The Norman Transcript

February 5, 2009

New class fills needs

By John Shinn

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops drew some laughs from fans when he suggested Sam Bradford might be his quarterback for two more seasons. The Sooner coach had to pause for a second to ask what was so funny while he was addressing the media about the class of 22 players he’d just signed.

Two more seasons with Bradford at quarterback would be OU’s dream scenario. If not, the Sooners will nonetheless survive. They inked another highly regarded class on National Signing Day Wednesday.

It’s one recognized more for the needs it filled than by any particular outstanding recruit.

OU had three major priorities with this year’s class: offensive line, linebacker and wide receiver.

It filled the coffers in two of the three areas.

Offensive linemen Josh Aladenoye, Tyler Evans, Tavaris Jeffries and Jeff Vinson should all make an impact. Each one stands at least 6-foot-5, and Vinson is a massive 6-foot-8 and 350 pounds.

“These are big talented guys that are the body types that we’re used to working with,” Stoops said. “I really feel they’re going to help us and they’re the style of players we’re used to working with.”

OU needed them. The offensive line will have to be rebuilt nearly from scratch after losing All-American guard Duke Robinson, Phil Loadholt, Jon Cooper, Brandon Walker and backup Branndon Braxton.

At receiver, OU might have come up short.

The Sooners inked Cameron Kenney, from Garden City (Kan.) Community College and Jaz Reynolds from Aldine, Texas. Both are expected to contend for playing time immediately, especially Kenney. But OU missed on high-profile receivers Rueben Randle (Rivals.com’s No. 2 overall recruit) and Terry Hawthorne (No. 58). Both kept the tension brewing until Wednesday. Randle chose LSU and Hawthorne picked Illinois.

“It would have been great to get another guy or two, but that’s the case at any position,” Stoops said. “We still think our numbers are OK. You’d like to have had another one, but we’re good with the guys we have and guys we have returning. We’re not a team that plays four wide (receivers) all the time. We have Jermaine Gresham and other guys we like to split out. It’s not like we’re shorthanded on who we can throw the ball to.”

OU also got a potential heir apparent for Bradford with San Antonio quarterback Drew Allen.



Defense

Defensive needs were met, and met with the most highly touted players in the class.

The Sooners beat Texas for the services of Lufkin, Texas, defensive tackle Jarmarkus McFarland. Stoops said the 6-3, 280-pound lineman reminds of him of current OU standout Gerald McCoy and former All-American Tommie Harris. OU also added defensive ends Justin Chaisson, Terry Franklin and Jarrett Brown.

The group includes four linebackers: Jayden Bird, Ronnell Lewis, Tom Wort and Gus Jones. Bird, Lewis and Wort are already on campus and will go through spring practice.

Lewis (Dewar) joined Jenks defensive back Gabe Lynn as part of the in-state haul. The Sooners also added Lawton MacArthur defensive back Javon Harris, Bishop McGuinness tight end Gabe Ikard and Jones, from Watonga.

Rivals.com had Lewis ranked as the best player in the state, despite playing 8-man football in high school.

“Turned his tape on, and I said it when I watched it, I don’t care if he’s playing against four people, that guy can play,” Stoops said. “He’s our style of athlete when you look at his size and his explosiveness.”

The class’s only drama producer was the last-minute addition of cornerback DeMontre Hurst, who was verbally committted to Oklahoma State. He was the second player in three years to switch from the Cowboys to the Sooners in the final days before signing day, joining receiver and former Norman High standout Ryan Broyles.

Stoops said stealing a recruit from OSU had nothing to do with going after Hurst.

“I don’t care who it is or who they may be committed to,” Stoops said. “It gets down to what are our needs and what do we feel he brings and is he going to make us better. End of story.”