Friday, February 12, 2016

Breaking down Oklahoma State's 2016 recruiting class

Last year Oklahoma State had a pretty average football team in most respects. Their OL was a patchwork quilt and not particularly effective either at winning the line of scrimmage or protecting their QB. Their defense was only solid at defending either the run or pass despite featuring a strong pass rush up front and they were lit up in key games.

However, they had Mason Rudolph and a highly underrated WR corps that made them hard to stop between the 20s and then a brilliant red zone package featuring the athletic JW Walsh at QB to finish drives. Between that, some good luck with officiating in a couple of close games, and luck with injuries (everyone else got hit hard) they were able to win 10 games and finish 2nd in the league.

The problem facing Gundy's 'Pokes now is the emergence of TCU and Baylor in their recruiting market (low 4-star and high 3-star Texans) that is making it harder for them to land some of the better athletes left over after Texas or A&M have eaten their fill. For instance, check out OSU's passing S&P rankings over the last five years:


Can anyone remember anything different about the OSU pass defense from 2011-13? How about the presence of eventual 1st round draft choice Justin Gilbert at cornerback?

Yes, that's how much of a difference a true lockdown cornerback can make on a defense, especially in the Big 12. The 2014 and 2015 defenses had some solid corners and good pass rushers (Emmanuel Ogbah!) but without Gilbert, they just weren't the same. I don't think this has escaped the notice of the OSU staff either as you'll observe when we reach their takes at DB.

In a world where they desperately need to re-stock their roster with some NFL-caliber athletes, which they always had when they were true challengers for the conference crown, they took five kids out of Oklahoma itself, only six from Texas, and then ventured into the JUCO ranks (four takes), into the south (four takes), and as far north as Minnesota and Canada to fill out their 21-man class. We'll talk about 22 kids because they just landed an important transfer as well.

Another issue for the 'Pokes is devising a strategy to field the kind of OL that can control games, like they had in the Wickline era, without Wickline. The advantage they used to have of consistently having one of the best OLs in the league despite piecing them together from 2/3 star kids was a massive one. I'm not sure what their answer will be here.

Here's how Gundy looked after finishing this class and announcing it before the Stillwater press:

Looks like he's going for a "Skyfall" Bond look but it really just looks like Patterson and Briles have been whipping him on the recruiting trail.

Let's see how they did.

Offense



Quarterback

Mike Yurcich is nominally a spread-option OC but OSU is currently built around Mason Rudolph and the passing game. I'm not sure if they are just grabbing the best guys they can find and then adapting to them or if they have a specific vision for what they want to do here other than trying to build balanced spread attacks. I suspect they place more emphasis on pocket QBs than not since they have a tradition of fielding good WR corps that they want to take advantage of and they've been trying to emphasize the run game more.

Takes:

Keondre Wudtee: 6-4, 181. 3***
Bossier City, LA
Wudtee is a raw, pocket QB who has very little on film in which he's making quick decisions and delivering timing routes but endless clips in which he evades pressure in the pocket and throws a strike down the field. He's a guy that'll need a few years to bulk up and learn a system but could be a guy that can hit the really punishing constraint throws in a run-centric offense. Wudtee is very hard to tackle in the backfield but once he's past the line of scrimmage he won't be terribly hard to bring down unless he ends up at 220+ and can just bulldoze people like a Tyrone Swoopes. Possible.

This is a decent take to provide some options down the line when Rudolph leaves, which they'd better hope isn't after 2016.

Grade: C
Wudtee is a good wait and see prospect at QB who unfortunately doesn't really project anywhere else (maybe TE?) if QB doesn't pan out. They had another pocket-passer committed until December in Nick Starkel but lost him to A&M. I bet that one stung.

Running back

In their move towards being able to be zone and power flexible with their run game the Cowboys want some feature backs who can run the ball between the tackles and threaten the bounce or cutback lanes. They can also always make use of speedsters as flex RBs or utility backs in their spread and 3rd down packages.

Takes:

LeDarren Brown: 5-8, 170. 3***
DeSoto, TX
Brown ran a 10.95 in the 100m and is probably a 4.6 guy in terms of his football speed. Since he can catch he could be a useful piece in their spread sets as a flex RB but these short, 4.6-level scatbacks are really common across the league. How well they do tends to be determined by their ability to catch and offer value in as many roles as possible so they can stay on the field.

Justice Hill: 5-10, 180. 3***
Tulsa, OK
Hill has some nice balance and vision when running inside although he prefers to bounce things outside where his speed made him unstoppable in high school. His HS OL was pretty dominant and he often was handed the ball with the opportunity to immediately sprint through massive holes so it's hard to make much of that ability. In a few years he might make an every down back or be a flex RB or utility back.

Barry Sanders Jr: 5-9, 190. 4**** (once upon a time)
Oklahoma City, OK (Grad transfer from Stanford)
The prodigal son returns! The rise of Christian McCaffrey was the worst thing that could have happened to Sanders in terms of finding the field as a senior since McCaffrey is better at everything Sanders is good at, but it was great news for OSU that could use some extra pep in their backfield.

Sanders is a good and patient runner who was well drilled at Stanford on getting what's there to be had, even though he has the ability to get loose and break off a long run by bouncing runs outside. When you consider his dad's reputation this is kinda ironic. He's strong in pass protection and route running as well...he just has the misfortune to share positions with arguably the best player in college football.

This is a mega addition for OSU as Sanders will safely maximize their run game potential while serving as a perfect complement to Rudolph on passing downs. They'll get him for one year.

Grade: C+
The 'Pokes did an amazing job of finding an immediate impact player in Barry Sanders Jr, who will be motivated to make the most of this chance to showcase his abilities for NFL scouts. These other two takes are likely role players down the line.

Ancillaries

Oklahoma State hired a full time TEs coach in Jason McEndoo this time last year but their TE roster is largely comprised of walk-ons they struck rich with. I'm not sure if they are grooming McEndoo for big time football (he was an OL coach at an FCS program) for if/when current OL coach Greg Adkins leaves or if they are committed to running more pro-style sets. Their QB choices indicate it may be the latter, let's see what they did here.

Takes:

None.

Grade: F
Interesting, I'm not sure if they'll end up with any more from the 2015 class either. So what exactly is McEndoo doing? Coaching up more walk-ons?

Receivers

This is where the Cowboys usually clean up, often with 3-stars that end up being 4/5 star quality. Last year it was Louisianan Jalen McCleskey, whom I had as their 6th best signee and he ended up playing as a freshman. Let's see how they did this year.

Takes:

Dillon Stoner: 5-11, 180. 3***
Jenks, OK
Arkansas and some other schools wanted this kid but were going to play him at safety because they don't know what they're doing. That incompetence allowed OSU to snatch him up. This kid is a dynamite WR and the 2nd best player in this class (excluding Sanders). He has a wide catch radius and fantastic hands, 4.6 speed, and the ability to make sharp breaks on his routes or set up opponents with double moves. He can win deep but I think he'll end up being like Sterling Shephard, a guy that is moved around to attack weak spots in opposing coverages.

Grade: C+
Getting just one player isn't great, even though I'd wager on Stoner as one of the surest things in the Big 12's 2016 class. There's another player who might be a 2nd receiver but he'll come up later. In two years the Cowboys have signed two WRs and zero TEs...good bet some of these extra RBs are going to be put to work running routes in practice.

Offensive line

Undoubtedly part of the reason that OSU mortgaged their future at WR and TE was in order to finish off their makeover of the OL roster. Back in the day they used to be able to put together OL filled with All-B12 selections and only go 7-deep in a given year because of Wickline's acumen. Now they need numbers and quality to allow their run game to finally get going. With their current focus on a zone/power combination they want lots of big, tall, mobile blockers who can be maulers.

Takes:

Tyler Brown: 6-5, 325. 3***
Lexington, OK
OSU got up to the old "recruit all tackles and move the slower ones inside to guard or center" trick that can work out well for schools that want to focus on zone and power and limiting penetration at the point of attack. With Brown they got a really raw mauler who's body is totally undeveloped for the college game. He's pretty mobile for a guy who's 325 with a lot of that weight in the midsection and there's no telling what he could be in three years after redistributing that weight. I think he'll be a center or guard by then.

Matt Kegel: 6-6, 303. 3***
Chaska, MN
Kegel is pretty good at finding defenders at the second level and is another mauler and one that's in better shape for college ball than Brown. He's quick enough that he might stick at RT but OG is another good bet for this one.

Teven Jenkins: 6-6, 295. 3***
Topeka, KS
Jenkins has some of the funniest highlights I've seen in the entire 2016 class. He's WAY too big for these Kansas kids to compete against and he clearly relishes the opportunities for sanctioned bullying afforded by the game. He's another one that's quick enough to play tackle but would be best as a pulling guard. He has lots of examples on tape of pulling on "dart" and other schemes and he's good at finding linebackers in the hole and getting square on them. He's also likely to end up at 320 or so and still be just as quick as he is now.

Tramonda Moore: 6-6, 330. 4****
Oklahoma City, OK
Moore is an obstacle that may someday be good enough at it that OSU will put him at left tackle. He uses surprisingly quick feet to position himself in the right spot and then there's just no getting past him with his reach and the weight of his base. Moore is the sole 4-star of this class.

Dylan Galloway: 6-5, 270. 3***
Coppell, TX
Personally I'd bet on Moore ending up at RT and Galloway winning the LT job. Dylan is the better athlete and he has exceptional hips for getting square on pass rushers and cutting them off or finding guys to block in space. This is probably the best player in the class, excepting Sanders.

Shane Richards: 6-6, 325. 3***
Roswell, NM (JUCO)
Area 51 is real and what's going on there is that they are churning out guys that project as athletic, mauling guards for Big 12 teams in desperate need of immediate punch and assistance on their OL. Richards could play RT but OSU will stick him wherever they need extra oomph to get their moribund run game going.

Larry Williams: 6-4, 310. 3***
Hutchinson, KS (JUCO)
Williams played some LT at Hutchinson but is another guy that could bring depth or extra firepower to OSU's guard position.

Grade: B+
The Cowboys got seven quality OL in this class, two of which will be immediately plugged in to help their poor OL (last year's RG is almost certainly losing his spot) and the other five of which will probably mostly be redshirted and developed so that future OSU OL don't require massive classes filled with JUCOs in order to restock their numbers.

The fact that Moore and Galloway are so good and could allow them to make guys like Kegel and Jenkins into above average guards can't be overstated for its value to this program's long term prospects of fielding good OL again. I kept them from an A simply because not every player is a total stud and taking so many cost them elsewhere.

Defense



Defensive line

The 'Pokes have often been able to field solid DL with one great pass rusher and that's been a winning formula for them. Their good at developing DEs and DTs and rarely have major impact players at the latter position but they are often at least fairly athletic across the board. This system is at its best with one great tackle, another good space eater, a great pass-rusher, and then a guy that can set the strongside edge.

Takes:

Cameron Murray: 6-2, 280. 3***
Bryant, AR
Murray is pretty explosive off the ball and even played a really effective DE in high school. He's good at attacking half a man when he's isolated on some poor OL and he racked up a ton of pass break-ups in high school. I think he could grow into a 3-technique that would be a good pass-rusher but he'll have to get stronger and learn a lot to survive there against the run.

Tralund Webber: 6-4, 245. 3***
Brenham, TX (JUCO)
Webber has pretty good athleticism, probably average or better for a starting B12 DE, and he can do things like play the zone read with shoulders square to the LOS in order to try and defend the cutback lane and QB run against all but the fastest QBs. His pass-rushing production has never been anything to write home about, either in high school at Cameron Yoe or at Blinn. Perhaps they can grow him into a good strongside end that can do damage on stunts or opposite a better pass-rusher.

Grade: C
The numbers here are poor and both of these players would be at their best if complemented by a dominant DE that could ensure that the other isn't the focus of attention. Put these two together against the strongside of an offensive formation and you have a recipe for getting whipped.

Linebacker

Over the last several years this has been the heart of the OSU defense with the position usually fielding at least one impact player, usually at their star "space-backer" position which gets used quite a bit in many different roles. They stockpiled some great athletes here in their class two years ago and grabbed three more solid prospects last year.

Takes:

Amen Ogbongberniga: 6-0, 211. 3***
Calgary, Canada
I hope I'm never asked to pronounce this kid's last name in front of a microphone before I've heard it said properly at least five times. (Og-bon-bern-igah?)

He's a pretty versatile player capable of taking deep pass drops from an inside-backer position and pursuing the ball from the box to the sideline, even running around blockers to do so. He'd probably be at his best bulked up to 230 or so and deployed as an inside-backer.

Devin Harper: 6-1, 210. 3***
Knoxville, TN
They found this kid at a camp and are planning to turn him into a star (space-backer) which I think is a very good idea. He's good at blitzing the edge and has 4.6 speed to run and cover ground in the open space that position is asked to fill. He'll probably be pretty raw in coverage initially but he has the ideal athleticism for the position and the right mentality for it as well.

Calvin Bundage: 6-3, 200. 3***
Edmond, OK
He played a lot of boundary safety in high school where he was great at using his lateral speed to run through the wash while tracking ball carriers and then delivering some real knockout blows when he arrived. I don't think he'll stay small enough to play safety and he isn't as good an athlete as Harper to play space-backer. Ideally he'd become an outside-backer that is hard to target in coverage and gets 100 tackles a year when a starter if protected well enough by his DL.

Grade: B
The 'Pokes got good looking players for all three linebacker positions and will probably have the luxury of waiting and watching to see what they become after a few years of development.


Safety

Oklahoma State has more or less the same needs as most every other team. They want a boundary safety that can be a big hitter and help against the run but also drop into deep zone with some credible range and then a free safety who can man up a slot, cover tons of ground in deep zone, and be a mistake-eraser as a tackler.

Takes:

None.

Grade: D
They actually signed a few players that could end up here and end up being very good, Dillon Stoner and that athlete mentioned above at WR that we still have talked about. If those two have ideal careers at OSU though, they won't have signed a safety in the 2016 class.

Cornerbacks

At last we come to it, that position where OSU was once rich and is now middle class with nothing to their name that the Jones' next door can't compare to, the cornerback roster. Because OSU actually plays a lot more MOFC coverages (cover 1 or cover 3) than much of the rest of the conference it puts an even bigger onus on having cover corners that can play man. They need all of their CBs to be pretty good in coverage but obviously they need at least one to be great.

Takes:

AJ Green: 6-1, 170. 3***
DeSoto, TX
Green played a lot of press coverage at DeSoto and he was taught well, he's usually able to jam up opposing WRs and force them off their routes with his length. However, he lacks the recovery speed to run with top WRs and will need to get stronger and faster. There's a reason there aren't many tall corners out there in the world, it's a tough job.

Rodarius Williams: 6-0, 171. 3***
Shreveport, LA
Another taller kid who needs to get bigger and stronger but Williams plays more zone than Green and is pretty effective and comfortable doing so. He's loose enough in his hips to play bump and run and is probably a better overall prospect than Green.

Tyrell Alexander: 6-1, 170. 3***
Lancaster, TX
Alexander is the mystery athlete I mentioned at WR and S. His sparq numbers: 4.73, 4.38, 25', 33" don't look like much but this kid is sudden in all directions and absolutely explosive on his film in pads. He's also got skinny limbs that are going to get bigger in college without slowing him down. He might be the best pure athlete in this class so I'd try him out at corner first, were I the OSU staff.

Madre Harper: 6-2, 167. 3***
Arlington, TX
If Alexander isn't the best athlete in the class it's Harper, who ran a 4.03 shuttle at the Sparq even in Dallas a year ago. He's a willing participate in the violence of the game, despite being pretty skinny and lean at this point, and he blocked a ton of kicks on special teams. Harper is the best bet in this class to become a lockdown corner of the sort they lost when Gilbert graduated but he'll need a few years before he's ready to try.

Malik Kearse: 5-9, 160. 3***
Fort Scott, KS (JUCO)
I'm not sure what the goal was here in bringing in Kearse, a size-challenged corner that will struggle to play any position other than field corner and wasn't that fantastic in the JUCO ranks. He's bouncy and quick but not athletic enough to overcome the size problem against bigger WRs. He's got four years to play three so perhaps he can bulk up without losing his quickness and be able to play some run force for them.

Grade: B
They signed two very good athletes in Harper and Alexander and then three likely role players who will have a chance to develop and potentially become good cover 3 corners down the road. OSU probably didn't bridge the gap here between what they've been in the past and what they are now but I don't think they lost any ground either.

Overall this is probably one of the worst Mike Gundy recruiting classes I've ever sat down and watched. They'd better make the most of the Mason Rudolph era either in recruiting or landing a job somewhere else because I think Baylor and TCU are likely to permanently overtake OSU in the not too distant future.

2 comments:

  1. These are great Ian. I guess Norman is next.

    An interesting subplot to OU's 2016 class is the recognition by the Sooner coaching staff that they have a one-year window for a national championship run. The early part of the schedule is tough with 5 of the first 6 games being legitimate challenges (Houston in Houston, Ohio St, at TCU, UT).

    OU may have championship-caliber skill position personnel at 5 of 6 positions (Mayfield, Perine, Mixon, Andrews, Flowers) and NFL talent in the DL (Walker) and secondary (Parker, Thomas).

    The thought is that some of OU's 2016 recruiting was targeted at supporting positions for next year. I hope that your evaluation of the class includes this contingency.

    To my eye, OU's needs for a 2016 championship run include the following:
    2-3 WR: Westbrook is only certainty. OU was looking for an immediate difference maker and didn't get one.
    1 OG or OT: Alvarez moved to C. Ford is penciled in at one slot, or if a OT emerges, Samia could move inside to the other G slot.
    2 DE: There are no proven commodities here, and OU brought in just one player.
    3 LB: With OU returning only one starting LB (of 3 or 4), and having 5 complete eligibility, numbers were needed. There are some highly ranked players in the 2015 and 2016 classes, and there are a couple of JUCOs. This could end up being OK or crippling.
    1 S: Ahmad Thomas is replaceable. OU may have talent on campus to do it already.
    1 CB: Person who will fill this slot is probably already on campus.

    OU could use freshman impact players at WR, DE, and LB. Unfortunately, they brought it only 2 WR and 1 DE.

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    1. Good to know on the OL, makes sense that Alvarez would move inside. When I saw all the JUCOs I figured that plugging holes for a championship run was a priority for the staff.

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