When he came out of Mechanicsville, VA, Ricky DeBerry was rated as the No. 2 inside linebacker prospect in the nation in the 2015 class.
At 6-foot-1 and 230 pounds, he looked like exactly the type of player that Mike Stoops needed to finish his transition to a 3-4 defense: fast, aggressive, smart, a good tackler and versatile to slide to one of the outside linebacker spots if needed.
Instead, DeBerry played in just six games during his three years in Norman.
After redshirting in 2015, he finally saw the field in 2016 and even got to start against Kansas. He got a shot to climb the depth chart the following spring, but then he endured a prolonged illness and never caught up. He even switched sides of the ball in 2017, moving to H-back, but had Dimitri Flowers, Carson Meier and Jeremiah Hall ahead of him.
Coming out of Atlee High School, DeBerry was a 5-star recruit by Scout, and was a 4-star, top-150 prospect by Rivals, 247 Sports and ESPN. An Army All-American, he chose OU over offers from Tennessee, Texas A&M and Michigan State, as well as Alabama, Clemson, Florida, LSU, Ohio State, USC and others.
When he left Oklahoma after just three years in 2018, he already had his degree in hand. DeBerry headed home and landed at FCS Towson as a grad transfer with two years to play.
He started nine games for the Tigers at defensive line and outside linebacker in 2018, but then got hurt at the start of the 2019 season — when he would have been a fifth-year senior. The NCAA granted him a sixth year of eligibility to return in 2020, but the Tigers didn’t have a season due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The NCAA granted an extra year of eligibility for all 2020 athletes, but it's unknown yet if DeBerry will try to play his seventh season of college football in 2021.
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National Signing Day is around the corner, so SI Sooners is examining Oklahoma’s biggest recruiting what-ifs of the last 20 years.
NOTE: We've changed the theme from "regrets" to "what-ifs" because it's hard for many to get past the negative connotation of regret. Also, "what-if" is a more accurate depiction of what we're trying to convey.
The series wasn't intended to put anyone in a bad light. It's not about the coaching staff regretting that they signed these guys, or the players regretting they came to Oklahoma.
This is about players who arrived (or almost arrived) at Oklahoma but then, for whatever reason, left well before they reached their potential.
This is what college football recruiting is all about: the risk-reward that comes with not knowing a prospect's potential. For every Adrian Peterson, there's a Rhett Bomar. For every Tommie Harris, there's a Mo Dampeer.
The time period is since 2000, when online recruiting services and the current "star" system became prominent.
The rankings were compiled by SI Sooners publisher John Hoover, Sports Animal host Al Eschbach, KREF host James Hale and Sooner Spectator publisher Jay Upchurch.
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How Hoover voted:
I ranked DeBerry No. 17 of all the Sooners' recruiting what-ifs of the last 20 years. I was always surprised when Oklahoma's depth chart came out and DeBerry was either not the starter at inside linebacker, or not listed at all. I bought into his recruiting hype and just knew he would be an impact player in Norman. You have to admire DeBerry for switching to H-back his junior season, but the Sooners were full there, too.
No. 19 on my list was cornerback Parrish Cobb. Cobb was the quintessential wasted talent: after coming in and starting as a freshman in 2016, he got into trouble — real trouble, armed robbery — and he's now serving 18 years in prison. Having Cobb on the field at corner would have made it a challenge for Parnell Motley (2016), Tre Brown and Tre Norwood (2017) to all have the careers they did.
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Top 20 Oklahoma Recruiting What-Ifs