SoonerScoop - OU's Top 10 LB Signees of Rivals Era
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OU's Top 10 LB Signees of Rivals Era

Being a linebacker at Oklahoma not only places you in the company of some of college football's elite - it is a position that holds iconic value.

Boz.

Dante.

Rocky.

Teddy.

Striker.

If you're a dominant linebacker during your time in Norman, you'll be endeared by the Sooner faithful by a singular iconic name for generations.

Therefore, it's no surprise that Oklahoma hasn't had much trouble bringing in talented tacklers during the Stoops era - including four five-stars on this list. There would be even more five-stars if this list were to include JUCO signees like Mike Reed, Lance Mitchell, and Pasha Jackson.

Just last week, the class of 2017 added a commitment from Hayward (Cali.) Stellar Prep Rivals100 linebacker Addison Gumbs, whose No. 65 overall ranking would place him at No. 8 on this list if it were to hold serve through signing day.

This list also contains many reminders of the myriad of variables, often outside of football, that can impact the careers and lives of these young men

10

Breakdown: Johnson was a two-way star out of Gilmer (Texas) as the state's No. 17 overall prospect. And even though many, including the Rivals network, believed the 6-foot-1, 210-pounder's future was brightest at linebacker, Johnson was set on proving himself as a running back. After just one season in Norman with limited carries behind veterans DeMarco Murray, Chris Brown, and Mossis Madu, Johnson transferred to Abilene Christian for the 2009 season. Unfortunately for Johnson, he was met in Abilene by Charcandrick West and Daryl Richardson - two future NFL running backs. The one-time No. 136 overall prospect was out of football before the 2010 season.

Justin Johnson Career Statistics
Season Rushing Yards Yards Per Carry Touchdowns

2008

24

1.7

0

2009 (ACU)

103

3.3

0

9

Breakdown: Pop in Wort's high school highlight tape and you'll be greeted by one of the most ferociously entertaining reels in the history of the Rivals network. The New Braunfels (Texas) and English born star held offers from all across the country including Florida, Miami, USC, and nearby Texas A&M, but Wort chose the Sooners. Unfortunately for Wort, his first season was lost to redshirt in Norman due to a torn ACL. While the explosion probably never fully returned, Wort still showed he could be a productive linebacker - earning Rivals.com Freshman All-American honors in 2010. After a 2011 that garnered Wort a Honorable Mention All-Big 12 accolade, his production dipped in a new system in 2012. After earning his degree, he forego his senior year of eligibility and declared for the NFL Draft. A muscle tweak at his pro day forced Wort to sign as an undrafted free agent in Tennesse, before ultimately being released. Wort can be found coaching back in San Antonio, not far from his former New Braunfels home, after a brief stint playing profession football in Europe.

Tom Wort Career Statistics
Season Tackles Sacks Tackles For Loss

2010

66

4.5

7.5

2011

71

3.5

4.5

2012

53

2.0

5.5

Total

190

10.0

17.5

8

Breakdown: Pleasant received offers from every major college football team in the country after racking up 136 tackles as a senior at Lewisville High School. The No. 12 ranked player in the state of Texas spurned the in-state schools and defending national champion Ohio State to sign with the Sooners. Despite never becoming a consistent starter during his time in Norman, Pleasant logged quality playing time over a four-year career that witnessed three Big 12 Championships. Pleasant's individual highlight came at UCLA in 2005 when starting in place of an injured Clint Ingram, where he recorded 10 tackles, two tackles for loss, and one sack. However, that would prove to account for 100-percent of his career sacks and 80-percent of tackles for loss, as Pleasant never quite lived up to his top 100 billing out of high school.

Demarrio Pleasant Career Statistics
Season Tackles Sacks Tackles For Loss

2004

3

0

0

2005

10

1.0

2.0

2006

11

0

0

2007

24

0

0.5

Total

48

1.0

2.5

7

Breakdown: It was a big deal when the top ranked recruit in the state of Oklahoma announced he would be signing with the Sooners rather than one-time favorite Oklahoma State. The former YellowJacket lead Kingfisher to a state championship as a junior, while tallying over 500 tackles in his high school career, and even rushing for 12 touchdowns as a senior. Lofton, the highest ranked inside linebacker on the list, would eventually live up to the hype in Norman with a breakout junior season in 2007. Lofton was named a FWAA, Sports Illustrated, and Sporting News First Team All-American, and was honored as the Big 12's Defensive Player of the Year. Nary a Sooner fan will forget Lofton carrying Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel on his back after a game-securing fumble recovery or his interception against the same Tigers passer in the Big 12 Championship Game. It was a special season that propelled Lofton to a second round selection by the Atlanta Falcons. Lofton is currently a free agent entering his ninth NFL season, where he has finished top five in the league in total tackles twice in 2011 and 2014, playing for the Falcons, New Orleans Saints, and Oakland Raiders.

Curtis Lofton Career Statistics
Season Tackles Sacks Tackles For Loss INT FF-FR

2005

3

0

1.0

0

0-0

2006

32

0

6.0

0

0-1

2007

157

1.0

10.5

3

4-1

Total

192

1.0

17.5

3

4-2

6

Breakdown: Box was a bona fide superstar at Enid High School. As a senior, he played quarterback, running back, wide receiver, safety, and linebacker while leading the Plainsmen to the 6A state title game. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound lifelong Sooner fan committed to play for Bob Stoops and Oklahoma as a linebacker. The versatile Box could have also been a top baseball prospect, but chose to focus solely on football - where he was the top ranked recruit in the state. The Enid native produced almost immediately when seeing the field as a redshirt freshman in 2008 - even starting four games. However, a knee injury in the Bedlam victory was the beginning of a career riddled by injuries that kept him off the field. Despite missing so many games, Box produced memorable turnovers and games with multiple tackles for loss in each season as a Sooner. Tragically, Austin Box passed away in May of 2011 before his final year in Norman.

Austin Box Career Statistics
Season Games Tackles Tackles For Loss Interceptions FF-FR

2008

10

37

7.5

1

0-0

2009

11

33

3.5

0

1-0

2010

9

37

2.5

1

0-1

Total

20

107

13.5

2

1-1

5

Breakdown: It's not every day a top 50 player in the country comes out of eight-man football, but that's exactly what happened with Dewar superstar Ronnell Lewis. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound behemoth was a one-man wrecking crew, as perhaps no other film in Rivals history personified the cliché "a man amongst boys". Once arriving in Norman, Lewis made a reputation as a hard-hitter almost immediately by recording multiple bone-crushing special teams hits in the Sun Bowl versus Stanford. Lewis would eventually find a home at defensive end, where he doubled his career tackle totals as a junior and compiled an impressive 13 tackles for loss. After being named to the Coaches All-Big 12 First Team, the former Dewar standout would forego his final year of eligibility and become a fourth round draft pick of the Detroit Lions. After being released by the team in 2013, Lewis bounced around the Canadian Football League and multiple indoor football leagues over the next three years, before his final release by the Spokane Empire last January.

Ronnell Lewis Career Statistics
Season Tackles Tackles For Loss Sacks Interceptions FF-FR

2009

22

2.5

1.0

0

2-1

2010

37

5.0

3.5

1

0-1

2011

59

13.0

5.5

1

1-1

Total

118

20.5

10.0

2

3-3

4

Breakdown: The highest ever ranked Sooner signee to hail from The Centennial State, Latimer was the lone high school member of a trio of five-star linebackers penned in the 2002 class (Lance Mitchell and Pasha Jackson). Latimer was named Colorado Defensive Player of the Year by the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News and was also awarded the Gatorade Colorado Player of the Year as a senior. The 6-foot-4, 215-pound linebacker would ultimately have a productive career in Norman and was named honorable mention All-Big 12 as a junior and senior.

Zach Latimer Career Statistics
Season Tackles Tackles For Loss Sacks Interceptions

2003

0

0

0

0

2004

12

3.0

1.0

0

2005

84

5.5

4.0

0

2006

84

10.0

2.0

3

Total

180

18.5

7.0

3

3

Breakdown: Reynolds is another example of how injuries can derail a career of a talented young player. After playing in spot duty as a true freshman, the former five-star would lose his next two seasons to subsequent knee and neck injuries. Once finally returning to the starting lineup fully healthy in 2008, Reynolds was spectacular to begin the season - even earning Brent Venables first ever perfect grade in a victory over Baylor. However, Reynolds would suffer an infamous torn ACL against Texas and the Oklahoma defense could never recover -- and it appeared neither would Reynolds. After an admirable honorable mention All-Big 12 senior season, Reynolds body had finally taken enough, and the football world was forever left wondering in another case of what could have been.

Ryan Reynolds Career Statistics
Season Tackles Tackles For Loss Sacks Interceptions

2006

3

0

0

0

2007

60

8.0

2.0

1

2008

46

5.0

0

0

2009

79

8.0

3.5

1

Total

188

21.0

5.5

2

2

Breakdown: Patterson is the forgotten third five-star signee in the class of 2004 behind Adrian Peterson and Rhett Bomar, mostly because the Chicago-native would never make it to Norman. The former No. 3 outside linebacker in the country would enroll at NEO, before leaving that program for Joliet Junior College in Illinois, and ultimately signing again with Kansas State, where Patterson would tally just 18 total tackles.

1

Breakdown: The most recent addition to the list is also its highest ranked member. Kelly is the crowning jewel of a recent Fresno-to-Norman pipeline that included four-stars like Michiah Quick, Hatari Byrd, and L.J. Moore. Oklahoma landed the No. 3 player in the state of California over Notre Dame, Alabama, USC, Oregon, and Texas when he finally announced his decision on signing day last February. The five-star, who recorded 10 sacks as a senior at Clovis West, is already building buzz as a true freshman in Oklahoma's Fall Camp. It won't be a shock to see the highly talented Kelly see the field sooner rather than later, as the Sooners attempt to replace three starting linebackers from a year ago.