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OU looks to put finishing touches on 2006 class
As national signing day approaches, Oklahoma is focused on putting the finishing touches on its 2006 recruiting class. Several big-name recruits are still on their board and the Sooners are making one final push for players like Gerald McCoy, Jermaine Gresham and Brandon Walker.
The biggest name still in play with just over a week remaining was Gerald McCoy, the 6-foot-4, 305-pound defensive tackle from Oklahoma Cityâ€™s Southeast High School. McCoy returned from the U.S. Army All-American game with rave reviews in tow thanks to an impressive performance during the practices leading up to the game and in the game itself.
In fact, McCoy was so impressive, he was expected to reclaim his spot as the No. 1 ranked defensive tackle in the country, according to Rivals.com. The race for McCoy has, not surprisingly, come down to OU, LSU and USC. His final decision may not come until Feb. 1.
Meanwhile, the Sooners are still considered the slight leader for Ardmore, Okla., tight end Jermaine Greshamâ€™s services. Despite suffering a major knee injury in his final prep game, the 6-foot-7, 230-pound Gresham remains one of the most sought-after prospects in the state. He visited Norman in early December, but scheduled trips to USC, LSU and Miami have kept his decision in doubt.
â€śI donâ€™t know if I will take all three,â€ť said Gresham, who visited USC last weekend. â€śI could come back and make up my mind, I guess we will just have to see.â€ť
But even with so many visits to powerhouse programs coming up, Gresham still speaks positively about Oklahoma.
â€śIâ€™ve been talking to Coach (Jackie) Shipp a lot lately. The main thing that we talk about is how they need me and would use me early on,â€ť he said. â€śThe injury hasnâ€™t changed what they have told me at all. Oklahoma has a chance to get me on the field early and thatâ€™s something Iâ€™m excited about.
â€śThatâ€™s what Iâ€™m looking for â€” I want a chance to play early.â€ť
Along with Gresham and McCoy, the other big fish in the recruiting pond continues to be Walker, the 6-foot-3, 315-pound offensive guard from Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College.
Walker was considered a Michigan State lean during most of his recruiting process, but those thoughts have changed as the Spartans opted to go in a different direction with their offensive line needs.
That figured to be a good thing for Oklahoma, but Walker was scheduled for a visit to Florida State near the end of January. It appears the Sooners will be in a neck-and-neck battle with the Seminoles.
Getting Walker would be a major coup for the Sooners, according to scouts.
â€śHe was as good as any offensive lineman on Oklahomaâ€™s roster with the exception of Davin Joseph this year,â€ť said one college recruiter.
The Sooners did receive one very big positive out of the U.S. Army All-American game in San Antonio. That was the commitment of five-star running back Demarco Murray from Las Vegasâ€™ Bishop Gorman High School.
Coach Bob Stoopsâ€™ staff was looking for a running back to help pick up the slack if Adrian Peterson departs after his junior season like many believe he will. Even though Murray is considered an all-purpose back, the Sooners were happy to pick up their first five-star prospect of 2006.
According to Murrayâ€™s high school coach, David White, it was a tough decision for the talented back.
â€śBoth programs are great. Everyone is saying Oklahoma is down, but by the end of the year, they were playing pretty good football,â€ť White said. â€śI think in the end, (Demarco) respected USC wanting to have the best players at every position, but he just wants to play more running back. He really was going back and forth between the two for quite a while.â€ť
The Trojans were telling Murray they projected him as a cornerback, while the Sooners were more than willing to give Murray a serious look at running back.
Another item of great interest for Sooner recruiting fans was the recent announcement that ace recruiter Darrell Wyatt is leaving to accept a position with the Minnesota Vikings as their wide receivers coach.
Wyattâ€™s departure leaves a huge hole in OUâ€™s recruiting staff, as he built a reputation as one of the nationâ€™s most fierce recruiters.
The Sooners will go to work to replace a great position coach and a great recruiter.
â€śThere are a number of directions we can go in hiring (Darrellâ€™s) replacement,â€ť said Stoops. â€śWe will work through those in the coming weeks. The receivers who have committed to us are very strong in their commitments and understand that our offensive scheme will continue to work in the same way. Theyâ€™re confident in our system and in the strength of the teams we have coming up.â€ť
Oklahoma currently has verbal commitments from two highly regarded wide receiver prospects â€” Adron Tennell, a 6-foot-5, 190-pounder from Irving, Texas, and Brandon Caleb, a 6-foot-1, 195-pounder from Fork Union, Va.
â€śCoach Wyatt called me earlier in the week and let me know that he was moving on, but Iâ€™m still planning to be at Oklahoma this summer,â€ť said Caleb.
As for Tennell, his head coach at Irving High School, Jim Bennett, spoke on his behalf.
â€śTo be honest, it wonâ€™t make a difference,â€ť Bennett said, pointing to Wyattâ€™s departure. â€ś(Adron) committed there and thatâ€™s where heâ€™s going to go.â€ť
With signing day just around the corner, the Sooners have 25 commitments so far for 2006. And two of those players, Joey Halzle (pronounced Halls-lee), a 6-foot-4, 215-pound quarterback from Huntington Beachâ€™s Golden West Community College, and Sherrone Moore, a 6-foot-5, 300-pound offensive tackle from Butler County Community College, are enrolled at OU for the spring semester.
Both players will participate in spring practices for the Sooners and both will have three years of Division-I eligibility, as each were full qualifiers out of high school who used redshirt seasons during their first seasons in junior college.
The Sooners also welcome in two high school mid-semester transfers. Chad Roark, a 6-foot-2, 290-pound center from Ada, Okla., and Quintin Carter, a 6-foot, 185-pound safety from Cheyenne High School in Las Vegas, Nev., both arrived in Norman recently. Both players will be eligible to participate in spring practices.
Roark is coming off a very impressive showing of his own at the U.S. Army All-American game.
With such a heavy emphasis on signing offensive linemen in this class, it appears offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson and the rest of the recruiting staff have rounded up some top-shelf talent. The Sooners currently have commitments from six offensive linemen, while they await word on a possible seventh commitment from Walker.
The offensive line commitment list is impressive. Besides Moore and Roark, OU figures to bring in Cory Brandon, a 6-foot-6, 265-pound offensive tackle from Corsicana, Texas; Curtis Bailey, a 6-foot-7, 340-pound offensive tackle/guard from Dallas Carter; Chase Beeler, a 6-foot-4, 275-pound offensive guard from Jenks; and Trent Williams, a 6-foot-5, 290-pound offensive guard from Longview, Texas.
The Sooners also have an outside shot of landing Ian Symonette, a 6-foot-9, 340-pound offensive tackle from Houstonâ€™s St. Pius X High School. Symonette will decide between OU, LSU and Miami.
Along with the offensive line, defensive backs have to be considered the other major priority in this recruiting class. And the Sooners have landed verbal commitments from a nice crop of young players at those positions.
OU will bring in two talented cornerback prospects in Dominique Franks, a 6-foot, 180-pounder from Tulsa Union High School and Jonathan Nelson, a 6-foot-1, 180-pounder from Mansfield, Texas.
Stoopsâ€™ program also has a commitment from athlete Mossis Madu, a 6-foot-1, 190-pound athlete from Norman High School, who could play running back or defensive back for the Sooners. Carter and Daniel Tabon, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound sleeper from Altus, Okla., are expected to provide help at safety, while Tabon could become a strong safety/linebacker in Oklahomaâ€™s defensive scheme.
(Editor's Note: This feature appears in the January issue of Sooner Spectator.)