Sooners wrap up 2011 class early, work ahead on 2012
BY JOHN E. HOOVER World Sports Writer
Feb 2, 2011
2/02/11 at 8:51 AM
The future is so last year.
To the rabid recruitniks who follow Oklahoma, Wednesday’s National Signing Day will be anticlimactic to the extreme. Like a Tolkien novel made into a movie, everyone has known for a while now how this one will end.
OU expects 17 new National Letters of Intent on Wednesday, a necessarily low number (last year’s total was 29) because the Sooners are pushing the NCAA’s 85-scholarship limit. (Two others, Londell Taylor and Archie Bradley, will sign but won’t be on football scholarship.)
There is plenty of star power in this class. Running back Brandon Williams and wide receiver Trey Metoyer are considered among the best in the nation at their positions, and a handful of others garnered five-star ratings. Seven played in high school All-American games.
Of the 17, all but one of the verbal (non-binding) commitments were in place since last June or before. That one was Bennett Okotcha, a cornerback from Coppell, Texas, who on Monday changed his verbal pledge from Notre Dame to Oklahoma.
Historically, it’s by far the earliest OU has locked down its incoming recruiting class. But Sooner coaches haven’t been taking extra days off. Instead, they’re deeper than ever into next year’s class, having hosted two Junior Day events on campus and having struck up early relationships with a handful of high-profile 2012 recruits.
“If you know who you want, you might as well go after him,” said recruiting analyst Tom Lemming. “I’m not a big fan of getting everybody early because there’s always some guy that has a big senior year and then you don’t have enough room for him and you lose him to other schools. But I’d say get the bulk of your recruiting class done, and then you can concentrate on the next year.”
Under Stoops, OU has landed most of its commitments after the prospects started their senior year. They frequently have pledged well after their high school careers were finished. A recent comparison:
* In 2010, 17 of the 29 commitments came after June, including six that pledged in December or later.
* In 2009, 12 of the 23 came after June, seven of which were December or later.
* In 2008, the 22 commitments included seven that came after June — all in January or February.
* And in 2007, 17 of the 21 came after June, including five who didn’t announce until National Signing Day.
This year’s class is clearly different. Before Okotcha’s switch this week, the last verbal commitment came from Kansas City tight end Dan Tapko, who pledged on June 29. Four others also committed in June. Before Brandon Carter of Trinity, Texas, switched his commitment to TCU two weeks ago (opening the door for Okotcha), all 17 Sooner pledges had been safely committed for more than six months.
“It’s a good idea,” Lemming said. “I’ve been on the road since November, and Oklahoma’s got their name on every list that I run into. Every kid in the Dallas Metroplex met me about (four) weeks ago — and then I go to Houston; I hit the top 100 kids in Texas — and everywhere I went, Oklahoma was there already. Stoops has got his machine going.”
Ultimately, that paves the way for stronger relationships with next year’s class.
For example, OU is considered a strong frontrunner for wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, the 2012 No. 1 national prospect at Hillcrest High School in Springfield, Mo. The 6-foot-6, 220-pound Green-Beckham caught 66 passes for 1,616 yards and 23 TDs in football, averaged 18.7 points and 8.4 rebounds in basketball, won state titles in the 100-meter dash and triple jump and was MaxPreps National Athlete of the Year — as a sophomore. Last year, he caught 78 passes for 1,706 yards and 15 TDs.
Green-Beckham is simply the brightest in the 2012 galaxy of football stars, several of whom have OU on their early lists.
“Oklahoma is ahead of schedule for the class of 2012,” Lemming said, “so look for them to have a knockout year.”
OU coach Bob Stoops locked down the 2011 class early and is looking ahead to 2012. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World