Oklahoma held it's first Junior Day almost one week ago and is scheduled to be hosting a second the first weekend in March. As you've likely surmised, the college football recruiting cycle never really ends. Heck, it only even slows down during NCAA mandated silent periods. So as we close out the 2012 recruiting calendar, we simultaneously turn the first page of 2013. The Sooners took a full class of 25 commits in 2012, so this 2013 class projects to be a little smaller. Probably more in the 17-22 range depending of course on possible transfers or NFL early entrants. It's also a class that should feature many more players on the defensive side of the ball after a very heavy offensive class in 2012.
With that, we're going to give you a ridiculously early breakdown of some early targets on OU's 2013 radar as well as some projections as to how many players at each position the Sooners could be looking to take.
Defensive End: 2-3
Targets: D.J. Ward (Lawton, OK), Dalton Rodriguez (Tulsa, OK), Joe Mathis (Upland, CA), Kylie Fitts (Redlands, CA)
Breakdown: Oklahoma is facing the difficult of having to replace both starting defensive ends for the second consecutive year. Both Frank Alexander and Ronnell Lewis left after this most recent season and projected starters David King and R.J. Washington enter 2012 as seniors. While the Sooners have several talented youngsters behind them, defensive end will still need to be a primary focus in this 2013 class to ensure that cupboard stays stocked.
Ward, the #1 overall player in the Sooner State, is the obvious target both because he's in OU's backyard and for his considerable talent. The Sooners offered Ward before his junior season had even started, which is something they very rarely ever do, and the Lawton product attended multiple games in Norman last season. It wouldn't be accurate to label him as a "sure thing" for Oklahoma, but they appear to have an early lead and I do think it's fair to say he is OU's to lose.
Rodriguez is another in-state guy, from local powerhouse program Union, who the Sooners will likely keep an eye one and could receive an offer as well. In what has become a recurring theme, Oklahoma has taken a more national approach with their early offers mostly focusing on west coast players. Mathis and Fitts are just some of the more recent players who have received offers and it would appear the Sooners are looking to capitalize on the time Tim Kish and Mike Stoops spent out west.
Defensive Tackle: 2-3
Targets: Justin Manning (Dallas, TX), A'Shawn Robinson (Fort Worth, TX), Greg Webb (Sicklerville, NJ), Novis Cullom (Tulsa, OK)
Breakdown: Oklahoma didn't take a single defensive tackle in 2012 and really didn't even pursue many that seriously. Some OU fans were understandably confused by this tactic, but Bob Stoops the situation specifically on signing day stating that they felt comfortable with where they were at for the coming season. Well they may have had that luxury with the 2012 class, but they most definitely will not with 2013. OU will lose three starting seniors to graduation, so DT will be a major area of need for the Sooners in 2013.
The #1 target at the position is Justin Manning, who if you didn't know already is the younger brother of former Sooner Demarcus Granger. Manning is pretty easily the best DT in the state of Texas, an exceptional athlete for the position, and one of the rare defensive tackles who has a unique ability to get up the field and rusher the passer. Obviously the Sooners have an advantage that no other school has with the family connections, but despite that fact OU has yet to offer Manning. Many Oklahoma fans who follow recruiting have been perplexed by this as the Sooners have that "inside" connection but are worried that continuing to wait to offer could harm their chances. There has been talk that the OU coaches were waiting to see his latest grades before offering or possibly that they wanted to wait to officially offer once he made it to campus. But whatever the reasons, in my opinion they need to dispense with the formalities and let it be known this kid is one of our top targets.
As for other possible targets, it's somewhat difficult to say at the moment because OU has only made two official offers at the position. But considering how big of a need it is in this class, expect the Sooners to be in on multiple of the top recruits at the position. DT coach Jackie Shipp should expect to log a lot of flight time traveling all over the country to try and land the Sooners at least a couple of their top DT targets.
Targets: Devin Rolan (McAlester, OK), Kimmie Carson (Tulsa, OK), Michael Hutchings (Concord, CA), E.J. Levenberry Jr. (Woodbridge, VA), Mike McCray (Trotwood, OH), Chans Cox (Lakeside, AZ)
Breakdown: Oklahoma will lose three senior linebackers (Joseph Ibiloye, Jaydan Bird, and Daniel Franklin) and while it's not necessarily expected, the possibility of losing junior Tom Wort to the NFL isn't inconceivable. So much like defensive tackle, a position the OU coaches
ignored chose not to make a priority in the 2012 class becomes an absolute must in 2013.
Rolan and Carson are the state of Oklahoma's top two linebackers and two of the names at the top of OU's target list. Rolan would appear to be about as sure a thing as they come in terms of a commitment given how overly vocal he's been in professing his love of all things Sooner. Assuming an offer comes, I'd venture to guess his verbal commitment comes almost immediately after. Carson isn't quite the "lock" that Rolan appears to be, but I wouldn't necessarily take that to mean I don't like OU's chances. He's a kid who wasn't drawing much attention early, but has really come on as of late and with a big senior season this fall could start to garner himself some attention from outside the state.
Levenberry, who was rated as the #15 overall player in the recently released Rivals Top 100, would be the big get if the Sooners could land him. He's an elite prospect at the linebacker position and prior to Brent Venables departure Levenberry had been very open about his fondness for Oklahoma. However as of late, he really hasn't mentioned OU during interview and it would seem now at a minimum the Sooners now have some ground to make up if they want to try and stay in the race for his services.
Targets: Kendall Fuller (Olney, MD), Cole Luke (Chandler, AZ), Devanta Johnson (Tulsa, OK), Trevan Smith (Edmond, OK)
Breakdown: The Sooners just signed a 2012 class that included three cornerbacks and possibly a fourth if they can convince Daniel Brooks to switch positions to where many thought he had a bright future. So corner won't really be a huge need for OU in this 2013 class as they're only expected to lose starter Demontre Hurst to graduation. Granted, his loss will be a significant one but replacing him wasn't ever going to happen with a 2013 recruit regardless.
Fuller is probably a pipe dream if I'm being honest. He's currently the number four overall player in the 2013 class (per Rivals), a five star prospect, and already has offers from countless schools. I'd expect Mike Stoops to take his shot, but I'm just not sure how realistic the chances actually are. Given that Luke hails from Arizona, the connection there seems pretty obvious. Johnson and Smith are considered to be the two top ranked corners in the state of Oklahoma at the moment and Trevan Smith is actually the younger brother of former Sooner and current 49ers DB Reggie Smith.
Targets: Su'a Cravens (Murrieta, CA), Kameron Miles (Mesquite, TX), Leon McQuay III (Seffner, FL), Erik Huhn (Cibolo, TX)
Breakdown: I kind of feel like safety is a position just fell by the wayside in 2012, but fortunately the OU coaches appear to be making it somewhat of a priority so far with their approach to 2013. Javon Harris is the only senior safety the Sooners project to lose, but it is also a postiion that is somewhat unsettled at the moment as OU fans wait to see what Mike Stoops intends to do with Tony Jefferson.
All that said, I still think this is a position where OU has to take multiple guys in this 2013 class. The dream commit would be Cravens, who is a five star stud and the #5 overall player in the class (per Rivals). This could be a very similar situation to the Zach Banner recruitment that Oklahoma recently went through. The consensus seems to be that Cravens will be very difficult to pry away from USC and is likely to stay at home on the west coast. Regardless, expect the Sooners to pull out all the stops in the recruitment of this incredibly talented safety. Elite athletes of his caliber at the safety position just don't come along in every class, so unless Oklahoma gets a strong sense they're out of it I'd expect them battle until the bitter end.
McQuay is another Florida player the Sooners are after, but at this point seems like a long shot. Huhn is obviously more "local" and just recently received his official offer after attending OU's first Junior Day.
Targets: Stanvon Taylor (Tulsa, OK), Corey Lawrence (Del City, OK)
Breakdown: Taylor is the #2 ranked player in the state of Oklahoma according to Rivals and another local player the Sooners stand an excellent shot at landing. He was also at OU's first Junior Day and while he didn't come away with an offer, many believe that it's just a matter of time before he receives one. Taylor primarily plays wide receiver for his high school team, but during his recent trip to the OU campus the coaches talked to him about how they likely projected him as a corner. According to reports, he was very open to the idea and in every interview I've ever read with him comes across as an outstanding young man who Oklahoma would be crazy to pass up. This is another player I feel with an official offer will waste little time before committing to the Sooners.
Lawrence is another in-state player Oklahoma could target, but at this point not much is known about him. He suffered an injury early in his junior year and was forced to miss essentially the entire season. He is however the #13 ranked player in the state and likely a guy OU will keep an eye on to see how he returns from that season ending injury.