Could 2017 become Bob Stoops’s Best Recruiting Class?
Parts of this post appeared on crimsonandcreammachine on February 14, 2017
Just a few months ago I wrote a recruiting piece over 2017 Sooner Football, making the case for 2017 being Bob’s top all-time class of recruits from within the state of Oklahoma. His strong, in-state recruitment efforts coupled with his elite staff and new facilities looked more like Coach Stoops would be at the helm for the foreseeable future.
Little did I know, Stoops would be absent from the sideline by the time those guys first tried on a Sooners jersey.
Lincoln Riley certainly has his work cut out for him. Being the head coach at OU means becoming subject to the ultimate gauntlet of criticism and borderline unreachable expectations. Luckily, it appears Coach Riley has inherited Bob Stoops’s final recruiting class, and feasibly his best ever.
Few tasks in sports carry a more daunting level of pressure than being the guy who comes after, “the guy.”
But Stoops didn’t leave Riley empty-handed. You may have heard of Baker Mayfield – he’s coming back and bringing plenty of weapons with him.
Read along. It might help settle your nerves a bit.
All votes have been counted and the polls are closed. National Signing Day is in the rearview mirror and Sooner fans are enjoying the scenery.
Anytime you move to a new place it takes a bit of adapting before feeling truly at home. However, many of these guys are already home. In fact, they never left.
Of the top-five high school prospects from the state of Oklahoma, all five committed to OU.
It’s not often these days you get to say something is the “first time ever” under Stoops, but this happens to be one of those rare instances. Stoops always recruits the big dogs… but landing all five of the top in-state recruits in one year?
First time ever.
Even Bob had to secretly be impressed with himself for pulling this off. He of all people understands exactly how important it is to dominate in-state recruiting.
Make no mistake about it, Stoops has signed plenty of elite local talent over the years. This year marks the fifth time since 2005 that both the No. 1 and No. 2 homegrown recruits have chosen to play ball at OU.
The results speak for themselves. This could be yuuuge for OU.
Before this year, there was just one previous class that included four of the top five in-state recruits.
2006. Gerald McCoy, Jermaine Gresham, Sam Bradford, and Dominique Franks.
All four were NFL draft picks, and until Franks was cut by the Ravens in 2014, all four were still on active NFL rosters.
For athletes of this caliber, the school doesn’t choose the athlete, the athlete chooses the school. That’s what makes keeping them inside state lines such a tall task.
They’re 18 years old. Famous. Big time.
And when schools from So. Cal and Miami are on the phone…it’s not exactly a walk in the park convincing these guys to stay home, close to mom and dad. Yet, year after year, Stoops gets the job done.
We haven’t even reached the tip of the iceberg in naming all of the top local talent to choose OU as their destination during the Stoops era. If Stoops decided to get a tattoo with the name of every locally grown star to dawn the crimson and cream under his watch, he’d have more ink than Dennis Rodman.
In addition to countless national award winners and eventual NFL draft picks, fifteen local products have achieved All-American status at OU during the Stoops era.
Quite the list. And with this year’s class being perhaps the most fruitful crop during the Stoops era, I can’t help but wonder…where’s the ceiling?
To answer that question, I looked back at previous years to name the “Stoops Era – Best of the Best Lineup of Sooners from the Sooner State.” Below I’ve listed a hypothetical starting lineup comprised of the top in-state player(s) from each position to have played under Coach Stoops.
Offensive Line: Jamaal Brown (Lawton), Wes Sims (Weatherford), Gabe Ikard (Oklahoma City), Bronson Irwin (Mustang), Chris Messner (Frederick)
Quarterback: Jason White (Tuttle)… I know, I know, but more on this in just a minute
Running Back: KeJuan Jones (Jenks)
Fullback: J.D. Runnels (Midwest City)
Wide Receiver: Ryan Broyles (Norman), Sterling Shepard (Oklahoma City)
Tight End: Jermaine Gresham (Ardmore)
Defensive Line: Gerald McCoy (Oklahoma City), Stacy McGee (Muskogee), Dan Cody (Ada), Ronnell Lewis (Dewar)
Linebacker: Curtis Lofton (Kingfisher), Teddy Lehman (Fort Gibson), Rocky Calmus (Jenks)
Cornerback/Safety: Reggie Smith (Edmond), Dominique Franks (Tulsa), Gabe Lynn (Tulsa), J.T. Thatcher (Norman)
Kick Returner: Alex Ross (Jenks)
Punt Returner: Antonio Perkins (Lawton)
Kicker: Tim Duncan (Clinton)
Punter: Jeff Ferguson (Tulsa)
Some positions were easier to determine than others. Below I’ve given some justification behind a few of my selections. Counter-arguments are welcomed.
Easiest Decision: Linebacker
Rocky Calmus and Teddy Lehman both won the Butkus, awarded to the nation’s most outstanding linebacker. Curtis Lofton was the Big XII Defensive Player of the Year, started eight seasons in the NFL, and led all NFL players in cumulative tackles from 2009-2014. There’s just no arguing this group.
Toughest Decision: Quarterback, Running Back
These were the toughest positions to land on a name, but for completely opposite reasons.
QB: Leaving Sam Bradford off of this list felt like a betrayal of the tallest order… but we’re not running a two-QB system here, so I had to make a choice Bradford’s NFL success certainly helps his argument, but his accomplishments at OU – while insanely impressive – didn’t match that of Jason White. White won the Heisman Trophy, Maxwell Award, AP Player of the Year, Davey O’Brien Award (twice), and was a unanimous All-American. He also took the Sooners to the BCS National Championship two years in a row, but lost both contests. If your pick is Bradford, I can support that. For me, I’m taking White.
RB: Who knew the Sooners have had so few dominant RB’s from local high schools during the Stoops era? I guess he normally just heads south and picks up good ones in the state of Texas. This one was between Mossis Madu and KeJuan Jones. Both had solid, but not stellar careers. Jones rushed for over 2,300 yards and 36 TD’s. He gets the nod.
With this year’s class being an “all-timer” in terms of elite talent from within state lines, one can’t help but wonder if there’s a guy from the 2017 Sooner football team who may sneak into this lineup once it’s all said and done. Such a player could take an elite list of recruits from excellent to Bob Stoops’s best Oklahoma recruiting class in his 18 year coaching career.
If Vegas were to set a line based on the likelihood of which player is most likely to crack the lineup, my guess is that Justin Broiles or Tre Brown would be the odds-on favorites. They’re both incredibly gifted, and defensive back is a position that has some “wiggle room” in terms of being able to overtake a name on the list.
It’s an incredibly positive sign for the immediate future of Oklahoma-recruiting, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s really just “Bob doin’ Bob.” He always finds a way.
No telling how many more “first-time-ever’s” Stoops has left under his belt, but I’m hoping to see some more (as long as they’re positive).