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February 6, 2013

Formerly a Sooner strong point, recruiting now seems a losing battle

NORMAN — Oklahoma is five years removed from its last national championship game appearance. No one knows if the recruiting class it will bring in today will lead them back to that kind of stature.

However, one trend says the Sooners, and the rest of the Big 12 Conference, are losing ground.

Defensive linemen have long set good teams apart from great ones. OU’s best teams of the Bob Stoops era — with the possible exception of 2000 national championship team — held that distinction.

From 2000-2011, OU has had at least one all-Big 12 defensive lineman. Those 2003, 2004 and 2008 teams that reached the national championship game all included at least All-American defensive lineman — defensive tackle Tommie Harris (2003), defensive end Dan Cody (2004) and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (2008).

All three were players within OU’s recruiting base. Cody (Ada) and McCoy (Oklahoma City) were right in the sweet spot. Harris was from Killeen, Texas, but OU battled Big 12 schools to get him.

More and more being the beast in the Big 12 isn’t carrying as much weight with highly sought prep defensive linemen.

In the class of 2013, there were seven defensive linemen rated as four-star recruits by both Rivals and ESPN in the Big 12 Conference’s regional footprint — Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa and West Virginia.

Southmoore’s D.J. Ward, who is already attending classes at OU, is the only one who elected to play in the Big 12. Lancaster, Texas, defensive end Daeshon Hall (Washington) and Houston Taylor defensive Torrodney Prevot (USC) decided the Pac-12 was for them. The rest chose to play in the SEC.

Four of them chose Texas A&M. Having an SEC school in Texas only makes the problem worse for Big 12 Conference.

ESPN national recruiting director Tom Luginbill sees the Big 12 defensive line issues as a geographic problem.

“There may be various ways to explain it, but the core nucleus of premier players along the defensive front — whether it’s at tackle or end — is in the southeast region of this country. It’s in the six to seven states — the Carolinas, Georgia, Mississippi, Florida, Louisiana and Alabama — they are concentrated there for whatever reason. And it’s very difficult to get those guys to come out of there,” he said.

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