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Fantastic Five
Sooners get early start on 2008 recruiting class with key commitments

While the March issue of Sooner Spectator is almost exclusively devoted to Oklahoma’s newest crop of talented football recruits, OU fans don’t have to limit their excitement to the Class of 2007.

If the truth be known, the best is yet to come.
Bob Stoops’ staff has already begun to make some serious noise for 2008 by securing a batch of highly-regarded prep commitments. It marks the first time in the Stoops era the Sooners have landed so many potential superstars prior to the start of spring football.

Oklahoma currently holds four verbal commitments from players who are likely to be considered the cream of the crop in their respective states. And more commitments could be on board even before this issue hits the newsstands.

The Sooners’ biggest get to date has to be Stephen Good, a 6-foot-5, 290-pound offensive tackle from Paris (Texas) High School. Good, considered by many as the top offensive lineman in Texas, recently committed to OU over the Texas Longhorns.

“I’ve been thinking about it for a long time and I’ve been holding off on it a little bit,” said Good. “I went to both junior days and I got offers from both Texas and OU, and it just seemed like OU was the right fit for me. Everything just clicked really well and I didn’t see any reason to wait.”

But even before Good made his decision, the Sooners had already received a commitment from a player many sources consider the top defensive talent in Texas for 2008 — R.J. Washington — a 6-3, 245-pound defensive end from Fossil Ridge High School in Keller, Texas.
Washington is so highly regarded, he’ll most likely contend with Good for consideration as the No. 1 overall player in the state of Texas this fall.

Meanwhile, the Sooners haven’t only been harvesting talent from Texas. Daniel Franklin, a 6-3, 216-pound linebacker from Habersham Central High School in Mt. Airy, Ga., gave his verbal to the Sooners in December.

Franklin’s decision left teams like Florida and Georgia crying for a second chance to land the talented defender. But the young defender’s relationship with the OU coaches — built during their summer camps in Norman — might just be too much to overcome, even for the national champion Gators.

From there, the news gets even better.
The one player who could have the most impact on the class of 2008 is Justin Johnson, a 6-1, 210-pound running back from Gilmer (Texas) High School.

This talented young man isn’t your average Oklahoma recruit. Sure, he’s likely to be named one of the top 10 players in the state of Texas for 2008, meaning he fits in with the rest of this early class. But the thing that sets him apart is the fact he’s been living life through crimson-colored glasses for quite some time.

Johnson knows OU football and he likes what he sees.

“I went down there when I was a freshman and that was my first time at a football camp and I felt like it was home,” he said. “My cousin (Manuel Johnson) showed me around a lot of places and I just put that college in my heart the first time I went down there.”

Johnson has taken things a step farther than most recruits. Not content to simple be an OU commitment, the young man produced a piece of paper that he titled ‘The Creed of Champions’ when he made his verbal pledge.

“After (Coach Stoops) sat down in his office and talked to me, it actually went as planned and I handed him the paper and he read it and he jumped up and I thought it was going to bring tears to his eyes,” explained Johnson. “He was excited about it and he told me he never had anybody do that. He really liked it.”

What is the Creed of Champions?

“I don’t know it by heart because I don’t have the paper in front of me and I don’t have it memorized,” said Johnson. “It was just addressing that I was going to be a leader, that I was gonna be on time, that I was going to be committed to the team and things a leader would take responsibility for.”

And Johnson is taking his leadership responsibilities to the phone lines as he tries to recruit other players to join him in the class of 2008.

That includes the top players in the state of Texas — coveted prospects like J.B. Shugarts, a 6-7, 299-pound offensive tackle from Klein High School. Shugarts is the only other lineman in Texas who can challenge Good for top offensive lineman honors.

But this group of OU commitments isn’t worried about bringing in too much competition. Good is also working hard trying to bring in Shugarts, along with other top Texas players to Norman.

Good and Johnson have been building friendships with Shugarts and Ben Habern, a 6-3, 260-pound offensive center from Liberty Christian High School in Argyle, Texas.

“Me and J.B. Shugarts stay in touch a lot, and Ben Habern too. I talk to them a lot and I tell them, ‘Let’s all go to the same school and be the best offensive line,’” said Good. “I don’t quite know where Shugarts is gonna wind up, but I know Ben is looking at (OU) real hard and I hope everything works out that way.”

In fact, it wouldn’t be a shock to anyone in the recruiting world if Habern is the next ultra-talented Texan to end up pledging his services to the Sooners.

According to NCAA rules, it is not illegal for recruits to try and sway other recruits to commit to any college over another. Call it a loophole if you want, but Oklahoma will take full advantage of Johnson and Good’s willingness to help their recruiting efforts.

“Me and Coach (Cale) Gundy, we talked about it and he was excited about the 2008 class and I was too,” said Johnson. “We knew in our class we had some great guys, and from the day he knew I was gonna commit, we talked about getting those guys there with me. We were excited about the class.”

Just like Sooner fans, Johnson and Good are excited about the prospects for the 2008 crop. If things continue to go this way for the Sooners, they’ll be squarely in the mix for a recruiting national championship come next February.

“The way things are going, we’ve got R.J. Washington and he was the No. 1 Texas prospect for a little while and he is still one of the best defensive ends in Texas,” said Good. “Justin Johnson, a defensive back and running back — he’s just an all-around athlete, and then that linebacker (Daniel Franklin). I don’t know much on him, but I’ve watched his videotape and he’s pretty good.”

That work will continue throughout the spring and summer. Johnson even has a camping trip planned for all the players pictured in this article. If Shugarts and Habern jump on board, they’ll all gang up and try to land Sam McGuffie, the lightning fast 6-foot, 185-pound all-purpose running back from Cy-Fair High School in Cypress, Texas.

McGuffie has some of the most impressive highlight clips one will ever see from a high school player.

“I think everything’s going to start out real well, everybody’s excited about this class,” said Good. “I’m sure since we’re getting some big names in this ’08 class that more people will come along.”

(This story originally appeared in the March 2007 issue of Sooner Spectator. Subscribe today by calling 1-888-335-4385.)