Breaking down OU's recruiting class
BY ERIC BAILEY World Sports Writer
Thursday, February 07, 2013
2/07/13 at 5:53 AM
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The Sooners targeted a specific need in its 2013 class - the defense.
Oklahoma signed 14 defensive players, including seven linemen. The group includes four tackles (Kerrick Huggins, Matt Romar, Charles Walker and junior college transfer Quincy Russell) and three ends (Matt Dimon, Ogbonnia Okoronkwo and D.J. Ward). The position was hit hard by graduation in 2012. Five newcomers also will join the secondary.
The offense focused on skill players, with solid talent coming in at quarterback (Cody Thomas) and running back (Keith Ford). The Sooners also signed four wide receivers, one year after targeting five wide receivers.
Jed Barnett, a junior college transfer already on campus, is expected to lead in the race to take over the punting chores.
Oklahoma went looking for skill players in 2013, loading up with one quarterback, one running back and four wide receivers among its nine offensive recruits.
The first player to commit to Oklahoma's 24-man recruiting class may be the gem of the bunch. Running back Keith Ford, who pledged in March 2012, is a five-star recruit by Scout, which also rated him as the fifth-best high school player at the position. Quarterback Cody Thomas, a fellow Texan, threw a state-best 46 touchdown passes as a senior. A talented baseball player, Thomas' draft stock in June will be closely watched as he may have to make a decision on playing football or pro baseball.
There isn't a "blue-chip" wide receiver in this class, but there is potential in the four players brought to Norman. Oklahoma needs to replace its top two players, Kenny Stills and Justin Brown, at the position.
OU did sign two tackles and a guard, but the line definitely will be a point of emphasis in future recruiting classes.
Needs: Is there another Sterling Shepard in this wide receiver group? Oklahoma coaches hope so. The position will see four new players, and OU needs help to replace 155 catches and 1,838 receiving yards by Stills and Brown.
Headliner: Keith Ford has the ability to be a game-breaker. One problem is the running back position is filled with talented players like Damien Williams and Brennan Clay. Trey Millard could also get more carries and Dominique Whaley will be a senior. What will Ford's contribution be?
Sleeper: Austin Bennett has been around football all of his life. The wide receiver's father, Greg, played at Louisville and spent time in NFL camps. A slot receiver and one-time Arkansas commit, if he can produce early, it may help OU put Jalen Saunders on the edge more often.
Immediate impact: Dannon Cavil didn't possess big numbers in his senior season (33 receptions, 720 yards, seven touchdowns) while playing in a run-oriented system, but he has the size (6-5, 205) to provide a big target for the Sooners' new quarterback. It's all about making the transition to college football.
Recruiting emphasis went to the defensive side of the football and for good reason. The Sooners gave up an average of 398.3 yards per game in 2012, which is more than any other defense in Oklahoma history.
Oklahoma placed a focus on boosting the line and signed seven defensive linemen, including four tackles. Two to watch include Quincy Russell, a junior college transfer from Trinity Valley that signed in December and one-time Texas A&M commit Kerrick Huggins. End D.J. Ward (Southmoore) wasn't eligible to play his senior season of high school, but is already on campus and will take part in spring drills.
Stanvon Taylor and Hatari Byrd are dynamic defensive backs that highlight the secondary, and could help ease the loss of Tony Jefferson and Demontre Hurst.
Needs: There's plenty of numbers at tackle, but can any of the recruits (Russell, Huggins, Matt Dimon, Ogbonnia Okoronkwo) make immediate contributions? All will get close looks as OU looks to muscle up on the line.
Headliner: D.J. Ward is rated one of recruiting guru Tom Lemming's top 100 players nationally. Ward didn't play last season, but will benefit from his early entry to school. His raw talent makes him one to watch. With coaching, he could be an impact player.
Sleeper: Linebacker Jordan Evans (one of only two linebackers in the recruiting class) said coaches told him that he wouldn't be redshirted. His athleticism could get him on the field. At Norman North, he returned five kicks for touchdowns, including a three-game streak during the state playoffs.
Immediate impact: Hatari Byrd is a hard-hitting safety that fits right into defensive coordinator Mike Stoops' mold. Byrd is expected to see action immediately. Like with all freshmen, it depends on how quickly he picks up the Sooners' scheme.
Booker T. Washington's Dominique Alexander (right), is hugged by his mother, Nicole Alexander, after Dominique signed with OU on Wednesday. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World