OU’s 2013 signing class has an emphasis on defense
After some defensive shortcomings in 2012, the Oklahoma Sooners went heavy on defensive players in signing a new class of football recruits.
Fourteen of the 24 players will start out on the defensive side of the ball. OU inked seven defensive linemen, three cornerbacks, two linebackers and two safeties. OU also signed three offensive linemen, one running back, one quarterback, four wide receivers and a punter.
“We’ve got great players across the board at all positions and all the positions we needed,” said OU coach Bob Stoops. “As we recruit through the years, we always want a little bit of everybody. We need help at all positions, and I feel like we got that, in particular in the lines and a lot of skill athletes around them.”
The Sooners got players from five states and one from Canada. Twelve are from Texas, five from within Oklahoma and three from California. Single players came from Florida, Michigan and Washington.
The class has 19 high school players and four junior college transfers. Punter Jed Barnett, wide receiver Dannon Cavil, safety Ahmad Thomas and defensive end D.J. Ward are already in classes at OU.
Signing a punter was a critical area.
“Jed Barnett is a guy we really needed,” Stoops said. “He’s one of the best junior college punters in the country. His hang time is around four seconds or better. No one gets really excited about Jed until next year when you’re punting the ball. I was focused on it and really excited about Jed. He’s got a big leg, and I really believe he’s going to be a key ingredient for us when we’re on the field next fall.”
If games are won in the trenches, OU signed a large group of linemen with potential.
“First, at the line of scrimmage, I felt we got some excellent guys up front on the offensive line,” Stoops said. “And then on the defensive line, I felt like we got a lot of good ends and defensive tackles, guys that will help improve our interior.”
Stoops said he was pleased with the additions to the receiving corps.
“When you look at their size, when you look at their skill level, their ability, and the way they run, really, we expect all these guys to be able to play,” Stoops said. “We got four excellent receivers.
“Two really big guys when you look at Dannon Cavil and Jordan Smallwood, another guy who has great size and strength. And then a couple of other guys that are excellent players, K.J. Young and Austin Bennett are guys that can play outside and inside, great route runners, great athletes and great hands.”
Two players that will undoubtedly draw a lot of attention are quarterback Cody Thomas and running back Keith Ford. Thomas, who will be drafted by pro baseball, will play for the Sooner baseball team. If his draft status is really high, he might sign with Major League Baseball and forego his college football career.
“Cody Thomas is an exceptional athlete,” said Stoops. “He’s a guy that everyone has talked about and will have an opportunity to play pro baseball. Talking with Cody and his family through this whole recruiting process he is adamant that he truly wants to play football unless he was picked so high that he couldn’t turn away from it, but the indications are that football is important enough to him that he’s going to pursue that and looking at where he may be projected to be drafted. We wouldn’t have pursued this and gone down this road if we didn’t feel that there was a great chance that Cody would be with us.”
Stoops said he would take the whole football team over to watch Thomas play for the Sooner baseball team.
Thomas has drawn comparisons to Sam Bradford, the former OU player now starting for the St. Louis Rams in the NFL.
“With Sam it just seemed so effortless with how quick his release was, and Cody has got a great release, a great arm, he’s just so athletic,” Stoops said. “With Sam – everything he picked up, he picks up a golf club he shoots even par, on a basketball court he would be one of the top three guys picked in this room when he was here with our team. Whatever he did he did it well, and Cody is like that. Everything he does he does it well, and I think Cody, if we want to continue down that road, he’s athletic enough to pull the ball and run it. He’s not quite as tall as Sam, which I think gives him the ability to run a little bit better.”
Stoops said it would not be hard to accommodate Thomas if he missed spring practice.
“If God gives you that kind of talent then you need to use it, and we can work around that,” Stoops said. “The other days that we’re not practicing we’re not allowed to be out on the field with them anyway.”
Ford was a highly recruited running back.
“He’s one of the better players down in the whole Houston area,” Stoops said. “He played on a great team: I believe they lost in the state semi-finals. Keith had almost 1,900 yards rushing, and I want to say 28 touchdowns. He just had an excellent year. He catches the ball well, the ability to make people miss him, physical enough to run through people, just all the things you really want.”
Stoops praised the four receivers he signed.
“We got four excellent receivers, two really big guys when you look at Dannon Cavil all of 6-4, maybe 6-5 and already on campus,” Stoops said. “He’s 210 or so pounds. He really tested out well and is already working with our guys. Jordan Smallwood is another guy here from Oklahoma who has great size and strength. We had him in camp and loved the way he played. And then a couple of other guys that are excellent players: K.J. Young and Austin Bennett are guys that can play outside and inside, great route runners, great athletes and great hands.”
Stoops didn’t sign any tight ends but that could be that he likes the ones already on the team or there weren’t any suitable recruits available.
“I think it’s a little bit of each, but we like the three guys we’ve got here for next year,” Stoops said. “We’re not in a position where we’re looking to play two or three of them. Now down the road if we get the right guys, then we do, but these young guys we have from a year ago are top recruits. They’re guys who could have gone a lot of places, and next year I believe will make an impact. Taylor McNamara and Sam Grant were two highly recruited guys who just need a little time, so they will be on the field more next year, and it will be more of an emphasis next year.”
Linebacker Jordan Evans follows his father who played at OU.
“If he grows into a defensive end, then great,” Stoops said. “He’s got the speed, the quickness, the agility to play outside linebacker. He’s got the size where you’re unsure where he will end up growing to, but that’s good. The bottom line is – when we all looked at him and were watching him over and over – everybody likes him, so wherever he ends up kind of growing to, good. He’s just a great athlete.”
Dominique Alexander was the other linebacker.
“Dominique Alexander is a great athlete when he’s out in space running and covering, all of that,” Stoops said. “He’s powerful, strong, tackling, and Jordan is the same thing. He’s really athletic out there, so definitely those are the kind of guys, but they still have to by physical and tackle, and these guys do that, but definitely the athleticism they have is a plus.”
Stoops was pleased to sign five players from Oklahoma.
“We always want to do a great job in our home state and fortunately through the years we have,” Stoops said. “We are always diligent in that the first players we evaluate and continue to evaluate are always in state players. Not that we are always right, but we are doing everything we can to watch them, evaluate them, get to know them, get them around us, invite them to campus, invite them to practices, invite them to scrimmages, and it has been a positive. These are all excellent players and again, some of the top players in our state.
Keith Ford, Cypress, Texas
Cody Thomas, Colleyville, Texas
Dannon Cavil, San Antonio
Jordan Smallwood, Jenks
Austin Bennett, Manvel, Texas
K.J. Young, Perris, California
Christian Daimler, Houston
Josiah St. John, Toronto, Canada (Trinity Valley College)
Dionte Savage, Flint, Michigan (Arizona Western College)
D.J. Ward, Moore, Okla.
Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Houston
Matt Dimon, Katy, Texas
Quincy Russell, San Antonio
Matthew Romar, Port Arthur, Texas
Charles Walker, Garland, Texas
Kerrick Huggins, Dallas
Stanvon Taylor, East Central High School
Dakota Austin, Lancaster, Texas
L.J. Moore, Fresno, California
Dominique Alexander, Booker T. Washington High School
Jordan Evans, Norman North High School
Ahmad Thomas, Miami, Florida
Hatari Byrd, Fresno, California
Jed Barnett, Cama, Washington (Laney College)