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Oklahoma Sooners Football Recruiting: #SoonerSquad17: Help Is on the Way

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This iteration of defense is underled and undermanned, but could the 2017 class change things immediately?

Oklahoma v Texas Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The current iteration at OU is decidedly not an Oklahoma defense. A vintage Oklahoma defense hits hard, limits big plays, keeps personal fouls and mistakes to an absolute minimum, and above all, plays with discipline. This defensive regression is not exclusive to OU: Big 12 defenses are categorically bad, bottoming out across the board relative to other conferences.

Blame spread offenses, blame Mike Stoops, blame recruiting efforts. Blame whom- or whatever you want, but the simple fact is that Oklahoma lacks an elite defense. It’s disappointing—especially considering the two generational talents at running back—that a stellar offense is backed up by an entirely average defense.

It’s been pretty rough going for the defense in this campaign, but help may be on the way in coming years: #SoonerSquad17 is coming.

At this point last season, Oklahoma only had seven commitments, and only three of those were four-star athletes. Now, they have 22 commitments, with 16 four-star players. Not a bad turnaround.

We’ve all heard the buzz surrounding this highly touted recruiting class, and it’s mostly because of their social media presence—hell, they’re the ones who created the hashtag. But I believe the hype is real, and that this talented freshman class will make immediate waves.

The newest beacon of defensive hope is Jacob Phillips out of Nashville, Tennessee. Phillips announced his commitment to Oklahoma on Wednesday. Phillips—the seventh ranked linebacker in the nation—is set to line up next to the no. 1 linebacker: Levi Draper of Collinsville, Oklahoma. This, in my opinion, is poised to become one of the best linebacker tandems in the conference, if not the nation. They’re both linebackers in the Eric Striker mold: downhill runners, hard hitters, factors in both pass rush and pass coverage.

Speaking of pass coverage (or lack thereof): it’s been lackluster this season, to say the least. More help is in the way, with 12 stars between the three of them: cornerbacks Tre Brown, Justin Broiles, and safety Robert Barnes. Of all of the defensive players coming in, I’m easily the most excited about Barnes. The Southlake product absolutely flies around the field, laying the wood on unsuspecting receivers. He’s a superior athlete. Check out the film below:

After the loss of Eric Striker, Oklahoma’s defensive leadership took a hit. There’s no one player who has stood out—emotionally or performance-wise—on defense, and it seems unlikely that, halfway through the season, one might emerge. Next season though, don’t be surprised to see a freshman slide into that leadership vacancy. We’ve seen defensive players make that leap early in their career, and there doesn’t seem to be anybody on the squad currently who will step into that leadership role.

Following the Ohio State disaster loss, many of us got the sense that it would be a recruiting fiasco. Stoops hosted a large stable of recruits (many of whom tOSU was competing for), and it was risky: when you bring recruits to a high-profile game, you’d better not get blown out. Well, OU did.

Turns out it didn’t matter. They’re not going anywhere—in fact, #SoonerSquad17 is doubling down. Here’s to hoping they can back up their talk.