March 9, 2005

Ready to step up?

With the nation's No. 3 recruiting class in 2005, Oklahoma has 27 players as part of the incoming class that would almost certainly fit into a situation with at least one major division one program and start early on. At a school like Oklahoma, the Adrian Peterson's and Tommie Harris' are few and far between. Most players just aren't ready to step in for Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops and make the jump to the level of play expected.

Another important issue is walking into the right situation. For example, Chad Henne, Anthony Morelli, and Brian Brohm all figured heavily into their eventual school's offensive plans last season. However, the nation's top quarterback in the class of 2004, Rhett Bomar, walked in behind a returning Heisman trophy winner in Jason White. Clearly, what's in front of you isn't only important when talking about returning offensive linemen.

With Oklahoma losing a baker's dozen of players, who contributed heavily, either as starters or frequently rotated substitutes, the competition for playing time this spring figures to be thick. And while plenty of players will be chronicled in SoonerScoop.com's daily practice reports, it's time to focus on some of those incoming members of the class of 2005 who are just talented enough to wreck some of the hard work of their ranking players.

Demarcus Granger

Yet again, Granger finds his way onto a list of top players in the class of 2005. With the departure of Lynn McGruder Granger's signature was important. Now with the saga of Lawrence Dampeer turning into a Greek tragedy, with his monumental talent looking to fly by the wayside, the signature takes on even more importance for to the class.

The big man from Dallas Kimball is one of the nation's few defensive linemen who might actually be able to not be physically overwhelmed by the big punishing offensive lines that are part of both the Big 12, and the national powerhouses that Oklahoma faces each year.

However ready a reporter might think him to be, or even how ready Granger may feel he is, he knows that ultimately only one man can keep him physically ready to take the daily grind of going against the likes of potential All-American Davin Joseph on a daily basis.

"I have to start getting ready to train in the off-season (with strength and conditioning coach Jerry Schmidt), so I can get some early playing time at Oklahoma," Granger said.

But if Dampeer's current situation has taught fans anything it should be that all the coaching and encouragement in the world can only take a player so far. Sometimes the desire to fulfill potential doesn't equal the potential itself. As many ESPN and Nascar fans have recited for weeks, 'they can't put it in you, and they can't take it out of you'.

To say that Granger's goals for his time as being a Sooner are lofty, is something like saying shooting for the major league home run record might take a few years without the use of "substances".

"I want to play for a team that has the best shot at getting me to a national championship," he said.

Anything else?

"I just want to be part of the legends they have on the defensive line there."

Could Granger's names stand next to the likes of Selmon, Bryan, Harris, and too many others to mention? Who knows, but it's possible that Sooner fans will get to see if he's headed in that direction sooner rather than later.

Brandon Keith

With Oklahoma's need for high quality offensive tackles, and as many as this class supplied, it was almost a case of pinning the name on a personal favorite. If someone were to make arguments for players like Duke Robinson or Brandon Braxton those arguments could certainly be backed by facts of their own.

However, Keith's experience at a higher level of football has to give him a leg up on the competition. In his time at NEO he faced numerous division-one defensive linemen both in practice and on gamedays. This understanding of how quick a top notch speed rusher comes off the edge, or taking better steps in pursuit of a scraping middle linebacker can't be undersold.

When Keith emerged from McAlester, Okla. and eventually signed both with Oklahoma and NEO several respected high school coaches used phrases intimating that Keith was the best offensive line talent they had seen in their time in the Sooner state. One went so far as to say he had a chance to be an NFL All-Pro someday.

If Keith is to live up to the hype of his massive, physically gifted body he'll probably need to find the field early for Oklahoma. This drive figures to add to what is already a maturity that so far surpasses what existed two years ago and make a player completely capable of wrestling away a starting job at left tackle.

Malcolm Kelly

Perhaps no player in the country walks into a better situation than Kelly. Forget about his prodigious talent and simply think about the idea of players like Mark Clayton, Mark Bradley, and Brandon Jones all moving onto what figure to be lucrative careers getting paid to catch passes.

Kelly hopes to be there someday, and as a player who could become a starter as a freshman at Oklahoma he's got a chance to start adding some impressive credentials early on. Most assume Kelly to be tall and lanky, and while he's got room to put on weight just like any other high school receiver there is still a surprisingly sturdy frame that could carry some pretty serious weight for a player with his ability as a deep threat.

Perhaps overlooked when talking about replacing players is the fact that Kelly will have the chance to build up a rapport with a new quarterback, rather than trying to earn the trust of a guy who already has faith in several other receivers. While Paul Thompson, Tommy Grady, and Rhett Bomar have history with other receivers they really don't know the receivers on the field well enough to know who they are and are not going to work best with.

This lack of firing squad familiarity can only help Kelly in the long run.

"Coach Stoops broke it down for me really well. He was saying that Travis Wilson was the X, and that I was going to play Z. He said that coming in the player I would have to beat out is Fred Strong," Kelly said. "(Stoops) was saying that he really needed me to come in with a good attitude, and ready to work, because he was saying that he was hoping to have me as part of the offense next fall."

Another things that figures to help the 6-foot-4 receiver with 4.4-second 40-yard dash speed is the level of competition he's played. It's debatable whether or not Kelly faced better talent week in and week out than Keith, who happened to be playing against guys on college scholarship rather than a bunch of 16 and 17 year olds. The talent in East Texas, and more specifically Kelly's district -Longview, Tyler, Tyler Lee, and others- is as undeniable as the fact one East Texan like Peterson had a profound affect on another, Kelly.

Kelly along with classmates, Eric Huggins and Manuel Johnson all have chances to play but work ethic and ability to learn the offense will certainly go a long way in determining which one of the three is most likely to fill a hole in the line-up.

Allan Patrick

If ever there was a player who arrived on campus figuring to be more of a deadlock to become a near cult favorite, it's Patrick. From his graphic descriptions of his hitting style, to the embodiment of those hits, he'll be favorite on the floor of Owen Field for several years to come.

There were some recent rumors about Patrick having qualification issues, but those have seemingly been put to rest. Now it's time to think about Oklahoma's severe lack of experience at safety and how Patrick's bravado and attitude may fit perfectly into Oklahoma's needs.

Young players need someone to look up to, and while not everyone needs to be the excitable player that Patrick is, it's certainly something the secondary lacked last season after the departure of ex Sooner head hunter Brandon Everage. If Patrick can instill that old attitude into not only the secondary but a relatively young defense in general, he could do a lot to restoring some confidence that was lost in the season-ending disaster against USC.

Patrick will essentially be two years removed from football after a season ending leg break, but the coaches already knew of his talent and seem to feel that he could be a contributor very early in his Sooner career.

"The coaches seem to think I could come in and really push for playing time," Patrick said. "I think I could too, I know they lost their starter, and it could be a really good fit for me."

As for why he would be most important to a defensive secondary that some opposing coaches have been so bold as to label as "soft" in recent years, there's a simple phrase that Sooner fans can't stop uttering.

"I like to put hammers to bones."

There are many Sooner recruits who could make their way onto the field, and it has nothing to do with current talent, it's simply how deep and gifted the Sooner class of 2005 really is. Players like Reggie Smith, Nic Harris, and Ryan Reynolds all could figure into the team's plans next season.

Have an opinion on other players who might find the field in 2005? Talk about it on the Crimson Corner.



 

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