August 4, 2011

Just Joshin': The Best SoonerScoop.com Has Seen

Just Joshin' is a commentary article written by SoonerScoop.com editor Josh McCuistion. It's a lighthearted look at any topic possible relating to Oklahoma athletics.

Well it's hard to believe but I've now officially spent 10-years working for the site - there are so many people to thank but let's be honest if it wasn't for me spending far too much squinting at ants on a screen or traveling to East Nowhere to see future Sooners none of you all would have allowed me to turn this craziness into a career.

Now I should make a disclaimer, I told some folks at Rivals.com's convention in June that I had already been there 10 years and technically it was true but actually doing work…

Now that my conscience is clear I can do what I do best, simply steal someone else's idea and make it my own. Gotta give credit to our very own 'Bling931' for giving me a great kind of 'anniversary' idea when he asked about the best players I've seen at each position during my time at Rivals.

As that field is almost unfathomably large we'll have to narrow it a bit and say guys that I actually saw with my own two eyes. Still that leaves the hundreds of camps, games, practices, and all-star events I've visited through the years and leaves me plenty of names to work with but there may be a few surprises when you talk about who I have seen and who I've missed out on.

While it would be easy to go about this thing like a regular roster, we'll start with the no-brainers, some positions I don't even have to think they are just there and it's just something that sticks in my mind to a degree that it's going to take a future hall-of-famer to get them out of their lofty status.

I'll go over the tops at their position and then after we're all done actually build out a starting line-up of my elite guys. Try and remember this is strictly based on what I saw in high school, not what they would become (as there are a few busts on the list) in the college ranks or even the NFL and that it's only guys I saw with my own eyes.

First, the obvious choice considering what is happening right now in Oklahoma recruiting 2012 Springfield (Mo.) Hillcrest five-star Dorial Green-Beckham. At 6-foot-5 and 220-pounds he has the wingspan of a C-5 and with legitimate track championship speed the athleticism to overwhelm just about any cornerback daring enough to challenge him. Simply put 'DGB' is as college ready as any receiver to come out of the high school ranks since well, maybe recently retired future hall-of-famer Randy Moss?

From the prime of athletes, to perhaps the most unexpected, defensive tackle. There are two possibilities I kind of went back and forth on but in the end we all know I'm a guy who will take speed over pure mass every time and thus Gerald McCoy got the nod over Halotia Ngata though I can say there were very few positions that were closer in my eyes. The thing that separates these two from the pack for me is that I was present at both of their Army All-American weeks and from start to end they were absolutely dominant and in spite of each having a 'rival' that some thought were better - for Ngata it was Rodrique Wright and for McCoy it was Al Woods- they pretty clearly made it known they were the country's top defensive tackle when the week was over. Ngata was, and is, incredibly powerful and was too much for any lineman from week beginning to end while McCoy showed that even in spite of not facing a lot of legit offensive linemen in his time at Southeast that he was simply too athletic and had too hot of a motor to be blocked.

As one onlooker told me about McCoy midway through the week of practice; "the only thing stopping that kid from being an NFL guy is a few college offseason workouts."

McCoy shared a class, and on one mid-October evening, they shared the same field.

To say that Rivals.com has some egg on their face about the ranking of Jermaine Gresham is a mild understatement. It seemed that there was an idea that perhaps a tight end shouldn't be a five-star and a year after placing Martellus Bennett in their top 10, it's understandable how gunshy they were. However, from the start I felt Gresham was a five-star talent and still think 'higher-ups' had trouble accepting the idea that two five-star talents were in Oklahoma on the same year. Gresham's blend of speed, size, and hands made him an eventual NFL first rounder and vindicated my thoughts from day one.

But before I get too high on my horse, remember there were actually three five-star talents in state that year (tips his cap to Sam Bradford).

So right now I seem somewhat like a genius, just touting my stuff and saying 'I always saw these guys coming' but let's be real here anyone who has read me long enough realizes I'm ok with admitting my errors and though his career isn't done it's hard to ignore that R.J. Washington to date has not been the guy I told you all he would be. With his great first step, and just overall athletic ability that I saw both in a high school game and at the Army All-American game there was no doubt for me that he was going to be something special, but so far Washington has half a sack for his career. That said, all the talent is still there that saw him dominant the Fort Worth area for much of his high school career, we'll see if he ever lives up to it.

OK so obviously to date this has had a very pro-Oklahoma tint to it but make no mistake there have been a lot of guys both outside of the Sooner State as well as guys that never ended up wearing crimson and cream - in fact some never really even considered the Sooners- that also made this list.

Leading that charge are Bryce Brown at running back, Patrick Peterson at cornerback, and the worst of all things, you all will have to read all about what a stud former Texas Longhorn Sergio Kindle was, or I suppose you could just skip over it.

First, for those wanting to shoot down Brown, the kid went into the SEC and had a very solid freshman year on a very mediocre team in the always tough SEC East - which forgets that he was the team's leading rusher against eventual national champion Alabama - but again that's not what we're focusing on here. I remember watching his freshman highlights and thinking 'this kid would have 20 offers if he was a senior' and by the time he was a senior he could pick his college due to great speed and a frame that helped him run a lot tougher than he got credit for. I'll go ahead and say it, if he isn't a 1,200-yard back for Kansas State this year I'll be shocked.

Another guy I needed about two seconds to see to realize how elite he could be was Peterson - at that point it was Johnson - and I'm not breaking any news to talk about why he was special, basically he was just a physical freak from day one. His size and speed ratio are things that are just rarely seen, this was no great evaluation, dude was beastly and anyone could see it.

Finally, Kindle, for all the great things I said about McCoy and all that I thought of him I thought Kindle was the No. 1 player in the country in a 2006 class that was very talented (six of the top 10 were first rounders, four of those in the top 10). The stuff that he did on his highlight reels was nothing short of awe inspiring and while I didn't get quite the same feel from his performance in San Antonio at the Army game I still thought the ranking would have been justified. In the end, I make no bones about the thinking that his talent was not well used during his time in Austin and I can't think of how many millions it probably cost the kid. Stick that guy in a Nick Saban 3-4 start drawing up plans on your computer and you'd run out of server space before you ran out of ways for him to disrupt an offense. His length and change of direction, I've not had the pleasure to see any like it.

While those are some of the no-brainers a few guys weren't quite as obvious choices due to either lack of elite competition or simply one position being fairly even across the board. One such position includes another player that Oklahoma was never really involved with - current Florida Gator Matt Elam.

I admit I'd only seen him on film and thought Elam was a talent but seeing him up close at the 2010 Army All-American Bowl made a believer out of me, the kid was powerfully built - think of a Quentin Griffin who doesn't have to show I.D. to ride the big kid rides - and when you watched him close on plays in the flat, you just knew that the hype was legitimate. If the kid doesn't turn into a stud to me it will be a matter of Will Muschamp not changing his 'four or five cornerback' type of secondary to make Elam fit into the equation, kid is simply too good to fail in my opinion.

While it may not be as 'sexy' as some of the other spots we've highlighted, center is as much about between the ears as it is what gets done on a bench press and the best I've had a chance to see up close would have to be current Sooner Ben Habern. Now it should be kept in mind that centers don't usually draw a lot of attention and I have to say of the guys who have played for Oklahoma he is the only one I've seen up close but that doesn't change that Habern was a solidly built guy with absolutely great feet. When you add in that he'd have been dominant at the Texas 5A level and was playing small private schools it was almost comical to watch one helpless defender after another be mauled by Oklahoma's current starting junior center.

Joining him along the offensive line are a pair of Texas behemoths that Oklahoma tried, but eventually failed, to land. At tackle it's hard to find a more perfect embodiment of the position than former Jasper star Jorrie Adams. I've told this story a hundred times but during his 2003 All-American game Adams was sharing a field with fellow star offensive tackle Michael Munoz, son of arguably the greatest offensive tackle in football history, Anthony.

As I sat on the sideline I was lucky enough to cross paths with the hall-of-famer and once I regained strength in my hand following a vice grip of a handshake (amazing considering the amount of damage done to his hands) and stopped tripping over my own tongue I talked to him about who he liked and he spent about a second deliberating.

"If (Adams) has his head on right he'll take a lot of trips to Hawaii (pro-bowl)."

Not only did he not tout his own kid, who was a great talent in his own right, he talked about NFL stardom of a high school kid. Adams was moved to defensive tackle and quickly fizzled out in College Station, perhaps one of the all-time 'what should have been' situations.

A year before Adams the Sooners made a really strong run at Plano East road grader Justin Blalock and in fact at one point the 6-foot-4, 325-pounder was a member of SoonerScoop.com as something close to 'NextOUCommit?' but the incredible class Texas put together in 2002 was simply too much and he was swept up in a group that became the backbone of Texas' 2005 national championship squad. Blalock was a big part of that starring at both guard and tackle and is now enjoying a solid career with the Atlanta Falcons.

As I've always been a guy who enjoys the big uglies it only seems fair that I place the game's most high profile position behind the trio of players that protect him. I went back and forth about quarterbacks as there were plenty I liked and I admit that I was a big fan of Jimmy Clausen out of high school but the nod went to a guy from Houston, Texas - Vince Young. Simply put the guy was a one-stop shop in the second U.S. Army All-American bowl, and the last one to not be held at the Alamodome, He threw, he ran, he did a bit of everything and made the best high school players in the country look like a bunch of little boys chasing him around. It's not a popular pick but the kid was just incredible, he really was.

It's hard to believe it's been 10 years with Rivals.com, and it's even harder to believe that some of these guys didn't turn out to be the players I thought they might. However, stuff like this just shows me how much we all still have to learn about evaluations, and clearly looking at this list…none any more so than myself.

My Starting Line-Up

Quarterback - Vince Young

Running Back - Bryce Brown, Darrell Scott

Wide Receiver - Jeff Fuller, Dorial Green-Beckham

Tight End - Jermaine Gresham

Offensive Guard - Justin Blalock, Tray Allen

Offensive Tackle - Jorrie Adams, D.J. Fluker

- Ben Habern

DE - R.J. Washington, Devon Kennard

Defensive Tackle - Gerald McCoy, Haloti Ngata

Linebacker - Ahmad Brooks, Sergio Kindle, Chris Patterson

Cornerback - Patrick Peterson, Brandon Harris

Safety - Matt Elam, [/db]Tony Jefferson[/db]

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