The Oklahoma Sooners were close to having five members of their 2021 signing class named in the top 99 prospects in the country.
Quarterback Caleb Williams, wide receiver Mario Williams, and defensive backs Billy Bowman Jr. and Latrell McCutchin all made the final edition of Sports Illustrated All-American’s SI99. Keen observers may have been surprised wide receiver Cody Jackson dropped out of the final rankings.
In SI’s first year of the SI99, a preseason ranking was named in August, and a final post-season ranking was published in January, SIAA Recruiting Director John Garcia Jr. said.
Jackson was ranked No. 91 in August’s preseason rankings, but his production on the field was unable to land him onto the final list. During Jackson’s senior season, he hauled in 54 passes for 939 yards and 12 touchdowns for Foster High School in Richmond, TX.
“It wasn’t anything he did, he was just kind of the odd man out,” Garcia said. “We just had one or two too many guys that needed to bump in … just based on other guys moving up, not our opinion lessening.”
Throughout his entire high school career, Jackson was a home-run threat. Over the past three years, he averaged an eye-popping 19 yards per reception. Jackson already has the skills to adapt to the ball in the air, making subtle adjustments on the fly to put himself in the best position to bring down the football.
The 6-foot, 170-pound pass catcher was the first member of the 2021 class to commit, announcing his intentions to attend Oklahoma all the way back in April of 2019.
“Cody Jackson was the one who really got it started off,” head coach Lincoln Riley said during his December Signing Day press conference. “And being able to get Cody from down there in the Houston area at Foster High School where we’ve been able to get a pretty good receiver or two was great. Cody really got it started.”
Riley said he was excited how Jackson would pair with fellow pass catchers Mario Williams and Jalil Farooq to form the 2021 receiver class, as well as utility man Billy Bowman.
“It’s a heck of group. It’s a group that brings a lot of speed to the position. They’ve all got nice size, feel like it’s three playmakers. Three guys that are going to be good route runners, all that stuff,” Riley said. “These three are electric with the ball in hands and that’s important to us. Should be a great group to work with.”
To compliment his speed, Jackson should be able to add size once he’s in strength coach Bennie Wylie’s program — a timetable sped up by his decision to enroll early and start classes at Oklahoma this week.
The Sooners have a strong recent pedigree of wide receivers contributing early, with Theo Wease, Jadon Haselwood, Marvin Mims, and CeeDee Lamb all making plays from the jump under wide receivers coach Dennis Simmons.
But 2021 may prove to be a difficult year to break through, with Wease and Haselwood already established on the field, as well as tight end/H-back Austin Stogner poised for a big junior season.
And if anyone knew how to turn heads early on, it was Lamb, who has helped mentor Jackson while still in high school.
The pandemic wiping out the high school season for so many seniors made compiling the final SI99 rankings much more difficult, Garcia said.
“Because a lot of those guys who haven’t played since the fall of ’19 don’t really have anything new going on,” Garcia said, he and his team had to look deep into the existing 2019 tape. “We just kind of do our best to rank these kids based on whatever we know, you know, we just had to take it almost on surface value.
“It was definitely hard to compare one kid versus another, so the order of some of these guys will be something we look back at, I’m sure.”
With Jackson being the odd man out, Garcia said he may have some extra motivation entering his freshman year for the Sooners.
“He probably hates us, but it is what it is,” Garcia said with a laugh. “It’s part of the business.”