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In 2008, the Oklahoma Sooners managed to slide into the national championship due to a small advantage in the BCS over the Texas Longhorns. On National Signing Day, the Sooners managed to grab bragging rights for the best class in the conference by the 247Sports composite rankings by .16 points.
A late surge helped the Sooners finish strong, but left them with only seven four-star commits against 15 three-star prospects. Part of the issue that Oklahoma faced was that many of the top national targets, as well as targets in the state of Texas, didn't end up adding their collective names to the signing class, leaving the coaches scrambling to ink their second, third, fourth, or sometimes fifth options.
Back in December, it looked like the Sooners were in even bigger trouble, as they had failed to address their critical and pressing needs along both lines of scrimmage, but a strong finish to the class, including from top junior college talents Josiah St. John, an offensive tackle, and Quincy Rusell, a defensive tackle, helped address those needs, even if the depth isn't quite as heralded as what Oklahoma is used to putting together.
The defense struggled last season in its first year with Mike Stoops back at the helm and needed some serious reinforcement. Most analysts prefer to wait several years to evaluate a class before assessing its impact and quality, but that judgment could come quick and hard from Oklahoma fans if there aren't enough instant-impact players in this group and the defense continues to underperform compared to the high expectations held by the fanbase.
Bud Elliott’s grade
C+. Oklahoma signed about twice as many three-stars as it did four-stars (7). Keith Ford is an excellent back and should be a star, but the talent level here is not the type that will put Oklahoma back in the national title conversation. Offensive tackle is a major issue.
Top three players
Ford is the total package as a running back -- he has the ideal height to keep a low center of gravity, the mass to run through arm tackles, and the speed to maximize runs. When the hole he is looking for isn't available, Ford can demonstrate the vision to see and hit cutback lanes, aided by good lateral quickness. But even though the Sooner signee can bounce plays outside, he's not a player who wastes his time dancing in the hole -- he cuts and goes whenever possible.
At 6'2, 240 pounds, it's no wonder that Ward is a projected power end at the next level but, like Dimon, he's likely to end up that position because of where his body will take him as he matures, rather than a lack of quickness to rush the quarterback.
In fact, Ward is an excellent pass rusher in high school who doesn't necessarily have an advanced understanding of how to use his hands or the type of pass rushing moves he will need at the college level when offensive lineman are able to get their hands on him. He does show a nice understanding of how to use subtle shoulder fakes and hesitations inside or outside to get his opponents off balance. As a result, he should still be effective rushing the quarterback in college, even without that elite first step off the edge.
Considered a pro-style prospect, part of what makes Thomas such an appealing prospect is that fact that he's highly athletic, something he wasn't always able to show as a junior because his coach was protecting from further injury after Thomas suffered ligament damage in a finger on his throwing hand.
Top three rival classes
As mentioned above, the Sooners managed to edge out the Longhorns for the advantage in overall class ranking, but in a growing trend, Texas was able to secure many of the prospects that the two schools competed over.
For Oklahoma, the class was significantly better than the rival Oklahoma State Cowboys, who finished 16 spots lower in the overall team rankings and lost ground to Baylor in the battle for
Meanwhile, the Texas A&M Aggies scored a big win over the Sooners when they inked Dallas (Texas) Kimball defensive tackle Justin Manning, who is an OU legacy and was widely expected to end up in Norman, but Stoops waited too long to extend the initial offer and never recovered in Manning's recruitment.
Biggest National Signing Day drama
While the Sooners missed out on Georgia offensive lineman George Adeosun, who committed to Virginia, but did secure a major signature from California safety LJ Moore, who helped solidify a good defensive back class for Oklahoma, winning out over schools like Arizona State, California, Notre Dame, and Oregon State, among others.
Notes from SB Nation blogs
Crimson And Cream Machine podcasted into the night on the Big 12's best class.
Official school release
|Early Signee||Jed Barnett||P||6-2||215||Camas, Wash. (Laney College)|
|Early Signee||Dannon Cavil||WR||6-5||205||San Antonio, Texas (James Madison HS)|
|Early Signee||Quincy Russell||DL||6-4||315||San Antonio, Texas (Trinity Valley CC)|
|Early Signee||Ahmad Thomas||S||6-1||205||Miami, Fla. (Miami Central HS)|
|Early Signee||D.J. Ward||DE||6-2||245||Moore, Okla. (Southmoore HS)|
|7:28 a.m.||Ogbonnia Okoronkwo||DE||6-3||220||Houston, Texas (Alief Taylor HS)|
|7:29 a.m.||Keith Ford||RB||5-11||208||Cypress, Texas (Cypress Ranch HS)|
|7:33 a.m.||Jordan Smallwood||WR||6-2||190||Jenks, Okla. (Jenks HS)|
|7:36 a.m.||Christian Daimler||OT||6-6||270||Houston, Texas (Stratford HS)|
|7:42 a.m.||Austin Bennett||WR||6-0||170||Manvel, Texas (Manvel HS)|
|7:47 a.m.||Matthew Romar||DL||6-3||268||Port Arthur, Texas (Memorial HS)|
|7:52 a.m.||Charles Walker||DL||6-3||280||Garland, Texas (South Garland HS)|
|8:04 a.m.||Stanvon Taylor||CB||5-11||175||Tulsa, Okla. (East Central HS)|
|8:09 a.m.||Dominique Alexander||LB||6-2||195||Tulsa, Okla. (Booker T. Washington HS)|
|8:11 a.m.||Josiah St. John||OT||6-6||305||Toronto, Canada (Trinity Valley CC)|
|8:29 a.m.||Dionte Savage||OL||6-5||345||Flint, Mich. (Arizona Western CC)|
|8:39 a.m.||Cody Thomas||QB||6-5||220||Colleyville, Texas (Heritage HS)|
|8:48 a.m.||Matt Dimon||DE||6-2||252||Katy, Texas (Katy HS)|
|9:17 a.m.||Hatari Byrd||S||6-1||195||Fresno, Calif. (Central East HS)|
|9:39 a.m.||Jordan Evans||LB/KR||6-3||210||Norman, Okla. (Norman North HS)|
|9:59 a.m.||Kerrick Huggins||DL||6-3||289||Dallas, Texas (Skyline HS)|
|10:08 a.m.||K.J. Young||WR||6-1||182||Perris, Calif. (Citrus Hill HS)|
|11:21 a.m.||Dakota Austin||CB||5-11||167||Lancaster, Texas (Lancaster HS)|
|5:29 p.m.||L.J. Moore||CB||6-1||175||Fresno, Calif. (Central East HS)|
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