As the start of spring practice approaches the Oklahoma football program finds itself in an unfamiliar position. While internally everyone affiliated with the program would have you believe expectations are as high as always, externally, from both fans and a national perspective, expectations are considerably lower than where they've been in the past.
Typically a perennial favorite for the Big 12 title, the Sooners aren't at the top of many prognosticators' lists nor are they being mentioned as possible national title contenders. Like I said, unfamiliar.
Bob Stoops just overhauled his staff unlike any other time during his 13+ year tenure and many people are of the opinion that the turnover was primarily a result of a general malaise which had infected the program.
The one aspect of college football that exposes such malaise more than any other is recruiting. It's no coincidence that Stoops sought out potential coaching candidates who had a solid reputation as recruiters. When you look at Oklahoma's current roster you immediately notice how little depth they have, with the exception of skill positions, almost across the board. There is simply no denying that is a direct result of both poor recruiting and development, but primarily the former when you consider how important it is to the success of any program.
And with that, I bring you Oklahoma's Class of 2011.
The Sooners signed just 17 players in the class, but the number is actually closer to 15 when you consider Trey Metoyer didn't make it to Norman (academics) until 2012 and Dan Tapko (personal) never made it to campus at all.
You're not going to like what you are about to read, but if you're up for it please continue. I'd only caution to bare in mind that just because a particular player is still in the program certainly doesn't mean they have been a success.
DT Marquis Anderson (GONE) - An Army All-American coming out of high school, Anderson was never more than a backup. After being suspended for a majority of last season, he is now no longer with the program.
OL Dylan Dismuke (GONE) - It's hard to fault the coaches for a player whose career is cut short because of injuries, but at the end of the day it still has to go down in the miss column.
OL Derek Farniok (HERE) - Farniok was a project when he signed, but has developed pretty well so far. He's only been a reserve to this point, but saw time last year which should increase in 2013 as one of the primary backups at right tackle.
DE Nathan Hughes (GONE) - We covered Hughes' decision to leave the program this week.
WR Kameel Jackson (GONE) - After playing as a true freshman, Jackson dealt with off the field issues for about a year before transferring.
OL Nila Kasitati (HERE) - Has yet to make much of an impact, mostly due to injuries, but could be a significant contributor in 2013 at guard.
LB P.L. Lindley (HERE) - Another guy who while still here has yet to really do anything. Granted, that could change this year especially if the Sooners transition to a 3-4 defense, in which Lindley could make for an ideal middle linebacker. However, he played at defensive end this past season.
WR Trey Metoyer (HERE) - As we said above, Metoyer is techinically a member of the 2012 class after he was forced to go the prep school route directly out of high school before making his way to Norman.
DB Bennett Okotcha (GONE) - Showed promise as a prospect, but quickly transferred shortly before the 2012 season after redshirting his first year.
DT Jordan Phillips (HERE) - Flashed his immense potential at times last year, but very big things are expected (and very much needed) from him in 2013.
LB Frank Shannon (HERE) - Arguably, the one and only player up to this point, from this entire class, that you could legitimately label a contributor after starting most of last season.
TE Max Stevenson (GONE) - Another player lost due to injuries, Stevenson redshirted his first year but was forced to quit football shortly after.
TE Dan Tapko (GONE) - As we said above, Tapko never even made it to campus.
QB Kendal Thompson (HERE) - There has been some talk that the coaches could develop a special package for Thompson, but there are those who believe he could also challenge for the starting quarterback job before his career is done.
DT Jordan Wade (HERE) - Wade's arrival was initially delayed due to academics as well and he spent last year redshirting. Like Phillips, a lot will be asked of him in 2013 as both will be two of the only three defensive tackles Oklahoma will have this spring.
RB Brandon Williams (GONE) - Oklahoma's highest ranked recruit in the class, Williams was supposed to be the running back of the future for the Sooners. He played as a true freshman, but struggled to hold on to the ball after which he rarely saw the field. Transferred to Texas A&M where those close to the program have been raving about his talents.
ATH Danzel Williams (GONE) - At the time he signed, Williams was persistent in his desire to play running back despite Oklahoma's preference to turn him into a defensive back. He relented for a while, but then shifted back to offense, playing well in last year's spring game, before leaving the program following last season.
So, did you enjoy that?
Yeah, I didn't think so. Man, that was brutal.
As difficult as that was for you to read and for me to put together, there was a reason behind it. While the failures of an individual class won't make or break a program, it can have a significant effect on your football team. And it's not so much about the particular year in which the recruits sign, but more so in the next year, or two, or three. It's when you start to see depth and talent issues, similar to those this Oklahoma football program is currently suffering from.
The Sooners' 2011 class isn't entirely to blame, but whenever you have a 53% fail rate in any recruiting class you're more than likely going to have problems at some point. We're witnessing some of those very problems and will likely continue to do so as this season plays out.
The plus side of things is that Bob Stoops appears to have taken the necessary steps to correct the problem. The negative being this many misses isn't something you can fix in one year.