Re-Evaluating Oklahoma's 2012 Recruiting Class
They say hindsight is 20/20, and that’s no truer than with college football recruiting classes.
Back in 2012, coaches of the Oklahoma Sooners scoured the country for the best and brightest talent around. These players would be handpicked and chosen with the expectation that they could help continue the tradition of one of the nation’s winningest programs.
According to 247Sports’ football recruiting team rankings, Oklahoma’s 2012 class ranked No. 12 and included 23 commitments—10 of which were 4-star prospects.
Join us as we take a look back and re-evaluate the class.
Note: There is no slide for linebackers or special teams because there were no recruits from the class at that position.
- Trevor Knight, 4-star (0.9008), No. 11-ranked pro-style quarterback
With Landry Jones entering his senior year and highly touted recruit Blake Bell waiting in the wings, there wasn’t much urgency for Oklahoma to go out and snag a quarterback in the 2012 class. Still, the San Antonio native was a hard prospect to refuse.
Following a redshirt year in 2012, the hype surrounding his practice squad performance—especially when assimilating former-Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel—along with a great summer of practice, led head coach Bob Stoops to name Knight the starting quarterback prior to last season.
Unfortunately, the spotlight proved too much for the youngster. Knight fell flat on his face, throwing for just 205 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions on 21-of-48 passing over the Sooners’ first two games.
Bell would take over for the next seven contests until an injury forced him out. Blessed with a second chance, Knight rose to the occasion going for 232 yards through the air while rushing for 205 yards on the ground in two wins over Iowa State and Kansas State.
The cherry on top: an extraordinary performance (32-44, 348 YDS, 4 TD, 1 INT) in Oklahoma’s 45-31 Sugar Bowl victory over then-two-time defending champion Alabama.
Knight may currently be the undisputed starter for the team, but the jury is still out on whether his late-season performance is the norm or not.
- Alex Ross, 4-star (0.9636), No. 6-ranked running back
- Damien Williams, 3-star (0.8630), No. 3-ranked JUCO running back
- David Smith, 3-star (0.8568), No. 44-ranked running back
Following DeMarco Murray’s departure, Oklahoma’s rushing attack floundered in 2011. The trio of Ross, Williams and Smith were supposed to help with that.
Although he had the highest expectations, Ross has yet to make a splash. It certainly didn’t help that after redshirting in 2012, the Jenks, Oklahoma, native was surpassed on the depth chart by 2013 prospect Keith Ford.
Still, even in what should be a crowded backfield, many believe this could be Ross’ year, including CBS Sports’ Chip Patterson.
Williams didn’t waste time making a name for himself in 2012, leading the Sooners in rushing (176 CAR, 946 YDS, 11 TD). However, the same can’t be said about last season, where the Arizona Western College transfer was inconsistent before being dismissed from the team.
Undrafted in the NFL Draft, Williams was picked up by the Miami Dolphins in May.
Finally, there’s Smith. His 6’1", 196-pound frame and athleticism could remind the Oklahoma faithful of Chris Brown. However, after redshirting in 2012, we've still yet to catch a glimpse of Smith.
Given the depth in the backfield, it’s hard to see that changing much in 2014.
- Durron Neal, 4-star (0.9618), No. 9-ranked wide receiver
- Sterling Shepard, 4-star (0.9541), No. 13-ranked wide receiver
- Derrick Woods, 4-star (0.9250), No. 23-ranked wide receiver
- Lacoltan Bester, 3-star (0.8528), No. 3-ranked JUCO wide receiver
A former U.S. Army All-American, Neal brought tremendous hype with him to Norman. But in two seasons, the Saint Louis, Missouri, native has been nothing but disappointing, with just 18 receptions and 251 yards to his name thus far.
To make matters worse, Neal has yet to catch a touchdown for Oklahoma.
Shepard is easily the best receiver, if not the best overall player, from this class. After showing his potential as a true freshman in 2012 (45 REC, 621 YDS, 3 TD), Shepard emerged as a true threat in 2013, hauling in 603 yards and seven touchdowns on 51 receptions.
Big things are expected from the Oklahoma City native in 2014.
Woods appeared sparingly as a redshirt freshman last season. Although his role in the offense was limited—he caught just two passes for 29 yards—Woods was a core member of the Sooners special teams in 2013.
This season will be a crossroads for the former Inglewood High standout, as he looks to prove he’s deserving of a top spot on the depth chart.
An East Mississippi Community College transfer, Bester did his best to contribute to the team. He didn’t do much in 2012, but he finished third on the team in receiving, catching 27 balls for 392 yards and two touchdowns last season. Given the inconsistent quarterback play by Oklahoma, those numbers are pretty solid.
- Taylor McNamara, 4-star (0.9069), No. 9-ranked tight end
- Laith Harlow, 3-star (0.8828), No. 15-ranked tight end
- Sam Grant, 3-star (0.8660), No. 24-ranked tight end
- Brannon Green, 3-star (0.8163), No. 4-ranked JUCO tight end
Oklahoma has been in search of a tight end to replace the production of Jermaine Gresham ever since he left campus in 2009. This recruiting class certainly didn’t help.
McNamara was expected to contribute from the jump. However, after receiving a medical redshirt in 2012 with a shoulder injury, the San Diego native has yet to do much. In five career appearances, McNamara has recorded just one start and has only one catch and four yards to his credit.
On a more tragic note, Harlow injured his back during his senior year in high school and wound up with nerve damage. Although he was informed he would never play football again, the Sooners coaching staff still honored his scholarship and placed him on medical hardship.
As for Grant, the Saint Edward High star was recruited as a tight end but was converted into an offensive tackle. He’s gained over 30 pounds since stepping on campus but has still yet to appear in a game.
Out of this group, Green was easily the most productive. Playing in 25 games, the Fort Scott Community College-transfer’s offensive numbers won’t impress (5 REC, 74 YDS, 1 TD). But his run blocking played a vital part in Oklahoma’s rushing attack during his two years at the school.
- John Michael McGee, 4-star (0.9285), No. 10-ranked offensive guard
- Ty Darlington, 4-star (0.9190), No. 1-ranked offensive center
- Will Latu, 4-star (0.8919), No. 2-ranked JUCO offensive tackle
- Kyle Marrs, 3-star (0.8654), No. 61-ranked offensive tackle
Grabbing McGee over the likes of Michigan, Notre Dame and Alabama was a big accomplishment for Oklahoma. However, the Texarkana, Texas, native decided to leave Norman even before playing a single game. After attending Texarkana College, McGee is currently at Henderson State University.
Darlington has quickly shown promise for the Sooners. Playing in 12 career games over his first two years behind Gabe Ikard, the former U.S. Army All-American is expected to be the anchor of the team’s offensive line.
Like McGee, Latu and Marrs also decided Norman wasn’t the right fit for them. McGee left for Abilene Christian University only one week into fall camp in 2012 while Marrs recently transferred to the University of Houston, per UHcougars.com (H/t The Cypress Creek Mirror), after failing to receive enough playing time in two seasons.
- Charles Tapper, 3-star (0.8895), No. 24-ranked weak-side defensive end
- Michael Onuoha, 3-star (0.8810), No. 25-ranked strong-side defensive end
- Chaz Nelson, 3-star (0.8770), No. 1-ranked JUCO strong-side defensive end
After coming in with the most question marks out of anyone else in this class, Tapper has one of the highest, if not the highest, ceilings out of all his peers. After playing in five games in 2012, the Baltimore native put in work last season. In 13 appearances and 12 starts, Tapper recorded 49 tackles (9.0 for loss), 5.5 sacks and one pass deflection.
An All-Big 12 selection, Tapper should only get better during his junior season.
Onuoha’s true potential is still unknown. The Edmond, Oklahoma, native appeared in five games as a true freshman in 2012, but an injury during the offseason led to him being given the redshirt in 2013. Given his size—6’5”, 249 pounds and gaining—it wouldn’t be surprising to see Onuoha work out as linebacker.
Expect to get a real feel for what he can accomplish in 2013.
A first team NJCAA All-American at Garden City Community College, Nelson redshirted in 2012 after transferring. Last season, he appeared in 13 games, recording four tackles (1.0 for loss) and a sack.
With all the potential and tools to be successful, Nelson’s talents should continue demanding playing time.
- Kasseim Everett, 4-star (0.9059), No. 2-ranked JUCO cornerback
- Eric Striker, 3-star (0.8879), No. 24-ranked safety
- Gary Simon, 3-star (0.8857), No. 29-ranked cornerback
- Zack Sanchez, 3-star (0.8733), No. 38-ranked cornerback
A junior college transfer from Pierce College, Everett really failed to make a footprint at Oklahoma. In two seasons, the Philadelphia native only recorded 17 tackles (3.5 for loss), 1.5 sacks and two forced fumbles.
An Academic All-Big 12 first teamer, Everett’s smarts never translated onto the football field.
On the other hand, Striker has been phenomenal and has easily overachieved expectations. After rarely seeing the field as a true freshman, the Seffner, Florida, native let loose in 2013, recording 50 tackles (10.5 for loss), 6.5 sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovered.
The All-Big 12 second teamer should be even better this season.
Simon was another disappointment at this position. He came in as a two-sport athlete, yet never made a mark on either the basketball court or football field. He didn’t play basketball at Norman and left the football team in March of 2013.
Sanchez redshirted in 2012, but since then, he’s started every single game of his career. In 13 games, he recorded 46 tackles (0.5 for loss) and picked off two passes, returning one for a touchdown. Sanchez was a catalyst to the Sooners’ upset of Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, returning an interception 43 yards and making three tackles.
His competitiveness and athleticism will help Oklahoma in the secondary.
For complete coverage and everything Oklahoma football, you can reach Sebastian on Twitter and via email at Sebastian.LenaBR@gmail.com.
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