Here we stand, exactly two weeks away from signing day, and as it stands today Oklahoma has just five verbal commitments from defensive players projected to be a part of their 2012 class. Some OU fans who follow recruiting are fairly alarmed by this and wondering why the OU coaches have seemingly made defense in this year's recruiting class a non-priority. In an effort to help those people, and really just any OU fan in general who is looking ahead to next season, I thought it would be beneficial to try and find the logic behind what the coaches might be thinking.
The most prevalent argument I've heard for why they're taking the approach that they are is that OU has a bunch of youth/depth on the defensive side of the ball so defense isn't a priority in this year's class. As we get into this I think you'll see in some cases that is probably true and in others not so much.
Before we get started though, let me make at least one thing clear. In my opinion, in recruiting, you're really working for a year or more likely two years down the road. Admittedly, this isn't some brilliant theory exclusive to me but that also doesn't take anything away from the fact that it's true. It's obviously unrealistic, especially at a program like Oklahoma, to expect a freshman class to come in and win multiple starting/impact spots on either/both sides of the ball. The 2010 class for OU was a clear anomaly and while more than welcome, just not something that happens on even a semi-regular basis.
So keep that in mind was we move forward because based on that theory alone, I cannot make sense of what the coaches are doing with this class on the defensive side.
We're going to look at each individual defensive position and give you the total number of 'bodies' on campus as well as any current 2012 recruits. We'll also give you the number of players who will be gone after the 2012 season, including any possible early departures for NFL glory, to try and help give you a sense of the bigger picture and how set/screwed OU may be at a particular position following this coming season. I think you'll be able to follow along pretty easily, so let's get started.
Bodies - 9
Possible early departures - 0
As you can see, plenty of youth behind King/Washington and this is actually one of the few positions on defense that the Sooners have commitments from in the 2012 class. JUCO signee Chaz Nelson is already on campus, super raw but high upside Charles Tapper is likely on his way, and the Sooners are getting in late on Michael Onuoha. Now the coaches clearly need to get some of these young guys on the field to get them some valuable game time so they're not starting two totally green players in 2013, but DE is not a position I feel the coaches are neglecting with this 2012 class.
Bodies - 6
Possible early departures - 0
Here is the first of a couple positions where I can't help but feel the coaches are really dropping the ball with this 2012 class. Not to take anything away from the three freshman above because I think Phillips and Wade could be stars (I'll get to Anderson in a sec), but you're looking at graduating three seniors at the end of this year and we're not even sniffing at any 2012 DTs recruits?!? Not to mention, knowing these OU coaches, the three seniors will probably get somewhere around 99% of the snaps this coming season so you'd be looking at 2013 with a roster full of DTs who have likely never played a meaningful snap. Ever.
I mentioned Wade and Phillips before and I didn't intend to slight Anderson as he was also highly regarded when he signed with OU. It's just he kind of reminds me of Jamarkus McFarland and not in the sense that he's not a fan of UT hosted parties with women romancing each other, but in the sense that he could be more of a late bloomer. However, looking at where this team might be in 2013 he might not have that luxury.
(Ed. note - The 'bodies' number does not include Torrea Peterson and Josh Aladenoye who are both believed to be back with the team, but still in the process of earning their way back. They may eventually accomplish this, but at this point I think it would be premature to include them in any future plans for this team.)
Bodies - 13
Possible early departures - 1 (Wort)
This is another position for the 2012 class where the OU coaches seem to have no interest in recruiting for some unknown reason. Technically, they have one LB recruit in Eric Striker but he's really more in that infamous hybrid LB/S mold so he doesn't really qualify as a true LB IMO. And to be perfectly frank, I have no clue what these coaches are trying to do with their LBs in general. It will be interesting to see what, if anything, changes with the LB position now that Mike Stoops is back.
So you've got Ibiloye and Bird who are both solid contributors leaving and while I don't think it would happen, you can't just assume that Wort comes back for his senior season. Worst case scenario, which as far as I'm concerned is how you have to approach recruiting as a coach, you'd be looking at Corey Nelson as the only returning player with any kind of experience.
I know the coaches are high on Shannon and Lindley. Kellen Jones played as a true freshman who transferred to OU very late, so there is something to be said for that. Personally, I'd really like to see Aaron Franklin and Rashod Favors get a shot at some point, but they've both been on campus for two years and have never played a single meaningful down at LB.
Bodies - 7
Possible early departures - 0
This position is a little different, in that the Sooners have two commitments (Peterson & Everett) but does looking at those names above worry anyone else as much as it does me? Maybe, depending on what could happen, you put Gabe Lynn there (I feel he's a safety) or maybe you move Aaron Colvin back there, but at the moment corner is looking pretty scary for 2013.
Bodies - 5
Seniors - 1 (J. Harris)
Possible early departures - 1 (Jefferson)
Um, yeah. This is where that whole "screwed" thing comes in big time. As baffling as any position in the 2012 class with respect to why on earth the coaches wouldn't be targeting multiple prospects. Maybe you put Striker here instead of LB, as I'd expect, but that's still only one guy and the numbers above are obviously including Lynn who is in there based on my own opinion not on anything the coaches have said about him making the switch.
I probably scared/upset some people including Jefferson in that early departures section, but like Wort you can't just assume he comes back. If I had to put money on it, I'd say he plays four years in the crimson and cream but he's playing in the NFL and it's just a matter of when not if.
I also think Colvin could have been included there because I believe he's an NFL caliber corner, but since he very likely won't play there next year I don't think he'll get the interest from NFL scouts that he deserves. From a greedy perspective, that's good for OU fans because I think it all but guarantees he's back for his senior year in 2013.
So as we close this thing out, you can see that there are several positions where the Sooners could very much benefit from some additions that appear not to be coming in this 2012 class. I love what OU is doing with this 2012 class on offense, but I can't help to feel like the defensive side of the ball is being neglected pretty significantly. Don't get me wrong though, I like what they've done I just think we need more of it. I think both JUCO guys will definitely contribute. I think the other three current commits will all have to redshirt, but definitely have the talent to play at Oklahoma.
To borrow Stoops' favorite line, 'in the end' I'm not sure this made any of you feel any better (probably worse would be my guess), but hopefully in at least some small way it helped to explain some things as we get ready to close out this 2012 recruiting class in two weeks.