Oklahoma Sooners: Football

ESPN Junior 300 wide receiver DaMarkus Lodge (Cedar Hill, Texas/Cedar Hill) has some business to tend to on Friday, as his Longhorns play defending Class 5A, Division I state champion Allen.

It was only revealed after his commitment just how much ESPN 300 quarterback Cody Thomas wanted to be Oklahoma’s quarterback.

Pretty quiet during his recruitment, Thomas came clean after he committed about how he made sure OU offensive coordinator Josh Heupel didn’t forget about him.

Thomas is also an accomplished baseball player and was drafted in the 30th round of the MLB draft by the New York Yankees in June. But it’s not pro baseball that is his calling -- he wants to play football and baseball for the Sooners.

[+] EnlargeCody Thomas
Bob Przybylo/ESPN.comFour-star quarterback Cody Thomas will wear No. 14 with the Sooners, following in the footsteps of Sam Bradford and Josh Heupel.
Prior to his arrival on campus, Thomas talked to SoonerNation one more time to discuss his hectic schedule.

SoonerNation: Who is your roommate going to be?

Cody Thomas: Jordan Smallwood.

SN: How did that all come about? I know you thought you would be with Matt Dimon.

Thomas: Yeah, I was going to room with Dimon. He talked me and said he wanted to room with one of the other guys from Houston, Christian Daimler, that they had been working out together. It wasn’t a big deal to me. It was just a last-minute thing. It’s fine.

SN: What jersey are you looking to wear?

Thomas: I’m going to wear No. 14. It’s what I wore when I was a freshman in high school. I’m happy with it.

SN: Who is a player on the team right now that you’ve been talking to the most?

Thomas: Quarterback Trevor Knight is somebody I’ve really gotten to know a lot better here in recent months. We really clicked on my visit. His advice for me is to not be intimidated. It might look overwhelming, but just be who you are and things will take care of themselves.

SN: When did you know in your heart OU was the place for you?

Thomas: At that spring practice. That’s all it really took. When I went up there, I loved it so much. I didn’t need to see a game or anything like that. I was already hooked.

SN: When you leave OU, what do you want your legacy to be?

Thomas: Simple: The greatest that ever came through the program. That’s my goal -- to be the best quarterback the school has ever had.

SN: I know you had baseball during the spring, but were you able to work on anything in terms of football?

Thomas: I was. I concentrated a lot on my strength, and Coach [Josh] Heupel gave me a lot of things to look at in terms of learning more about my position.

SN: You were at the spring game. Did you get a chance to talk with ESPN 150 quarterback and OU commit Justice Hansen?

Thomas: I did. He looks good. Definitely happy to have him. My advice for him was he’s going into his senior season so he needs to enjoy it. It goes by quick, real quick.

SN: How tough has it been to juggle baseball and football for as long as you have?

Thomas: It hasn’t really been that overwhelming. It’s just something I’m used to doing. Baseball wasn’t that stressful because you never know what the Major League teams are thinking. OU isn’t stressful because I’ve had the full support of Coach Heupel and Coach [Bob] Stoops and Coach [Sunny] Golloway (Note: This interview was conducted before Golloway left OU for Auburn). If they didn’t have my back, it could have been tough. But they’ve been great the whole time.
There’s always going to be a positive feeling for Oklahoma fans when it comes to Fresno (Calif.) Central East safety Hatari Byrd.

Byrd committed exactly when the Sooners needed some good news, as ESPN 150 running back Greg Bryant had decommitted from OU the previous day.

[+] EnlargeHatari Byrd
Tom Hauck for ESPN.comHatari Byrd made a quick connection with Oklahoma, committing to the Sooners before he had visited campus.
He committed without seeing the campus. His official visit sealed the deal, as Byrd never seriously considered looking at other schools.

Prior to his arrival on campus, Byrd spoke to SoonerNation one more time to discuss the potential Fresno pipeline developing.

SN: Any idea what jersey you’re going to wear?

Byrd: I don’t know what jersey. I have no idea. I don’t really care. I just want to work.

SN: What have the coaches told you about your potential role this season?

Byrd: Playing free safety, so there’s a good chance I can get in there and play early. With Tony Jefferson leaving early, it left a spot open. I know I can be that guy.

SN: With that in mind, did that change the way you worked this spring?

Byrd: It has. My training has gotten so intense. I’m just focused on the next level. I’m getting bigger and faster. Work -- that’s all I do. Running every day. Hitting the weights. Doing all the little things.

SN: When did you know in your heart OU was the place for you?

Byrd: I knew right when I committed. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t seen the campus yet. I already knew I was going to some place far from home, so it didn’t matter to me. The atmosphere. The thought of playing in front of 80,000 fans. It gets me pumped just talking about it.

SN: What do you expect during your first year at OU?

Byrd: It’s going to be a big change. The biggest difference I expect is with the game speed. It’s going to be a whole ‘nother level with the speed.

SN: Who have you developed a relationship with that’s on the team already?

Byrd: Wide receiver Jalen Saunders. We have a pretty good relationship. He was from Fresno, too, and he was a big factor during my visit last year.

SN: When you leave OU, what do you want your legacy to be?

Byrd: Ooh, that’s kind of a hard one. That I left everything I had at OU and tried to get better every day. There was a reason they recruited me, and I showed everybody what I’m all about.

SN: You and L.J. are coming to Norman. OU would love to add ESPN 150 athlete Michiah Quick to that equation. How much are you trying to encourage Michiah to join you?

Byrd: I talk to him a lot about the recruiting process, but I’m leaving him alone now. I want him to follow his heart, but I always put that OU in his head. I think he wants to play football with us.

SN: A big influence in your life has been Fresno Central East defensive backs coach Tony Perry. Can you put into perspective what he has meant to you?

Byrd: I can’t even say any more about what he has meant to me. He has done so much for me. From the training on the field to the guidance off the field, it’s unreal. He means so much to me.

SN: Does this feel real to you yet? How hard you’ve had to work to get here and all the personal issues you had to overcome?

Byrd: Every now and then I stop and think about it. I can’t wait to get it done. This is what I want to do with my career. It’s an incredible blessing, and I’m very thankful for everything I’ve got. I can’t wait to say I’m doing it. Not that I’m going to do it but that I’m doing it -- living my dream.
In the fifth round of the all-time Oklahoma Sooners team draft earlier this week, OU legend Joe Washington selected offensive guard Greg Roberts.

Roberts, who starred for the Sooners from 1975-78, was the first guard chosen. If SoonerNation were to conduct this draft again in 20 years, would Oklahoma City Casady’s Josh Wariboko be a player to consider?

While it's way too early to determine that, the Class of 2015 lineman has come out of virtually nowhere in the last few months to become a household name for Sooners fans to know.

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There’s a special distinction that comes with being the first commit. For Oklahoma’s 2013 class, that first commit also happened to be its top-rated recruit in running back Keith Ford.

He committed at OU’s second junior day and never entertained the thought of looking elsewhere. Other schools tried to make a push, but Ford remained solid to the Sooners.

OU is solid at running back for 2013, but Ford has fans salivating for what can be in the future and believe he might even be good enough to see the field in the fall.

Prior to his arrival on campus, Ford spoke to SoonerNation one more time to discuss his expectations.

[+] EnlargeKeith Ford
Miller Safrit/ESPN.comFour-star RB signee Keith Ford has high expectations for his time at OU.
SoonerNation: You talk running backs and OU, you talk No. 28 with Adrian Peterson. What’s your number going to be?

Keith Ford: No. 21. They gave me 21, 27, 31 and 35, so I picked the lowest number I could.

SN: Who is your roommate going to be?

Ford: Austin Bennett. I actually played against him last year in the playoffs. I didn’t really know who he was during the season. But then we played against each other and went on the official visit at the same time and got to know each other a lot. We call each other a lot.

SN: What have you been working on since the end of your senior season?

Ford: I run a lot. Working out five days a week and eating the right foods. My mom is not going to be able to cook for me in college so I’m teaching myself now. Most of the time I’m cooking my own meals and learning to eat right. Nutrition is important.

SN: When did you know in your heart OU was the place for you?

Ford: I felt comfortable there. My parents felt comfortable. I love the coaching staff. Coach [Cale]Gundy sold me on more than the team and the school. He sold me on the people.

SN: What have the coaches told you about your potential role this season?

Ford: I don’t really talk about that. For me, it all starts with discipline. I never ask the coaches about playing time. My goal is to play next year as a true freshman, but it’s up to me to make that happen.

SN: What’s the biggest difference of going from high school to college?

Ford: The speed of the game. It’s going to be a lot of faster. You have to make real quick decisions. I feel like I have a good feel of what it’s going to be like.

SN: You met Class of 2014 running back commit Samaje Perine at the spring game. What was that like?

Ford: It was great. He’s huge. We text from time to time. He’s another Texas running back coming here, too. Like him, I’m just ready to play football in that stadium. Not too many people get that chance.

SN: Who are some of the players you’ve been talking to the most on the team?

Ford: Sooner Dave [David Smith]. I talk to him a lot. I talk to Alex Ross and Roy Finch, too, and Kendal Thompson. I feel very comfortable with all of them.

SN: When you leave OU, what do you want your legacy to be?

Ford: To be the best running back to ever come out of OU. That’s what I’m striving for. I won’t accept anything else.
The Opening wasn’t a showcase of any Oklahoma commits, but some major top targets displayed their talents last week in Beaverton, Ore.

With The Opening in the books, here are five prospects from that event the Sooners are still solidly in the hunt to sign.

1. ATH Michiah Quick (Fresno, Calif./Central)
6-0, 170
ESPN 300 rank: No. 32

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If anybody wants to know if Oklahoma coaches keep their word, ask linebacker signee Dominique Alexander. After camping at OU last June, he was told the Sooners would do more evaluating and get in touch with him.

It took four months, but they did so and quickly Alexander went from being an Arkansas commit to pledging to the Sooners.

Prior to arriving on campus, Alexander spoke to SoonerNation one more time to reflect back on his crazy year of recruiting.

[+] EnlargeDominique Alexander
Bob Przybylo/ESPN.comOklahoma linebacker signee Dominique Alexander says he feels he's ahead of the curve of the other incoming freshmen.
SN: Who is your roommate?

Alexander: Stanvon Taylor. It’s going to be great to not have to go against him anymore. We’re going to come together and dominate.

SN: It’s a unique dynamic that you guys have competed against each other since elementary school and only in college will you finally be teammates. What’s your relationship like?

Alexander: No matter the sport we were always guarding each other, talking trash to each other. In middle school we played in the same league. As freshmen, we got to know each other real well. Sophomore year was funny because we played them in the state championship. Who’s better than who? We both had real great games [Alexander’s Tulsa Booker T. Washington team won]. I knew in middle school how great he was going to be. I’m just glad he’s on my side now.

SN: What have the OU coaches told you about what your potential role can be in the fall?

Alexander: They’ve said I have the chance to play if I work hard. I’ll be behind Corey [Nelson], who has been there forever right now. But if I show I’m the best, they’ll play the best. I know they’re really going to use me on special teams.

SN: What did the OU coaches tell you to work on before you got to campus?

Alexander: Coach [Mike] Stoops wanted me to work on my speed. Coach [Tim] Kish wanted me to work on zone drops and reads and stuff like that. They wanted me to get my size up. I was around 195. I’m a solid 210 now. They sent me pages and pages of stuff. Pages of how Coach Kish wants his linebackers to play and reading formations. They gave me some drills on how to be a better linebacker. I feel like I’m ahead of the curve.

SN: When did you know in your heart OU was the place for you?

Alexander: At the Notre Dame game. It just felt right. It felt like I was a part of the family. The more I went there, the more it felt like it was the right thing to do. They showed a lot of love, and I knew those were players I could vibe with.

SN: Who are the players you have looked up to on the current team?

Alexander: Aaron Colvin, for sure. I’ve known Aaron for a long time so I knew he wasn’t going to tell me wrong. With my position, I look up to Frank Shannon a lot. He hosted me on my official, and we hit it off there. I like the way he plays.

SN: When you leave OU, what is your legacy going to be?

Alexander: That I was a hard worker. A leader. I’m not going to ask anybody else to do something I wouldn’t do. I want to be remembered as somebody wanting to win and somebody who wouldn’t accept failure.
Oklahoma fans can relax a little bit. There is no doubt linebacker recruiting has been a sore spot for the Sooners, but OU is on the board for the Class of 2014.

Three-star outside linebacker Tay Evans (Allen, Texas/Allen) confirmed he has committed to OU while on an unofficial visit to campus Tuesday.

Evans picked the Sooners over offers from Stanford, Boise State and Kansas State, among others.

Evans, who is 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, visited OU in March for junior day and was hoping to get the offer at that time. It didn’t happen.

OU linebackers coach Tim Kish visited Allen High during the spring evaluation period, and everybody thought the offer would happen. It didn’t.

Evans admitted afterward that he wasn’t sure the offer was ever going to come. Instead of dwelling on it, Evans said he was going to move on and focus only on what he could control.

But following OU’s camps, more offers were doled out. Evans was among the first to be notified of some good news. Evans said before the offer, he was contemplating a commitment to Stanford. The OU offer, however, was a game-changer.

He had thoughts about committing on the spot but said he wanted to visit the campus one more time and then make the call. Tuesday was that occasion.

Evans is the son of former OU basketball player Bobby Joe Evans, and Tay Evans has not been shy to say how much he loves the Sooners.

Once the Sooners reciprocated the love, it was only a matter of time. OU had some concerns about his health as Evans had shoulder surgery following the season. The OU coaches eventually agreed they were satisfied with Evans’ progress and made sure to let him know how big of a priority he is.

Evans is OU’s 11th commit for the class and the first linebacker. He is the No. 38 outside linebacker in the nation.
Under-the-radar prospects can be found all the time. During the spring evaluation period, during camp season and even after the season, prospects pop up everywhere. Wide receiver K.J. Young falls into that last category. Not many people had heard of the Perris, Calif., product until after Christmas.

Following an Oklahoma offer, things picked up in a hurry. Other schools tried to snatch him away late, but Young stayed solid with the Sooners.

He committed at the airport following his official visit, saying he realized he was home. Prior to his arrival on campus, Young spoke to SoonerNation one more time about what being a Sooner means to him.

[+] EnlargeK.J. Young
Tom Hauck for ESPN.comOklahoma wideout signee K.J. Young said his visit to Norman sealed the deal on his commitment.
SoonerNation: Nobody knew who you were before December. What was that media rush like during those final weeks before signing day?

K.J. Young: It was incredible the way everything just changed. I couldn’t believe OU was interested. But after I took that visit, it was incredible. I knew it was where I wanted to be.

SN: Any lingering thoughts about the recruiting process and how long it took to get noticed?

Young: I could only control what I could control. I couldn’t worry about it. I’m blessed that some schools thought I was worthy to begin with. I’m just going to work as hard as I can to show OU that they’ve made the right choice.

SN: Your size has some wondering if you’ll be lined up out wide or in the slot. Any insight from the coaches on your position?

Young: Coach [Jay] Norvell said there is a great chance that I could play either spot, slot or wide. OU has had a lot of success with slot receivers. Ryan Broyles was incredible and set all those records. It’s a great spot to be.

SN: When we first talked, you mentioned video games a lot when it came to your OU knowledge. Just how big of a factor was that in learning about the university?

Young: It was pretty big. I used to always play with OU on NCAA, and I always did good with them. I knew their team was pretty good. Then I watched a lot of OU games on TV and learned how dominant they could be.

SN:: How different was Norman from your expectations?

Young: It was so different. That visit was what sealed the deal for me. I thought it would be like in the middle of nowhere with nothing to do. It was so much better than I expected. It gave me even more of a reason to want to go there.

SN: What does this opportunity mean to you?

Young: My school [Perris Citrus Hill] isn’t really known for its football tradition. We have a couple of guys here that can change that. I know I can be one of those guys. I can be an example for the younger kids to let them know good things can happen. But it’s not just on the field. It starts in the classroom.

SN: Has the reality hit you’re going to be a Sooner?

Young: After signing day, I took some time off to relax and sort of soak it all in. Life has been so great. All it has done is motivate me to work harder, and that’s what I’ve done all spring.
There are some positions where Oklahoma doesn’t need any help with in its Class of 2014. But then there are others where OU’s targets should be dead-set on trying to improve.

Here are the top five positions of need for OU’s recruiting for the 2014 crop:

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It sure felt like linebacker Jordan Evans was just an afterthought at Oklahoma’s camp a year ago. OU appreciated him coming out for the event, but the Sooners' coaching staff was looking elsewhere.

But all Evans did was make one big play after another in his senior season, earning an OU offer during Bedlam weekend. Once the offer was made, it was a countdown to his commitment.

Less than 72 hours after being offered, Evans was committed and is set to follow in his father’s footsteps while blazing his own trail. His father, Scott, was a defensive tackle for OU from 1987-1990.

[+] EnlargeJordan Evans
Bob Przybylo/ESPN.comSignee Jordan Evans says he plans to play linebacker, not defensive end, for the Sooners.
Before his arrival on campus, Evans talked to SoonerNation.

SoonerNation: What jersey are you going to be wearing at OU?

Jordan Evans: I do not know right now. I want No. 6, but I might be No. 26. I’ll find out later.

SN: Who is your roommate going to be?

Evans: Obo [DE Ogbonnia Okoronkwo]. I’ve become really close to the guys in Houston. We were all on our visit together and have developed a strong bond.

SN: What have the OU coaches said your potential role could be in the fall?

Evans: They don’t have a specific role for me right now. They’ve just told me to come in and compete. Go as hard as I possibly can.

SN: There has been some talk about moving to defensive end. Has that been brought up?

Evans: No, I’m a linebacker.

SN: With that said, what did the OU coaches want you to work on before getting to campus?

Evans: They wanted me to get my weight up. I’m about 220 right now. I ran track in the spring but kept lifting. I feel really good right now.

SN: Craziest week of your life, right? Win the state semifinal game Friday, offered by OU on Saturday and getting ready to play in first ever state championship game in Norman North history?

Evans: That really was a crazy time. They offered. I took a few days. A lot of thoughts were going through my head. It almost seemed unreal. Going to state, going to the OU game and committing. I never would have thought that possible.

SN: Who are some of the players you have been talking to the most?

Evans: I talk to the linebackers a lot, obviously. Frank Shannon, Corey Nelson, Eric Striker and Londell Taylor. I talked to Shannon when I was up there, so he has been the main guy.

SN: What do you want your legacy to be when you leave OU?

Evans: I hope it’s for being a stud, on and off the field. That I was somebody who did everything he was supposed to do.

SN: Now that the process is over with, what sort of insight did your father give you about everything? How happy is he that you’re going to be a Sooner, too?

Evans: Throughout the process, he was giving me tips. But now it all starts over again. It’s time to restart. I’ve got to do this and do that. Listen and work hard. Now’s the time for me to make my own footsteps. I love my father, but I have to become my own man.
NORMAN, Okla. -- On the last Tuesday of every month, SoonerNation is going to examine Oklahoma's defensive recruiting situation by taking a look at the Sooners' commits and targets.

Here is an idea of where OU stands for the Class of 2014 heading into July. View the Sooners' full commitment list.

The number in parentheses after every position indicates the number of recruits we project OU to sign at the position.

Defensive End (2)

Committed: None

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NORMAN, Okla. -- On the last Monday of every month, SoonerNation is going to examine Oklahoma's offensive recruiting situation by taking a look at the Sooners' commits and targets.

Here is an idea of where OU stands for the Class of 2014 heading into July. View the Sooners' full commitment list.

The number in parentheses after every position indicates the number of recruits we project OU to sign at the position.

Quarterback (1)

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For Oklahoma's coaches, it’s clear which player is one of their top priorities to fill in the Class of 2014. It has been clear for more than 13 months.

It’s not just the coaches, though. ESPN 150 quarterback commit Justice Hansen (Edmond, Okla./Santa Fe) hasn’t been bashful about his thoughts. The same can be said for ESPN 300 tight end Carson Meier (Tulsa, Okla./Union), who is also a Sooners pledge.

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ESPN 300 analysis: Oklahoma Sooners 

June, 17, 2013
NORMAN, Okla. -- Not everything is a well-oiled machine for Oklahoma when it comes to recruiting. Though there are still issues to be addressed, with eight months left until signing day, time is on the Sooners' side.

The offensive and defensive lines need a lot of work and OU hasn’t secured a linebacker yet, despite the fact the position is a major need.

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