Ever since Brent Venables left for Death Valley, OU’s linebacker recruiting has been largely in the hands of Tim Kish and Mike Stoops. The results have been mixed — on the one hand, they helped turn guys like Eric Striker and Jordan Evans into big-time college players. But I’m also guessing they didn’t want to give guys like Emmanuel Beal, Ruben Hunter and Tay Evans quite as many snaps as they did. The depth just wasn’t there, a problem further exposed when Evans retired mid-season.
That’s why it was so encouraging to see OU finish strong with its last couple of linebacker classes. Snagging Caleb Kelly out of Fresno was a huge coup for the 2016 class, and of course it’s already paying off in a big way. And while the Sooners lost out on Jacob Phillips at the last minute, it’s hard to be too disappointed with a 2017 haul of Levi Draper, Kenneth Murray and Addison Gumbs, guys who many feel could make an impact right away.
So how will the Sooners follow that up? What Oklahoma needs right now is more quality depth, and maybe one or two eye-grabbing names to really shore up the interior. With the announced move to a 4-3, it will be interesting to see if Oklahoma’s next linebacker class looks any different than its last few.
Oklahoma offered inside guy Ayodele Adeoye about a month ago. Adeoye’s a St. Louis kid, and with the volatility and uncertainty surrounding area programs like Mizzou and Kentucky, many think now’s a good time to jump on Missouri kids and get them out of the region. Right now Oklahoma and LSU are the biggest names on Adeoye’s offers list, but that will probably change.
Then there’s Alston Orji, a versatile ‘backer from Rockwall, Texas who’s been pretty high on Oklahoma since its offer last April. Orji saw plenty of the crimson and cream in January, when he received a visit from the OU staff and attended the first Junior Day.
As I wrote last month, Texas is the other main contender here, though Orji seems to have a good relationship with Kish and called him “one of the most friendly guys I’ve ever been around,” according to Bob Przybylo. Which is good because, you know, his other coach is Mike Stoops.
Orji has been an OU priority for awhile now, but I worry that the idea of turning Texas around with Todd Orlando may sway him. We shall see.
Finally, OU is keeping a close eye on Byron Hobbs from Fort Worth, another Junior Day attendee with a Texas offer and lots of interest from around the Big 12. Hobbs in an outside guy who plays well in space and can get after the quarterback, and he’d be a nice addition to a group that will have just lost Obo Okoronkwo.
Hobbs’s stock is rising fast, and I’d expect a handful of SEC programs to join Texas A&M and Ole Miss with an offer here shortly. At this point it’s hard to gauge his interest — and with all the new attention he’s getting, it’s probably just as hard for him as it is for us.
The Sooners still have time to make a handful of offers, and personally I hope they do. To me this class feels too contingent on Alston Orji, and I’d say his chances of coming here are a coin flip at best.
Maybe the Sooners will eventually look at someone like Rymond Green, the talented (if undersized) Tulsa Berryhill ‘backer. This class doesn’t need to be a home run, but it would be disappointing to look up in two years and see OU again playing two-star recruits for lack of depth. And while no one seems like a slam-dunk for the Sooners now, one impressive visit or spring game can make all the difference. The spring is still young — it’s time to “spring forward” into some new recruits. (I’ll show myself out.)
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