could also end up being a safety in the OU defense.

Adrian Baker (6-1, 170, 4.4) – A big-time cover CB from Florida. Verbaled to FSU, but with Mark Stoops leaving FSU along with his recruiting coach, Baker has de-committed. He’s already visited Clemson and OU and now appears ready to choose between those two teams on signing day.

L.J. Moore (6-1, 185, 4.45) – OU is now back in the hunt for Moore with an official visit upcoming. Moore is an ideal hybrid between CB and safety that would fit the OU defense perfectly. Hatari Byrd has been talking up the Sooners.

Jamal Carter (6-2, 195, 4.45) – Teammate of Robbins who verbaled to Miami but just visited OU with Robbins and verbal Ahmad Thomas. He’s the kind of big, physical safety OU is recruiting under Mike. He just fits with Byrd and Thomas. And Mike wants to play three safeties most of the time.