December 30, 2012

New Year Brings New Stars

With the start of high school All-American games this season, at least as it interests Sooner fans, wanted to provide a preview as to who, and what, you need to be watching for in the upcoming Offense-Defense, Under Armour, Semper-Fi, and Army All-American games.

As mentioned the bowl season starts tonight with the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl featuring Sooner commitment Stanvon Taylor. The Rivals250 prospect figures to start the game at receiver in spite of his future being set in Norman at cornerback and has been one of his team's more impressive performers through several days of practice.

Taylor isn't the biggest receiver on hand but is a natural route runner and in spite of not having overwhelming size is very good at timing his jumps and taking the ball down with strength. If Taylor is going to make a move it would help to show real top end speed and big-play ability against some of the nation's best. It's not exactly an overwhelming question about him but as he isn't playing corner it's something that he can do at wide receiver to help his ranking.

Also starring in the Houston area game will be Sooner targets at various times through the year, Caleb Benenoch, Jack Keeler, Dimarya Mixon, and Kyrion Parker - all of whom were offered by Oklahoma prior to their commitments elsewhere. With the chaos of this recruiting class it seems writing any player off, no matter how strongly he asserts his commitment, prior to signing his letter of intent would be foolhardy.

Unfortunately two Sooner official visitors, Lamar Robbins and Jamal Carter failed to make it to their flight on time and were unable to get things reworked. Robbins was rumored to be planning to make his announcement during the game.

Under Armour All-American Game (ESPN) - Friday Jan. 4 - 6:30p (central)

Leading the way in Florida will be Rivals250 Sooner running back commitment Keith Ford who figures to get plenty of attention and will have the chance to answer many of the questions that have lingered about him - namely ball security and top end speed. Earlier this month the nation's No. 10 running back saw his season end in the playoffs against Katy but though the loss was surely a bitter pill to swallow it was also for a Cypress (Texas) Ranch program that had never been to the playoffs much less the Texas 5A quarterfinals. If Ford can show the tough running and big play ability that helped carry the Mustangs on their historic run, it could be a chance for a big move for him.

If Ford, who will play for the White (Nitro) team, can answer the questions about his ability to change a game with his speed as well as showing that his fumble problems of the regular season are long behind him, he seems a player who has built the senior resume worthy of a potential jump into the Rivals100.

The game features numerous players that were offered by Oklahoma during the recruiting cycle but a few of the players who showed the most connection to Oklahoma were defensive tackles Maquedius Bain and Greg Gilmore safety Marcell Harris, offensive tackle Na'Ty Rodgers, and cornerback Maurice Smith.

Of the group Bain and Gilmore, who are both on the Black (Highlight) team, remain in contact with Oklahoma and all took visits to Norman - with all being official trips to campus this season, except Smith who took an unofficial visit in the spring.

Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl (NFL) - Friday Jan. 4 - 8:00p (central)

Later the same night will be the Semper Fidelis game which will host more Oklahoma commitments than any other game with three-star safety Ahmad Thomas and three-star receiver Jordan Smallwood both featuring on the East roster and when Smallwood goes over the middle on Friday night he'll have to be on the lookout for future teammate Hatari Byrd who'll be roaming the secondary for the West squad.

Thomas is perhaps of more interest to Sooner fans than any other player after coming off a senior season which he took his Miami (Fla.) Central squad to a state championship but was largely unseen by Oklahoma faithful. He seems like a player who could make a move this week if he can show some ability in coverage and look like more than a big, in the box style of safety.

Byrd is fighting the same stigma but has already answered the questions to a great degree after a really strong showing at the RivalsChallenge in Atlanta last July. If he can continue to build on that against some similar elite competition don't be surprised to see him make a move.

Smallwood is the player that OU fans are certainly the most familiar with but nationally is largely an unknown. Don't be surprised to see something similar to what Sterling Shepard did last year at the Under Armour game as, like Shepard, he is a refined receiver who catches the ball well. Also in his favor will be his physical style of play, a brand of play at receiver that almost always goes over well in the pell-mell secondary traffic of most all-star games.

Smallwood may make a move simply based on a strong performance but if he can show off some straight line speed and some open field ability perhaps he could sneak into the low four-star rankings? Time will tell but so far the big Jenks star isn't as well-known as he should be.

However, it's not just commitments that are of interest to Oklahoma fans as current uncommitted California prospects Aaron Cochran and L.J. Moore. Cochran, the massive offensive tackle from Atwater Buhach, has formed a special bond with offensive tackles coach Bruce Kittle and enjoyed his Nov. 9 official visit.

Meanwhile Moore had been set to take his official visit in a few weeks but word recently surfaced that he would be rescheduling that trip. Both players seem possible Sooners and perhaps the week around three Oklahoma commitments could be a big part of that possibility.

Aside from those mentioned the Sooners expressed interest in numerous players; offering talents like wide receivers Devon Allen and Darrell Daniels, defensive tackle Josh Augusta, linebacker Reggie Chevis, offensive tackles Sean Dowling and Kenny Lacy, cornerback Cole Luke, along with athletes Tyrell Robinson and his twin brother Tyree Robinson.

Army All-American Bowl (NBC) - Saturday Jan. 5 - 12:00p (central)

For the first time ever the Sooners lack a commitment in the Army All-American bowl but that's not to say there aren't a few players worth watching. Most notably the player that most assumed would be part of Oklahoma's 2013 class, Texas A&M Rivals100 defensive tackle commitment Justin Manning.

Manning admitted at the time of his commitment to the Aggies earlier this month that he would still listen if Jackie Shipp were to stay in contact. However, it doesn't sound as though things right now are set up for the Sooners to make a run but it is something worth monitoring this week.

Among players still seemingly considering Oklahoma are defensive tackle Keith Bryant, who has reportedly said he'll be visiting Norman on Jan. 25. Joining him in the game as Sooner targets are safety Tahaan Goodman and offensive lineman Christian Morris who has been on again and off again with the plan to take a trip to Norman.

Goodman seems a very unlikely signing and figures to go elsewhere along with fellow one-time Oklahoma targets Mackensie Alexander, Chans Cox, Antwuan Davis, and E.J. Levenberry.

In the end it'll be a busy week for Sooner reporters and fans alike but there is also a chance for numerous Oklahoma recruits, both offers and commitments, to make a move in the final update of rankings.

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