Stoops Press Conference Notebook

2012 RB signee Damien Williams

NORMAN, Okla. — Head coach Bob Stoops addressed a number of topics regarding this 2012 class, and Sooners Illustrated highlights it all.

Sooners filled their needs

A lot of times people focus solely on stars and how many upper echelon athletes a team gets, but head coach Bob Stoops makes it clear recruiting classes are about more than that.

It's mostly about fulfilling what a team needs, and Stoops felt the Sooners did just that with their 2012 incomers.

"Really the reception we got after Christmas and really in the last two weeks [has been good]," Stoops said. "I thought we really completed the class in really a great way. And I felt more than anything, we answered all of our needs. We came into this recruiting season and knew where most of our shortcomings and most of our--you know, we would have to sign more offensive players than defensive players. That was where the biggest need was, and I felt like we really got, you know, what we needed in those areas and answered those questions and defensively the same thing.

"We got the guys we needed and when it all balanced out at the end and I look at the whole team roster, we have the numbers we're used to having at every position. That part of it was really good."

Stoops satisfied with early enrollees

The Sooners have six JUCO transfers, and three of those are early enrollees.

Three other early enrollees come from the high school ranks, and Stoops likes all six of the guys' attitudes so far.

"We have six guys that are already here enrolled," Stoops said. "Trey Metoyer, Jordan Wade, Chaz Nelson, Kass Everett, [Taylor] McNamara and Brannon Green, you know, these guys are enrolled. And Taylor McNamara, two tight ends, a corner, a wide receiver, a DB and a D-lineman, you know, guys that will really make a big impact in the spring. So, that's a positive getting them in here early."

Sooners finished strong

It's hard to argue with the fact that OU might have had the best finish of any recruiting class in the nation.

Ranked around 15th about two weeks ago, OU moved inside the Top 10 by the start of Signing Day and closed at ninth with some solid last second signees.

In fact, three uncommitted players signed with the Sooners on the final day, including JUCO players Damien Williams (RB) and Courtney Gardner (WR) and incoming freshman defensive back Gary Simon.

"Really to complete the class like we did the last week and a half was really, really special," Stoops said. "It really did down to the end. We had four or five left, you know, coming into the last weekend and we go 4-for-4 on the last weekend and get another guy that you guys didn't know told us he was coming, Gary Simon. You know, he had told us that he was coming as well. And he's a special athlete, so that couldn't have worked out better how the guys at the end there, Zack Sanchez came with us, Will Latu.

"So, those guys, Damien Williams there at the end, too, you know, all those guys really made it special. You know, Courtney Gardner as well there the day before telling us he was coming."

Stacked wide receiver group highlights signees

The Sooners signed five wide receivers, including four on Signing Day.

Speedster Durron Neal from De Smet Jesuit in St. Louis, Mo., was the very first OU player to sign with this class Wednesday.

Sterling Shepard, Derrick Woods and Gardner later joined him, as well as athlete Daniel Brooks, who could play receiver.

Throw in the early enrollee Metoyer, and OU has quite a nice 2012 crop of wide receivers.

"Well, I believe so [that it's the best in the country]," Stoops said. "I love, you know, all these guys are special athletes when you look at Durron Neal, Sterling Shepard, Derrick Woods, the high school guys are fabulous athletes, speed, quickness, size, catching the football, running with the football, returns. And Courtney Gardner as well, a little bit older, bigger.

"You know, here's a guy, 6-3, 215, has all kinds of upside because once he gets to training with us, [he'll get better]. To me these guys are all really special. I think they got a chance to--they're gonna make a huge impact."

Lone quarterback impresses the head coach

Quarterback Trevor Knight may be the only quarterback in the class and just a three-star prospect, but that doesn't take away how Stoops feels about him.

Discussing Knight with him, one gets the sense Stoops expects he'll be special later on down the line.

Those lofty expectations that he could be the next Landry Jones could be accurate, then.

"Well, Trevor's a great leader," Stoops said. "He's talented. I love the athlete he is. I think everything starts with us. I say this all the time, and Trevor's this way. It starts with throwing the football. I think he's got a great release in how he throws the ball, and then he's got excellent feet to go with it. And that's exciting, to have a guy that once in a while pulls the ball down and can make something happen.

"You know, it always begins with throwing the ball with us first, so that's what we like about him first. But then you throw in some of the other intangibles, he's just a very bright guy, competitive, a leader."

Recruiting finish was a "team" finish

Defensive coordinator Brent Venables left for Clemson and some believed a few of the defensive commits could potentially go elsewhere.

At the very least, many expected OU to have trouble pulling in the last few defensive commits they needed after cornerbacks De'Vante Harris and Kevin Peterson de-committed.

But that was not the case, as everyone saw.

Stoops insists brother and defensive coordinator Mike Stoops' return (he came back before Venables departed) did help solidify the defensive situation, but linebackers coach Tim Kish and the rest of the staff contributed to the strong close as well.

"It had an excellent impact, but so do all of our coaches," Stoops said. "I think too much is made sometimes of one guy leaves, one guy comes or is one guy recruiting a guy? We all recruit. Our program recruits. So, these guys, you know, all of our guys hustle and at the end, I think the program recruits as much as anything. That's what makes players interested, the sustained success.

"And, you know, Mike has a great reputation of his time here and of defenses even at Arizona and how they played and the structure, so I thought it was pretty seamless, you know, the transition."

Offense returns to big tight ends

It's not to say the Sooners haven't had some skilled tight ends in the last couple years, but they certainly haven't had a set of big tight ends.

This time in McNamara, Green and Grant, they get just that.

McNamara is the lightest of the three at 235, but he's 6-foot-5, while Green is 6-foot-4, 260, and Grant comes in at 6-foot-6, 240.

"You know, it's something we always want and it's just kinda the way it happened," Stoops said. "But, you know, those guys did an excellent job for us. You got to admit those guys made a lot of good plays through the years for us, but yeah, these guys have a chance to be bigger guys. All of them have the size and strength."

Sooners made a national recruiting impact

Forget about sticking in just Texas and Oklahoma.

The Sooners raided the rest of the country with this class, including guys from coast to coast.

Latu, McNamara and Woods arrive from California and center Ty Darlington, linebacker Eric Striker and cornerback Gary Simon hail from Florida.

Grant comes from Ohio, so the wide spectrum is obvious.

"You have 11 different states represented," Stoops said. "It really shows the broad range, maybe the overall popularity throughout the country, or just the recogntion around the country, the success maybe we've had through the years. It reaches really everywhere from three players in California to a player in Maryland to three players in Florida, let alone our home base here in Oklahoma and Texas, where together we had 10 guys.

"So, anyway, a guy from Cleveland, one guy from Chicago, so all of that really makes you jump around. But it's really positive in that I love to recruit the whole country and you just have so many more opportunities, I feel, moving forward."

Two players will miss spring ball

Regarding the rest of the team, center Ben Habern will not participate in spring ball due to shoulder surgery, Stoops said.

"He had surgery and is improving and doing well," Stoops said. "So, you know, he won't go through spring ball, but he should be fine for all of the summer work, which is in our eyes what is most important. Because of all the experience he has, I don't ever feel that a guy that as a senior that misses spring ball that critical really."

Wide receiver Jaz Reynolds will also not participate in the spring, as he's still battling the kidney injury.

"No, I know they're contemplating what they're going to do with his kidney," Stoops said. "But we're not expecting him to go through spring ball, but again should be fine to go through everything in the summer."

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