Oklahoma football: Why David Stone’s commitment is so important for Sooners

David Stone, IMG Academy National
David Stone, IMG Academy National /

Upgrading the defensive line has been a major focus of Oklahoma football head coach Brent Venables for the last two recruiting cycles, and over the weekend the Sooners hit one out of the park in landing five-star D-lineman David Stone to the 2024 class.

The elite defensive line talent that the Sooners have recruited through traditional channels as well as via the transfer route since Venables’ return to Norman are game-changing moves in OU’s ability to transform its defensive performance. Stone’s commitment shows just how far the Sooners have come in getting highly rated defensive prospects to come play for Oklahoma.

Stone is a huge pickup for Venables and the Sooners and a player OU has been targeting for the past couple of years. In addition to being one of the top prospects in the country — not just at his D-line spot but overall in the 2024 class as well (No. 6 player nationally) — he is a home-grown product from the Sooner State.

The 6-foot, 4-inch, 275-pound defensive lineman is from Del City, Oklahoma. He played on season at Del City High School before transferring to the prestigious IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, in an effort to play against stronger competition and take his skills to another level.


As you might imagine, given the enormous talent level, practically every major program in the country was interested in Stone. In the final days, however, the recruiting battle came down to Oklahoma, Miami (Florida) and Michigan State. Miami put on a full-court press over the summer months to steal Stone away from the Sooners — and Stone even acknowledged after his public announcement on Saturday that his parents wanting him to chose Miami — but Stone said Oklahoma was where he really wanted to be and play for Venables and defensive line coach Todd Bates.

Because of all the headlines this summer around the Sooners’ 2024 recruiting class, it’s easy to overlook the highly rated defensive pickups in the 2023 class. Oklahoma added two five-star defensive players to the roster a year ago, and both are expected to see plenty of action during the 2023 season. Safety Peyton Bowen and defensive end P.J. Adebawore were the No. 2 safety and No. 3 edge rusher, respectively, in the 2023 class nationally.

Bowen and Adebawore were just two of eight other elite defensive pickups four-and five-star prospects) in the Sooners 2023 class, and OU already has six elite defensive commitments in its 2024 class. This represents not only solid progress in the major defensive upgrade that is underway in Norman but the beginning of a wholesale transformation in the Sooners’ much-maligned defensive capability.

To demonstrate how important David Stone’s commitment is to Oklahoma, assuming he signs his letter of intent in December to formalize the process, he will be the highest rated defensive player to sign with the Sooners since defensive tackle Tommie Harris in 2001.

On the edge of paranoia because the Sooners struck out in trying to land several other five-star defensive prospects over the last 12 months, OU fans were beginning to doubt the ability of Venables and his staff to close out the deal on top defensive recruits. Earning Stone’s commitment should put that concern to rest.

A year ago, Oklahoma lost out in the recruitment of five-star DL David Hicks. OU had long been considered to be the favorite to land Hicks, the No. 1-rated D-lineman in the 2023 class. Hicks ended up at the last-minute, though, surprising everyone by committing to Texas A&M. The Sooners had targeted Xadavian Sims, another highly touted interior defensive lineman in the 2024 class but ended up losing out to Oregon. And, most recently, Williams Nwaneri, ranked by 247Sports as the No. 1 defensive lineman in the country, also for a long while considered to be favoring, disappointed Sooner fans by staying home to go to Missouri.

This was one more reason so much was riding on Stone’s commitment decision.

It’s easy to understand why Oklahoma fans were disappointed in losing out on the recruiting battles for elite defensive players like Hicks, Sims and Nwaneri, but it’s also important to put this in proper perspective. Before Venables returned to Norman as the 23rd head coach of OU football, blue-chip defensive recruits like Hicks, Nwaneri and Stone would never have considered coming to Oklahoma, let alone have the Sooners among their recruitment choices right down to the wire. That in itself should be considered a major recruiting win for Oklahoma.

And if the cards fall right over the next couple of months, Stone may not be last big-name defensive recruit to become part of the Sooners’ 2024 class. Oklahoma is still in a good position for four-star defensive end Nigel Smith II from Melissa, Texas, the 12th-ranked DE in the 2024 class, and four-star defensive end Daniel Okoye, ranked No. 10 at his position in the 247Sports Composite and the top-ranked player in the state of Oklahoma,

As of Monday, Aug. 28, Oklahoma ranked 7th in the 247Sports 2024 class rankings and 10th by Rivals. That’s a far cry from early June when the Sooners were ranked in the 50s nationally.