Recruiting ROI, No. 3: Cody Ford

Parker Thune

Every Tuesday and Thursday, SI Sooners unveils a new installment in the Recruiting ROI series. Over the course of 10 weeks, the series examines 20 Sooners over the last 20 years who dramatically exceeded expectations in the crimson and cream.

If Cody Ford was going to go the Power 5 route out of high school, his options were severely limited.

A three-star recruit that ranked well outside 247Sports and Rivals' top 300, Ford had interest from a gaggle of FCS and Group of 5 programs. But within the Power 5, his offer list consisted of TCU, Mississippi State, Arkansas, and Oklahoma.

That's it.

He didn't project as a starter in the short term, and he certainly didn't strike anyone as the type of talent that would one day leave school a year early to enter the NFL draft. But as so often is the case in football recruiting, appearances can deceive.

Ford originally committed to TCU, but Bill Bedenbaugh and the Sooner staff eventually flipped the Pineville, LA, native, and he signed with Oklahoma in February 2015. Come the fall, he redshirted, but impressed coaches enough to earn Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year honors. A year later, he was the Sooners' Week 1 starter at left guard, but broke his fibula three games into the season and wouldn't play again in 2016.

As a redshirt sophomore in 2017, Ford re-emerged as a spot starter at the guard position. However, there simply wasn't room for him on an absolutely loaded Oklahoma offensive line. Orlando Brown, Dru Samia, Ben Powers, and Bobby Evans — all future NFL draft picks — rendered Ford's impact minimal, and he made just four starts. But when 2018 rolled around, no one would keep him off the field.

Ford slid from his natural position at guard to earn All-Big 12 honors at right tackle, anchoring a line that would win the Joe Moore Award as the best in college football. After Oklahoma's season-ending loss to Alabama in the Orange Bowl, he announced his intentions to forgo his senior season and enter the 2019 NFL Draft.

When draft weekend rolled around, eight total Sooners came off the board, including four offensive linemen. Ford was the first of the Oklahoma linemen selected, going 38th overall to the Buffalo Bills. In his rookie season, Ford played all 16 games, splitting time at guard and tackle for a resurgent Bills team.

As he heads into just his second professional season, Ford has already become a cornerstone for a franchise on the way up. It won't be long before he's paid handsomely for his stellar performance in the trenches.

In his prep days, Cody Ford wasn't a can't-miss talent by anyone's standards. But when all was said and done, he only needed one season as a starter in Norman to solidify his status as a top NFL prospect. Bill Bedenbaugh's recruiting acumen has helped him identify many a hidden gem that recruiting analysts and other college coaches overlooked, and there's perhaps no Sooner who reflects that reality more than Ford.

Once upon a time, he was an afterthought amongst a stockpile of talented Sooner linemen. Now, Sooner Nation will no doubt continue to see Ford in action at the professional level for years to come.

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