A look back at the 2016 recruiting class
Let's start with a recap of the 2016 recruiting class for Oklahoma. The team finished with the #19 recruiting class in the nation according to 247sports.com, which was the first time they finished outside of the top 15 since 2013 where they finished with the 16th ranked class in the nation. So this class was a little lower ranked than others but they also only took in 18 recruits after finding out Johncarlo Valentin didn't qualify, Bryce Youngquist never signed because of an unknown condition, and Adrian Hardy was told to find another place and ended up going to Louisiana Tech.
Looking back at the 18 guys who actually made it to campus, you don't have to look hard to find the star of the class, literally the star as he was the only 5 star that was landed during the 2016 class. Caleb Kelly the LB from Fresno, CA who ended up committing on National Signing Day was a huge get for Oklahoma and was the star of the class that was needed. It took him a few games to get into the rotation for Oklahoma but you could tell right away when he entered the game he was going to make an impact. Even plays where he got confused with what he was supposed to do, he was able to do something by either pressuring the QB or helping with a tackle. The break from the end of the season to the Sugar Bowl made a big difference for him as he really shined in the Sugar Bowl leading the team in tackles and making an impact on just about every play. He was very deserving of the 5 star rating and has not disappointed in his first year as a Sooner.
Since we started with defense above, we might as well continue that trend and look at players who made an impact in 2016 on the defensive side of the ball or special teams. Since Caleb Kelly was already mentioned above we will start here with Jordan Parker the CB from Pittsburgh, CA, he received plenty of playing time in what was a position that shuffled around quite a bit during the season. He earned his first start against K-State and while he wasn't challenged much in that game he did play a pretty solid game. He has plenty of room for improvement but he did at least solidify the CB carousel for the Sooners last season and seemed much more comfortable at the position as the year progressed. I think he will be the starter next season opposite of Jordan Thomas, he showed enough this year that with a little more experience under his belt he will be able to make plays when needed.
I'll go with Amani Bledsoe next the DE from Lawrence, KS, Amani received quite a bit of playing time early on in the season as OU had a thin defensive front for most of the year and you could tell right away that this kid has some talent. He surprised me with his size early on as I thought he would be a kid that would red shirt and need some time in the weight room. When he was in the games he was running down QB's and disrupting the line on multiple plays, his speed off the edge really caught my attention. Unfortunately for him he tested positive for a performance enhancing drug before the Kansas game so he will be sitting out until midway through next season. If he can improve on what he was able to do last season in a short amount of time, this kid could develop into a star.
Next up is a now "controversial" player Parrish Cobb the CB from Waco, TX. Cobb earned his first start against ULM but most remember Cobb from the Ohio State game where Noah Brown caught a TD pass while pinning it to Cobb's back. Cobb's playing time was cut short as he was injured during the Ohio State game with an ankle injury and never saw the field again except late in the game against Oklahoma State after Jordan Parker was injured. He definitely showed some signs of being a good player but we may never see what he is capable of at OU because of an offseason arrest for aggravated robbery which he has been suspended indefinitely from the team and if allegations are true he won't play another down for Oklahoma.
Other players who received playing time on defense or special teams were Mark Jackson, Chanse Sylvie, and Parnell Motley. These 3 players didn't receive a ton of playing time by any stretch but I do think you will see more of them next season. Parnell Motley a CB from Washington D.C. seems to be a name that comes up quite often from the coaches during interviews. He wasn't a highly recruited player but Kerry Cooks was big on him in the recruiting process and it seems he has done enough in practice to impress the coaches. I expect him to get some time at CB this next season and I think he can make an impact. Mark Jackson Jr. a DE/LB from Cibolo, Tx was a late addition to the recruiting class for the Sooners and a lot of people are excited about what he can do with his size. To me he was very raw when coming out of high school but you can't deny the size and potential this kid has, I don't expect him to see a ton of playing time next season mainly because Obo is back and Kelly emerged as a star but I do think he will find himself in the rotation and contribute a few sacks next season. Chanse Sylvie a S from Shreveport, LA played most of his time on special teams where he showed a lot of what we had seen from his film and that is he is a big hitter. He doesn't shy away from contact, he tries to rip your head off when he hits you and I think that will earn him more playing time this next season with Ahmad Thomas finishing up his senior year.
Lets discuss the rest(or the only one left) of the defensive players in 2016 recruiting class. None other than Jon-Michael Terry from Tulsa, OK, he didn't see the field this year but that doesn't mean he didn't go unnoticed. Terry received rave reviews from the coaches this season and quite a few from the head man himself. Jordan Evans completed his senior season this past year and Terry looks ready to take his place. I think he could be the starter right out of the gate and be able to contribute significantly from day 1 in 2017.
I'll start first with the top rated offensive recruit from last season and that is Austin Kendall the QB from Waxhaw, NC now we know he didn't see the field much because there was a Heisman Trophy candidate in front of him but from the games we did see him play in he looked like a solid QB. Now the question remains with all the talent they have at the QB position will he become a starter after Baker Mayfield decides to leave? We don't really know, we do know it will be tough as he has Kyler Murray who will be eligible next season and also Chris Robinson who is an early enrollee and highly rated QB as well. Time will tell with this one, I don't expect him to see the field much next year because Baker will be back but his junior year he should be primed and ready if he is going to be the next QB at OU.
Next up is the second highest rated recruit for the '16 class and that will be the late flip Oklahoma received Mykel Jones the 4 star receiver from Patterson, LA. Jones played in 8 games this year tallying a little over 100 receiving yards. His impact this season was minimal as the Sooners didn't look his way very often, that doesn't mean you can't see his ability though. He was mainly used in quick screens this past season and he has an ability to break a big one but it just didn't seem to happen this season. I do think in 2017 he will be a big contributor in the receiving department now that Westbrook has moved on to the NFL.
The next guy plays an important position for 2017 and that is Abdul Adams the RB from Durham, NC and why is he important? Well he will be looking to be the guy in the RB corps as Oklahoma tries to replace one of the best RB tandems in college football last season in Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon. Abdul Adams played in 7 games last season and finished with 53 carries for 283 yards. While he lacked some of the explosive ability that was showed in his high school film we now know that this can be chalked up to being knicked up for a portion of the year. I look for him to come in and split carries with Rodney Anderson next year and with Anderson having some injury history, Abdul could look to see the bulk of the carries. Now I don't want everyone to get ahead of themselves and think he is going to come in and be as productive as Perine or Mixon because it's just not going to happen but the good news is OU is returning all 5 of the offensive line starters from last season so he should be able to have some lanes to run through.
Next up is a kid that didn't see the field in 2016 was Zach Farrar the WR from Southlake, TX. During bowl practices his name was mentioned with others as having good practices so he could be a name to watch in 2017. He is a big kid that can stretch the field and there is a spot open for someone to make plays and he could be a contributor. I think he plays in '17 but I don't see him being a big factor unless he has worked tremendously on his route running. If he has done that then he could earn more playing time but I just think there are others ahead of him on the depth chart.
I'll finish with the last two guys of the class who are on the offensive line and that is Eric Swenson the OT from Downers Grove, IL and Logan Roberson the C from Harrah, OK. Swenson was a late addition to the Sooners class after things fell apart for him at Michigan with the new staff. He is a big kid that was talked about by the coaches this past season as a kid that was developing nicely. I think he is a solid player but like I mentioned with others above it is going to be hard for an offensive lineman to play this next season unless injuries pile up. Roberson is a big kid at center, he was the lowest rated recruit in the class a 2 star kid. I don't think anyone expected him to come in and get playing time right away and if they did then they don't know much about football. He is very athletic for his size and I think Bedenbaugh saw him as a project and that is exactly what he has been. I think another year or two of training in the weight room and refining his feet will pay off well for him. It's hard to say what he will amount to but there is no doubt that if he can put it together he will be a beast at the center position.
OU has been known to snag some talented people from the JUCO ranks and they were able to continue that trend in this class as there were quite a few that were able to get on the field early and make an impact. The guy who made the biggest impact was Ben Powers the OG from Butler C.C., Ben didn't start out of the gate, in fact he probably wouldn't have started a game had it not been for Ford breaking his leg during the Ohio State game. I won't say that Ben came in right away and dominated but as the year progressed he improved quite a bit. He still leaves a bit to be desired in pass protection but in the run game the kid is an animal. I'm pretty sure he loves pancakes because he pancaked a lot of people during his first year as a Sooner. It will be interesting to see how things shake out next year on the offensive line with Ford coming back and others behind him developing. I think he has earned himself a shot at keeping the position but there is some talent behind him that could press him for playing time.
Now lets got the the "Lackawanna Pipeline" that OU developed last season when they landed 3 players from the JUCO. Ashton Julius, Emmanuel Beal, and Kapri Doucet all came over to the Sooners after spending the season before at Lackawanna, I'm not sure I remember a time when OU took 3 players off the same JUCO team in one class. Beal made the biggest impact of the three as he started at LB most of the year, he made a ton of plays throughout the year but also missed on a ton of plays as he seemed to be out of position quite a bit. Beal to me is still undersized at the LB position so it will be interesting to see what the Sooners will do with him next season. Doucet also got some playing time but he didn't see the field as much and to be honest for him to carve out time next year will be difficult with the amount of talent that is coming in at the position. Julius didn't see the field at all, he's a big kid but he needs time to develop and put on some good weight in the weight room. He's a kid that I don't see finding the field next year unless there is quite a few injuries along the offensive line.
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