As OU fans are well aware, Lincoln Riley has experienced some tremendous recruiting victories in his few months on the job in Norman. It’s no surprise that the overwhelming majority have happened on the offensive side of the ball — that’s his area, after all — but we have reached a point where the emphasis will shift to the other side of the ball.
Aside from the Ruffin McNeill addition, which could loom large for interior line recruits, the Oklahoma staff is intact and the same as it was when Bob Stoops led the program. It’s now up to the defensive coaches to pull down the recruits they’ve been courting for the last year or two.
Below is a non-exhaustive look at some of OU’s biggest defensive targets now that Delarrin Turner-Yell is on board. The Sooners will definitely be focused on the front seven in the months to come, but these guys come from all over the defense — and all over the country — and will be some of the biggest names to keep an eye on as Oklahoma Sooners look to finish with its second consecutive top-10 class.
Ronnie Perkins - DE, St. Louis (MO) Lutheran North
With Ruffin McNeill now involved with the defensive tackles, this four-star St. Louis product is Calvin Thibodeaux’s to win over. And so far it seems like he’s doing a great job — OU is far and away Perkins’ top destination on the 247 Crystal Ball at 88 percent confidence.
Should Sooners fans be concerned that Perkins hasn’t made it to campus yet? He’s seen most of the other schools in his May top 12. A planned June visit just didn’t pan out, and he wasn’t able to make the barbecue, either. It’s hard to see Perkins committing before he sees Norman, but Oklahoma still has a high level of confidence that it can land this Missourian.
It’s easy to see why Perkins, at 6-4 and 260 pounds, has racked up offers from across the nation. He’s simply faster and more athletic than most of the guys he’s played high school ball with, which made him a force in all three phases of the game.
In fact, Rivals says Perkins could be effective at either the end or tackle position at the next level, which would definitely give the Sooners some helpful flexibility on what is probably now the team’s worst unit. Oklahoma, like most teams, likes him at end — his speed will be a problem for flat-footed college tackles — but his tape clearly demonstrates an ability to get off blocks and blow up runs.
To be sure, Perkins has done plenty of flirting with other schools. His commitment is neither imminent nor a foregone conclusion. But Perkins should be heartened by the Ron Tatum and Jalen Redmond commits — he’ll have plenty of support and heavy-but-not-too-heavy competition — and hopefully they’ll spur him to decide sooner rather than later than he wants to join this class.
Daniel Carson - DE, Independence (MO) William Chrisman
A barbecue attendee, Carson is considered a Nebraska lean but is definitely factoring in some other programs, including OU. At 6-5, 270 pounds, Carson is the kind of physical specimen that Schmitty could mold into a great pass-rusher in Norman.
Carson was offered in January and has now been on campus more than once. He seems to really enjoy OU’s current players and, increasingly, its new-look staff. And as with most kids, the promise of shiny new facilities may help set Oklahoma apart in Carson’s mind.
Carson is very, very strong and he plays really, really hard. It’s a combination that has worked well for him — he recorded 13.5 sacks and 35 tackles for loss as a junior. Though only a consensus three-star, Carson’s a high-floor kind of player who, if he hit the gym hard enough or attended spring ball before his freshman year, could get quick playing time in Norman.
He’ll be taking an official visit to OU this fall, one last chance for the Sooners to differentiate themselves. Carson’s May top 11 is filled with traditional mid-American powerhouses (and Iowa State), but Oklahoma is definitely one of the best and best-positioned programs on his list. They’re right in the middle of this battle.
Trevor Trout - DT, St. Louis (MO) Chaminade
There’s no guarantee that Oklahoma will take on another interior D-lineman in the 2018 class. But there’s zero doubt that they’d make room for this 6-3, 315-pound four-star from St. Louis who has been interested in OU for some time now.
Unlike Perkins, Trout made it to Norman in June and seemed to enjoy himself. But it’s also harder to say exactly where Oklahoma stands with the big man who, at the end of the day, will be choosing among many great programs like Penn State, USC and Miami.
And then, of course, there’s Mizzou. With all the turmoil and mediocrity surrounding the Missouri program in recent years, it’s certainly fair for out-of-state programs to think they have a shot with the best St. Louis kids like Trout and Perkins. And there’s little doubt that Perkins’ own long-term interest in Oklahoma has had an impact on other local guys.
But some kids just want to play ball in the SEC — even the small-time SEC — and the idea of turning around a local program can be alluring to the right kind of recruit.
Jordan Kelley may be the main complicating factor right now for a guy who also projects as a nose at the next level. Though Kelley’s commitment was obviously celebrated, there were also more than a few grumbles about potentially alienating a guy who, let’s face it, projects as the better player right now.
But Trout has always understood the numbers game of recruiting, and he’s the kind of talent that most programs will make room for.
If Oklahoma gets Trout back for an official visit, they’ll have more than a fighting chance to land this dynamic talent. He’ll likely be visiting Miami this fall, and per this interesting local profile he hopes to release a top five after taking some in-season officials.
It’s hard to say if Oklahoma will even be in the market for another interior lineman in a few months — if they sell out for Trout, there are no guarantees he’ll commit anyway. But man, he’d be a huge boost for the line.
Bobby Brown - DL, Arlington (TX) Lamar
Tackle? End? Either way, this 6-5, 270-pound lineman is now a priority guy for the Sooners staff. Hailing from my hometown of Arlington, Brown is a four-star player from a talent-rich area who can make a quick impact on the OU line no matter where they want to play him.
Brown’s Oklahoma interest is a bit of a recent phenomenon. Though the Sooners obviously have their pulse on DFW, Brown always seemed more interested in far-flung national brands like Alabama, Florida State and LSU. But ever since OU’s well-received barbecue, the general vibe around the Brown recruitment has done nothing but improve. They are competing with the biggest of the big boys, but Brown’s commitment is absolutely something Oklahoma could secure.
In case his measures don’t communicate this, Brown is a massive human who will only get bigger on campus, and he won’t be bullied by D1 tackles. He’s disruptive enough from the interior line, but his best next-level position may be as a strongside end where he can pass rush and, at the very least, collapse the pocket and force quarterbacks to scramble.
He needs more pass-rush moves and he isn’t the fastest, but Brown can level a devastating hit when he does find his man. Calvin Thibodeaux has to be salivating at the prospect of getting Brown to campus — he’s a very high-ceiling prospect, and the OU line needs more of those.
Thank you coach thibs this so sick bro fr pic.twitter.com/fnRjW1juUG— I hate OL's (@tre_brown8700) August 7, 2017
In addition to the national powerhouses, other local schools like Texas and Texas A&M are also in the mix for Brown’s services. Brown has a lot of visits to make and things to consider before his commitment.
Everyone will have a close eye on this stud recruit as he takes his officials this fall. If he makes it back to Norman, we’ll know that his #ChampUBBQ interest was more than just a passing fling.
Raymond Scott - LB, Harbor City (CA) Narbonne
Let’s get this out of the way first: Ray Scott is committed to USC. Usually when California kids are committed to USC, they stay committed to USC.
But in this instance, there’s reason to believe that this 6-1, 215-pound four-star inside linebacker is willing to look over his options again.
I get it. Nobody’s thrilled with the current state of the 2018 linebacker class, which currently includes ... oh, that’s right, nobody. But as much as that’s not great (and it’s not), it definitely signals to talented guys across the country — like Scott — that Norman needs them. There is too much talent in this class for every great linebacker to pass it up. And once OU gets Scott on campus, it may have a great chance to pry him from the Trojans.
More than anything, Scott’s tape demonstrates an exceptional football IQ, the kind required to play the Mike in college. He’s decisive and fast, flying to rushers and stopping them cold. His tackling is already good, and he knows how to generate turnovers by attacking the ball until the end of the play. He is, in short, the kind of prospect who could turn Kish’s entire class around in one fell swoop. Scott made it to Oklahoma this summer and is likely to return for an official.
I don’t think there would be this much noise around Scott unless the Sooners staff really felt it had a chance to flip him. It may just be that, with USC racking up blue-chips in a smaller-than-normal class, Scott wants a program that needs him a little more. If that’s the case, Oklahoma should be the first school on his mind.
There are great up-and-coming linebackers in Norman, but OU has a long history of welcoming Cali kids — a sort of reverse Grapes of Wrath — and a strong 2018 season may be enough to convince Scott that it’s OU and not USC that gives him the best chance for playing time and a title.
Brian Asamoah - LB, Columbus (OH) St. Francis De Sales
Ever since Brian Asamoah told the Football Brainiacs that OU’s barbecue was “by far the best visit I have ever been on,” Sooner Nation has had a high degree of confidence that he will hop on board. And he still might — literally any day. But the Sooners are fending off a stiff challenge from the Pitt Panthers (yes, really) for the three-star outside ‘backer’s services. It will be up to Kish to capture the momentum, seal the deal and prove that he can ‘croot with the big dogs. Asamoah is a guy the Sooners should get, and they could sure use him.
I mean yes, Pittsburgh is much closer to Columbus than Norman is. Just days before the OU BBQ, Asamoah visited the Pitt campus and saw WVU as well. If he wants to stay regional, there is no shortage of interested schools.
At 6-1, 210 pounds, Asamoah may be more of a project than a ready-to-go impact guy. Maybe playing time is a major consideration for him. But while it’s true that Oklahoma is among the most prestigious of his offers — he’s also flirting with also-rans like Cincinnati and Kentucky — that doesn’t mean Asamoah isn’t an impact guy.
He’ll need to fill out, but Asamoah plays with a fearlessness and energy that will translate well to the next level. He’s an intelligent athlete who watches plays develop and can think two steps ahead. Clearly he enjoys his time in the film room and the OU staff will appreciate his work ethic even if he’s not going to see the field immediately.
It would be nice to have this position addressed already, but Oklahoma is simply not in a position to be losing prospects to Pitt. Asamoah obviously loved his time in the Sooner State — now it’s all about sealing the deal. Asamoah’s BOOM could come at any moment this season. Let’s hope it’s for the right team.
Dashaun White - OLB, North Richland Hills (TX) Richland
This 6-foot, 208-pound linebacker has been wearing Texas A&M’s promise ring for exactly three weeks now. So why does Oklahoma feel like it has a chance?
The Sooners were pretty clearly the other school on White’s mind when he pulled the trigger for A&M on Aug. 6. He was fresh off a good time at the barbecue and knew that OU had no linebackers in its class. So it’s fair to ask what might change between now and December to get him on board.
Basically, Sooners fans should be heartened that the race was that close to begin with. Lincoln Riley and the OU staff made a hard charge for White’s services that left the TAMU staff scrambling to hold down what they’d long felt was a sure thing. And while there are no trophies for second place, the staff still believes it can convince White between now and signing day that his future should be in Norman.
If the Kevin Sumlin regime implodes as some suspect it will, this scenario will be more probable than not.
White’s tape reveals a player who is physical above all else, a talented tackler who is comfortable in space and flies to the ball. If he sticks with A&M, they’ll be getting a great raw talent who should turn into a real college stud.
But White could truly thrive at Oklahoma, and he’s undoubtedly attracted to OU’s stability at head coach. A&M’s program is just not trending in the right direction, and though it only takes one season to turn that around, the OU staff will be in White’s ear all season long — after every OU victory and every A&M loss. Stay tuned.
C.J. Smith - Safety, West Palm Beach (FL) Oxbridge Academy
Oklahoma could conceivably end its safety recruiting now that Turner-Yell has committed. But the Sooners staff is very high on this Florida product, and I think they will make it clear to C.J. Smith that he is still welcome in #ST2k18.
Smith was committed to Jim McElwain’s Florida squad until July 5, when he walked away and re-opened his recruitment. Immediately Kerry Cooks was on it, forging a relationship that now has Oklahoma as a 247 co-favorite, with Louisville, for Smith’s services.
Smith released his new top 5 on July 15, including Oklahoma with the Cardinals and Oregon, Michigan and South Carolina. He is now scheduled to take an official visit to Norman for the Oct. 7 game against Iowa State, which will hopefully be a customary trouncing.
Smith will be bringing his brother, 2018 cornerback Keidron, with him. The two are not a package deal, per se, but if they want to play together they could theoretically tie up OU’s DB class all by themselves.
Smith is playing receiver in most of the above clip (he’s good at that, for what it’s worth), but skip to the 2-minute mark and you’ll see what a formidable safety he can be. Quarterbacks will quake in their shoes watching him approach the line of scrimmage, and Smith clearly feels entitled to any football thrown to the middle third of the field. At 6-3 and 190 pounds, Smith has great size, speed and vision for the strong safety position and would be a definite asset for the OU defensive backfield.
Like most undecided recruits, I wouldn’t expect a commitment from Smith until after he’s taken his officials. Having nearly gone to Florida already, Smith is probably not in any rush to make that decision again. When it comes to already-crowded spots like the defensive backs in OU’s 2018 class, it may come down to “next commit wins.”
Sooners fans can feel good if that guy happens to be C.J. Smith.
Kalon Gervin - Athlete, Detroit (MI) Cass Technical
Not everyone on this list is a blue-chip, no-doubt prospect at the college level. But Gervin, a 5-11, 180-pound four-star, has the kind of speed and athleticism that make him, at the very least, a special-teams nightmare and a constant threat to do something amazing.
Gervin was going to announce this summer and go to Virginia Tech. He has a great relationship with Justin Fuente and was prepared to pull the trigger for the Hokies. But credit to Kerry Cooks and the OU staff, which successfully lobbied Gervin to delay his decision until he can see Norman for himself. He’ll be taking an official this fall before he makes a choice, and there’s a good chance that Oklahoma — with its brand-new facilities and big-time atmosphere — can outweigh the Southern charm of Blacksburg.
Not that Tech is Oklahoma’s only competition for the talented Detroit product. Local-ish schools like Michigan and Notre Dame and national brands like Oregon and Alabama are also after him. Sooners fans will just have to keep an eye out for Gervin’s visits this fall — it’s hard to narrow down the competition right now, but Oklahoma has positioned itself very well.
Gosh, wouldn’t it be nice to have a corner that can’t be run past so easily? Gervin is the kind of guy who could have contained Dede Westbrook (Well, maybe. You get my point). And he’d be perfect for the Big 12, where schools like Texas Tech, Baylor and Oklahoma State try to beat you in the air every Saturday.
It’s hard to handicap OU’s chances until we see Gervin standing on Owen Field in a jersey taking his obligatory visit pics. But staying near Michigan does not appear to be his priority at all, and with all due respect to Virginia Tech, Gervin should look elsewhere if he wants some rings to wear back home.
Josh Proctor - Safety, Owasso (OK)
Oklahoma’s efforts with this four-star safety are well-documented, and so far haven’t come to anything. Easily one of the state’s five best 2018 recruits, Proctor committed to Ohio State in April and reaffirmed his decision over the summer. Right now, he looks like “the one that got away”.
But don’t count the Sooners out just yet. The Stoops-era Sooners had a great track record of keeping the state’s best at home, and they’re working hard to continue that tradition. Urban Meyer is no doubt nervous about another four months of constant communication between Proctor and OU coaches (and recruits).
Riley likely sees this as an important battle — it’s not in OU’s interest to allow Big 10 programs to poach in-state kids. Texas has already been thrown wide open to the SEC and Big 10, so OU needs to be able to keep Oklahoma’s best players at home.
This one isn’t over until the LOI is in.