Class of 2014…The Best in Over a Decade?

    Let me start off by saying this is an impossible question to answer…right now.  In five years, when this upcoming senior class is out of college, is when we’ll know if this class is the best Oklahoma has seen in this century.  Right now we can just look at potential.  Some of the lower rated players will get better.  Some of these high profile players will turn out to be busts.  As of right now, before this senior class suits up for their final high school season, this class has the potential to be the best class in a very long time. 
    The bar is set very high.  When you’re talking “best class” in Oklahoma you start with 2006.  Three 1st round picks in the 2010 NFL draft.  Two of the top three overall picks came from that 2006 Oklahoma class.  In fact, two of the top three overall picks came from that 2006 class.  Throw in the 21st overall pick and you have lofty expectations if you want to dethrone the 2006 class.  Could the 2014 class produce three first round picks?  Could it produce more?  I think this class has a chance.  Nobody would have guessed Sam Bradford would be the #1 pick when came out of Putnam City North high school.  You’ll see guys in this 2014 class that will explode at the college level and turn into potential first round picks.  The only “lock” to be a high draft pick in the 2006 class, and I use the term “lock”, VERY loosely, was Gerald McCoy.  If you looked at that 2006 class and had to point out a guy to be a first round pick, McCoy was your man. 
    The 2006 class has produced six players who have seen time in the NFL.  That doesn’t include Chase Beeler who has bounced around on three different practice squads.  Here’s a look at the 7 players from the 2006 class that had careers after college.  I listed these players in reference to where they were ranked in Oklahoma according to Rivals. 

Gerald McCoy-DT-OKC Southeast-Oklahoma Rivals Ranking: 1st
At OU, McCoy was a two time All American and All Big 12 selection in 2008 and 2009.
#3 overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft.
Selected to the 2012 NFL Pro Bowl.
Ranked as the 92nd best player in the NFL Network’s Top 100.

Jermaine Gresham-TE-Ardmore-Oklahoma Rivals Ranking: 2nd
At OU, 1st team All American and All Big 12 selection in 2008.
#21 overall pick in 2010 NFL draft.
Selected to the 2011 and 2012 NFL Pro Bowl.
172 catches, 1,804 yards and 15 touchdowns in 3 seasons with Cincinnati.

Dominique Franks-CB-Union-Oklahoma Rivals Ranking: 4th
At OU, 2008 2nd team All Big 12.
96 tackles, 6 interceptions, 1 touchdown
#135 overall pick in the 5th round in the 2010 NFL draft.
30 tackles and 3 interceptions with Atlanta

Sam Bradford-QB-Putnam City North-Oklahoma Rivals Ranking: 6th
At OU, 2008 Heisman Trophy winner, 2008 All American and All Big 12.
8,404 passing yards, 88 touchdowns, 16 interceptions in 31 games.
During 2008 season threw for 50 touchdowns.
#1 overall pick in 2010 NFL Draft.
2010 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.
9,378 passing yards, 45 touchdowns, 34 interceptions with St. Louis.

Chase Beeler-OL-Jenks-Oklahoma Rivals Ranking: 7th
Transferred from OU to Stanford.
At Stanford, selected to the 2010 All American team.
Has spent time on the practice squads with San Francisco, Philadelphia and St. Louis

Mossis Madu-RB-Norman-Oklahoma Rivals Ranking: 10th
At OU, 160 carries, 724 yards and 8 touchdowns in shared playing time.
Undrafted free agent pickup with Tampa Bay.
55 rushing yards in NFL career.

Dan Bailey-Kicker-Southwest Covenant-Oklahoma Rivals Ranking: Not Ranked in Top 30
At OSU, won the Lou Groza Award for Nation’s best kicker in 2010.
Undrafted free agent kicker with the Dallas Cowboys.
61-68 on FG’s in NFL career.

    Three first round draft picks, four overall draft picks, two undrafted free agents and a practice squad guy.  Not bad 2006, not bad.  I believe 2014 can be better.  As I sit here today, I can pick out two players in this 2014 class that I can predict to be first round picks and wouldn’t feel crazy about it.  I should feel crazy because the thought of a kid who has yet to play his senior season of high school football being a first rounder is preposterous.  Maybe it’s the summer heat.  Maybe it’s the fact that it is summer and I have to think outside the box to come up with stories.  It’s probably a terribly wonderful combination of the two.  Whatever the reason, I can give you two kids in this 2014 class that could end up being NFL 1st round picks. 
    Since I was born and raised in the 918, I’ll give my Westside selection first.  Alabama commit and Norman North quarterback David Cornwell.  To be simple, the kid has all the tools.  I’m looking forward to seeing Cornwell compete against the best competition in Oklahoma.  Cornwell moves to Norman from Jones.  Cornwell takes over a Norman North team that made it to the state championship game where they lost big to the Jenks Trojans.  Norman North will battle Edmond Santa Fe this season to see who will be the “best of the west”.  No school from the Westside has won the 6A gold ball since 1995.  The Alabama commit has a tall task ahead of him.
    Cornwell is a 6’5, 240 pound quarterback with a cannon attached to his right shoulder.  Cornwell is ranked 34th in the most recent ESPN national recruiting rankings.  He’s competed in Elite 11 competitions and last month he traveled to Oregon to compete in The Opening.  The Opening hosts great prospects from all over the country, Cornwell performed very well at the event.  I want to see how Cornwell does when he puts the pads on and faces the best competition Oklahoma has to offer.  He’s your typical pocket quarterback.  Not going to blow you away with speed.  He will blow you away with his ability to make all the throws.  One thing people can agree on, Cornwell has not maxed out in his ability right now.  He’ll go to Tuscaloosa where all they’ve been doing is winning national championships and breeding NFL draftees. 
    Cornwell will be enrolling at Alabama early and will participate in spring drills while other recruits are going to senior prom.  It appears that Blake Sims will be the guy when Alabama starts spring ball with the departure of 5th year senior AJ McCarron.  However when the 2014 season rolls around and Blake Sims takes over at the QB position, Sims will be a one and done starter since he’s a senior.  After Sims, nobody else on the Alabama depth chart has game experience.  Basing this solely on recruiting rankings, David Cornwell will be the highest profile quarterback on the roster after Blake Sims.  In fact, Cornwell is the highest rated QB to come to Alabama under Nick Saban since AJ McCarron. 
    David Cornwell will have an opportunity to be the backup and the heir apparent to the keys to the Alabama dynasty when he’s a true freshman in 2014.  It’s not a guarantee, he’s not going to have it handed to him, but Cornwell has the potential to be in charge of running Saban’s dynasty.  I talk about wanting to see Cornwell against tough competition like 6A in Oklahoma.  It’s been proven that there is no competition like SEC football.  If Cornwell has success at Alabama he’ll be having success on the brightest of stages.  He’s the prototype of what you want in a quarterback already and he hasn’t played his senior season yet.  Who knows what Cornwell does when he gets to Alabama.  Without a doubt, he’s put himself in a great position to possibly reach the next level.  In 2018, (or 2019 give or take) we could see David Cornwell as a 1st round pick in the NFL draft. 
    Now back to the 918.  Very happy to say that when picking the two players I found one player on the east side and one on the west side.  I’m also happy to say that I found one player on offense and one on defense.  Sometimes you need variety in your life people!  So I have a defensive player from the east side of the state in mind.  Any question who it is?  The best player on what could be the best Jenks defense we’ve seen in over a decade.  Steven Parker. Safety. Jenks.  Imagine me saying that in my commish voice because Parker could end up being a 1st round pick.  Similar to Cornwell, Parker already looks the part to be a standout at the college level.  Parker is even getting bigger! 
    Parker, a standout on the basketball floor, has never really had a full off season to dedicate to football.  Parker decided in May that he would focus on football this summer after playing a month with Athletes First.  Finally having an off-season to focus on the gridiron has shown instant benefits this summer.  Parker has bulked up while continuing to have that lightning fast speed.  Like Cornwell, Parker has participated in national events and has had success against the nation’s best.  In early June Parker went up to Chicago to compete in the Rivals 5 Star Challenge.  Parker was recognized by Rivals as one of the top performing defensive backs in the event. 
    Parker has not made his college decision known at this time.  The Jenks standout has offers from all over the country.  During an interview with the High School Roundup Parker said he was not close to deciding on a top 5.  Rumors swirled that Parker committed to OU, those rumors are false.  It’s understandable how that would be a good fit for Parker.  Norman is obviously close to his home in Jenks.  Jenks has had a little pipeline of top defensive players sent to Norman.  Parker also has friends already committed to the Sooners in Union’s Carson Meier and Jeffery Mead.  Parker could end up in Norman but he’s not decided on that as of right now. 
    Once Parker makes his college decision known, that college gets an instant impact player on the defensive side of the ball.  He’ll continue to get bigger and stronger.  If Parker keeps that speed that has terrorized quarterbacks he’ll be one of the best safeties in the country at the next level.  In five years Parker has the potential to join David Cornwell as possible first round picks in the NFL.  It’s close to impossible to predict this but if their is a prospect (in this case two) it’s David Cornwell and Steven Parker. 
    So the question remains, will the 2014 class outshine the 2006 class?  My answer is yes.  Obviously putting 6-7 guys in the league is impressive.  However the talent level from that class takes an extreme drop after those guys.  No one else really stood out at the college level.  That is the key to the 2014 class overtaking the claim as the best class in Oklahoma in this century.  Not only does this class have all the top level talent that can match the 2006 class, but the depth in this class is unreal.  It depends on which recruiting rankings you’re looking at, but the guys that generally are running in the 15-25 range this year would be top 10 recruits in Oklahoma most years. 
    This is going by the Super 30 that The Oklahoman puts out.  Broken Arrow quarterback Coleman Key comes in as the 13th best player in Oklahoma in the Super 30.  Most years the 6’5 Key would be without a doubt the top QB prospect in Oklahoma.  He’d be a borderline top 5 prospect overall.  Yet he comes in at 13 and has committed to Colorado State.  Key will have the opportunity to start right away and win some games and possibly establish himself in the Mountain West conference.  Steven Parker’s teammate is the perfect example.  Safety Dylan Harding comes in as the 15th best player in the Super 30.  Most years Harding is without a doubt a top 5 player in the state.  Harding isn’t built like Parker and doesn’t have the speed, it’s respectable but it’s not quite there.  Do not sleep on Dylan Harding.  Wherever he ends up will get a solid ball player who will find a way to make plays at the next level.  Harding is another one of those guys who could possibly end up being an all conference and borderline All American if he continues to progress the way he has.  Those are just two examples of the extreme depth that this 2014 class has.  Last year 33 kids in Oklahoma signed with division 1 schools.  I think we’ll have at least 50 and maybe double that number this year. 
    Once again, it’s the scary combination of top level talent and depth that makes this class the best in Oklahoma in this century.  Key and Harding are just the tip of the iceberg.  Many of the guys ranked in the Super 30 will end up having successful college careers.  I believe the combination of the talent that is in the top ten combined with the depth that you’ll see from the 15-35 range will lead this 2014 class to be the best in this century.  Whether this class gets 3 first round draft picks, that’s up for debate.  I do believe we could see 8-10 guys end up in the league at the end of the day.  This group is special, this won’t be the last time you see that said about the 2014 class.


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