Big 12 Recruiting

OU Football Recruiting Spotlight: Five-Star Linebacker Clayton Smith

NCAA Football: Big 12 Championship-Baylor vs Oklahoma

Oklahoma is enjoying the spoils of another fantastic recruiting class, and their most exciting defensive commitment comes in the form of 5-star linebacker Clayton Smith

Smith played at Texas high in Texarkana, TX. His team went 11-1 and did not lose a game until the Texas 5A-2 playoffs.  Clayton played on both offense and defense for Texas, and while he won’t have the opportunity to do that at Oklahoma, it is always nice to see a versatile and gifted athlete with dynamic skills. As a wide receiver, Clayton showed strong hands and great body balance, which allowed him to make a ton of highlight-reel catches in tight coverage. Clayton has tremendous speed for his size and some schools did offer him as a wide receiver and as a tight end. Oklahoma checked all the boxes according to Smith, who not only signed early, but was able to enroll early and will participate in spring practice for the Sooners. 


The job Jamar Cain is doing for Oklahoma both as a teacher, and as a recruiter is evident, and his impact has been immediate. In his first season, he has helped mold guys like Isaiah Thomas, who has found himself behind on the depth chart for much of his time in Norman, into a legitimate Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year candidate. Cain also coached up the highest-graded outside linebacker in Pro Football Focus All-American Nik Bonitto. The Sooners were extremely disruptive on the edges of their defense, and it’s clear that Clayton noticed and wanted to be a part of it.

Dubbed by some as the best defensive prospect Oklahoma has landed since Gerald McCoy, Clayton will come to Norman with lofty expectations. While that is tough and not everyone is able to live up to that kind of billing (just ask Brendan Radley-Hiles), the hype for Clayton is not unjust. Clayton is still a very raw athlete and has an enormous amount he can do to reach his high ceiling. But with that being said, he was already good enough as a prospect to be the best linebacker recruit in the state of Texas.

On tape, Clayton flashes unorthodox athletic ability and elite body control. He consistently splits double-teams at the high school level and finishes tackles violently. He has a quick first step that make it difficult for tackles to handle him on the edge, but possesses more than enough strength to bull rush both interior and anchored pass protectors. Clayton has the speed to chase down plays on the backside and to play excellent contain in the run game. 


Gabe Brooks of 247sports evaluated Clayton Smith as a Day Two pick in the NFL Draft and to Carolina Panthers DE Christian Miller. Though the praise may be a shade too high, Smith’s ceiling appears to be more in line with former Big 12 standout OLB Von Miller. Smith has the flexibility to play on the edge and can put his hand in the ground or stand up. He has enough athletic ability to be very good in coverage and is expected to play the same spot in the OU defense that Nik Bonnito currently plays. Alex Grinch’s philosophy to play a lot of players, and rotate, alongside Clayton’s high motor and pure athletic acumen will give him an opportunity to contribute right away.

Clayton Smith is coming to the six-time defending Big 12 champs with high expectations. Can he live up to the billing?

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