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December 14, 2010

Can the Sooners Seize the Opportunity?

Whether it's conference realignment, recruiting, Fall afternoons in the Cotton bowl, or simple fan pandemonium in the West End there is no denying that Oklahoma and Texas are linked together. And as often as of not over the course of the last decade the phrase 'steel sharpens steel' has been fitting of the age-old rivals. However with Oklahoma's struggles in 2009 and Texas' growing chaos since UCLA's shocking win in Austin earlier this year it would seem that that thought may no longer be in place.

Last year many Longhorn fans began to try and kick dirt on Oklahoma's ashes but in spite of a disappointing season the Sooner coaching staff put together, in hindsight, what could be their best recruiting class since Bob Stoops' arrival. With young stars like Tony Jefferson, Kenny Stills, and Trey Millard, among many others, it would seem the Sooners didn't skip a beat in recruiting in spite of the difficulties of the year.

However one must consider that of Oklahoma's 11 members of the class of 2010 who have already begun to contribute only three are from the state of Texas, usually Oklahoma's lifeblood of recruiting.

That, in part, has to do with the stranglehold Texas has placed on it's in-state recruiting but it was also aided by the reality that the Longhorns went through an undefeated Big 12 run while Oklahoma had it's worst Big 12 season since John Blake held court in Norman. With the roles being almost completely reversed -Oklahoma's season didn't end in a national championship appearance but the Sooners did attend a bowl game in 2009, something Texas failed to match in 2010- it would seem that the Sooners might hope to take advantage in 2011. But in all reality the Sooners are incredibly limited in available scholarships and may have no room to take advantage of Texas' tough times for the current senior class.

That said one place where Oklahoma figures to try and grab the bull by the Texas Longhorns is in the class of 2012. Last weekend Oklahoma hosted it's earliest junior day ever and according to all early reports it was a smashing success.

One player with an up close look at just how complicated things have become in Austin is Pflugerville (Texas) Hendrickson defensive end Victor Irokansi who was among Oklahoma's guests during the weekend.

"The visit was great. I just met all the defensive coaches and even some offensive coaches and saw some players. It went pretty well," Irokansi said. "We got to watch them practice and coach Wright seemed like my coach, I like the way he coaches. I also got to watch coach Brent Venables and coach Bob Stoops. We actually got to see an hour and thirty minutes of practice, so we got to see them coaching and how they do things."

Irokansi was one of many Texas area prospects who were in Norman on Saturday but even more will be at next month's junior day, among the already confirmed group are offensive tackle Kyle Marrs of San Antonio Brandeis North Richland Hills (Texas) Richland linebacker Jeremiah Tshimanga.

Usually at this point in the year Oklahoma is forced to see how many of their top targets are simply waiting for the Longhorns junior day in which they sweep up more than 60-percent of their on-campus offers within days of the initial offer being extended. Even with the uncertainty surrounding Texas there will still be several players Texas offers who immediately pounce on the scholarship but what of those who take a wait and see approach?

In years past the players that Oklahoma has been able to convince to dodge the early pressure of a commitment and leave Austin without making a decision are often players that Oklahoma has landed a commitment from in the long run. With players like Corey Nelson, Stephen Good, and Kevin Brent among the group.

The class of 2012 even with Texas' tumult seemed to be an uphill fight for the Sooners, particularly for some of the state's top talent like running back Jonathan Gray and linebacker Derek David. And while the Sooners are still far from being considered favorites for either players signature, the same could have been said of, now, Sooner legends Adrian Peterson and Tommie Harris at the same point in their junior seasons. And with Texas' loss of Will Muschamp it would seem Oklahoma may be able to make a bigger run than expected at most every linebacker in the state of Texas.

Aside from Gray, David, Marrs, and Tshimanga, some other Lone Star State names that you can expect Oklahoma to make a real run at include Mario Edwards, Brian Nance, Jordan Richmond, John Michael McGee, and Halapoulivaati Vaitai among many others.

Regardless of which players in particular decide to give Oklahoma a longer look than they might have otherwise it seems inevitable that Oklahoma might have a chance at some players they might not have otherwise.

The question will be, can Oklahoma capitalize on the open door Texas has provided them with?


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