For Oklahoma, the 2009 season has come to a close.
With another Sun Bowl trophy encased in Norman, the Sooner faithful are feeling good because of how their team overcame intense adversity and the most injury plagued year in OU history to conclude with a victory.
Good, not great. Great will have to wait, at least, until next year.
So the attention of Oklahoma now turns to next year and how the Sooners will fare. Will OU fix the offensive line problems? Can coach 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. 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. They got commitments from top talent in every corner of the nation. Oklahoma has always been a heavy hitter in the recruiting field under Stoops. 2010 will be no exeption, touting anywhere from a No. 1 class http://scout.com , to a No. 5 class http://rivals.com .
Breaking the incoming class down into individual catagories (somewhat) may 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. In turn, it should give us clues as to how the Sooners will fare in 2010.
Defensive Class of 2010
After the Sun Bowl, Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh said, "...looking at that secondary, that's how I want my guy's to play one day."
He went on to admit that OU had been the most physical secondary the Cardinal had faced. Stoops finally has the guys that play his position executing to his high expectations. These positions (S, FS, CB) have been anywhere from a weakness to a feared commodity. With graduation and NFL dreams, openings are there to be claimed.
But OU is loaded with talent here. If you can buy into Stoops' "no excuse" mentallity and play in position without thinking about it, you have a slight chance of playing time. Rarely does a recruit in these positions start as a freshman under Stoops.
Quentin Hayes Ht: 6'1" Wt: 175 Rank: 33 (S)
Some people believe this Lancaster (TX) HS turnout will be playing at WR. Watch him play and you can see why: he has great hands, always high-points the ball and doesn't bite on the pump-fake.
Bobby Jack Wright (OU DB coach) has recruited him at either CB or S. It's likely CB because his 4.4 speed is for real. Plus, his good friend and former Lancaster teammate DeMontre Hurst currently plays CB for the Sooners.
Eddrick Loften, Ht: 6'0", Wt: 206, Rank: No. 24 (S)
Out of Nimitz HS (Irving, Tx.) comes this physical kid. Loften may end up at any number of spots, but LB and S are most suited for him. He loves to hit, sometimes to a fault. He has a high motor and is also a sure tackler which should find him playing on special teams, at first. But he needs to work at pass coverage, with some time to develop, may be a nice "hybrid" position player for Stoops.
Tony Jefferson, Ht: 6'0", Wt: 210, Rank: No. 4 (S)
Eastlake HS (Chula Vista, Ca.) may have brought OU the second coming of Roy "Superman" Williams. With his speed (sub 4.6), lateral movement and innate ball hawking ability, this California kid appears to favor the former OU star, who also came to Norman from California. Jefferson may be the best tackler in all of the 2010 class. Like Williams, Jefferson was built for Stoops' "hybrid" position and may push for playing time.
The knock on him is recognition skills. Some of the best coaches in the game are waiting for him at Oklahoma to help in that area. If he comes out to Norman ready to play, this is the one guy that could really turn some heads.
Trey Franks, Ht: 5'9", Wt: 165, Rank: No. 67 (Athlete/CB)
A state champion in the 100-meter dash and relay, this West Orange-Stark HS (Orange, CA) kid has plenty of speed. Hands, not so good. So this young talent will probably end up at CB, even though he is a Jay Norvell kid. His cover skills are raw, but with some coaching, this recruit may find a spot. Just not in 2010. Some report that he may be a "problem" kid, but that's doubtful. Chasing girls won't be a problem at OU.
Aaron Colvin, Ht: 5'11", Wt: 175, Rank: No. 33 (CB)
Out of Owasso (OK) HS comes this lockdown corner. A little undersized, he doesn't play like it. He's a real physical player with blazing speed and incredible balance. The No. 1 player out of Oklahoma, DeMarrco Cobbs QB/WR (Texas recruit) went against Aaron in 1 on1's, and got shutdown by this overlooked talent, time and again. Stars by the name played a part in his low grade at first, but by the time his name started to reach the masses, he was commited to OU. Another case of Bobby Jack Wright outworking the competition. If not for a DT (listed below), this kid would be my darkhorse pick to shine.
James Haynes, Ht: 6'1", Wt: 185, Rank: No. 16 (CB)
The most "ready" corner comes out of West Orange-Stark HS (Orange, CA). Haynes may be the fastest in the OU class at 4.36 in the 40. He was on the state championship relay team with fellow recruit Trey Franks.
He has a "swivel" neck and is great at ball defense. He can jam or play off a defender because of his ability to close distances quickly. He projects to be a star at Oklahoma. Whether or not it's 2010 lies solely on him. He should also have a chance to play in the return game.
With all the stars to play this position for the Sooners, Oklahoma could be called "Linebacker U". With Ryan Reynolds gone and maybe Travis Lewis leaving early, the fight for playing time could be a very heated battle.
This is a tough position to play under defensive coordinator Brent Venables. To play LB at Oklahoma, you have to have size, speed and most importantly, intelligence. If you can't readily read an offense, adjust to maximize effectiveness, and recite the playbook front to back, all in unison, get ready to ride pine. It's very hard to find playing time at this position as a freshman as Venables is known for handing out tough grades. With only one LB to EVER recieve a "perfect" grade (Ryan Reynolds).
Aaron Franklin, Ht: 6'1" Wt: 206, Rank: No. 77 (OLB)
This prospect hails from Marshall (TX) HS. Speed is this LB's forte. He has great movement and can tackle with the best of them. He just needs work getting off blocks and with overall physicallity. He will most likely sit out until he's ready but will be a great special teams player with his hustle mentallity. Look for Franklin to see real playing time in 2011.
Jarrett Lake, Ht: 6'2", Wt: 205, Rank: No. 41 (OLB)
Another LB (Rocky Calmus) from the powerhouse program of Jenks HS (Tulsa, OK). He had an up and down year, but after the trouble Jenks was in this year (coach Allen Tremble getting suspended mid-year), it may just be a blip. He is a good run stopper with good instincs to boot but needs work on lateral speed and recognition skills. He could can fill in nicely as a backup. Jarret is ready-made for special teams, Ronnel Lewis type of player that loves to hit.
Rashod Favors, Ht: 6'2", Wt: 225, Rank: No. 21 (OLB)
This physical specimen from Dunbar HS (Fort Worth, Tx.) looks like he is ready for the next level. With the ability to pull down big TE's and cover slot WR's, Favors may have a chance to make an immediate impact. He disengages instantly from blockers. He is a multi-sport athlete that is good at every sport he plays. but he can get lost at times and needs to improve on football I.Q. With some time, Favors could pan out to be a game changer. Could, with time, convert to a DE. Has the skill set for it. Then again, his skill set translates to alot of positions. Really impressive.
Justin McCay, Ht: 6'4", Wt: 200, Rank: No. 2 (OLB)
Coming out of state champion Bishop Meige HS (Shawnee Mission, KS), McCay had all the top defensive coordinators knocking on his door. OU landed the highly-touted recruit with its WR's coach, Jay Norvell. What's up with that? All the information points towards him playing at WR, but his skill set lends itself to the physical play of LB. Big and fast, he could star at a number of positions. Whichever one he decides will play a part on how soon he gets on the field and to what degree.
Trey Millard, Ht: 6'2", Wt: 245, Rank: No. 18 (MLB)
This prospect breaks out from Rock Bridge Sr. HS (Colombia, MO.) and is the only truly instinctual MLB in this class. He posseses exeptional cover skills and has a nose for the ball. He may be a bit underrated at No. 18 and may even play at TE. But after Reynolds' departure and Wort's injury, Millard may be needed here. He needs to work on his flexibility and get off of blocks faster but is a nice prospect at either position.
With two former No. 1's leaving (Gerald McCoy and DeMarcus Granger) this position is still in good hands. That is if Adrian Taylor can recover from a gruesome injury suffered in the Sun Bowl.
Still, a steady rotation has been the motto for defensive line coach Jackie Shipp. That means kids wanting to play DT here need to show up ready to accelerate their learning process. This is maybe the most physically demanding position at OU, if not in all of football. Dominate as a DT here, and you're an NFL lock.
Eric Humphreys, Ht: 6'4", Wt:275, Rank: No. 66 (DT)
The Parrish Episcopal School (Dallas, TX) standout had offers from all around the nation (including Texas), but he decided to go with the school that believed in him from the start. He has a great football I.Q. and takes great angles to the ball. But at just 275 lbs, Humphrys needs to bulk up. He has the frame for power, he just has to do the work to get it. With decent speed, Humphreys may get a shot at DE, but is best suited for the DT position.
Torrea Peterson, Ht: 6'4", Wt: 302, Rank: No. 36 (DT) -Darkhorse Pick-
East Central HS (San Antonio, TX) may have produced a future star with this kid. He may be the strongest recruit in the class, and that's saying something. He has a powerful nonstop motor, is already used to double teams and led his team in tackles from the DT spot. This one is definitly a diamond in the rough. Needs to play smarter at times, relies to much on raw power. Peterson may be the kind of talent that can simply force his will though.
All the big boys wanted him. Jackie Shipp and Oklahoma proved the biggest, and OU will soon be thankful they were. Torrea should really push others for playing time. Watch this kid play just one snap, and you will become a believer. You don't have to remember the name Torrea Peterson. The loud speakers at Owen Field will soon regularly remind you.
Damon Williams, Ht: 6'3", Wt: 287, Rank: No. 32 (DT)
The other player to come out of Nimitz HS (Irving, TX) is a well-rounded talent. He has gotten a bit lost in the vast shuffle that is Texas high school football, but he still couldn't escape the watchful eye of Venables. With great push and exellent movement in the trenches, Willaims racks up tackles like a LB. He needs to build core strength and cardio but could edge his way into rotation if he works hard in camp.
Daniel Noble, Ht: 6'4", Wt: 282, Rank No. 16 (DT)
As the highest ranked DT, this Marcus HS (Flowermound, TX) kid was the first recruit to verbally commit to OU. A tall kid that plays well in the trenches, can move a pile and for his size, can run down plays. Daniel is a hustle player that hasn't come close to his true potential. When he does, wow.
He can get bogged down with double teams and can get lost in plays. But he really likes to compete, and will challenge for a spot in rotation. Noble could go unnoticed, or be the next Dan Cody. He's a great attitude guy, so I would lean towards him ultimately being a difference maker at Oklahoma. With his wing-span, and footwork, this sizeable kid could be converted to OT. Once Daniel finds out he can still hit and chase as an OL, he may just prefer it.
While it appears that Jeremy Beal will stay at least one more year, and that David King and Frank Alexander can produce in the system, Austin English will still be missed. His leadership held the team together, even after a season-ending injury.
With two leaving, the other being little-known Tola Jimoh, only one is slated to enroll at OU this year. So half the DE positions will be up for grabs. You gotta think fast to play DE under Venables with little room for error. Bust containment and you could have Stoops screaming in your mug.
Chuka Ndule, Ht: 6'3", Wt: 240, Rank: No. 20 (DE)
A hard worker from the start, Ndule hails from Jesuit College Prep School (Dallas, TX) and loves to play football, even though he hasn't played the sport very long. Chuka has amazing speed off the snap, and loves to chase down the QB. Defensive end coach Chris Wilson really likes this kid and his explosive play, visiting with the DE many times, ensuring that Ndule will hone his craft in Norman.
At his size he comes in looking the part but will have to work on getting off blocks. The injury bug has bit Ndule, but that is no new affliction here. Overall, he may compete for some rotation time, but it would be more likely for him to debut in 2011.
That's a complete look at the defensive class of 2010. Nothing is finalized until these kids step on campus, but it looks like Stoops and his staff have pulled in a vey nice bunch. Although, time is the best judge of talent. There could just be the next star hidden among these ranks, waiting for an opportunity to shine.