NORMAN – Oklahoma's latest recruiting class features at least one "can't-miss” prospect: Phil Loadholt. That's can't miss as in if you cross his path — or his shadow — you can't miss him. At 6-foot-8 and 360 pounds, Loadholt is, well, a load. "Wait till you see this guy,” said Sooners coach Bob Stoops. "When he walks around with Duke Robinson and Branndon Braxton, those guys look small.” And in no other context have the 6-5, 330-pound Robinson and the 6-6, 318-pound Braxton ever been referred to as small. Now it's up to Loadholt to line up next to Robinson and Braxton, filling the one opening on OU's offensive line: left tackle, vacated by senior Chris Messner. Offensive line was again a Sooner recruiting focus, with Loadholt leading five new additions for an offensive front that only now counts 13 scholarship players. Overall, however, Wednesday — national signing day — delivered diversity and even some drama for OU. The Sooners closed with a surprise, as Norman High standout Ryan Broyles completed a double-switch, finally signing with OU after twice announcing an allegiance to Bedlam rival Oklahoma State. And the Sooners closed strong, adding two four-star defenders in end Frank Alexander of Baton Rouge and linebacker Travis Lewis of San Antonio, along with Broyles. "Really pleased with our assistant coaches, how they worked and hustled to the end,” Stoops said. How well did the Sooners do? The recruiting analysts pegged OU all over the board in their rankings. Rivals.com liked this class best, putting the Sooners No. 14 nationally. ESPN.com had OU at No. 19. "To put together this class, and what they did late — landing some of the kids they have and filing some needs, especially at defensive end and offensive line and quarterback, I'm actually very, very impressed,” said Jeremy Crabtree, national analyst for Rivals.com. But Scout.com differed considerably, with OU No. 31. "When we watch and evaluate, we like what we see,” Stoops said of his latest class. "And we have always gone on that. We like what we see in all these guys. "We are thorough in watching our tape and trying to estimate how big they can be and what they do. And we feel there will be a bunch of these guys who will really do well.” OU signed a relatively small class, affecting its position in the rankings, yet finished with more than anticipated a month ago. A group that once figured to total 15 grew when Adrian Peterson opted for the NFL, wide receiver Eric Huggins decided to transfer and three injured players — offensive linemen Ben Barresi and Curtis Bailey and tight end Aaron Cummings — were shifted to medical scholarships due to career-ending injuries. The Sooners addressed several needs, including linebacker and defensive end, where five starters — and some of the defense's most productive players — moved on. OU added three linebackers, including Lewis, who switched his commitment from Nebraska, and Enid star Austin Box, one of the top prospects in Oklahoma. Immediate impact should come from Mike Reed, the top-rated junior-college linebacker and the No. 2 juco player overall according to Rivals.com. "A very physical, powerful guy,” Stoops said of the 6-1, 250-pound Reed, a juco All-American out of California. Alexander's signing day commitment gave OU three defensive ends, as he joined Muskogee's Jonte Bumpus and Lawton MacArthur's David Anderson. On offense, quarterback Keith Nichol is the headliner. Among the top-rated prep quarterbacks, Nichol is expected to compete for the starting job in the fall. Then there's Loadholt, who apparently is more than just a big body. As a senior at Fountain High in Fort Carson, Colo., he was runner-up for the state's Mr. Basketball award. In football, he was first team All-State at defensive tackle, second team at tight end.
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