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July 11, 2011

The Mailbag: What's Going On at Defensive End?

The Mailbag is a SoonerScoop.com feature for our fans to get questions that may require a little more depth and clarity of explanation directly from assistant editor Josh McCuistion. Each week we'll field questions for the mailbag and get you all answers at the week's end!

This week's mailbag has a look at numerous topics from one of our own members offering a quality new name at quarterback to a breakdown of what players out of the current on campus freshman might find their way to playing time this fall. But without a doubt how things would play out along the defensive line this year and how it relates to this season's recruiting class was the topic of the week.

I was watching an Elite 11 video SoonerScoop had put up and I was really impressed with Faton Bauta so I checked out his highlights and WOW. Has Oklahoma had any contact with this kid? He has great size, speed, and toughness. He took a fullback dive 60-yards to the house, is blowing people up at linebacker, and looks to have great mechanics at quarterback. He seems to just be a great football player that will make plays if you put him on the field. And it's not like he was going up against bad competition, right? I played Dwyer in a baseball tourney out in Florida once and that's a big time school.

- Joseph


First off, I want our readers to know that this e-mail came in over a month ago and I kept it because I was impressed with what you saw. Since this e-mail was sent this kid has been offered by Alabama, Georgia, and another hefty list of SEC area powers. Basically, he has burst p as one of the SEC region's fastest rising names.

Now, as to your actual question he honestly is a name I'm checking in on to see if things have changed with him and Oklahoma and the reason behind my thinking is in part due to his meteoric rise but adjoined to the reality that Oklahoma seems to be making real in-roads with his teammate Patrick Miller, who of course we mentioned in last Friday's Scoop. And as you mentioned, there aren't many schools you'd rather have your foot in the door with right now as one elite division-one prospect after another seems to be coming out of Dwyer these days.

UPDATE: After I had typed this response, I got word back from Bauta and he says to date he hasn't heard anything from Oklahoma. We'll keep checking as things may become more clear following Gunner Kiel's decision that we're now 100-percent confident will happen at some point in the next seven months leading up to National Signing Day.

What's up with defensive end recruiting? It seems like the evaluations at that position hasn't panned out over the past few years - in Sooner standards (I realize we're incredibly spoiled on the type of recruits we get, but we're supposed to expect the best right?) For example, here's how our recruiting has gone since 2007: Frank Alexander (good, could be great), David Anderson (?), Jonte Bumpus, David King (stuck behind Beal but could make an impact this year), R.J. Washington (enough said), Jarrett Brown (transferred), Justin Chaisson (switched to DT, left team), Terry Franklin, and to round out with Freshman Chuka Ndulue, Geneo Grissom, and Nathan Hughes, guys who haven't had a shot to really make an impact yet, as well as Ronnell Lewis, but he was more of a LB recruit. Now this year we targeted guys like Victor Irokansi and Troy Hinds before Devonte Fields? It just seems our staff can't bring in an impact recruit and seem to be having a tough time evaluating the position in my eyes, and I was wondering what your thoughts are on that. Maybe scheme changes? BJW?

- Ray


It's one of those things that I think too many people don't realize but when you look at the list you've got laid out there clearly there have been some really bad misses. Anderson and Chaisson those are frankly tough to blame on anyone, Anderson from all I can tell just wasn't ready to put in the work but was clearly a talented guy. Chaisson, again, I just don't know how you can put that one on the coaches and frankly he was always going to end up as a defensive tackle so that was no surprise to anyone in Norman, and therefore couldn't be chocked up as a missed evaluation.

That being said, Franklin, Bumpus, and Brown all seemed liked reaches and in the end it looks like they all were. Franklin was an early offer that never made grades. Obviously we can be told what grades are but coaches can get the actual grade situation so to me an offer at that juncture it either had to be thought of as something that could be improved upon or he simply flopped during his senior year. Both things can happen but to me for a player that they had a good tie to with his head coach being a former Sooner, I just never understood that early offer.

Bumpus, I've spoken my piece over and over again but I can simply say there were people very close to the Roughers football program that were surprised when Oklahoma offered. That's not usually the type of thing you hear and it sent up a ton of redflags for me. The only rationalization I could ever get my head around was that he was recruited to put Oklahoma in better shape for Stacy McGee and Jameel Owens in the following class but has Oklahoma really ever had problems recruiting at Muskogee? Again, just a very weird deal.

With Brown, it seemed like some kind of disconnect because if you look at Brent Venables' comments on National Signing Day he is making comparisons to Frank Alexander who has clearly panned out as a quality player for Oklahoma. But within two years he was being moved to tight end and then eventually elected to transfer. I can't say that I know what went wrong, but clearly something did.

That being said, I thought all three were reaches but I'm not about to give the coaches any grief about R.J., the whole world thought he was going to be an elite player and none more so than me. In the end I can't help but wonder if that 'certainty' over his potential may have been his eventual undoing. R.J. for whatever reason just never has found his footing and as a kid that always had a lot of confidence I'm left asking myself if his hype and 'anointed' status hurt his ability to buy into the team first mentality that Oklahoma prides itself on.

I realize this may, in large part, read as a big excuse to the staff but as I said about three of the guys you mentioned those were just flat out misses and I'm not sure there is one obvious culprit to it all. For example, some will try and blame Bobby Jack Wright, as you mentioned, but the guy has only been there for one year, not sure at all how he could be faulted.

Interestingly when you look at a lot of these misses, they were under the watch of former Sooner assistant, and current Mississippi State defensive coordinator Chris Wilson. Now as said, some of it was beyond any obvious true fault but it's hard not to think some of those misses lay at his feet.

The good news? I really like their early evaluation, and offer, of Katy (Texas) Morton Ranch's Danielle Hunter.


Out of last years class who do you see redshirting this year?

- Matt


I'll go about this thing kind of backward and just focus on the guys who could play. And honestly the only guys I can really see competing for time would be Brandon Williams, Trey Metoyer (assuming his enrollment comes off as we expect), Nathan Hughes and Jordan Phillips.

And even with that said I think the first three are the only ones I might take a bet on. I think everyone knows by now how much I think of Phillips' talent but at the same time defensive tackle is just not a position you can walk into and when you consider the level of play he has been at and the strength he'll need to add it just doesn't seem like the best situation for him to play early this year. Of course that doesn't mean it won't happen as it may end up being the best thing for the team but I'd say in a best case scenario he redshirts.

Williams seems a foregone conclusion to me while Metoyer to me is all about when he can get to Norman and if he hits the ground running. To me if you redshirt him, it's not the end of the world as there is no position Oklahoma can more ably handle patience this year than at receiver. Now Metoyer may simply prove to be too good to keep off the field and be able to overcome the time lost this summer but that's something only time can answer.

I think the first three I've talked about are fairly expected but I think Hughes may surprise some people. I think with Oklahoma running more of their '50' front big defensive ends like Hughes, who will step onto campus as quite possibly Oklahoma's largest defensive end. Add in that he played against quality competition at Klein (Texas) Oak and you have a guy who may surprise some people with his ability to help early on.


OU recruited very well in Houston last year for what seems like the first time in a long time. I think it is important the OU coaches make themselves visible to Houston area coaches every year, speed kills and Houston has it.

Why no love this year for the Houston area? Is the talent pool down? Numbers crunch an issue?

Any kids you expect us to get in on in Houston late this year or 2013?

- Adam


I think you are spot on that Oklahoma needs to try and have a presence in Texas' biggest city every single year, and at the very least they need to be present. While the former doesn't really look all that likely to happen in 2012, at least not as in 2011, the latter has taken place as several prospects are still hearing form Oklahoma, including Friendswood offensive tackle Seaver Myers but by and large I don't think it's a great year in the state.

Honestly I think it just came down to Oklahoma's needs and the city's present talent not really matching up in 2012. You look around at their offers in Texas, lots of defensive backs, lots of offensive lineman, and several receivers. Those aren't really the city's strengths this year when you look around, at least not at some of the elite levels.

I think Oklahoma hopes to bring home Danielle Hunter and then start turning the focus on that region toward 2013 but a guy like A.J. Hilliard might be worth keeping an eye on in my opinion.

As for the rising juniors I'd say guys like Kohl Stewart, Derrick Griffin, Deon Hollins Jr., and maybe Jalyn Judkins are some guys I'd keep an eye on but it looks to be a strong year in the area and you may see Oklahoma really back in town again next year.


What is your feeling about the DT position recruiting at this point? Why has this been so quiet with seemingly no visits completed or scheduled? My feeling is this position is critical right now as is DE.

- Nazeer


Well, it seems to me that the guys Oklahoma has truly identified as targets are elite national guys who are always going to be a bit more patient in their approach than regional guys who don't have as many options, and particularly don't have a lot of options that they can't drive to.

As such there is a patient approach to the entire process by Oklahoma's staff. From all I can tell it seems that Oklahoma is on the outside of a visit for Ellis McCarthy, and an even smaller likelihood on any chance of landing him. Immediately the next question is of Eddie Goldman of Washington (D.C.) Friendship Collegiate Academy, and while I hear that Oklahoma has done a lot to get into the place they are, I just don't get the feeling that he is a realistic option. At points McCarthy has mentioned Oklahoma prominently, Goldman never really has.

The most likely of all the prospects is almost undoubtedly Kansas City (Mo.) Park Hill four-star Ondre Pipkins. He has already been rumored to have cut his list to five from the previous seven team cut he made roughly a month ago. However, so far he has not confirmed the elimination of two teams or that Oklahoma was among his final five as has also been rumored.

That being said, he is far from a sure thing and one interesting storyline to follow could be the possibility of Euless (Texas) Trinity defensive end Polo Manukainiu possibly being looked at as an interior option as much as at defensive end. Right now that's kind of idle speculation but much like the previously mentioned. Justin Chaisson he has the type of body that could lend itself to either spot fairly naturally.


Due to the last minute 'change of heart' by Cooper Washington and now Ronnell Lewis's grade concerns, Oklahoma could find themselves very thin at defensive end in 2011 and 2012. How many DE's would OU like to sign in the current class and who are the best options at this point in time? Is going juco an option?

- Ryan


Clearly you see things from the same side of the wall as myself, I just can't figure how two defensive ends aren't an absolute must in this class. When you look at the Scholarship distribution chart that we're always updating only kicker, safety, and fullback have fewer numbers and none of those positions will lose at least four players over the course of the next two years. When you add in that the three remaining players have never garnered a single snap in Crimson and Cream and to me it's a scary situation to look at.

Now obviously there is an argument for signing what you've lost. This year Oklahoma is only definitely losing Frank Alexander but, as you mentioned, Ronnell Lewis is an interesting situation. Interesting because on the same week we admitted to hearing rumors that things might be as bad as speculated (we're not ready to say that's fact though) Mel Kiper Jr. (I'll withhold further commentary) announced he was the No. 1 junior outside linebacker on the board. If you consider Lewis' public displeasures with some things that have taken place in Norman and his repeated scrapes with remaining eligible it's not hard to imagine that this year, either way, could be his last at Oklahoma.

Assuming that fairly reasonable line of thinking then you're down to five with David King your most experienced player.

With all these things in mind I think you can't help but say that two players are needed in this class, but I keep hearing that it may be only Danielle Hunter, assuming they can land him of course. And yes, I think if you got two and found the right guy in the junior college ranks his ability to immediately help could be an ideal situation for Oklahoma. Might want it to be a guy who has four years to play three type of thing though.


Have a hypothetical question for you.

Suppose the Big 12 falls apart after the 2012 season and OU along with some other teams go to the Pac-12. How does this effect OU recruiting? Not just in terms of what states (California, Washington, etc) they recruit, but in terms of types of players they go after to adjust to Pac-12 play.

- Juan


I'm one that believes that Oklahoma will always do well in Texas and as you read some of the kids in the state and how receptive they are to Nebraska's pitches of playing in Ann Arbor, Columbus, State College, etc. and it's hard to think I'm too far off honestly. Now, of course when you consider that Oklahoma's presence in Texas is much more noteworthy due to both alumni base as well as proximity and you have to think the chance to play at USC, or in Eugene is something that could be sold to many of these kids.

So to me, it's a win-win deal as kids can still have their parents see a lot of games close to home and kids in California and the ever-growing amount of talent coming from places like Phoenix and Seattle could still be sold on being seen by their parents regularly.

Sure it's going to open the door to Texas to some of the West coast kids but Texas kids have more loyalty to their region than most any other major talent producing state I've seen so I'm not sure I see that having a huge impact. Well unless Will Lyles returns to take charge of the Big 12 relocation program.

As far as what type of players, at first I'm not really sure you'd see a drastic change in the type of players, Oklahoma recruits elite athletes that are meant to hold up against all comers. I think it's a matter of 'we'll impose our will on you, not the other way around' . Now would there be some scheme changes to go from facing so many spread attacks to a lot of prolific pro-style (Cal, USC, Stanford, etc.) attacks? I absolutely think that would come to pass and in turn you could see a change in recruiting if they started to find some needs that weren't met by their previous player but I think more than anywhere you're talking about linebackers perhaps with a bit more size.


NOTE: Remember you can be in on the mailbag, send in your questions each week to Josh@SoonerScoop.com, title them mailbag and the best of the lot will end up in this feature next week!


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