Monday, February 29, 2016

Breaking down Baylor's 2016 recruiting class

Baylor's rise to national relevancy has been pretty much simultaneous to TCU's rise as both teams have done a great job of filling the power vacuum left by Texas' malaise over the last six seasons. Since they are both private schools within the same state and within two hours of each other, they are now bitter rivals for prestige and for recruits.

Since both schools have strategic approaches on both sides of the ball oriented around speed and athleticism, there's some real overlap in what they're after.

Here's a reminder of how TCU's recruiting classes have been ranked over this period:

And here's how Art Briles has done over that same period:

*Note: 2013, 2014, included a five star in the "4-star) mentions. Naturally they were both WRs, Robbie Rhodes (2013) and KD Cannon (2014).

Baylor's recruiting picked up faster than TCU's thanks to their breakthrough success in 2011, RG3's Heisman, and Baylor's refusal to give up ground afterwards. However now the two rivals are about roughly even.

Like Patterson in Ft. Worth, Briles has had some luck over this period with his 2-star selections, which have included kids like Bryce Hager, KJ Morton, Orion Stewart, and Taylor Young. In general, they've been polar opposites though with Baylor getting tremendous bang for their buck with their offensive selections.

The Bears offense is a perfect collegiate system which tends towards utilizing extreme specialists at multiple positions and playing their skills off each other in a way that can be devastating for their opponents.

A major challenge over this period for the Bears has been finding enough elite athletes on defense, particularly on DL, to produce top units that can execute Phil Bennett's aggressive strategies. There's also some challenges from the fact that there are emerging blueprints for how to at least slow down the Bear offense, the easiest cure for which is just more dominant receivers that won't allow man coverage to cut down on Briles' options. 

For this class the Bears needed another QB to learn the system and provide some depth after a catastrophic series of injuries in 2015, some potential impact DL, and more speed everywhere to ensure that Baylor doesn't find itself in a spread-out, up-tempo contest against a faster team.



Baylor's offense works quite a bit differently from every other system in the Big 12. It's simpler, easier to read, and primarily requires arm strength and accuracy down the field and out wide to the sidelines. There can be a lot of different reads since the offense is filled with option routes and RPOs (run/pass options) but none of them are particularly difficult there's just a lot of material to learn and some muscle memory to develop before a QB can thrive. Baylor also prefers their QBs be at least reasonably mobile as they've tended to mix in some QB run game but that's a distant second to their ability to make throws and learn to operate Briles' machine.

Zach Smith: 6-4, 208. 3***
Grandview, TXSmith is at an advantage over previous Baylor QB recruits in that his HS's offense was similar to what Baylor is doing. He's got a strong enough arm to make the throws of the Baylor offense and he's also good at buying some time in the pocket and throwing a nice ball on the run, a skill which Petty lacked and which helped make RG3 so devastating.

Smith makes quick decisions and his big frame is going to fill out to a much heavier weight than 208 before he's done in Waco. It's not hard to see how a big guy who can make quick decisions and is hard to bring down in the pocket could do serious damage in the Baylor system.

Grade: B
I like Smith and think he's a great prospect for Baylor and exactly the kind of guy they've thrived with in the past, another athletic project or a guy with better mobility and this grade is an A.

Running back

Baylor's two-back approach to the running game usually calls for more of a downhill, power-back and those types have typically thrived running on undermanned fronts created through the Bears' extreme WR splits. They've had success with speed backs as well but the optimal fit is a power back with some wiggle in the hole.

Kameron Martin: 5-9, 170. 4****
Port Arthur, TX
Martin is a true burner who's explosive in his initial burst but also has a 5th gear to pull away in the open field. If he sees a crease between the tackles he'll run through it hard but if he sees resistance he's prone to bouncing runs outside and trying to win the edge. He'll need to get heavier and show more willingness to go downhill and take what's there but if he can, he could be another Lache Seastrunk in this offense. He has some clips that caught my eye where he destroys a 46 front by getting outside of contain.

Grade: B+
Baylor has a ton of different guys already on campus that are good backs so taking a pure speed back with the potential to grow into "the guy" seems a good bet. Martin is potentially a more exciting version of Johnny Jefferson, or like I mentioned above, the 2nd coming of Lache Seastrunk.


Baylor's "veer and shoot" offense actually utilizes a TE/H-back as a critical piece of the offense in a way that none of the Air Raid B12 teams do. Briles has a more diverse and gap-oriented rushing attack than the Air Raiders and loves to run two-back concepts that force a defense to come downhill in a hurry and expose themselves deep and wide to the vertical passing game on RPOs and play-action. If the TE can also move in space and catch alls the better but he needs to be a good blocker.


Grade: FBaylor will need to find some TEs in 2017, I think the absence of TEs in this class is potentially problematic.


The upshot of Baylor's extreme WR splits, tempo, and option routes is that their receivers usually just need to be fast and needn't necessarily be very quick laterally. Antwan Goodley did amazing things in this offense just from running slants, gos, comebacks, and screens. Straight line speed is king, anything else is gravy.

That said, opposing defenses are learning how to take advantage of Baylor's reduced route tree and it's becoming more important that Baylor have multiple athletes out wide that can't be covered up in space even if they aren't running multiple routes per game. So to prevent more teams from playing hybrid man/bracket coverages, they need ISO guys and they need more than one.


Donovan Duvernay: 5-9, 185. 3***
Sachse, TX
Donovan Duvernay would be a good take for an Air Raid team even if his brother wasn't the fastest player in the state. At Baylor he's going to have to prove himself in the slot against a crowded field but he has real quickness and receiving ability so if he learns to run routes better than anyone else he has a chance to find the field. You also wonder if he might have upside on defense.

Devin Duvernay: 5-11, 193. 4****
Sachse, TX
The fastest player in the 2016 Big 12 class, at the Sparq event he ran a 4.38 40, 4.24 shuttle, posted a 37.7" vertical, and a 37' toss. This is one of the best athletes you're likely to see in the Big 12 in the coming years. What's worse is he already has a fair idea of how to use this speed and has some terrifying clips on his senior tape where he's setting up safeties on double moves from the slot or finding soft spots in zone. He has good hands and seems a pretty sure thing to be the next Kendall Wright or Tevin Reese in the slot or perhaps another Corey Coleman on the outside. Or both.

I think Devin is the 2nd best player in this class.

Tren'Davian Dickson: 5-11, 170. 4****
Navasota, TX
Once a Texas commit, Dickson just couldn't say not to the allure of playing in the most explosive passing offense in the country. He's got some of the best hands in the whole class and if you throw it anywhere near him he's probably bringing it in. Dickson lacks the breakaway speed of Duvernay or Martin but he's very sudden (all-spark quickness) within 10 yards, which makes him nearly impossible to cover up effectively. Like Duvernay, I could see him in the slot or outside.

Perhaps the 4th best player in this class...Baylor does absurdly well at WR these days.

Denzel Mims: 6-3, 175. 3***
Daingerfield, TX
Mims has an argument to make as the fastest player in the class given his 21.3, state-winning time in the 200m. I think Duvernay will prove to play faster on the gridiron, but Mims is going to be a real handful in this offense running in straight lines. His QB at Daingerfield could almost never lead him so you rarely see on highlight tapes how fast he is save for the fact that it's very obvious how easy it is for him to get separation or to get open. He's almost never running all out as it would be wasted effort.

A benefit of him having a QB who lacked a strong arm is that you see him snag some back shoulder fades and demonstrate coordination with the ball in the air. I think Mims would have been a 4-star had he played somewhere like Southlake Carroll in a better passing offense.

Jared Atkinson: 6-3, 200. 3***
Mesquite, TX
Another taller burner, Atkinson ran a 4.54 40 at a Sparq event with a 4.34 shuttle, 33.4" vertical, and 34.5' toss. Once he knows how to beat press coverage and run the Baylor routes he could be really dangerous with his size/speed combo.

Grade: A+
Any of these guys could become dominant, 1k yard receivers and it wouldn't shock me, even Donovan Duvernay who's a pretty good athlete in his own right and only looks average when compared to his freakish twin brother. If he has a "I'll show you guys I'm worth this opportunity!" mentality rather than a "he's the athletic twin, I'm the smart/social/musical one" then don't count him out.

Offensive line

Baylor works a lot of angles in their running game and often face undermanned nickel and dime fronts on all of their runs, so they like to punish this by fielding as massive an OL as they can find. Like Tech, they basically want four obstacles and a lead tackle but ideally the guards are at least semi-credible as pullers since they run some power and borderline maulers since they are generally so big. They're basically looking for guys that fit halfway between "mauler" and "obstacle," tweeners who are quick enough to execute their schemes but bring overwhelming size and power to the mix. Finding a lead guard who's a rockstar pulling on power would be a nice plus. 


JP Urquidez: 6-7, 300. 4****
Copperas Cove, TX
Urquidez has drawn mixed reviews but I think he'll be really good once he learns some technique and adds some strength because all of the tools are there. Sometimes he shows really quick feet, other times he gets guys thanks to his reach and then relies on that rather than finishing blocks with his feet. Sometimes he shows real aggressiveness and power, other times he lacks punch. I think he could be a lead tackle in their system with some time and confidence-building work in practice and in the weight room.

Branton Autry: 6-4, 320. 4****
Coffeyville, KS (JUCO)
Autry has loose hips to find guys at the 2nd level or in the pass rush but doesn't always have good knee bend or quick enough feet. He has some good quickness but I don't think he's quite at the level of a B12 tackle and his reach is also borderline for that position. This kind of massive tweener is pretty much exactly what they look for in guards though so he could be a nice one at that position in due time. I know a lot of Baylor writers are plugging him into the 2016 depth chart but I think he might be a redshirt.

Patrick Hudson: 6-5, 300. 4****
Silsbee, TX
After his junior tape I thought Hudson was probably a guard or right tackle, albeit a totally dominant one, in the Baylor offense. His senior tape is amazing though, he could dominate most all of the B12's DL next year as a run blocker and his eventual upside could very well be as a phenomenal left tackle and day one draft pick. They might get him into action early (like sophomore year perhaps) as a guard or tackle and then eventually move him to left tackle if he proves dominant at pass protection and/or if Urquidez isn't up for it/fits at RT.

Grade: B+
All of these are excellent takes for their system, I held them back from an A grade just because taking only three guys is a bit risky at a position that often sees attrition, misses, and injuries. They only took four in 2015 so it's not like they're overflowing with numbers here in their underclassmen ranks and Autry is a JUCO transfer. They seem to have a high opinion of their own ability to have high hit rates on transfers.


Defensive line

Defensive line is the biggest question mark for Baylor in 2015 after they lose their entire starting front from a year ago. Andrew Billings was the DPOY in 2015 and was massively important in keeping Taylor Young free and allowing the Bears to be more conservative in coverage without getting gashed as a result. The Bears need another DT who can command a double team although it's unlikely they'll find someone who can beat them like Billings did. The Bears suffered in 2015 from not being able to bring pressure without blitzing and need at least one dynamic edge-rusher to make this system work as ideally designed.


Micheal Johnson: 6-3, 230. 3***
Missouri City, TX
Johnson is a pretty raw prospect at this point, he's sudden moving straight ahead but I'm not sure how flexible or agile he is moving laterally or turning the corner on an OT and his pass rush moves are mostly limited to bull rushes. He's athletic enough to be a B12 DE and who knows what he'll be after a few years of S&C and coaching but he doesn't look like a top edge-rusher at this point.

Brandon Bowen: 6-5, 227. 4****
Trophy Club, TX
Bowen reminds me a tad of Oakman just in the fact that he's basically just huge and overpowering without a ton of demonstrated flexibility. He's good with his hands and should easily translate his athleticism, size, and skills to becoming a very good defender on the edge against the run. Like with Johnson, I don't know if he'll become the great pass-rusher they need.

Bravvion Roy: 6-2, 315. 4****
Spring, TX
Roy is a big time 3-tech prospect with the quickness off the ball to cause problems for opponents and a need to gain better conditioning and understanding of how to use his hands. I think he's a good prospect for what they need inside at the 3-tech spot, reminds me of Blackshear.

Dequinton Osborne: 6-0, 310. 3***
Kilgore, TX (JUCO)
Osborne has the two things you want to see from a shorter DT, he's very quick and he knows how to play double teams and use his hands. He could be a good nose tackle for them that's good at preserving his gap and the line of scrimmage against zone double team blocks and he's disruptive enough to force those double teams unless you trust your guards to keep him from making periodic TFLs in the backfield.

Jeremy Faulk: 6-2, 265. 3***
Garden City, KS (JUCO)
In his presser Briles mentioned Faulk as a potential solution this year at nose tackle, which is interesting since he's kinda small currently, are they planning on going stunt-heavy in the near future? They probably should given their lack of good, pure edge-rushers...

Anyways, he's a well above-average athlete for a DT that could cause many B12 teams some real problems if he can avoid getting taken down by double teams and massive guards. The 6'1" 255 pound Isaac Gross had a nice run doing exactly this at Ole Miss so it's feasible.

Grade: C
For the most part, Baylor took guys that project to be solid players but they didn't get any guys that project clearly (to my eyes at least) as potentially dominant players in this system. Bennett is basically holding steady here, they'll need to find a transfer pass-rusher in the future or else get better coverage players in the secondary to allow more stunting and blitzing in order to manufacture pressure. They could also go 3-4 but I don't see that as likely with this LB class.


Baylor wants two linebackers like most every other 4-2 team in the conference. Versatility is best but short of that they need at least one outside-backer and one inside-backer. Bennett often brings zero blitzes (man coverage with no deep safeties) so it's best if both of these guys have some suddenness and know what they're doing when blitzing. They've had a lot of success grabbing laterally quick, extra short fire plugs here such as Eddie Lackey and Taylor Young.


Deonte Williams: 6-1, 215. 3***
Plano, TX
Williams is pretty quick laterally and played some space-backer and outside-backer in high school, he'd be an above average athlete at the latter and not at the former spot. He knows how to play underneath routes in zone coverage with his eyes on the QB and is a solid blitzer thanks to his quickness.

Grade: C-
Williams is a great take at linebacker in keeping with other guys they've signed and had success with, if they can play him on the inside he'll be a plus athlete. The lack of other signatures is interesting but they did sign four in 2015 and the one I actually watched (no way that guy stays at space-backer, btw) I really liked.

The secondary

Baylor basically plays two types of DBs on the field, they need three coverage-oriented players to staff their corner spot and at free safety. The free safety spot is particularly challenging yet essential since his ability to play off man coverage allows the nickel to attack the edge and the run game. In 2015 their free safety couldn't do this and a potential star player in nickel Travon Blanchard often had to be used conservatively to bracket slot receivers. The nickel and strong safety are more pure support players, guys who can play zone, play coverage, but need to be able to play in or around the box.

Cover DBs

Each corner in this system has slightly different assignments and degrees of coverage ability. The field corner is the most pure coverage player since he's away from the action in the box and can mostly focus on locking down an outside receiver. The boundary corner needs to be able to play run force on the edge as Bennett does like to call some cover 2 on the boundary at times and he should also be comfortable blitzing. That said, if Baylor has a guy that can play lockdown coverage without help they want him on the boundary to free up the strong ("deep" in Baylor's bizarre nomenclature) safety to play the run aggressively. The free safety needs to be a good tackler and a rangy player but what's most essential is that he can play off-man coverage on a slot to free up the nickel.


Kenan Ivey: 5-9, 185. 3***
Lancaster, TX
Ivey seems like a guy Baylor could have laid off on in order to get more numbers at LB or OL but whatever. He's got real range and is a violent striker coming from his FS position on film, his play is pretty reckless as he'll often come downhill so fast that if a ballcarrier has room to make a juke he'll end up reduced to taking swipes at them as they go by.

Interestingly, that happens repeatedly on his highlight tape and he always succeeds in getting a hand on the ball and using the force of his momentum to cause a fumble. He'll need to show he can break down and tackle reliably when the players in front of him don't succeed in lining up ball carriers for kill shots.

Raleigh Texada: 5-10, 160. 3***
Frisco, TX
Baylor signed most of the small, violent, ultra-quick in-state DBs in this class that TCU normally get, I wonder if Patterson is privately fuming about that.

Raleigh is the younger brother of Ranthony, who may be a All-B12 field corner at TCU next year if he's back on form after his injury. If he gets heavier he has a mean enough disposition to play on the boundary but it's more likely that he'll be a field corner who can play MEG technique (man coverage in a cover 4 scheme, "Man Everywhere he Goes").

Rajah Preciado: 5-9, 179. 3***
College Station, TX
Ran a 4.56 at the Sparq with a 4.38 shuttle and a 31.3" vertical. Those numbers suggest he's athletic enough to play corner and hold up in man coverage, though he's a bit shorter and the vertical says he might struggle on jump balls.

He's physical enough to play free safety and has the quickness and recovery speed to play off man there, plus that's that the position he played in high school. They got another Terrell Burt here, and unlike most Baylor commentators, I don't mean that as a bad thing.

Parrish Cobb: 5-11, 175. 4****
Waco, TX
Part of what marks Baylor as an ascended program these days is the fact that they were able to protect a hometown prospect from getting raided by the Sooners, who had Cobb's commitment until late in the process. 

He has nothing on his tape to tell me how he might perform as a force-corner on the boundary but he's brilliant in man coverage and could play press-man on the boundary and free up the strong safety to play in the box. Or he might be a dominant field corner who spends his Saturday afternoons playing without any help at all. Tough loss for Oklahoma, even though they still signed a fantastic cornerback.

Chris Miller: 6-0, 184. 3***
Frisco, TX
Miller is the most safety-like guy on this list who's HS tape is replete with examples of him demonstrating range and tackling ability closing on the ball from deep alignments and landing big shots. His Sparq numbers: 4.57 40, 4.09 shuttle, 38.6" vertical, 35' toss, indicate he's one of the better athletes in the class and usually you want such players at corner.

However, with his comfort covering ground and striking, he's probably one of the better FS prospects that any B12 team signed in 2016.

Grayland Arnold: 5-10, 170. 3***
Kountze, TX
The son of a boxer, Arnold is a guy I really wanted at Texas but Baylor cleaned up in 2016 with most of the state's top coverage players. Like some of the other guys in this section, he played a lot of free safety in HS but he also played some corner and demonstrated the athleticism to play some man coverage and stick with receivers on difficult routes.

With his quickness and propensity for violent play he might be the best boundary corner prospect that Baylor is bringing aboard. He might be one to get redshirted and developed before he sees the field but don't be shocked if he isn't ultimately one of the better players they signed.

Grade: A
Baylor signed six guys with at various stages of physical and technical development but all of whom can flip their hips and run and most of whom are good tacklers with some positional versatility. Any time you can load up on athletes like this in the Big 12, you do so.

Support DBs

I think you get the idea by now, these are the nickel and strong safety spots. They like to use more of a space-backer at the nickel but I'm sure they'd play more of a safety at that position if that's what they had on their roster.



Grade: D+
Honestly, I don't think this will be a big deal. They loaded up on so many great athletes at WR and with their cover DBs that I think they could very easily move over the rejects from either position and end up with a lot of strong candidates to play these spots. If they'd landed Brandon Jones it would have been a major coup and might have made this the best class in the B12, but they failed there.


Art Briles signed an exceptionally fast and athletic class in a league all about speed in space so Baylor fans should be at least moderately excited about the next few years. They aren't going to slip too far in the Big 12 with A-rated WR and CB classes joining the program

The two areas where Briles needs to do well in order to help Baylor continue to fight to be king of the hill are at OL (where they got whipped by OU this last year) and DL (the hardest place to find impact players).

Well Baylor didn't get great numbers along the OL but they signed perhaps the 2nd best OL in the state (gotta go Greg Little #1) and two other promising players there. They got great numbers along the DL but I'm not sure they signed any impact players. However, if all of these athletes pan out they're going to be able to find a formula that works.

On defense, look for them to start to emphasize stunting and blitzing, afforded by having so many good coverage players on the field, rather than trying to sit back in cover 2 and lean on the DL like they attempted in 2015. On offense, they'll just keep on doing what they're doing with better and better players involved.

Just like Patterson's Frogs, Briles' Bears aren't going anywhere just yet.

Friday, February 26, 2016

If McCaffrey played in the Big 12...

There'd be absolutely no stopping him. I broke down how he fills the role of "true hybrid RB" at Stanford, anchored a top 5 offense, and was probably the greatest skill player in college football last season. Check it out at Football Study Hall.

Penn State is all-in on the Spread-RPO revolution

By hiring Fordham's Joe Moorhead, Penn State is embracing the same kind of single-back/RPO offense that is starting to gain traction in the NFL and with nominally "pro-style" programs like Alabama.

They ran something similar to this last year when they gashed Michigan State on the ground and now they're all in on simplifying their offense to be an up-tempo spread. You can read about it, complete with a few quotes from Moorhead himself collected by Steven Godfrey, right here.

A few keys to this offense:

1) It's balanced, so long as it features a TE, and maintains balance between being able to gash opponents with explosive quick passing plays, flooding zones with receivers, running the ball, or using play-action.

2) It helps the offense cycle through the OODA loop faster.

This is US military theorist Col. John Boyd's explanation for the process that allows people to Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act in a competitive environment. If one side of a battle is able to complete this process more quickly than the other, or to disrupt the opponent's ability to do so, they are at a major advantage.

With these up-tempo systems, the offense can get to the line, force a response from the defense, and then have the OC signal in a new play to run. With that ability to be flexible combined with the forced simplicity of pace, the offense can really do some damage.

3) It's murder for over-aggressive teams like Michigan State. So long Spartan hegemony.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Scouting Texas' stable of young RBs

It's not great secret that despite the fact Strong hired "veer and shoot" OC Sterlin Gilbert at Texas, the Longhorns are going to be running the ball early and often in 2016. Over at Inside Texas I broke down their statistical progress from 2014 to 2015 as a running team (the offensive identity totally changed) and scouted the three main backs back for Texas in 2016. Check it out for free here.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Breaking down TCU's 2016 recruiting class

TCU has always done very well in recruiting by getting on the road early and using camps to note promising talents before the bigger schools find them, snatching up as many versatile athletes as they can, and then moving the ones that grow bigger closer to the ball.

After moving to the Big 12, they've been able to have greater access to the state of Texas' better players. The fact that Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meacham have proven to be strong recruiters has also been big in helping Patterson position TCU to compete for the Big 12 crown for years to come.

Here's a glimpse of how the recruiting services have evaluated the Frog classes over the last six years:

I suspect that kids with TCU offers get more benefit of the doubt these days but it's also true that they have more access to the top-ranked players now. What's interesting is the seven "2-star" players above include Derrick Kindred, Josh Carraway, Mike Tuaua, Denzel Johnson, Lloyd Tunstill, Tevin Elliott, Corry O'Meally, and Ty Summers. You're talking about six starters from last year's defense and three of the best players. So TCU has never really needed high-ranked classes to find great players, but now they have them.

Their major needs heading into 2016 include reinforcements in the secondary since they depleted their supply of athletes over the course of 2015 due to injuries or the need to move safeties to linebacker (Montrell Wilson and Travin Howard) or corners to safety (Nick Orr).

They also had an eye to find some short term replacements for Josh Doctson and Kolby Listenbee, although their young WRs played well down the stretch in 2015, and some more OL to replace the loss of four starters.

Patterson landed 22 players, a number which includes eight early enrollees and six JUCOs and came as a result of hitting Texas for 13 players but also snatching up three kids from Louisiana and others from JUCOs across the fruited plains.

The intriguing thing to watch for here is whether TCU recruited well enough to help them solidify their position as a Big 12 contender in 2016 and to ensure that they have enough All-B12 caliber players to stay there in the future.



TCU has been a big part of illustrating the potential of what happens when you combine the Air Raid with a real defense, but they've also been a big part of illustrating the potency of combining a dual-threat QB with the Air Raid thanks to what they accomplished with Trevone Boykin over the last two years. They've got the immensely talented Shawn Robinson signed on for 2017 and a couple of guys already on campus so 2016 might as well have been them taking a shot at a developmental prospect or just the "best available."

Brennen Wooten: 6-1, 184. 3***
San Angelo, TX

Wooten is the kind of high floor, low ceiling prospect that more power programs should be investing in because he can help guarantee that there is always someone on campus who can execute the system and perhaps even be great if his development takes off and he's surrounded by the right pieces. Wooten has enough arm strength, he can throw with anticipation to spots on the field and even excels throwing back shoulder fades, and has enough quickness to handle some QB run game or to take easy yards if defenses don't contain him.

Grade: C+
I like Wooten, I'm not sure if he'll ever start at TCU but things often have a way of working out where these types of kids end up seizing opportunity and emerging down the line if low floor, high ceiling prospects bust. He has all the tools to be an effective Air Raid QB.

Running back

Flex RBs and feature backs that can thrive in outside-zone are at the top of the wish list for the Frogs. They seem to prefer smaller guys that balance the ability to cut upfield with the ability to run some routes.


Darius Anderson: 5-11, 196. 3***
Richmond, TX

Here's the Sparq score for Anderson: 4.74 40, 4.36 shuttle, 33.5' toss, 38.1" vertical.

He's a good athlete, elite speed for some positions but not for running back, but (as you notice from the vertical) he has some real suddenness in his first steps that give him a lot of power and burst when he changes direction or plants and runs through a hole. He's a good outside zone back (most good backs are) and a guy that could make hay in a strong running game.
Grade: B-
No flex RBs here and just a single take but Anderson is a gifted back who's a good fit for what they are trying to do, which is to maintain an effective run game in addition to their phenomenal passing attack.


TCU has made great use of the TE and FB in the last couple of years, especially the TE, for the purpose of running speed option and getting extra blocking on the perimeter or inserting a lead blocker into the B or C gaps on outside zone. They could make great use of a flex or true TE if they found one.


Artayvious Lynn: 6-6, 235. 3***
New Berlin, NY (JUCO)

Lynn was once a Louisiana kid who was fairly athletic and had good hands at 6-6, 205 but wasn't eligible out of high school and went to Milford Academy to prepare for college. Now he's much heavier and a little more schooled in the art of blocking. He's not blazing fast and will never be this horrifying threat running routes but he's got good hands and won't be fun to deal with in the red zone. His development as a blocker and his potential to be an attached TE is the thing to watch for in Ft. Worth.

Grade: C
I really like their lead zone concepts they've been running over the last couple of years and I'm not sure this 6'6" cat can get low enough to really thrive in those schemes but they can probably find a fullback or H-back from the cast of failed DEs or walk-ons to get that job.


TCU has been better than some Air Raids at finding ways to unleash speedy athletes like Kavontae Turpin without requiring a lot in the way of route running, but they still have a need for guys that know how to get open on traditional routes and they really hurt people in 2014 by having true deep threats on either side of the field.

Dylan Thomas: 6-1, 185. 3***
Ft. Worth, TX

Thomas played PG and QB in HS and has great vision and field awareness to go along with great athleticism (4.67 40, 43.5 shuttle) which TCU offered to help him utilize at WR, presumably in the slot. I could see this kid learning to wreak havoc in the seams running option routes but I find it hard to believe that a player with this frame, athleticism, and mindset won't end up at safety before he sees the field in Ft. Worth.

Isaiah Graham: 6-1, 185. 4****
Bastrop, LA

Graham is really fluid and knows how to get open with his quickness, he'll probably stay outside at TCU and be a pain for opponents running curl routes and comebacks. He can do some real damage after the catch if teams miss tackles or lose leverage but he's not an elite burner. He could be a deep threat just because he's fast enough and he knows how to set up DBs to win past them and get open.

Ryan Parker: 6-2, 180. 4****
Tyler, TX (JUCO)

Parker is my 3rd highest rated recruit in this class and he's one of the fastest WRs in the 2016 Big 12 class. Some guys will beat you for TDs if you aren't careful to play with good team leverage and pursuit, Parker will beat you if there's even a sliver of daylight that allows him to take off, I'm guessing he runs in the 4.5 range. He's not just a catch and run guy either as he can take the top off a defense with a deep route if he isn't bracketed or pressed well, he has good hands, and his first few steps are excellent and make him dangerous on slants.

Taj Williams: 6-4, 190. 4****
Council Bluffs, IA (JUCO)

I don't know that Williams is really 6'4" but he's a nice, big target that knows how to use his size and how to get open against zone coverage. He reminds me of a slower, probably smaller Josh Doctson that is effective on the outside working against smaller DBs.

Grade: B+
The Frogs got some immediate help, which I'm not sure they even need given how well their replacement WRs were playing at the end of last year, and they got a couple of high schoolers that will be really dangerous in this offense. Ryan Parker is a real prize and he'll be hard to keep off the field, combining him with Emmanuel Porter and Kavontae Turpin will cause real headaches for opponents in 2016.

Offensive line

TCU has also been early adopters of combining an outside zone-heavy run game with the spread offense and Air Raid passing attack, though Mangino was probably the originator of that approach. In 2015 they had a really quick center and then four really big "obstacle" type OL on the field with very solid tackle play. I think size is probably their main concern, size and feet.

Lucas Niang: 6-6, 312. 3***
New Canaan, CT

Niang is a big kid but his greatest strength is getting fit on a DL (getting his hands inside their armpits and under their pads) and just driving them off the ball. His feet are a bit iffy to my eyes in terms of his ability to play tackle but he has great reach thanks to his massive frame. Lots of good teams that like tall guards went after him, including Penn State and Auburn, and guard is where I think he ends up at TCU.

Austin Myers: 6-5, 290. 4****
Manvel, TX

Myers played RT in high school but might be a LT prospect for college. He has loose hips and quick feet and is good dropping back, good at operating in space, and has nice punch at contact. They'll probably redshirt him and see what comes out in three years.

Big frame, quick feet, good take, let's eat.

Kellton Hollins: 6-3, 298. 3***
Zachary, LA

Hollins is the pup of the litter they've already designated as the future center. He's very quick, which in a gap-oriented run game you want at guard but in zone you want quickness at center since he's a crucial part of executing combo blocks, reaching DL or LBs, and making it as easy as possible for big maulers at guard to focus on plowing the road.

Hollins is idea for that role and has the punch and base to hold his own against DTs in addition to reaching LBs.

Chris Gaynor: 6-5, 295. 3***
Dodge City, KS (JUCO

Gaynor is another taller kid that projects inside to guard where his athleticism will be a big plus. He's good at executing zone combo blocks and he's also good as a puller and often finds work after his initial assignment is dispatched.

Grade: B+
TCU curiously only took four OL after taking four in 2015, those kinds of numbers concern me a little bit at this position but they aren't particularly worrisome so long as there is quality in the takes and kids are getting redshirted. All of these players make good sense for TCU and there's a chance all of them will actually be quite good.


Defensive line

TCU plays mostly four-down, Over fronts in an effort to get their DEs matched up on tackles and TEs in space on the perimeter. Their DTs play back on their haunches somewhat, reading plays and moving laterally first before trying to get upfield to cause problems, and they have a protective instinct to help keep the linebackers free from advancing OL. Their needs here are for athletes at DE that can cause problems and guys with lateral quickness at tackle to move with flow and also to execute their stunts, of which there are many in the TCU playbook.

Sewo Olonilua: 6-3, 217. 4****
Kingswood, TX

Olonilua is listed as an athlete but this is where I think he ends up and where he can have the maximal impact in the TCU program. His sparq numbers: 4.75 40, 4.23 shuttle, 40' toss, 36.3" vertical, all tell of a kid with extreme athleticism for his size and his frame suggests he'll end up being much bigger before all is said and done. He could end up at LB but I think his power and suddenness should bring him closer to the ball than that while his background as a RB would make DE an easier transition.

Gary Overshown: 6-4, 215. 3***
Mesquite, TX

Overshown is more potential than realized brilliance at end right now, but he has a lot of traits that suggest he could be a good DE with the kind of training and development TCU is known to provide. He has nice reach and uses his hands well and he's good at reading and reacting, he's not really an explosive pass-rusher but he could be a good one with time and training. He'll need a redshirt and some time.

Ross Blacklock: 6-3, 326. 4****
Missouri City, TX

Blacklock's tape suggests that opponents weren't really up for challenging him much. He's quick-moving at times but teams rarely tried to go at him and he's too big for anyone to really get him off the line. He'll need to slim down some at TCU even though he is probably a nose tackle down the line. If he can be a guy that's still quick but harder to move off the ball than previous DTs that could be quite the upgrade for TCU.

Isaiah Chambers: 6-4, 252. 4****
Houston, TX

Chambers is a big, athletic kid who's a little better on the perimeter currently than flying into the backfield but when you have a guy that's this long and strong and is quick laterally you're not going to keep him off your QB very well with HS OL. I think he'll eventually grow into a DT for TCU and learn to play low and translate his quickness and reach into beating OGs and killing in TCU's stunt package.

Mat Boesen: 6-4, 238. 3***
Long Beach, CA (JUCO)

Boesen is a really explosive pass rusher with fantastic change of direction that CA JUCO programs struggled to keep out of the backfield. He's proven it in the Mountain West as well where he had three sacks playing as a true freshman at Boise State before getting kicked out for "violating team rules" (sound familiar). He seems like a potential character risk to me but he's a great athlete that could help TCU immediately.

Grade: A-
TCU has a bunch of really promising athletes here and while they've always managed to feature pretty good DL play I think they could make a leap as these kids eventually come into their own down the line. There are some potential All-B12 talents in this bunch.

TCU almost always gets great play from their linebacker corps, these guys are just consistently well drilled on how to play opposing run schemes. No doubt much of that is related to the fact that TCU splits their front from their coverage and keeps things pretty simple for these guys. Anyways, they're looking for much of the same things as everyone else but their DT techniques generally allow them to play more athletic guys at linebacker so that they often just spin down safeties to fill these roles.

Camron Williams: 6-3, 210. 3***
Dallas, TX
It's amusing to me that Tech got three kids from Skyline HS but TCU swooped in and took what might end up being the best player on that roster. The key is that Williams played WR in HS, but he'll play linebacker at TCU. At WR he was good after the catch and could run low to the ground with power, an athletic trait that will translate well to breaking down and making tackles at linebacker. He played some defense at Skyline as well but they used him as an explosive 3-tech DT.

Tyree Horton: 6-0, 220. 4****
Highland, KS (JUCO)
If K-State falls apart in the coming seasons it'll be because they weren't landing in-state JUCO kids like Tyree Horton, who's probably the fastest LB recruit in the 2016 Big 12 class. Horton has what I like to call "all-spark" speed, meaning that he's sudden and explosive moving downhill, laterally, backwards, and in all directions. TCU generally does a good job of covering up their LBs and Horton will really take advantage with his ability to run under tackles, blitz, or scrape and reach the ball carrier. I think they'll have trouble keeping him off the field next year.

I have him rated as the 2nd best player in the class behind Olonilua.

Grade: A
Olonulia or any of the DBs might end up here eventually so there was no real need to load up with lots of numbers, especially when TCU never plays more than two at a time. They did really well here though grabbing guys with the athleticism to match their scheme and getting a player in Horton that could help in 2016.


TCU's system is designed to give Patterson maximal flexibility to move his safeties to wherever they are needed most in a given situation. These guys have a lot on their plate to play deep zone, play run-force, mix in some man coverage in their blitz package, or to blitz themselves. What they need are versatile athletes with the weak safety and strong safety being more of the run-stoppers while the free safety needs to be the best athlete. They don't necessarily need elite players since they have the flexibility to move everyone around as needed but the system thrives with a great free safety and comprehensive nature of the scheme means that there aren't really any limits to the ways that Patterson can make the most of any particularly elite traits in any of the players.

Markell Simmons: 6-1, 190. 3***
Tucson, AZ (JUCO)
Simmons is absurdly quick and rangy for a safety, so if he doesn't end up at corner you figure he'll get his shot at free safety at TCU. He runs to the ball well from a deep zone alignment and is good at using his speed to play over the top so it makes sense that he'd stay back there for the Frogs even though 247 has him listed as a CB.

Innis Gaines: 6-2, 190. 3***
Beaumont, TX
Gaines is a versatile and physical DB who could probably play all three safety positions for TCU but I think he's at his best using his eyes and length in underneath coverage or joining the fray in the box to stop the run so I imagine he'll end up at strong safety.

Grade: B-Both of these players are fantastic takes, but TCU needs a lot more help at DB after taking some injuries this offseason and getting gashed last year by the need to move half their safety corps to linebacker. They'll need to restock with numbers in 2017.


TCU needs great cornerbacks or none of this works. One of their responses to the spread has been increased usage of MEG (man coverage everywhere he goes) techniques from their cornerbacks, either the field corner or the boundary corner, and these guys have to be able to hold up in coverage. They'll also use the boundary corner as a run-force defender or blitzer at times but so long as they have two guys that can lock people down in man on the sidelines they are happy.

Keshawn Somerville: 5-10, 169. 3***
Pflugerville, TX
For the last 10 years perhaps TCU has made out like bandits by happily snatching up all the feisty, 5-10 and shorter CBs around that are elite athletes but were just a tad small. Jason Verrett and Ranthony Texada are two recent examples and Julius Lewis appears to be another if he can get healthy again. 

Check out Somerville's Sparq numbers: 4.45 40, 3.84 shuttle, 33' toss, 35.1".

This is one of the very best athletes in the entire 2016 Big 12 class and TCU snatched him up because he's only 5'9 1/2" and people are looking for bigger corners. Look...that extra height and reach matters a great deal less often than having the quickness to stay with receivers matters. Two years ago Quandre Diggs and Senquez Golson were some of the better corners around and they were both tiny. Last year Duke Thomas and Zach Sanchez were two of the better corners in the B12 and neither of them were very big either.

Somerville is an aggressive tackler and there's really little here to trouble anyone except that he missed much of his senior year with an injury which knocked him down in the rankings.

Vernon Scott: 6-1, 195. 3***
Arlington, TX
I had Scott pegged for safety but Patterson claimed he ran a 4.38 at their camp and demonstrated awesome press coverage skills so they want to start him at corner. At a Sparq event he ran a 4.63 with a 4.49 shuttle, 36' toss and 27.4" vertical. Those don't disqualify a guy from playing corner but the shuttle and toss numbers suggest that if he's not getting a good jam on receivers he's going to struggle to keep up with them.

TCU doesn't keep a safety over the top for their corners very often either so that could be trouble, I think he might be another Corry O'Meally, who racked up approximately 10k pass interference penalties for the Frogs last year.

Grade: C-
I think Scott was a good take for the program, I don't know if he'll be able to help them out at corner. Somerville likely will but they needed more numbers here and didn't get them.

Here's the issue for TCU though, they didn't know they were going to lose a sophomore corner (Lewis) in offseason drills until right before signing day and they rely on early evaluations and offers to bring in recruits and compete with the bigger dogs so it was always going to be hard for them to find corners late. They'll probably be okay but like at safety they're going to need more numbers in 2017 and may look to add some late coming JUCOs to the mix if they can find them.

Overall TCU did very well in this class and recruited quite possibly the fastest class in the league despite getting nine linemen to help them out in the trenches. I think TCU has real staying power, at least as long as Gary Patterson is there, and will probably be competing for Big 12 titles for the foreseeable future.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Breaking down Texas Tech's 2016 recruiting class

Heading into Lubbock, Kliff Kingsbury had a strong reputation from Texas A&M as a great mind within the Air Raid coaching tree but something to prove in terms of overseeing and fielding a good defense.

That bore out pretty clearly over Kingsbury's first few years at Tech. He immediately translated an iffy stable of QBs (Michael Brewer was hurt, Davis Webb was a freshman with illness, Baker Mayfield was a walk-on) and the presence of future pro TE Jace Amaro into an explosive offense while struggling to field a good defense.

The reputation of the A&M/Kingsbury iffy culture was borne out when Kliff had to fire much of his defensive staff for various reasons after they struggled to put a unit on the field that could resist an opposing running game. The jury is still out on whether new DC David Gibbs (son of zone-blocking guru Alex Gibbs) and his "get turnovers at all costs!" strategy will work at Tech.

One thing is clear though, the Raiders need to continue plugging in guys that will make for fearsome weapons in the Air Raid but more than that they desperately need physical athletes on defense. The Big 12 title is never won by an explosive offensive team that plays average or mediocre defense, there's always a team out there that can light up the scoreboard and play solid defense. Tech will always be an explosive also-ran until they get this figured out.

In this class Kingsbury took 25 players, including one greyshirt and three JUCO transfers, 17 of the total coming from Texas. They were able to pick off a couple of Jayhawk community college guys and six players from the south (Louisiana, Oklahoma, Virginia, and Arkansas) but Tech always lives and dies in Texas.

What's interesting about this class is that they ended up with a few West Texas kids, a region that hasn't really been that dominant in Texas HS football since the oil boom slowed down, and five kids from just two Texas high schools (Cibolo Steele, which is a San Antonio suburb, and Dallas Skyline). You wonder if they settled some and failed to cast a wide net, were trying to ensure they got key players from those schools, or if they really got five great players from those two schools.

We'll make a note of how that went as well as how they did in finding the kinds of athletes that will give them a chance to play Big 12-winning football.



Like many other Air Raids, Tech seems highly invested now in finding QBs that can run and scramble, and the schools of Air Raid doing this are almost becoming a hybrid of the Leach offense and the Oregon system. Like I noted with other teams, the Air Raid becomes much more devastating when the QB allows the offense to have numerical advantage to run the ball on 5-, 5.5-, or 6-man fronts. As Kelly always said of his Oregon QBs though, being able to throw the ball still comes first.

Jett Duffey: 6-0, 175. 3***
Mansfield, TX

Duffey is a 3rd generation HS spread QB, meaning that his offense is built around QB option and deep throws as a way to attack the entire field in as conceptually simple a manner as possible. He's great in the QB run game, great at scrambling and throwing on the run, and he throws with touch and accuracy down the field. The big question is whether he can learn to make decisions quickly on RPOs or quick game concepts after a few years of Air Raid training. Another concern is whether he can be this quick and elusive closer to 200 pounds. Like many other dual threats, he's a good athlete who can have value elsewhere if he can't handle the upgrade in required know-how for the position.

Grade: C+
There are some that think Duffey was a steal who will be a big time QB in the future. It's possible, but I've seen a lot of Duffeys in the past struggle with the sped up decision-making process of the college level. You can't just buy time with your legs and wait for guys to get open in most B12 offenses. RG3 pulled it off at Baylor but that was a 3rd generation offense and he was an elite athlete.

Running back

Tech seems to want speedy backs who can be useful with screens and the quick game in addition to running the ball and their outside zone run game can feature a wide variety of different types of backs, so long as they are fast enough to threaten the perimeter and good at cutting upfield.

Da'Leon Ward: 5-11, 180. 3***
Dallas, TX

Ward was one of Tech's Skyline HS pulls and is probably the best one, imo. He has good balance and runs hard when cutting upfield. His HS specialty was running up real close to his OL and thus positioning himself to dart through creases as they appeared, he did that mostly on power concepts but it's a skill that can be translated to outside zone. Go watch some Aaron Green TCU clips for a glimpse of what I think this kid could be.

Grade: B-
It makes sense for Tech to seldom take more than one back per year unless they find an explosive flex RB that can be a difference maker. I think they got an above average prospect in Ward.


Tech pretty much never uses a TE or FB save for in short yardage situations or now and then for lead zone. Kingsbury vastly prefers to just use RPOs and keep more athletes on the field in keeping with Leach's old "throw it short to people who can score" philosophy.

Grade: F
This doesn't really matter, though it's strange that they never seem to be aiming to find another dominant flex TE like they had in Amaro.


Tech needs guys that can score with the ball in their hands but their system makes a lot of out guys that just know how to get open since everyone is generally operating in a lot of space and with favorable match-ups because of how spread out they are and their option route-heavy passing game. Getting guys that know how to get open is probably most essential, followed by getting guys that can do real damage with the ball.

TJ Vasher: 6-5, 180. 4****
Wichita Falls, TX

Vasher is a nice possession target on the outside with real size, one of many such guys in this WR class for the Raiders, but I'm not sure how much attention he'll be able to command so long as opponents have a CB they trust to stick on him without getting beat over the top. He has some quick first few steps that will be useful for getting open but not as much long speed to run by people. Vasher is a good blocker and good at catching jump balls and back shoulder fades which portends well for his ability to torture number 2 corners trying to guard him alone on the sideline.

Antoine Wesley-Cox: 6-4, 180. 3***
Cibolo, TX

Yet another big target with good hands, he's basically another Vasher, a guy that won't be pleasant to cover up with your second best corner (especially if he's sub 5-11) but at the same time isn't a guy that's likely to command a double team.

Derrick Willies: 6-4, 205. 4****
Athens, TX (JUCO)

Willies is immediate help for a team that might be losing two of its top targets from a year ago and didn't have a really terrifying outside threat in 2015 but manufactured deep threats via Mahomes' ability to scramble and beat people deep outside of the pocket. Willies isn't quite as fast as you'd like for a major deep threat on the outside but he's got a big catch radius and certainly isn't slow. He does damage on hitch routes and screens on film and has some explosive acceleration after the catch.

De'Quan Bowman: 5-11, 180. 3***
Hutchinson, KS (JUCO)

Bowman has the requisite speed and ability to play slot WR in this offense but doesn't stand out as an extraordinary talent in this regard. Most of his big plays on his highlights are a result of horrible leverage and play from his opponents. This is the kind of take that makes you wonder if Kingsbury puts too much emphasis on having numbers at WR over shoring up other positional needs.

Bryson Denley: 5-8, 165. 3***
Cibolo, TX (greyshirt)

Denley is an apparent greyshirt and I'm not sure what the reason for the delay in his enrollment is related to. He was a good back at Cibolo Steele but he'll probably be a slot receiver for Tech. He's not as explosively quick as Jakeem Grant but he will be hard to handle running routes or screens in the middle of the field with his change of direction abilities.

Grade: C-
The Raiders didn't really land much in the way of standout talents given that they used five scholarships here. I'm sure Kingsbury will find some weapons in this group and the overall strategy of forcing defenses to try and match up to multiple 6-2+ targets is likely to yield some results, but you wonder if they could have achieved the same result without using as many scholarships. After all, they took six WRs in their last class as well.

Offensive line

The formula that Tech is looking for is to find four obstacles and a lead tackle in a given year. Since they are primarily an outside zone/passing team, there's no reason not to recruit mostly tackle-sized kids that are tall and reasonably light on their feet and hope that one or two per class end up being really strong athletes that can hold up at left tackle. Mike Leach was a master at finding kids who were a fit for this system and Kingsbury seems to have picked up on some of his tricks.

Bailey Smith: 6-5, 300. 3***
Allen, TX
Smith packs a lot of punch at the HS level, like you'd hope from a 300-pounder, but he's also good at climbing up to find linebackers off combo blocks and has some "mauler" in him with his ability to drive ahead and plow a road. He's less great at turning his hips and getting square on guys in space and he's almost assuredly a guy that will move inside to play guard where he won't have to navigate as much space and can focus on learning to get low and drive people.

Gio Pancotti: 6-5, 277. 3***
Bellaire, TX

Pancotti is definitely at least a future "obstacle" who doesn't always get low with a flat back against the run and relies too much on his size or favorable angles at the HS level to get displacement against the run. He does have loose hips though and solid feet. He could be a good guard after several years of seasoning or perhaps a right tackle.

Zach Adams: 6-7, 310. 3***
Fredericksburg, VA

Adams is pretty good in space and on the edge, which combined with his 6'7" frame is pretty much all a school like Tech needs to extend him an offer. He plays too high currently but at the HS level if he gets his hands on a guy then the battle is pretty much a guaranteed victory. There's a chance he could become a left tackle but I think a spot on the right is much more likely.

Travis Buffy: 6-8, 270. 3***
Missouri City, TX

Buffy is my favorite player in this class, and like with many players, I'd like to start by listing his Sparq measurables: 5.53 40 time, 4.69 shuttle, 23.8" vertical, 35' power ball toss.

This is a quick, powerful kid who's only going to get heavier and stronger and likely without losing his foot speed due to his massive frame. Currently he's too weak and too light to hold up against athletic edge rushers who will lean into him, but I think a redshirt and a few years of seasoning and coaching could make him into a lead tackle.

Grade: B-
Tech loaded up on a bunch of guys that will make for good developmental prospects down the line and may have found a future left tackle in this bunch. This isn't one of the better OL classes around the league but it's a solid one that is likely to meet the needs of the Raider system.


Defensive line

The Raiders are playing a sort of hybrid front these days, a single-gap 4-3 defense in principle but with a "rush-end" who sometimes takes on linebacker-type assignments. They basically have the same needs as every other team but they use slanting for their non-edge rushers so the ability to demand and play double teams is less essential since they're often just taking gaps.


Houston Miller: 6-3, 228. 3***
Keller, TX

Miller is the rush-end of this group, a fantastic athlete who ran a 4.67 40, 4.18 shuttle, jumped 30.9", and threw the power toss 36.5'. He's fairly raw right now in terms of pass rush but he can take the edge against most any OT with pure speed and he's a nightmare on the perimeter both on the backside of a play or forcing the edge. He's basically a classic 4-3 Under Sam linebacker who will be at his best if covered up some on the edge by the presence of heavy DE techniques, which he will in this defense.

Noah Jones: 6-5, 255. 3***
Moore, OK

Jones has the fantastic tape of a player who's far too athletic for the level at which he's playing, in this instance playing Okie high schools. He'll be great as a 5-tech or 4i-tech DE that can set the edge or slant inside, either way using his burst off the snap and long arms to beat blockers to spots and attack the ball. High upside guy here.

Ivory Jackson: 6-3, 275. 3***
Amarillo, TX

Jackson will be good at slanting due to some good lateral quickness but he's not sudden or explosive at penetrating into the backfield. Best case scenario is him growing to 300+ and using his quickness to clog things up inside as a nose tackle or learning to use his hands well enough to stay outside as a 3-tech DT/strongside end type player.

Nick McCann: 6-2, 290. 3***
Texarkana, AR

McCann is more of a pure nose tackle prospect than Jackson, he plays smart but he isn't really fast unless he can build up speed and if you cross him up it's pretty much over. He plays some end on HS tape but I don't see that working out in the Big 12, he might make it as a 3-tech.

Clarence Henderson: 6-1, 234. 3***
Dallas, TX

Another Skyline kid along with Joe Wallace (below). Henderson was once a state-ranked guard prospect before it became obvious that this 6'1" kid was never going to be big enough to translate his prodigious skill as an OL into a college-sized body. His tape at left tackle, if it existed for a 6'5" 300 pound kid, would be enough to have NFL teams begging to draft him out of high school.

Instead, he'll probably end up as a DE of about average athleticism.

Joe Wallace: 6-0, 333. 3***
Dallas, TX

It can be very difficult to be effective between the tackles without longer arms, particularly in today's B12 where guards are often just slow tackles with huge frames and long reach. If you're a shorter nose tackle that can't stop double teams or bigger guards from getting their hands on you then you can be in for a tough day.

Wallace has all three of the traits that can allow a shorter big man to hold his own in the trenches: quickness, weight, and strength. He's quick off the snap, so it's not as easy for big OL to get their hands on his low-driving body, he's strong so if he gets under your pads you are in real trouble, and he's really heavy so even if you can get your hands on him with leverage he's still hard to move. I don't know if he'll ever be terribly disruptive but he may at least be able to cause a pileup and cover up the linebackers.

Mych Thomas: 6-1, 324. 3***
El Dorado, KS (JUCO)

Another low to the ground, ultra-heavy DL for the Red Raiders but this one is coming more college ready after some time in the Jayhawk Community College league that produces dozens of B12 prospects every year.

Thomas is what Tech hopes Wallace and McCann will become when they are upperclassmen in Lubbock. He's quick laterally and can cause some problems through stunting or by getting under your pads. I doubt he finds great success playing double teams in the B12 but he's not awful at it and Tech will be stunting him around to avoid that troubling scenario.

Grade: C
Tech spent a lot of scholarships grabbing players to fill holes after they lost most of a bad DL to graduation. Most of these tackles don't look like great players but guys that will need real instruction and a slant-heavy scheme to find success, which puts limits on what Tech can do at DC if Gibbs doesn't work out. I gave them a passing grade because Jackson might become a good player and both Miller and Jones are actually really strong prospects.


Tech has rarely seemed to field good linebackers in the Big 12 era, I'd even venture a guess that they've had fewer linebackers earn All-B12 honors than any other school in the conference (Kansas had several good ones in the Mangino era and Rhoads had a handful at Iowa State). They found one good one in the 2015 class with D'Vonta Hinton and he was playing a lot of snaps by the end of the year. Their scheme would be at it's best with two good ones that can both blitz or find the ball but if they just had one good blitzer and one good inside-backer they'd be in much better shape. These guys need to have some lateral range because Gibbs likes to take away short routes with the backers and force deeper throws to his secondary.

Brayden Stringer: 6-2, 200. 3***
Cypress Ranch, TX

Stringer is a great prospect if he can get to 220 or so and bring some pop when he blitzes without losing the lateral agility that makes him a good prospect to begin with. He's great at uncoiling and lighting people up coming downhill and also has a knack for breaking up passes by closing in on QBs and getting his hands up when they try to throw into his passing window. He'd probably be best as an athletic inside-backer who's focused mostly on playing behind the DL.

Jordyn Brooks: 6-0, 223. 3***
Houston, TX

Brooks is a legit athlete who ran a 4.67 40 at the Sparq to go along with a 4.64 shuttle that tells you he's probably not ideally suited to playing in the secondary. In high school he was a terror on the edge closing from behind on the backside of plays or forcing the ball inside on the frontside. He's an intriguing prospect for them as an outside-backer who can add something in the blitz with his acceleration but he'll have to learn a lot to fit there.

Johnathan Picone: 6-1, 212. 3***
Mandeville, LA

Picone is truly athletic and explosive in short areas and is at this point a raw but intriguing player. He ran a 4.38 shuttle with a 37.4" vertical, so he's got the ideal athleticism to scrape, pursue the ball sideline to sideline, and unload coming downhill. I'm not sure he knows what he's doing right now but with time he could become a really versatile inside-backer with an ideal skill set athletically.

Grade: C
Tech got three mostly raw prospects here to fill two spots in coming seasons. All three have the athleticism to play in this league, but each have some developmental challenges ahead before they can be contributors that finally allow the Raiders to enjoy above average (or even average) linebacker play.


Gibbs' style in coverage is to play mostly cover 3 and tampa-2 with the corners playing a great deal of deep zone so they can be ballhawks. They're technically on islands some but Gibbs mixes in some disguise and pressure and they are generally playing deep zone so speed or size are less essential here. What is non-negotiable is that they find guys that can break on the ball and either catch it or make the tackle.

Desmon Smith: 6-2, 191. 3***
Odessa, TX

A Permian Panther, (go MOJO!) Smith is a pretty interesting case study in how Gibbs' scheme will work in the Big 12 and what kinds of players he needs. Smith runs a 4.52 shuttle and frankly isn't very quick or a guy I would want to see playing even press-bail against some of the wide receivers in the league. However, he can flip his hips, he breaks on the ball well, and he's very smart about navigating space. He'll grow to be a productive player in deep zone, I think and if he proves too slow to hack it at corner he probably has value inside at safety.

Douglas Coleman: 6-0, 175. 3***
Zachary, LA

To my eyes, Coleman is the second best take of this class because he's just a tremendous athlete. His Sparq numbers are instructive to what different athletes can look like: 4.81 40, 4.03 shuttle, 35' power ball toss, 39.2" vertical leap.

His absurdly good shuttle time and vertical leap numbers are very apparent in the way he has tremendous short area burst. This is the kind of guy that always plays much faster than his 40 time would suggest since he can explode out of his stance or downshift and pull away in a hurry. He's got good hands as well. Given that he'd play more off coverage at Tech and that he's faster within 10 yards than he is in 40, I think he can stick just fine outside at corner.

Grade: C+
That's it for Tech's CB class, they have a potentially phenomenal take in Coleman and an iffier one in Smith. This is what concerns me about Kingsbury's approach in Lubbock, you never see him skimp on loading up with WRs but he's only got four DBs in this class in a league where he needs to field at least five at a time.


The Raider safeties have a bit more on their plate than the corners, who can be more easily shielded by Gibbs' coverage schemes. These guys need to be able to cover ground in the middle of the field, drop over slots, and they HAVE to find a box safety that can make tackles against the run when they blitz. The Raiders were absolutely atrocious in that regard last year and relied on 170 pound freshman Jah'Shawn Johnson to fill that role in 2015. As much as he struggled, when he was injured things got even worse.

Kevin Moore: 6-0, 188. 3***
Lafayette, LA

Moore played linebacker in high school at Louisiana, but he may push to start as the boundary/box safety for Tech in 2016. He brings bad intentions to his tackles and has the change of direction, speed, and knack for navigating the wash to fill creases and pursue the ball from sideline to sideline. Tech desperately needs this skill set, Moore was an important addition although he'll have to learn how to also play the safety position before his skills in the box can translate.

Damarcus Fields: 6-0, 180. 3***
Taylor, TX

Fields is a ballhawk, which is certainly the primary reason that Gibbs brought him aboard, and he can play man coverage on receivers or be an intimidator playing zone in the middle of the field. He could be a nickel but he'd be best utilized as a free safety of the type that Gibbs had at Houston in his legitimately strong "3rd ward defense" but hasn't seen yet on his roster in Lubbock.

Grade: B-
Tech probably should have taken fewer WRs and added another kid here and at corner, but both of these guys are great fits for the system Gibbs wants to run and address glaring issues on their roster.

Unless David Gibbs proves to be a magician, which is still possible, I don't think Kingsbury's ability to field explosives offenses will be enough to get Texas Tech to the top of a league that includes a ton of explosive offenses, some of which still put a priority on playing defense. However, they did grab four or five kids with real athleticism on defense and that might prove to be enough.

Patterson seems to be adjusting his defense just fine

In this review of the battle between Patterson and Helfrich at the Alamo Bowl there were some interesting notes to pick up on how the Frog 4-2-5 is continuing to evolve to allow them to handle some of the stresses created by balanced spread attacks.

Nick Orr was a revelation at safety that brought a ton of versatility to the TCU coverage schemes, I'll be curious to see if they keep him at weak safety or move him to free safety where his range and athleticism will be needed. It's a shame young cornerback Julius Lewis went down early in offseason drills to a torn knee because the Frog secondary was looking really good for 2016 with him, Orr, and Carter all coming back.

More on potential replacements for TCU coming this week as we finish up the Big 12 recruiting round-up with Texas Tech, TCU, and finally Baylor.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Texas' situation at safety for 2016

Texas has a ton of talented young DBs, especially now after adding Brandon Jones to the absurd 2015 class already on campus. The big question though is how close they are to fielding a dominant trio at nickel, strong safety, and free safety.

Over at Inside Texas I broke down how the Longhorns are looking at those spots for 2016 and also break down the three roles that every defense needs to fill with those three positions. Check it out for free!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Shea Patterson and the Ole Miss offense

Last year I expressed doubts that Ole Miss could win the SEC as a "finesse spread team." Obviously I was correct ;)

Now that they've signed 5-star QB Shea Patterson though, their chances of winning a title in the coming years has gone up. The key will be tweaking the offense to make the most of a guy who could dominate in a spread passing attack by emphasizing said passing game and using his arm to clear out space in the box for a power back rather than continuing to use their QB as a battering ram while playing a scat back at RB. Read about it at SB Nation.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Breaking down Oklahoma's 2016 recruiting class

Most schools generally have two aims in recruiting, first and foremost to stock the roster with talents that will grow into productive players as upperclassmen a few years down the line. The second is to fill immediate needs and this is usually done with JUCO recruits that have already been developing and are now hoping to catch on somewhere.

Now, JUCO transfers rarely have a big impact in year one at their new school. Some coaches, like Bill Snyder or Sooner OL coach Bill Bedenbaugh, will actually use the JUCO ranks to snag talent that they intend to redshirt and continue developing themselves. That unquestionably happened with many of OU's 2016 takes, but they're also looking to find some guys that can help right away because the Sooners are gunning for a second consecutive Big 12 title and a chance at a national championship next season.

They've got Baker Mayfield for one more season and he's surrounded by a lot of young talent on both sides of the ball that Stoops is hoping will mature to a level that will allow them to dominate in 2016. However, they're replacing their top WR (Sterling Shepard), defensive building blocks Eric Striker and Zach Sanchez, and also a few OL and Striker's complementary outside-backer Devante Bond.

To fill out this roster with guys that could help plug some of those holes they snatched four JUCOs and went into nine different states. Oklahoma's evolutions towards becoming a JUCO-heavy school that recruits nationally has been an interesting one, they clearly seem to be relying on current staff connections rather than their classic recruiting turf in Texas.

They're still milking the Fresno area of California, which was once again very good to them, pulled three very good prospects out of Texas as well as two from Oklahoma, and also ventured north, east, and into Louisiana to find the rest. It's a relatively small class of 19 kids plus a certain transfer from A&M that we'll discuss as well.



I've heard tell that OU is looking to go dual-threat from here on out with their QBs but there isn't great evidence of that in this class. OC/QB coach Lincoln Riley has specifically said that they want guys who are accurate and can make good decisions which are the main ingredients in a spread passing system like this. I don't think they particularly care if their QBs can run or not since the Air Raid is easily adaptable to utilize either pocket QBs or dual-threats, but it isn't a great system for running QBs who aren't reliable in the passing game.


Austin Kendall: 6-2, 210. 4***
Waxhaw, NC
Kendall is the kind of prospect that becomes terrifying in the Air Raid, especially at a school like Oklahoma where he's certain to be surrounded by excellent athletes at the skill positions. Where Kendall excels is throwing accurate balls with good velocity to every part of the field from the pocket. He can move around some and buy time or take yardage if you gift it to him, but no one is confusing him with Baker Mayfield, Kendall is firmly in the "pocket-QB" spectrum. He should be excellent when he's learned the reads of the Air Raid since he has a strong arm, can throw with anticipation, and is good at navigating the pocket.

Kyler Murray: 5-9, 180. 5***** (once upon a time)
Allen, TX (survivor from the great College Station fire of 2015)
Murray was a fiercely contested by Texas and A&M in the 2015 recruiting cycle but ultimately ended up with the Aggies where he was blooded some as a true freshman in the SEC and struggled to make the most of it.

Murray is the answer to a question probably no more than three humans have ever asked: "What if Rafael Furcal was a spread QB?"

He's lightning quick and can throw on the run or from different parts of the field, like Baker or Johnny, but he's smaller than either of them and has had some clashes with authority in his time. He can be devastating in spread running schemes due to his elite quickness but his frame is too small for "featured runner" to be his full-time occupation. The Air Raid is perfect for him, especially one like the Oklahoma system that always includes the RB heavily, and he has a lot of potential in the passing game after he gets more seasoning. If he doesn't lose too much practice time from playing baseball, Murray could be the answer to replacing Mayfield in 2017.

Grade: A
Murray may end up being more trouble than he's worth, but he may also be a star QB that allows OU to maintain high-level QB play when Mayfield is done. Kendall is an ideal prospect to groom for the future and insurance down the line if Murray opts to focus on baseball, gets stepped on by Jordan Elliott, or has some other issue emerge that keeps him from holding down the starter's role.

Running back

Oklahoma is always going to emphasize the running game because they always have great backs and Bedenbaugh builds very good offensive lines. They want a feature back who can carry the ball 20 times a game and outside zone is usually a major component of the attack, which requires a powerful plant and go back that can turn upfield and run over Big 12 DBs. They have some counter and gap schemes in the mix as well now so an inside runner with wiggle could also fit but the guys Bedenbaugh is collecting on the OL suggests OZ will always be the mainstay. Since they're an Air Raid team it's also very easy to make use of a good flex RB.


Abul Adams: 6-0, 205. 4****
Durham, NC
Lincoln Riley has really been working his old North Carolina connects to bring some talented southern talent to Oklahoma. My favorite thing about Adams is that he has legit speed and the ability to stop in his tracks and then get going again with fantastic acceleration, but he's smart and tough enough to use it to cut upfield rather than trying to win the edge all the time like so many other great athletes playing RB.

When he hits a crease with his shoulders square and enough room to get up to speed, he can take it to the house, if someone gets in his way he's strong enough to bull ahead for positive yardage. He's a perfect back for the zone-heavy OU run game. 

Grade: B
The Sooners are well stocked with talent at RB already so taking a single player in 2016 to keep the stable full was the right move. Adams is probably not a transcendent talent but he's a very good one and could be dominant in the Sooner scheme if they continue to produce good OL and passing games that can keep opponents from loading the box.


As I like to say about the Air Raid, "there's an app for that," meaning that because the system is ultimately built around simplicity, repetition, and spacing it's not difficult to incorporate a good fullback, TE, or any other support player if they are worthy of being a focal point in the offense. OU also still needs some blockers to help clear a path for situations where the Sooners want to be able to run the ball (four minute offense, short yardage, when playing Tech, etc)



Grade: D
This isn't really a big deal as it's not hard to find blockers from the ranks of 3rd string LBs and DEs or walk-ons and it's not essential that they find TEs or FBs that can be a big part of the offense, they just have the flexibility to incorporate them if they do.


It is very important that the Sooners find good WRs in this system, obviously, and an immediate impact player would be nice although you aren't likely to find a freshman or even JUCO WR that can immediately be plugged in and be the kind of possession target that Shepard was in 2015. As I've noted, you ideal want an ISO guy in this offense and then a reliable possession guy. Two possession WRs can also work, two ISO WRs would be dominant but they need to be able to help convert 2nd and 7 or 3rd and 5 as well.


Zach Farrar: 6-4, 205. 3***
Southlake, TX
Farrar was teammate to Texas commit Lil'Jordan Humphrey and the main ISO/deep threat guy for the Carroll Dragons last year. Farrar ran a 4.51 in the Sparq test with a 36.7" vertical so he's a huge and fast WR that is going to simply overwhelm most of the cornerbacks he faces even at the college level. He can go up and get the ball and he can run past people, when his route running has been refined he'll be a player that commands a double team against most opponents, a true ISO prospect.

Adrian Hardy: 6-2, 185. 3***
Houston, TX
Hardy is quicker than fast and played a lot of QB in high school because he was a pain to tackle in the open field and all too easy to get to the 2nd level in Dekaney HS's single-wing package. Spend some time with his film and you'll see that this same quickness can be paired with absurd hands to make him a dynamite target in the middle of the field. He'll be a possession receiver in this offense that is regularly targeted running up the seam.

Mykel Jones: 6-0, 180. 4****
Patterson, LA
Jones also lacks elite speed (4.75 type guy) but he's super fluid and smooth and is already running good routes. Jones has great economy of motion and does a great job of efficiently setting up defenders in the open field to fall victim to his jukes and bursts after the catch. Like Hardy, he's likely to become a reliable possession guy in the Air Raid.

Grade: B+
The Sooners didn't find anyone to immediately replace Shepard, but that was never going to happen anyways. Instead they stocked up with two guys that are likely to find success in the circumstances in which they'll find themselves within this Air Raid passing attack as well as a guy in Farrar who could become a dominant weapon down the line that they build around.

Offensive line

Bedenbaugh's preference is to use huge people to play OL and when he arrived in Norman one of the first things he did was try to bulk up the existing roster to get as big as possible. Last year a short-term solution for replacing Jonathan Alvarez when he was injured was to plug in 6-8, 339 pound Derek Farniok at right guard. They want guys that can move their feet to pull or block on zone but they want as big a group as possible. It'll be interesting to watch Kyler Murray try to see the field over this bunch in a few years.


Logan Roberson: 6-5, 318. 2**
Harrah, OK
Eventually, Bedenbaugh is finally going to have the kind of center he wants for his offense rather than the smallest guy on the roster who's worthy of playing (Darlington and now Alvarez). Roberson played LT in high school and he's excellent at zone blocking. He can reach block a DE or if the guard next to him is able to reach the DL Roberson is equally adept at trading off that DL and climbing up to find and take out a LB. His quickness and expertise in the realm of combo blocking combined with his massive size make him a fantastic prospect at center.

Johncarlo Valentin: 6-5, 330. 3***
Philadelphia, PA
You'd expect a guy that's 330 pounds to be a mauler who can root out the toughest DL but perhaps struggles to find targets in space...that's what you'd expect. For Johncarlo, somehow the opposite is true. Valentin is fantastic on the move and never more dangerous than when he gets a free release to the 2nd level to find LBs to pancake. He's less great at driving opposing DL off the line of scrimmage but he can turn a shoulder and he's not giving up much penetration. My guess is that he's more heavy than powerful, so his weight is only an asset if you are trying to move it or it's coming at you after getting up to speed.

Valentin is a phenomenal guard prospect for the Sooners that could be unleashed on their favorite counter or outside zone schemes and might have a really high ceiling after he reworks his body and gets stronger.

Erik Swenson: 6-7, 285. 4****
Downers Grove, IL
The Sooners had to beat out Harbaugh and Michigan for Swenson so he's probably one of their biggest prizes in this class. I think he'll probably end up at RT as I'm not sure he's going to be quick enough in pass protection to play left tackle and keep their QBs clear of the pass-rushing talent Charlie Strong is stockpiling in Austin. We'll see though, most of his HS tape features him run blocking and he's very strong there with great feet.

Ashton Julious: 6-8, 330. 3***
Scranton, PA (JUCO)
One of three JUCO transfers to OU from Lackawanna CC, Julious has the least obvious utility for the Sooners. He's good at throwing cut blocks and when he gets on a DL he can totally envelop them with his massive body but his foot speed is iffy and I don't know if they want a 6-8 guy playing inside at guard, even though they've done it before. I suspect that Julious is here for upside and depth.

Ben Powers: 6-5, 315. 3***
El Dorado, KS (JUCO)
Evidently Bedenbaugh loves to take JUCO OL, redshirt them, and develop them on his own time before getting them on the field. However, Powers is a guy that might compete for a job immediately. I think he's got tackle feet but the Sooners will probably turn him into a plus athlete and pass protector at guard, where they now have two vacancies with Kasitati graduating and Alvarez moving to center.

Grade: B+
The Sooners grabbed four guys with exciting futures and then took a flyer on a guy in Julious that could become something special or else might be a massive depth builder. I'm not sure they found their next NFL LT in this bunch but short of that they did a great job here.


Defensive line

The Sooners are firmly committed to their 3-4 defense now, which requires two major components to work properly. The first is DEs that are strong and versatile enough to hold the edge or work inside while grappling with big offensive tackles or double teams coming from the guards or TEs as the case may be. These guys are often tweeners but long, powerful guys are the ideal. The other need is for a true nose tackle that can eat space and double teams in the A-gaps.


Amani "Moose" Bledsoe: 6-5, 263. 4****
Lawrence, KS
It's unfortunate for the Kansas schools that Oklahoma came in and stole one of the more obvious talents in the state but their 3-4 D offers greater maximization for his skill set than does the 4-3. He's long and athletic and capable of doing great work setting or rushing the edge or hand-fighting with offensive tackles but he's probably at his most dangerous when knifing inside into the B or A gaps on stunts. He'll have opportunities to do both at Oklahoma, often with the accompanying threat of a LB blitz off either shoulder that should help him to find favorable match-ups.

Grade: C+
Oklahoma didn't have a ton of scholarships to give out this class and DL is where it suffered. They got about as good a prospect as they could have found short of a future NFL nose tackle but they'll have to get more in 2017. They took four in 2015 so I'm sure they felt comfortable with fewer numbers here.


OU is playing a true 3-4 defense these days, even against the spread, and it enables them to be very aggressive at outnumbering the run game and blitzing the quarterback. They need three types of linebacker to make it work properly. First, they need a pair of inside-backers that excel at finding the ball and filling creases behind a DL that's aligned and designed to protect them and enable them to make the tackle. Secondly, they need an edge-rusher on the boundary who needs to be capable dropping into the flat but is primarily a pass-rusher. Finally, they need a space-backer to the field that should be a great blitzer but also needs to beat blocks, cover, and make tackles in space. This guy needs to be the most versatile piece of the puzzle and losing Eric Striker hurts.


Caleb Kelly: 6-3, 215. 5*****
Fresno, CA
Kelly is the crown jewel of the class and just the latest 5-star player to come to Oklahoma from the Fresno area. He's a freak athlete who can generate tremendous power over very short distances and totally overwhelm the offensive players trying to block him or escape his arms. He's a good enough overall athlete to be a space-backer for Oklahoma down the line if he can learn all the coverage roles though I wonder if he was sold more on playing on the boundary where he'd have less space to worry about and could focus on accumulating gaudy sack totals.

Mark Jackson: 6-3, 221. 4****
Cibolo, TX
I honestly wonder if A&M was more disappointed to lose Murray or Jackson to OU. I'd try and convince Kelly to learn the tricks of the trade at space-backer in order to allow Jackson to be the boundary guy because this kid is a brilliant pass-rusher with a spin move and outside move that make him unguardable for HS OTs. You want this guy rushing the passer regularly and he could thrive in either a stand-up OLB role or as a true DE once he reaches his eventual playing weight.

Jon-Michael Terry: 6-3, 220. 3***
Tulsa, OK
Terry is the one obvious inside-backer in this class. He played both ways in high school and doubled as a WR that was a feature within the offense in addition to playing inside-backer. He's very fluid and great at filling creases and keeping up with RBs when covered up by the DL but with his size he'll eventually be able to deal with blockers that reach him as well. Terry's eventual ascendance might be a relief for Sooner fans tired of seeing smaller inside-backers struggle to stop the forward momentum of bigger backs.

Kapri Doucet: 6-1, 225. 3***
Scranton, PA (JUCO)

Emmanuel Beal: 6-2, 215. 2**
Scranton, PA (JUCO)
The Sooners grabbed both outside linebackers from the Lackawanna CC defense with Doucet and Beal. Despite his larger size, Doucet was more often used as the space-backer then Beal because he's a better overall athlete and could play in space while still bringing pressure despite coming from a wider alignment. That said, Beal is a gifted pass-rusher and would be very difficult to block working off a good DE and opposite another good pass-rusher at the space-backer position.

Doucet should be helpful as they try to find someone that can handle Striker's role while Beal's participation in 2016 will likely depend on whether previous recruits like Ricky DeBerry or Ogbonnia Okoronkwo are ready to be featured pass-rushers at that Jack position occupied in 2015 by Devante Bond. There's also a chance Beal moves inside but I expect Doucet to remain on the perimeter.

Grade: A
The Sooners took numbers here but everyone included has at least three years of eligibility left (three to play two for both Doucet and Beal) so while they may plug in Doucet to help replace Striker they'll have time to develop each of these players. That coming day in the future when the Sooners could keep Kelly and Jackson on the field together full time (in their base 3-4 or perhaps in a 2-4-5 nickel package) along with "Moose" Bledsoe is not a day any Big 12 team should be looking forward to.


OU played with cover 4 quite a bit in 2015 and it's an important part of their coverage arsenal, but these days they are primarily a MOFC team utilizing more Saban-style pattern-matching cover 3 than two-deep zone. They mostly play their safeties field and boundary with the field guy (strong) more commonly carrying responsibility to play what amounts to man coverage on slot receivers while the boundary guy (free) spends more of his time playing in the deep middle.

There are two ways to make this work, one is to have a free safety with a ton of range who can cover a lot of ground on the back end while the strong safety is a guy that you're excited to have closer to the action where he can impact the game as a box player. Since OU tends to play a space-backer over the slot who is more of the "blitz the edge, join the box) weapon this isn't the way they like to do it.

Instead they go with option two, get a coverage-minded strong safety who can free up the space-backer to attack the offense and to protect a less rangy free safety from getting abused in the seam. With this model you basically want a physical corner playing strong safety while a heady and tough guy manning the deep middle at free safety.


Chanse Sylvie: 6-0, 186. 3***
Shreveport, LA
Sylvie is a fairly rangy headhunter, which you love to see from a dude with good size (6-0 and a frame that probably gets to 200 or so) for the position at the Big 12 level. With a few years of development in the Oklahoma scheme and getting versed in opposing team tactics he could very well be a free safety that thrives as the sole zone defender in man coverage who intimidates opponents coming over the middle while quickly adding an extra hat to stop the run.

Grade: C+
Sylvie is a good take and perhaps one of the corners will get moved to safety, but the Sooners need more cover safeties for the day when Steven Parker either graduates or departs for the NFL.


When they mix in cover 4 the OU cornerbacks need to be able to play physical, force play on the edge but for the most part these guys are more pure coverage players. They're going to be on islands down the sideline pretty often and while the Sooner coverage packages can send them help here and there, they both need to be pretty good and ideally one of them can play mostly without assistance.


Parnell Motley: 6-1, 180. 3***
Washington, DC
Motley is excellent at playing screens and being physical on the perimeter but he has enough COD (change of direction) and acceleration that he might be able to stick at cornerback for the Sooners. If not, his size and physicality on the perimeter would make him a great candidate for the strong safety position that this class is otherwise missing. He might also be a nickel.

Jordan Parker: 5-11, 184. 4****
Pittsburg, CA
Parker's Sparq testing results speak to him being possibly the best athlete in the whole 2016 Big 12 recruiting class and one of the best candidates to grow into the kind of lockdown corner you can build a defense around. He ran an electronically timed 4.49 40 with a 4.27 shuttle, 35' power ball toss, and 36.9" vertical leap. Parker is a physical player in addition to being a good coverage athlete and will fight blocks on the perimeter to disrupt screens like a B12 corner must. He's confident enough in his recovery speed to play off coverage and get eyes on the backfield, which is very valuable in a cover 3 scheme like Oklahoma's. This was a fantastic addition.

Grade: B+
Only two guys so this isn't a dynamite haul but both takes were excellent. Parker should be All-B12 before he's done in Norman if he wants it and Motley is a versatile project of the sort that every Big 12 defense should be stocking up on every February.

Oklahoma did very well here with a class that was limited in size and are already on track to leverage their playoff success into a strong haul in 2017 as well, perhaps adding more Texans into the mix.

The Sooners were at a disadvantage against Clemson in the playoffs, featuring a team with more and better athletes particularly in the upperclassman ranks, but they are starting to reverse that trend with these last two classes.