Sooners sign four Watch List defensive players in a week

Oklahoma essentially solidified the defensive nucleus for its 2009 class in one week.

In a matter of days, the Sooners received commitments from four outstanding prospects all on the ESPN 150 Watch List. OU added: a defensive end with Chris Long type qualities in Under Armour All-American Justin Chaisson (Las Vegas/Bishop Gorman); two outside linebackers -- Tom Wort (New Braunfels, Texas) and Brandon Mahoney (Keller, Texas/Fossil Ridge) -- with great acceleration who are capable of wreaking havoc on perimeter; and Steve Williams (Dallas/Skyline), an under the radar cover corner who could potentially be Oklahoma's first ESPN 150 prospect at that position in its past three classes.

Highly-regarded, ninth-year defensive coordinator Brent Venables appears to have played an integral role in the recruitment of all four prospects. Known for his great energy and stingy defenses on the field and charismatic demeanor off, it's easy to see why some of the nation's top defensive recruits have gravitated toward Venables.

"He really gets after it in practice, which I like," Chaisson told us after his commitment. "He was straightforward while recruiting me as well and didn't push or beat around the bush."

Chaisson said he had a chance to watch film with Venables on a recent visit to Norman, Okla., and the physically impressive end got to see how he would fit into the Sooners' defense from the coordinator's perspective. Chaisson said that film session made a lasting impression.

Williams viewed film and watched the high-tempo Venables lead his squad during an intense practice. The Texas native stated Venables' style of coaching definitely drew him toward the Sooners.

"He really gets going in practice, you have to know his style and that he's out for your best," Williams said. "Coach Venables is a perfectionist, he doesn't settle for less. But I am like that myself."

Both Wart and Mahoney, the duo of hard-hitting linebackers, also mentioned Venables as a deciding factor in their decisions when speaking to ESPN affiliate OUinsider this week.

These four prospects will not arrive in Norman until 2009, and it could take a few more years for them to flourish in Venables' nationally-respected defense. Unfortunately for coach Bob Stoops and Oklahoma fans, the coach with a sharp eye for reading offenses and discovering talent might be heading up his own program by that time.

Murray is first quarterback selected to the NIKE Elite 11

The selection process has started for the 2008 Nike Elite 11, held in Southern California from July 21-24. Scouts Inc. will be bringing you analysis from the main event and each Elite 11 regional camp throughout the spring and summer. The prestigious camp, set up to provide top-notch teaching and coaching, is in its 10th year and boasts several notable alumnus including current NFL star Vince Young and Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow.

This week, Aaron Murray (Tampa, Fla./Plant) was the first quarterback selected to the 2008 Nike Elite 11. After Murray's stellar performance at the Nike camp in Gainesville, Fla., his selection should come as no surprise. We had a chance to speak with Murray, a kid we feel will challenge for one of the top quarterback spots upon the release of the ESPN 150, after he accepted his invitation.

Murray said getting selected to the Elite 11 was a goal of his heading into the offseason. (He was fortunate to spend the 2007 summer as a ball boy at the event.) The modest signal-caller, who is a member of the ESPN 150 Watch List, said he was looking forward to meeting and competing against some of the top quarterbacks in the country, many of whom he has been watching and reading about.

Leading up to the camp in July, the strong armed quarterback, who has one of the quicker releases in this class said, he would actually be working hard to improve his lower-body skills.

"I think my footwork is a strength heading into college, but you can always improve your footwork, and I need to keep working on it," Murray said.

The competition will be strong this year to fill in the remaining slots after Murray. The first regional camp is scheduled for Friday, April 25, at the campus of Texas Christian University in Ft. Worth.

Sleeper in the Carolinas
As we creep closer to 1,000 evaluations on 2009 prospects, we have seen our fair share of superstars like Murray. However, we have also come across a handful of sleepers we think are getting overlooked on the recruiting trail.

Although he might not be in the same category Under Armour All-American running backs Jaamal Berry (Miami/Palmetto) and Trent Richardson were in when we first introduced them as '09 under-the-radar backs in late February, Michael Dobson (Mount Airy, N.C.) is a runner worthy of more than just the two scholarship offers he has (from Duke and Akron).

The production -- with back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons -- and versatility he also doubles as a fine defensive back prospect -- are there. At only 185 pounds, he does not possess the blazing second-level speed that would have recruiters lined up outside the door at Mount Airy High School. Dobson does, however, show great initial acceleration when he gets a seam and is rarely caught from behind.

Dobson's ability to make defenders miss with his shiftiness through the hole and running strength when spinning off tackles makes him a can't miss prospect in our eyes. Potentially a complete college back if he can continue to build up his lean frame to the 200-pound range while maintaining his current speed and quickness.

Great range and instincts at safety should make this two-way standout attractive to defensive coordinators as well. Look for Dobson to heat up on the recruiting trail through the summer and fall.

We had a chance to talk with Under Armour All-American defensive tackle Jacobbi McDaniel (Greenville, Fla./Madison County) this past weekend at the Nike Camp in Gainesville. When we asked him what his talents were aside from chasing down quarterbacks, the thick, 270-pound McDaniel said hitting a baseball.

He wasn't joking. McDaniel went 1-for-2 this week with a home run and is currently batting over .300 for his Madison County squad.

Billy Tucker is a recruiting coordinator for Scouts Inc. and has close to a decade of coaching experience at the college and high school level. Tucker has served as a recruiting coordinator for two nationally ranked Division II colleges. Most recently, he was the associate head coach and defensive coordinator for Merrimack College, which advanced to the Sweet 16 in the 2006 NCAA Division II playoffs.