This is basically Lincoln Riley’s first recruiting class that he owned from start to finish. Now, I think he was a driving force for Sooner recruiting before taking over as HC but since he has things have really taken off. He’s a strong recruiter with a good grasp of the art of leveraging Oklahoma’s prestige and current track. I’ve yet to hear a story about Riley in the recruiting realm that had him coming off poorly.
By 247’s metrics, this is the third consecutive Oklahoma class to rank in the top 10 and their third in fourth years to finish second in the Big 12 behind you-know-who. It looked like Oklahoma would finish no. 1 in 2019 until California 5-star Bru McCoy determined after a few days at USC to transfer to Texas and was counted (to great frustration from Texas rivals) in their 2019 ranking. It was the right call by 247, imo, since they want these class rankings to bear out over time and leaving out a guy who enrolled at Texas in time for the spring semester just doesn’t make sense. Of course there’s not really any evidence that these marginal differences in ranking mean a lick so it’s really all just fodder for message board and Twitter squabbling by us plebes.
The Sooners continue to pursue a fairly national recruiting strategy. They drew in 10 from Texas, which is typical of a healthy Sooner class, two from Oklahoma, a couple from California and another from Arizona, a Kansas JUCO, and then they hit some hot spots in Florida, the South, and D.C. The southwest is a goldmine for Texas and Oklahoma these days and the Sooners once again did very well in that region.
On offense they’re pretty much on a “business as usual” track. They like to recruit to Riley’s 21 spread but they’ve shown flexibility in making use of a variety of talents. On defense they had some more important tasks, first to try and recruit some speed and athleticism up front to Alex Grinch’s more movement-heavy scheme, and then also to bolster their overall talent and numbers on that side of the ball.
Here’s a breakdown of their 2017 class that was hailed as their return to elite recruiting (I’d say I had them fairly pegged except Brooks, who’s been better than expected). Here’s the writeup on the 2018 crew.
There are probably some changes coming here as there are up front. Mike Stoops kept bringing in skinny, twitchy guys that could be taught to play man coverage and stay over receivers down the field without safety help and then hopefully learn to jump routes. Obviously that wasn’t really happening anymore, particularly once Kerry Cooks came to town in 2015. That first year, senior Zack Sanchez picked off seven passes and Jordan Thomas added five more. Then Sanchez graduated and the entire starting secondary for the Sooners picked off four total in 2016, five in 2017, and five in 2018.
They need some guys now that can play the run more in Grinch’s quarters coverages and they really need the addition of another DB coach beyond Grinch (CB coach Roy Manning) to pay big and early dividends. The run-stopping angle is huge since Grinch’s aggressive movement up front requires a secondary that can play zone and close on the ball to tackle when stunting DL and LB lose gaps.
Jaden Davis: 5-9, 166. 4**** from Fort Lauderdale, FL (St. Thomas Aquinas)
SPARQ: 4.58 40, 4.38 shuttle, 32.7″ vertical, 36′ power toss
Davis is a tightly wound ball of pop. He muscles up receivers, hits as hard as he can, and is really physical in the backfield. Of course he’s also only 166 pounds and will need to add about 20 pounds if he wants to play this way across from the guys he’ll face in the Big 12. He’s really pretty skilled in coverage but I’d have him pegged for slot WR if he wasn’t listed here instead. His ball skills and explosiveness would translate more easily on offense.
Ty DeArman: 6-0, 190. 3*** from Arlington, TX (Bowie)
SPARQ: 4.76 40, 4.44 shuttle, 28.9″ vertical, 35′ power toss, 11.24 100m
No. 94 on the IT top 100 and a dead ringer for Blake Gideon to my eyes. He’s pretty fast and plays faster because he has a lot of confidence on the field. There are lots of fun highlights where he’s running a good route and turning upfield to run people over, you don’t see that too often from a slot. His propensity for violence has to see him at safety though, imo. He has the ball skills, instincts, and tackling ability to be a really good support safety down the line. Probably on the boundary where he can stay closer to the action.
Woodi Washington: 5-11, 175. 4**** from Murfreesboro, TN (Oakland)
Plays a lot of different techniques on film, showing some press-man as well as 2-read. I didn’t see any athletic testing numbers on him but he sees things really well and is often patient to let things develop before blowing by people to close on the ball. He should project easily to playing corner in a 2-high scheme.
Jeremiah Criddell: 5-11, 188. 4**** from Santa Ana, CA (Mater Dei)
Criddell is the crown jewel of the DB class, in my estimation. Mater Dei collects some of the best athletes in Southern California for their teams so the guys that they lean heavily on are some of the cream of the crop. Criddell mostly played safety, probably because he could most easily impact games from that position, but also played some press-man at times against opponents. He’s a hard-running, willing tackler as a run support guy although I’d say that wouldn’t be a maximization of his skill and athleticism. His best fit would be as a strong safety or nickel that could play some man coverage at times or else offer range on the back end in coverage.
The Sooners were able to collect at least one of each of the key positional types in the Big 12. The physical, run support safety, the lockdown corner, and the cover safety. They got decent numbers as well but could still use more. I don’t know if anyone will be exceptional at CB but Criddell and DeArman I think are important additions.
Grinch likes to play things fast and aggressive everywhere and these guys will be doing more blitzing on early downs. The Sooners have recruited a lot of promising talents here, regularly hitting that sweet spot of having guys that can run and drop at 230-240 pounds, the coaching will be the bigger issue. Bob Stoops and Brent Venables used to crank out converted athletes who successfully bulked up to 235 and learned how to play the position at a high level. Nowadays they still get the athletes and build them up but only every fourth one ever actually demonstrates a high level understanding of the position.
Jonathan Perkins: 6-0, 214. 3*** from San Bernardino, CA (Cajon)
SPARQ: 4.8 shuttle, 34.5′ power toss
Perkins’ film tells the story of a physical playmaker with a nose for the ball and a good feel for the game. They used him a lot as an inside, insert blitzer where Grinch also likes to deploy his backers and he was excellent at timing the blitz and finishing the play. He seems fluid enough as well but he’s usually shooting to the ball like he’s been shot out of a cannon so it’s less clear how he is at reading something trickier and changing direction as needed. The athletic numbers suggest that if he’s not flying downhill he can be really limited but we’ll see. Probably an inside-backer down the line.
Jamal Morris: 6-2, 185. 4**** from Richmond, TX (Ft Bend Bush)
SPARQ: 4.82 40, 4.51 shuttle, 32″ vertical, 38′ power toss
Morris was #13 on the Inside Texas top 100 and the film is much better than the numbers would suggest. Morris sees the field really well and was flying to the ball, when it was teed up for him he was finishing plays with turnovers and big hits. What really stood out was how well he scrapes, and they regularly dropped him down pretty shallow in the box and he’d make stops in the run game close to the line of scrimmage on the opposite hash from where he’d line up. I think his highest upside would actually be from moving down to LB from safety. Obviously he’s several briskets away from that right now. DeArman occupies the same sort of space as a support safety and either starts to lose their value if you play them together and allow teams to start to hunt them in coverage. But if he can play at LB at 210+ down the road? That’s a special player.
Perkins looks like an average B12 take and not a guy that can create flexibility for the guys around him or be a feature of the scheme. He does look like a high floor guy though that should be able to get on the field. I moved Morris here because it just makes a lot of sense and makes for a much more promising group. It’s of course possible that Morris will stick at safety, I thought Barnes would spin down as well and that didn’t happen, but the skillset and frame just make too much sense at LB.
The expectation is that Oklahoma will continue to use a Jack linebacker/end hybrid and then try to find some DL that are a little more disruptive to play at the other three spots. The days of clogging up lanes with bigger guys are over in Norman. They also need numbers here with injuries, transfers, and early departures sapping their roster of a lot of talent of late. Immediate help would be accepted.
David Ugwoegbu: 6-3, 213. 4**** from Katy, TX (Seven Lakes)
IT no. 55 played in a sort of sam LB hybrid position vaguely akin to Caleb Kelly’s spot. His projection at college is to end up as a 6-3, 255 Jack LB, like Obo Okoronkwo, but that is very much a projection. He’s very comfortable and fluid in space and an athletic guy overall, but he’s not super physical yet and will need to both add a ton of power AND learn how to translate it to beating OL.
LaRon Stokes: 6-4, 245. 3*** from Miami, OK (Northeastern Oklahoma A&M)
Stokes is already on campus auditioning for a job as a DE on the two-deep. He’s a traditional four-down type DE, he’s pretty good about playing the edge and handling blockers coming at him from different angles and solid enough as a pass-rusher. If they gave him friendly roles he could probably play immediately opposite the jack, if he has to play as more of like a 4i or strong side DE outside of a nose tackle that would be tougher.
Kori Roberson: 6-3, 273. 3*** from Manvel, TX (Manvel)
IT no. 39 is a really good prospect at DT. He’s very quick off the ball but likes to play through the OL blocks with power. Roberson looks really likely to end up being capable of playing and holding a gap against good run blocking fronts sooner than later, pass-rush will be more of a project but he has some tools.
Derek Green: 6-5, 290. 3*** from Jacksonville, NC (Southwest)
Green was a perfect fit to play DT in this scheme, he has legit lateral quickness and also reach to move around and cause real problems. Unfortunately for the Sooners, he’s already transferred out.
Marcus Stripling: 6-3, 260. 4**** from Houston, TX (Mayde Creek)
Stripling was too athletic and powerful at the HS level to be handled very well. He abuses TEs, tackles, and occasionally guards lining up in a variety of spots and overpowering people en route to the backfield. He might play strong side DE but given that he’s already 260 I could also see him getting to 280+ and playing as a DT. Eric rated him no. 52 but noted there are concerns about his level of production at the HS level, fairly inconsistent I guess. Might be a conditioning issue.
Marcus Hicks: 6-6, 255. 4**** from Wichita, KS (Northwest)
Hicks is definitely going to end up inside at tackle down the road. He’s playing DE on his HS film but isn’t terribly explosive on the edge, preferring to use his reach and quicks to stack OL and then make his move to the ball. I’m guessing he’ll get a redshirt and some training inside at tackle.
Joseph Wete: 6-4, 220. 4**** from Washington, D.C. (Gonzaga)
Wete is a really explosive player that was blowing by guys on film. He’d use the first step to beat the OT wide and then either finish him off or blow by inside if he caught them off-balance. He’ll need to continue to add weight and strength but he’s a really good project at the Jack LB spot.
Seven takes and six actual players, the Sooners basically just loaded up on projects to work on and try to mold into Grinch’s system. The raw clay is here but most of these guys are going to require a lot of development in the S&C program and also in playing more physical, which of course is a concern for a program that hasn’t been great in those regards of late. If Grinch and the new program are able to get things humming then there’s definitely a lot to work with here.
Bill Bedenbaugh’s quest to field the largest OL in college football history continues! His 2018 crew was perhaps the best OL I’ve seen at Oklahoma, thanks to Creed Humphrey’s steady growth over the season and Cody Ford’s shocking dominance. The 2017 unit was also outstanding and probably better at LT with Orlando Brown but the infusion of Ford and Humphrey was impressive and the other three veterans were all just a year better than in 2017. The Sooners will likely be good here again but the loss of 141 combined starts between the four departing players is going to be hard to make up.
What the Sooners might be able to make up though is what they lost in the quest to field the largest OL. Bobby Evans’ and Dru Samia’s <310 pound frames weren’t doing them any favors there. Here’s a glimpse at a prospective starting OL for 2019 in comparison to the heavyweights of years’ past:
The stakes of Oklahoma’s spring along the OL are really high but I’m just not sure if everyone fully appreciates all the reasons for that fact. Except the local buffets, I’m sure they understand what’s going on. Anyways, here are the latest mastodons to be introduced to Bedenbaugh’s unique ranch.
E.J. Ndoma-Ogar: 6-3, 338. 4**** from Allen, TX (Allen)
My first impression of Ndoma-Ogar was from the 2017 state final when he barely played against Lake Travis, giving way to seniors. That was kinda strange, although his brief snaps were positive and overall his film is excellent. He has the athleticism to potentially play at tackle but projects better as a mauling guard that can consistently find LBs off combo blocks and pull around. Should be a very good fit and could probably play early.
Stacey Wilkins: 6-5, 284. 4**** from Camden, AR (Camden Fairview)
Wilkins is still kinda skinny in his arms and legs on film, he’s going to end up much bigger and more powerful when all is said and done. He has the quicks and reach to play tackle for OU, it’ll be a question of when he has the needed weight and power to anchor when a TCU DE is turning the corner into him.
Marcus Alexander: 6-3, 295. 3*** from Sunnyvale, TX (Sunnyvale)
IT no. 82, I think he might be another Cody Ford. He has some real athleticism and when he gets his meathooks on guys he’s really good at using it to turn their shoulder and then put them in the dirt with his own frame on top of them. Just a mean dude, I can’t imagine going up against him and having much fight by the fourth quarter. If he can’t hack it outside at tackle he’s a no brainer prospect at guard.
Finley Felix: 6-6, 310. 3*** from Coffeyville, KS (Coffeyville CC)
Pretty sure they brought Felix in to compete immediately with Brey Walker (redshirt freshman) and Adrian Ealy (redshirt sophomore) for a starting tackle position. He has a good kick step and finds guys in space pretty well, essentially he’s just a well developed tackle prospect with more practical experience than the guys OU has been sitting the last two years. I don’t know if he has the talent to steal the LT job but he’ll probably at least be a third tackle next season.
I don’t know if there’s a LT in this bunch but they all look really good and OU will probably have a mauling run game and candidates for All-B12 teams from the guard position for the foreseeable future.
I believe my custom here is only to count the H-back position here and not the flex TEs that OU regularly employs. Riley asks quite a bit of this spot, moving this guy from H-back alignments to inline TE spots and then also flexing them out at times to block or run wheel routes. The main goal is to get a blocker here but they want guys who can catch also because their play-action game with the POP pass and other tricks is truly nasty. Dmitri Flowers had 26 catches for 424 yards and five TDs in 2017 and Carson Meier had 19 catches for 327 yards and four TDs in 2018.
Austin Stogner: 6-6, 235. 4**** from Plano, TX (Prestonwood Christian)
SPARQ: 4.5 shuttle, 26.6″ vertical, 39′ power toss
Eric had Stogner no. 37 in the state of Texas, I think I’m lower on him. Stogner is a physical dude with a good knack for running routes and good hands to bring the ball in. The problem is that he just isn’t very quick and it’s hard to see him getting separation against DBs in the B12 as a flex TE. However as an H-back, he can probably become a good blocker that easily makes the most of opportunities in the receiving game. He’s a legitimately skilled receiver, I just think he’ll need to threaten the defense as a blocker in order to get the space he needs. There’s also an outside chance that he goes the Lane Johnson route and ends up as a 290 pound tackle down the line.
Stogner really might be great if he plays as a true TE. He’s powerful and will get much heavier before all is said and done, which could add some extra edge to the OU blocking schemes that they might need for reasons I’ll get into shortly. As a flex TE like Mark Andrews or Grant Calcaterra I don’t see it, those guys were/are so much quicker and more explosive.
This is one of the best jobs in college football, playing RB in this scheme behind Bedenbaugh’s ungulates in their relatively simple but well orchestrated running schemes on defenses that are worried about the RPO and normal passing game as well as the running ability of the QBs. It’s really hard to defenders in position to stop the OU running game and DCs have been working hard the last few years to figure out how to even approach the task. Obviously they want talent here to make the most of the opportunities but I think the scheme and personnel would make most any B12 caliber RB look really good. The only system I’ve ever seen that did more for the RB was Art Briles’ veer and shoot.
Rhamondre Stevenson: 6-0, 235. 3*** from Norwalk, CA (Cerritos College)
SPARQ: 4.64 40, 4.3 shuttle, 29.9″ vertical, 32′ power toss
Stevenson is a pretty good athlete who also happens to be 235 pounds, which is a lethal combination. When he can get some momentum going he’s an absolute wrecking ball and he’s fluid and quick enough to help himself find space, the OU OL and scheme should be able to do the rest. The Sooner situation must have looked pretty good, he has a chance at 150 or so carries if there’s an injury and then a shot to be “the guy” in 2020.
Marcus Major: 6-0, 200. 4**** from Oklahoma City, OK (Milwood)
Major has run an 11.34 100m, so he’s pretty fast and he’s also a violent runner on film that loves to administer some shots. His agility and ability to downshift and accelerate are most promising, he reminds me a lot of Kennedy Brooks. I can see Major growing as a guy that becomes a nightmare for his ability to set up his blockers before darting through the resulting creases.
Just two more guys that should find it easy to put up huge numbers and run over DBs in this scheme.
This is the real force of the offense. As a recap of how this amazing system works: the X receiver is a guy that is just a pure, dominant outside WR. Ideally he’s commanding double teams because he’s just too good to be handled 1-on-1. The Y receiver is the flex TE and he’s running the normal routes you see from a top quality slot only at a size and weight that make him really hard to match with nickels and often up on the line. The Z receiver is where they stick your more traditional slot, the tiny burner that you don’t want to let loose into space. The Sooners get away with playing him outside and off the line where you can’t press his smaller frame and throw off the timing because the flex TE often plays up on the line. When they go to four WR sets, which is often, they will sometimes move the Z inside to the slot.
Theo Wease: 6-3, 202. 5***** from Allen, TX (Allen)
SPARQ: 4.62 40, 4.25 shuttle, 31.1″ vertical, 41′ toss
No. 2 on the IT top 100, Wease is bring, strong, fast, and has good hands. The questions with Wease are just things like “so how good can he be?” He has a really high floor since he’s pretty strong to try and press and then pretty fast and coordinated if you play off. For all that though, it’s hard to shake the memory of Ohio State WR Garrett Wilson erasing him from the 2017 state final game while playing both ways. He also didn’t put up particularly extraordinary numbers given the talent of his teammates and the split attention he got when paired with the Allen run game. I’m not really sure why he has the 5th star based on his work on the field and he’s more well rounded than he is overpowering.
Trejan Bridges: 6-1, 180. 4**** from Carrollton, TX (Hebron)
SPARQ: 4.8 40, 4.18 shuttle, 33.7″ vertical, 33′ power toss
Bridges is super smooth, he glides around the field effortlessly and has good ball skills to boot. I think the shuttle is more indicative of his playing speed than the bad 40 time, it’s very difficult for DBs to stick on Bridges. I can see Bridges playing the X spot like Lamb and serving as a magnet on third down. He may end up in the slot though running routes in the seams with his quicks. Eric had him no. 18 in Texas.
Jadon Haselwood: 6-3, 196. 5***** from Ellenwood, GA (Cedar Grove)
SPARQ: 4.69 40, 4.4 shuttle, 34.1″ vertical, 37′ power toss
Haselwood has really high level coordination that shows up in precise footwork that allows him to easily get separation and then ball skills to bring down contested catches. It’s sorta strange to see 5-star ratings paired with average testing numbers but Haselwood has film where he’s totally dominant and hard to cover. He’s probably the most promising X receiver of this bunch and they all basically project to that position first.
One issue here is that there’s so much overlapping talent between these three guys, as good as they all are. There’s a lot of development that would need to occur to get all three on the field together in a complementary fashion and my gut says that one guy wins big and the others transfer or don’t amount to as much. I’d probably bet on Haselwood as the big winner. Additionally, for all the hype, if you watch the other WR classes in the B12 there isn’t all that much separation between anyone. Grading on a curve there isn’t a ton here to impress much more than what everyone else is bringing in every year. OSU only took one player but I may like Langston Anderson more than these three.
All that said, these three guys are really good and anyone in the league would be eager to have them. There’s an exceptionally low chance that one of them isn’t a 1k-yard, All-B12 guy before their collective time at OU is over.
Lincoln Riley was able to make a really good pitch to Jalen Hurts to come to Norman because of how much his system sets up QBs for success. There’s some scuttlebutt out there that Oklahoma COULD have had Justin Fields when the Georgian determined to bail on playing behind Jake Fromm for the Dawgs. The story goes that Riley didn’t want to recruit someone that would make Spencer Rattler a decommit or transfer risk, so he let Fields go and instead landed Hurts as a one-year stopgap to buy Rattler time to learn the system for a year before stepping in for 2020. Honestly, I’m inclined to believe this to be true. I’ve watched a fair amount of Fields, Hurts, and Rattler and I’d make the same assessment as Riley.
The only hesitation you’d have with this story is if you believed that Fields would have chosen Ryan Day and Ohio State over Oklahoma even if the Sooners had been eager to bring him aboard. I think playing at either school is a great opportunity for a QB but given what else we know about what Riley told Rattler and how they recruited Hurts, I think the more pro-OU account I laid out above is actually most likely to be true.
Spencer Rattler: 6-1, 192. 5***** from Phoenix, AZ (Pinnacle)
SPARQ: 4.88 40, 4.26 shuttle, 32.2″ vertical, 37′ power toss.
Rattler is a pretty good athlete who converts all of his skill and physical ability into throwing the ball. I don’t think he’s particularly well suited to running the read schemes that Mayfield or Murray ran, or at least to doing more than serving as an occasional backside constraint. You wouldn’t know how quick he is save for how well he evades pressure. For that reason, Stogner’s blocking potential is all the more important for supplementing the OU run game if/when Rattler is behind center.
Rattler’s passing ability is off the charts. He’s been in a spread passing system for four years as a starter, or two full years and maybe two half-years depending on how you count it, and has a high level understanding and mastery of the spread offense and executing the most important reads and throws. He’s also really good at throwing dimes on the move, like this pass:
Rattler is exactly what you’re looking for in the modern system where the goal is to flood the field with matchup problems and then rely on a guy that can find the advantages and throw all over the field from within or without the pocket. If he’d been an early enrollee I don’t know if they’d have brought Jalen Hurts aboard.
As it is though, Rattler was ruled ineligible for the second half of his senior season after getting into some sort of trouble (I’ve only seen speculation over what he did and we’re not going to talk about it here) and wasn’t in position to be able to take enough classes to graduate early. The whole episode is mildly alarming, not seriously alarming and not nothing. Also very mildly alarming is the fact that his back-up came in and also put up big stats, his teammates and coaching were obviously very good. But Rattler has sensational arm talent and clearly knew where the ball should go in their offense, with a full year of teaching from Riley he should be able to translate his abilities quite well in this offense.
I’ll bump it down just half a letter grade for Rattler’s senior troubles, consider it an A+ though if we include Hurts who gives them a pretty high floor on offense next season.
On offense it’s business as usual. The Sooners collected the OL and skill talent to over stress opponents and then one of the more gifted QBs in the country for executing the offense. Everything here looks to be in good working order and I expect them to continue to put up huge numbers and overwhelm opponents.
On defense it’s also business as usual, lots of talented but smaller corners combined with good numbers of raw athletes that will need to be molded into football players over time. If Grinch and the new defensive staff can figure that out then things should start looking good on that side of the ball. I don’t really see an influx of talent on defense of the sort that Riley has been preaching as necessary to turn things around on that side of the ball. I never thought talent was the issue to begin with but this class doesn’t look better than previous groups and lots of the talent and numbers are concentrated in the same spots on defense, DL and specifically DE.
Next year should be really interesting to watch, particularly on defense although Riley’s fresh tweaks on offense are always truly entertaining as well.