For Oklahoma, the 2009 season has come to a close. With another Sun Bowl trophy encased in Norman, Sooner faithful are feeling good.
Good because of how their team overcame intense adversity, and most importantly, good because the most injury-plagued year in OU history concluded with a victory.
Good, not great. Great, for now, will have to wait until next year.
So now that's where the attention of Oklahoma now turns, next year, and how the Sooners will fare. Will OU fix the offensive line problems? Can Bob Stoops reverse the flow of the Red River and get back the Golden Hat? Will 2010 be the year OU finally wins a BCS bowl?
While none of these questions can be answered definitively, they can be gauged, and one way to do that is to look at the talent coming in.
The recruiting trail has been hot for Stoops and his coaching staff all year, getting commitments from top talent in every corner of the nation. Oklahoma has always been a heavy hitter in the recruiting field under Stoops, and 2010 will be no exception, touting anywhere from a No. 1 class (http://scout.com ) to No. 5 (http://rivals.com ).
Breaking the incoming class down into individual categories (somewhat), it may be possible to shed some light on just how some of the holes left by those moving on, and some of the pre-existing ones, will get filled. That, in turn, should give clues as to just how the Sooners will fare in 2010.
While some feel this position is already filled for 2010, that's not quite an open and shut case. The competition to hold the keys to the car at OU is never completely closed. Landry Jones may have a step up on everyone else, but if a kid can come in and turn some heads, he may find himself on the big stage come September.
Blake Bell—Ht: 6'6" Wt: 215 Rank: No. 3 (QB, Elite 11)
Big powerful kid recruited heavily by Josh Heupel (OU QB coach) out of Bishop Carroll Catholic HS (Wichita, KS)—think Jake Locker (Wash) or Dan LeFevour (C. Mich). As a QB that can run, he still prefers to beat you through the air. Stoops has always liked a mobile QB (Jason White, Rhett Bomar, Paul Thompson).
Only playing the quarterback position for two years, Bell has picked it up quickly. Good pocket presence, but most notably known for his quick release, he also earns his high rank for his exceptional IQ, a must for the defenses he will see in the Big 12.
Blake does have some things to work on, like footwork and release point. He must really work on arm strength, but it's nothing that can't be improved sufficiently under Heupel. Though impressive, Bell will not likely see playing time in 2010.
Oklahoma is always on the lookout for a game-changing back to plug in the offense. Kids have always lined up for a chance to follow in the steps of the countless legends that have carried the rock at OU, regardless of the coach. If you grade high in this position, you will see the field a lot here, and soon (De'Mond Parker, Adrian Peterson, DeMarco Murray), although most need time to adjust to the game speed at the college level.
Roy Finch—Ht: 5'7" Wt: 180 Rank: No. 4 (all-purpose RB)
This electric charge from Niceville Senior HS (Niceville, FL) is more than nice; he may be the most dynamic recruit in the class and has "wow" factor with the ball in hand. Finch makes razor-sharp cuts in small space that make you do a double take. He is at top speed in two steps, but that top speed needs some work. He has an unteachable knack for slipping tackles.
Roy could see playing time immediately, most likely as a kick/punt returner. But after the troubles OU had this year with dropped balls, and his quick decision-making skills, it would not be a surprise to see this spark plug in at the slot WR position. Needs to bulk up a bit for durability, but toughness is not lacking in this kid.
Brennan Clay—Ht: 5'11" Wt: 193 Rank: No. 2 (all-purpose RB)
Not much difference from Finch in this Scripps Ranch HS (San Diego, CA) product. Clay's superior open-field breakaway speed is where he holds an advantage. Once he reaches the second level, good night. Also, he may be the better "between the tackles" runner of the two prospects because of vision, though his high school's style of offense didn't lend itself to much "power" runs.
The common knock on him is blocking ability (again, high school style). Because of that, Brennan may need some work before seeing action. But with his speed and ability to catch out of the backfield, he may be called on as a freshman.
Both RBs were recruited by Cale Gundy (OU RB coach).
This position, besides Ryan Broyles, is wide open and waiting for someone to step in and produce. Sooner fans and coaches alike were appalled at how many drops were made in the 2009 season.
Dejuan Miller and Jaz Reynolds did start to come on in the last few games, but this recruiting class of WRs is chomping at the bit to see if they can claim a spot. This may prove to be the most heated battle for playing time at any position.
Sheldon McClain—Ht: 6'3" Wt: 180 Rank: No. 64 (WR)
This Steele HS (Cibolo, TX) product has sure hands, and that's what got OU's attention. Sheldon has been overlooked by a lot of schools (maybe due to lack of stars by his name), but not by Jay Norvell (OU WR coach). What he lacks in physicality, McClain makes up for in attitude. He plays with heart and rarely takes plays off, an admirable quality at WR. He needs work in route running and separation skills.
Julian Wilson—Ht: 6'"3 Wt: 178 Rank: No. 59 (Athlete/WR)
Part of the great "Southmoore Trio" out of Southmoore HS (Moore, OK), this two-way player could end up on the defensive side of the ball. But Julian caught Gundy's eye for a reason. He has a pension for making plays when his team needs a spark. He needs work in all phases but has the intangibles coaches look for.
Joe Powell—Ht: 6'0" Wt: 175 Rank: No. 34 (Athlete/WR)
Another two-way player, this one out of Skyline HS (Dallas, TX), Powell has excellent acceleration and body control. His route running needs work, but Joe's hands rarely drop passes. Norvell went after him pretty hard, so this athlete is the most likely to stay on offense, but his skill set may transfer better elsewhere.
Kenny Stills—Ht: 6'1" Wt: 175 Rank: No. 8 (WR)
Easily the most game-ready of all the WRs, this La Costa Canyon HS (Encinitas, CA) upshot is looked upon as the "crown jewel" by some. Stills has world-class speed, route cuts that are crisp, superb hands that just catch everything, elusiveness, and the "home run" vision. He finds holes in a defense at will.
The common thread for a negative is strength, but that may be nitpicking—this young man is awesome. Stills should see playing time early and often and may find a starting role if he continues to play at potential.
Kevin Wilson (OU OC and TE coach) has proven that when not having to turn all his TEs into OLs, he can really get after a defense with his trips TE set. As Jermaine Gresham and Brody Eldridge take all the proven talent to the NFL, this is a spot that is as valuable as it is needed at Oklahoma.
Wilson will lean heavily on guys already in Norman, seeing how only one true TE will be recruited. But the one coming in could make an immediate difference.
Austin Haywood—Ht: 6'5" Wt: 243 Rank: No. 8 (TE)
Another member of the "Southmoore Trio" of Southmoore HS (Moore, OK), Austin has what a coach is after in a TE—great hands, both catching and blocking. He's a smart player with a good work ethic. He has such great turnover with his feet that he may end up playing DE. But offensive skills may force him to that side of the ball.
He can disappear some at times and needs all-around work to reach his potential, but he's a great grab for OU.
This position by far is the most crucial to Big Red's future success. After injuries and just flat-out bad play, the Sooner nation was vilifying every coach from Wilson to James Patton (OU OL coach) and ready to hand either his walking papers. Good thing for them Stoops saw fit to give them a chance to right the ship, which they did somewhat.
Bob has lobbied hard for linemen and landed some big-time talent. At this position, you want a two-deep rotation. As it stands, OU may struggle to have one-deep. If a kid can survive the infamous "Schmidty workout" (Jerry Schmidt's grueling offseason endurance training), then he has a chance to play. Run block well, and you're a starter.
Daryl Williams—Ht: 6'5" Wt: 270 Rank: No. 33 (OT)
This Lake Dallas HS (Lake Dallas, TX) kid is more of a "project" lineman. Daryl has good size and length and can pull to block at a high level—a plus because you can't teach size or speed.
Needs to play to the whistle more. Needs to fill out his frame and develop a better "drive" off the ball. Snaps off the line too slowly and has trouble with "burying" defensive linemen. He needs a lot of work but can grow into a solid player with time.
Tyrus Thompson—Ht: 6'6" Wt: 294 Rank: No. 32 (OT)
A former DT out of Pflugerville HS (Pflugerville, TX), Thompson has tons of raw talent. He looks like a young, thinner Phil Loadholt. He has a massive wingspan and great feet. High IQ of the game and is a quick study. He isn't quite a "project" but may not be ready to play at the D-I level until 2011. The kind of player that can surprise or disappoint.
Adam Shead—Ht: 6'4" Wt: 320 Rank: No. 6 (OG)
This big Cedar Hills HS (Cedar Hills, TX) brute is just what OU is looking for. Power, hard to move. Excellent snap off the ball and a tenacious blocker. Loves to get after DTs and doesn't stop until the echo of the whistle.
The one knock here is "stance." He looks a little stiff at times and needs to work on "pulling." But he may just step right in and get in the rotation. Looks the part. If coachable and driven, he will be a future draft pick.
Bronson Irwin—Ht: 6'5" Wt: 318 Rank: No. 2 (OG)
Hands down, this Mustang HS (Mustang, OK) product is the best offensive lineman this class boasts. In camp, Bronson demolished the competition in one-on-ones. His drive off the ball is stellar; he can demoralize a LB and bury a DT.
The kind of kid you want on your line, Irwin may be moved to the right tackle position to fill holes left by graduation. But there is no doubt he is an animal, and he most likely will end up at guard. He just doesn't have the footwork you would like in a tackle.
In another case of "nitpicking," the only real flaw the Oklahoma-born kid has is lack of experience. Come 2010, that should change. Patton knew what he was doing with this one.
That's a complete look at the offensive players in the 2010 class. While this bunch may not look as dominating as past years, it may turn out to be one of the best. A lot of talented kids are looking to take the field next season. The Sooners could be just a few players away from another stellar season.