July 16, 2009

Mailbag talks linebackers and much more

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 Monday and Tuesday we will field questions for the mailbag and get you all answers on Thursday.

In this week's edition we talk a lot about linebacker recruiting and how the commitment of one top target to a Big 12 South rival will effect Oklahoma's recruiting at the position. Also some talk of just how recruiting coverage and what role it plays on recruiting itself.

We all know the great tradition Oklahoma has with talented, playmaking linebackers. Last year's class was full of guys that could make a big impact in the future at that position. With J.R. Bryant, Keenan Clayton, Ryan Reynolds, and Mike Balogun exhausting their eligibility after the 2009 season, it is clear that OU will need to build more depth and bring in more talent at the LB position.

With the commitment of Corey Nelson to Texas A&M, how do you see Oklahoma's linebacker class for 2010?

[/db]Jarrett Lake[/db] seems like a probable commitment, but he has never played linebacker in high school.

Victor Burnett[ and [/db]Tony Jefferson[/db] seem like real possibilities but they are from California.

How many linebackers do you see Oklahoma taking this year? And what is your best guess on who will sign in February with the Sooners? Thanks for your insight.

- DanTheSoonersFan4

First off, credit on the Jarrett Lake prediction! But also you have to remember that Ryan Reynolds is almost certainly going to get a medical-hardship following this year.

Moving on, several linebacker questions I want to again specify that Jefferson is seen as a safety target for Oklahoma. Now we all know that the way they may see Jefferson is a guy that is either in 'the box' or close to it but his scholarship is slotted as a defensive back rather than as a linebacker.

I think there is very little cause for concern at the position when you consider the rave reviews that Jaydan Bird and Tom Wort are drawing and the type of natural athletic ability that Ronnell Lewis has.

That being said Oklahoma obviously wants at least three linebackers in this class and I think Rashod Favors is all but locked up to one of them. I also think that more and more it seems that Aaron Franklin's situation becomes tighter and tighter after most thought he would decide quickly following his somewhat surprising Texas offer.

I think they'll have no problem landing enough quality guys to fill the spots they have allotted for the position. To me the interesting question is will Oklahoma save a spot for guys like Burnett, and Christian Jones?

How do you see linebacker recruiting playing out with the commitment of Nelson?

I know we have interest from Tony Jefferson (good shot), Jarrett Lake (Great shot), Aaron Franklin (50/50), Christian Jones (long shot), Shaun Lewis (???); do we still take 4 or if we only get 3 that fit us will the coaches go to more plan B type of guys like possibly Courtney Gaston?

- pcwoodrow

I really think at the end of the day it's going to be Favors, Franklin, and Lake.

I wish I had a longer answer than that but I think Oklahoma will be happy with that class and it will address some of their needs. I also think that, particularly in Franklin and Lake you bring guys who are a bit different in skill than the large group signed in 2009.

Gaston is a good guy to talk about as if he can show a lot of people in his area that he is truly focused on football it's entire possible that his attention will grow to meet his talent level.

Considering the linebackers we know we are losing next year and the possibility that Lewis may also have a short stay at OU, along with the possibility that Austin Box moves to weakside linebacker, which of the three LB positions does Oklahoma need recruits more?

Considering the answer to the above question, with the commitment of Nelson to Texas A&M and the potential for other linebacker prospects like Lake, Burnett, and Rashod Favors. Is it likely that Tony Jefferson's recruitment will change from a safety/Roy-back position to fill Nelson's OLB position?

- iopsych

I think we are short on linebacker questions.

Doesn't anyone want to talk kickers and punters?!?! (Put your hand down Gernansky).

To me the most pressing need is almost always weakside linebackers I think simply because it's kind of a hybrid of the other two.

Strongside lineabckers are generally guys who would be safeties at a lot of places, or in Oklahoma's case this year, were safeties. At the opposite end of the spectrum middle linebacker is a big bruising position that is set up to succeed by Oklahoma's great recruiting at the defensive tackle position.

Weakside needs a little bit of both and I think as such makes it a position that is harder to fill. Box is a good example; he played essentially free safety in high school and has learned to become a linebacker. I think the guy you look at is Aaron Franklin who has the athleticism but also is a physical linebacker who isn't afraid to mix it up.

With all that in mind, I really don't see Bobby Jack Wright allowing Jefferson to leave his board of defensive backs, the guy is a supreme talent.

With the hot streak that Oklahoma has been on the last few weeks, my question is. When do you think it is going to slow down? Because the fall is when things really get busy with visits and everything that goes on.

- Jason#1soonerfan

I think right about the same time that Oklahoma starts summer practice. Coaches simply don't have the same amount of time to talk to kids and stay on them about each and every thing.

In the good news department, I will say I fully expect Oklahoma to pick up another commitment or three before that date.

The Jarrett Lake verbal got me thinking about Trayvon Henry. Can you fill in the blanks since it was last reported that the OU coaches are looking for him to improve his grades and test score? What's the current situation? Also, I've seen it posted that he compares favorably to Curtis Lofton; that he's solid in the box but lacking sideline-to-sideline. What do you think? Who would you compare him to?

- trailrunner50

Trayvon seems to now understand where things are with Oklahoma and I think a lot of credit has to be given to the kid for not lashing out and saying something he might regret down the road. I also think that mature reaction has left the door open between himself and Oklahoma.

I think too much have been made out of the actual grades, as frankly few kids are full qualifiers at this point. I think what hasn't been talked about enough is the issue with effort in the classroom. Henry is a good kid but instead of bearing down this summer and getting into summer school as well as taking his ACT he apparently has just 'relaxed' this summer.

In comparison, Julian Wilson and Austin Haywood took the ACT one morning; though he already held a qualifying score, and then in the afternoon went to Oklahoma's camp and worked out for the Sooner coaches.

And I'll admit I've never been a fan of the comparison to Curtis Lofton. But then again I was about as high on Curtis in high school as anyone; we were called 'crazy' by most for having Lofton over high school legend Reggie Smith when they were seniors.

Trayvon is a good player who to me is going to become even better as a defensive end. I just don't see the natural feet and closing speed to excel at linebacker the way Curtis did.

I'd think a comparison of Jeremy Beal might be more apt, particularly when considering Beal would also have been a solid middle linebacker after spending much of his freshman year in Norman at the position.

Josh, would mind giving us your analysis of Demarco Cobbs performance at the Oklahoma summer camp he participated in? I heard from a few others that he had a very good camp, but everyone on the message board seems to want to go by his performance at the Rising Stars camp, which they are saying was not good. I still think folks get too wrapped up in 40 times when game performance really tells the tale. Demarco seems to perform very well when the lights are on.

- OU47

I thought he was very good, at Oklahoma's camp. Not only did he look good in one-on-ones he showed the ability to learn from what receivers coach Jay Norvell had to show him.

I thought he looked as smooth and explosive as he has at any point I've seen him. That's the thing that people lose when they watch him, it doesn't seem like he is moving that fast and before you know it, he's by you.

He naturally catches with his hands and really uses his body well to shield defenders but he struggles creating separation. While some automatically assume that's due to deficient speed I think it's a matter of not knowing proper route running and how to set up a cut with your feet and really your entire body.

It's something that is easily learned and can be corrected.

The problem for Demarco in as it was explained to me by some who there is that just how raw he is at the position showed up. Cobbs just hasn't played the position that long and when you aren't just simply the best athlete on the field, as he is in every game he plays against the Tulsa Public schools you've got to have proper technique and frankly at this point he just doesn't.

1) I am new to recruiting only having paid attention for the last 2-3 years. What has the spread of information done to the bigger, traditional powerhouses vs. the smaller programs? I understand scholarship changes years ago made it harder to stockpile kids, but has the advent of the internet and services like Rivals really impacted the quality of recruits that go to smaller schools, or just made the rich richer by making sure the big schools get the top quality kids instead of overhyped busts?

2) Related question - do our coaches typically get more in depth full game tapes before offering a recruit? Highlight films are great, but only showing a recruit's best plays would seem to hide work ethic and character issues (like taking plays off when the game is out of hand, not going to the whistle, getting beat seven times and winning the No. 8, beating inferior players only, etc).

3) In this day and age of information sharing, why does it hurt a recruit to move during high school as it pertains to ratings? It would seem if the kid is playing football in front of a video camera in Virginia one day, and Oklahoma the next the word would spread and his talents would be on display and enough info would be available on him to make an assessment.

- fatman76

First, great questions always like an inquiry of a bit broader scope!

1) I really think in the vein of this question it's helped both but for very different reasons.

Smaller schools, simply don't have the budget to drive and see every single kid they want to. Oklahoma can make trip after trip to see kids they like, Ohio can not.

With massive film databases like ours coaches can at least get a glimpse of what a kid is about and if there is a possibility he could fit the team's needs and play at their level.

After weeding out the good from the bad in their minds, they can more properly align their trips and stay within their annual recruiting budget.

For the major colleges I think the sites aid them in that these kids all follow one another. When I talk to a kid who is thinking about committing to Oklahoma at a point in time like right now when the Sooners are reeling in one commit after another they all make mention of the roll the Sooners are on.

Kids see all the stars and know they want to play with them, it's part of the reason landing Blake Bell at the time the coaching staff did was so big. It gave the class instant credibility and let's face it these kids know that a great quarterback can make their life much easier at each and every other position, be it offense or defense.

2) For the most part, yes. Some kids are what Mike Stoops calls 'five-play players'. Meaning that you watch five-plays of a highlight reel and know you need to be recruiting them. To show you how rare these guys are we are talking about the Tommie Harris, Adrian Peterson, Gerald McCoy type talents.

Most times though coaches not only want to see stock game film that speaks to how a player plays when he isn't scoring a touchdown or making a sack but they also want to talk to teachers and coaches around the players school to get a feel for what kind of kid he is.

3) It really shouldn't. The only time it can sometimes hurt is for example a guy like Tuswani Copeland. We had no film of the guy when he moved to Lawton MacArthur from Maryland. And while our guys in Maryland may have seen him and liked him I had not and had no idea where to rank him within my state rankings.

Obviously, that shouldn't last long and can usually be easily remedied.

I'm not really sure if you had a specific example but it's not something I generally find as a problem once the kid is 'found' wherever he moves to.

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