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July 31, 2012

How Big is Bryant's Hit?

With the chaos that was Oklahoma football news yesterday it says something of Greg Bryant's talent that his decommitment would steal most of the Sooners headlines on Monday. The news was even more impactful when it became clear that he would not only be decommitting but dropping the Sooners entirely from consideration so that he could stay closer to home and play in the SEC.

The blanket facts are that Oklahoma lost it's most highly ranked recruit, and a player on the verge of earning the vaunted Rivals.com five-star status after a stellar showing at the Rivals.com Five-Star Challenge in Atlanta last month. The 5-foot-11, 197-pound Bryant is widely considered one of the top running backs in the country and would have been the biggest win for the Sooners in the state of Florida in Bob Stoops' tenure in Norman.

However, that ignores so much of the surrounding facts that are often tough to acknowledge, or even remember, in the midst of a day like July 30, 2012 - a day that will, perhaps, live in infamy for Sooner football fans.

First, Oklahoma already has a bevy of talented running backs on campus, including four players in redshirt freshman Danzel Williams and true freshmen Daniel Brooks, Alex Ross, and David Smith who all have at least four years of football in front of them. And in the case of Ross, there are plenty of early whispers that he could be impossible to keep off the field in 2012 due to his rare combination of size and speed.

Add to that juniors like Roy Finch and junior college superstar Damien Williams and Oklahoma's running back depth would seem to be in solid shape for the foreseeable future.

It's also worth bearing in mind that the Sooners first commitment of the class of 2013 was from standout Cypress (Texas) Ranch running back Keith Ford, who is almost unanimously considered the top running back in Texas in the class and the Sooners are also not without new talent arriving at the position, regardless of Bryant's presence on the commitment list.

Even the future seems to have reasons for optimism with 2014 star running backs Nathan Starks of Las Vegas Bishop Gorman and Broken Arrow, Okla. record-setter Devon Thomas both high on Oklahoma at this early stage in their recruitment.

So the question is why does this seem such a big blow for Oklahoma?

Perception.

Bryant seemed to open up Oklahoma to those elite national recruits that had been more sparsely found in recent years.

That's not to say that Oklahoma hasn't done a strong job in it's evaluations in recent years but when one considers years past when Oklahoma almost annually had a multitude of five-star prospects on campus for a visit at one point or another and then see a 2012 class visit list that looks unlikely to live up to that type of guest list, questions begin to be asked.

Is Oklahoma recruiting slipping?

Can Oklahoma recruit nationally anymore?

Where does Oklahoma stand amongst the nation's elite programs in the foreseeable future?

Before some fans start looking for cliffs or ropes, it's worth noting that nearly an identical conversation came about regarding the class of 2007. A class that was thought to be too heavy on chances in the state of Oklahoma and what was termed by many fans as 'lazy' recruiting.

The small class of just 21 would produce six NFL draft picks including an already well established NFL offensive tackle, an NCAA record holder, and a Fiesta Bowl MVP. If every class produced in a similar fashion, mathematically, it would mean that each and every Sooner roster would have a two deep of NFL draft picks - and the Sooners would continue winning at a stellar clip.

So while it's truly only in perception that Oklahoma has taken the hit, the adage that 'perception becomes reality' is something that is impossible to ignore. As such it will be interesting to see what Oklahoma will do with it's recruiting at the position in the class.

At the time that Oklahoma received Bryant's pledge, a commitment that should have ended Oklahoma's recruiting at the position, they still had offers out to currently uncommitted prospects Adam Taylor of Katy, Texas and five-star Derrick Green of Richmond (Va.) Hermitage. Green has remained in some contact with the Sooners and has talked about visiting at various points but has too much time lapsed for the Sooners to seriously get involved with the nation's No. 1 ranked back? It was always going to be tough but falling behind the likes of Alabama and other fellow national powers it may be all but impossible.

In the case of Taylor the Sooners have not only the regional advantage but also that of his close relationship with teammate Matt Dimon. Finally talking to people around Katy one must consider the reality that Taylor was close to committing to Oklahoma before Bryant made his choice and all but closed the door to the West Houston standout.

As for a new name, the SoonerScoop.com staff saw this summer that could be an interesting compliment to Ford in the class of 2013 is Virginia Beach (Va.) Bayside four-star running back Taquan Mizzell who was an absolute star at the five-star challenge in Atlanta in June. Mizzell is an open space player in the mold of the previously mentioned Roy Finch. Though Mizzell is a bit bigger the reality that the two are so comparable could help Oklahoma in proving they already know, and employ, ways to use him in spite of their late entrance into his recruitment.

Then again, could Oklahoma simply choose to focus it's attention on Starks and Thomas in the class of 2014 and go with the opinion that five underclassmen running backs going into the 2013 season is more than enough.

That seems a safe policy but after all that has happened in the last 24 hours, is anyone really counting on things concluding that routinely?



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