Sooner Intel: Recruiting news and notes 

July, 26, 2012
Every Thursday, SoonerNation releases the Sooner Intel, a sneak peek inside Oklahoma Sooners football recruiting with news and notes on the latest happenings around the program. Talk about it on our forum. A few things discussed in this week's update:

• One top 2014 prospect got his first look at OU's campus
• An early 2014 RB offer met a former Sooners star and alma mater of his high school
• The Sooners had a surprise visitor on campus last weekend
• More on the Sooners' recent junior college visitor
• OU is still in the hunt for an Arizona defensive back

Read the Sooner Intel after the jump.

Stoops brothers high on Brown

The National Underclassmen Combine Ultimate 100 camp at Oklahoma last weekend attracted quality recruits, but none were as highly touted than Beaumont (Texas) Ozen cornerback Tony Brown, who will be one of the top prospects for the 2014 class.

The OU coaches weren't allowed to contact the recruits on campus during the camp, but Brown said he was impressed with his first look at the Sooners' campus.

“This is really nice, said Brown, who has been invited to this weekend’s Gridiron Kings event in Florida. "We’re not getting to do too much in terms of seeing everything, but I definitely want to come back here."

William Wilkerson/
Class of 2014 defensive back Tony Brown has more than 20 offers.

And the Sooners definitely want him to come back. The OU coaching staff had a chance to evaluate Brown in person last month at the satellite camp in the Houston area.

Brown was one of several prospects to earn offers on that day, but it was something that Bob Stoops said that has motivated Brown the rest of the summer.

“He said I could come in and play for him right now,” Brown said. “I’ve been using that as a catalyst when I’m working out. I don’t want to let him down. I don’t want to make him look bad. I want to prove him right.”

Brown has been all over the country this summer so much that he really cannot remember all the places he has been. He said he has seen Texas A&M, LSU, Texas, Alabama and Rutgers.

The amount of attention is surprising to Brown, who has been a starter since he was a freshman.

“My dad always told me this was going to happen," Brown said. "But when I was a freshman at 5-foot-9 and 150 pounds, I had no idea how I was going to make it to college."

Brown is now 6-foot, 180 pounds and has more than 20 offers. He admits he doesn’t know much about OU, but he does know the name Stoops.

“Everybody knows who Bob and Mike Stoops are,” Brown said. “It’s a family ordeal here, and they’re great coaches. I would be under great tutelage to get to the next level, no doubt about that.”

Starks gets encouragement from Murray

It is tough for 2014 running back Nathan Starks (Las Vegas/Bishop Gorman) to come up with a list of favorites.

Well, except for one.

“I don’t know. OU is kind of the only that I have on my mind most of the time,” Starks said.

Starks already has offers from the Sooners, Arizona and Colorado, among others, and admits he has been an Oklahoma fan since the days of Adrian Peterson.

With Bishop Gorman, however, there is also another connection. A connection that made himself known earlier this summer.

“I got to talk to Demarco Murray last month and that meant a lot to me,” Starks said. “We were at a 7-on-7 event at UNLV and Murray talked to the team. After, he pulled me to the side and talked to me. He said he has noticed me and was going to try to watch me this season.”

Murray, of course, was a four-year star for the Sooners. Though OU is in great early standing with Starks, he’s not a lock, either. He has visited USC and UCLA this summer and came away impressed with both programs.

During the quiet period where coaches are not allowed to call recruits, the power is with the recruit. So maybe the best indication of how interested Starks is in the Sooners is shown in how he is making the effort to contact running backs coach Cale Gundy.

“Since June, I would say I’ve called him and we’ve talked five times,” Starks said. “I try to call him once every couple of weeks or whenever I get a chance.”

Gundy visited Starks during the spring evaluation period. It wasn’t a football conversation that stood out to Starks, though. It was a leadership issue.

“He got there right when we were doing conditioning. He talked to me after and asked why I wasn’t at the front of the line leading the drill. He said Adrian Peterson was always there, always a leader. He said always be at the front,” Starks said.

Starks wants to make an unofficial visit to OU before his junior season begins, but isn't sure if that will be possible. The plan is for him to go with one of his teammates so he said it’s a question of whether or not his teammate is going to make the trip.

OU still in the hunt for Luke

The thought was that when Chandler (Ariz.) Hamilton cornerback Cole Luke couldn’t make the trip to OU’s spring game in April because of the severe weather, he would reschedule an unofficial.

Nick Ruland for
Cole Luke has had a quiet summer but is still open to several schools.

But now -- more than three months later -- Luke has yet to see the campus. To make matters worse, it has appeared other schools might have stepped in and gone up on his board.

But in talking with Chandler Hamilton coach Steve Belles, he said there really is no news to report on his four-star defensive back.

“I think everything is still the same,” Belles said. “He has been high on OU for a long time. I’m not going to speak for him and say what his top five is, but I know he still likes the Sooners.”

Luke hasn’t been very active on the recruiting trail. He was able to see Texas in the spring and Belles confirmed Luke did visit Notre Dame this summer.

But Belles said Luke is still content with taking his time.

“Unless he brings it up, we don’t really talk about it,” Belles said. “It’s not wearing on him. But until you’re in this process and people are always wanting to talk to you, you don’t realize what this process is all about.”

Belles said he has noticed a difference with Luke in terms of his attitude and confidence.

“Last year was his first season as a starter. His confidence is incredible at this point,” Belles said. “We’re also going to try to use him in some situational offense. And he’s one of the team captains. I’m excited to see what he does this season.”

Johnson has tight bond with Shipp

Going to move on from 2014 top prospects to the search for a 2013 defensive tackle where there are a couple of names worth keeping tabs on.

First is junior college prospect Toby Johnson (Hutchinson, Kan./Hutchinson CC). Johnson said he was happy with his unofficial visit Wednesday although he did not pull the trigger on a commitment.

Is that a bad sign? No, not necessarily. Johnson has seen several campuses this summer and hasn’t made a decision. A good sign for OU is that this is his final unofficial before the season starts so the Sooners were able to make a good lasting impression.

And when you’re Johnson, who is 6-foot-4 and 290 pounds and has more than 25 offers, some things have to stand out to separate schools from the rest of the pack.

OU does have one advantage in its favor in the relationship he has with defensive tackles coach Jackie Shipp.

“I love Coach Shipp,” Johnson said. “I have the best relationship with Coach Shipp than I do with any other coach. We talk about a lot more than football. He’s a big family guy.

“Even if I don’t go to OU, I know I would still have that relationship with Coach Shipp. You can’t say that about everybody.”

To no shock at all, Johnson said he got along great with Shipp on the visit. But there was somebody who he got along with that he had no idea how things were going to go.

“I actually spent like half the visit with Bob Stoops, and he was nothing like I thought,” Johnson said. “He was a lot cooler than I thought, and I enjoyed talking with him and seeing his vision of where I fit into the defense.”

Another positive has been OU’s history of dealing with Hutchinson in the past. Hutchinson coach Rion Rhoades said he has the utmost respect for Bob Stoops and the program and how OU has always done things the right way.

Crayton on OU’s radar

Another prospect on Shipp’s board at defensive tackle? Three-star Rod Crayton (Dadeville, Ala./Dadeville). Crayton, ranked No. 54 in the nation at the position, took an unofficial visit to OU on Sunday with Dadeville coach Matt Harrison.

“It went great. We had a chance to visit with Coach Shipp and tour the campus and football facilities,” Harrison said. “Rod really enjoyed the setup of the campus and the surrounding atmosphere.”

Courtesy Dadeville High School
Defensive tackle Rod Crayton visited OU on Sunday.

Right now Harrison said Crayton’s favorites are all in the SEC with LSU, Tennessee, Mississippi State and Arkansas. He has offers from all four programs. But if OU was to enter the mix, that certainly could change things.

“I’ve known Coach Shipp since he was at Alabama [1998],” Harrison said. “I really like and respect him, and I know he does a great job with defensive linemen.”

Harrison said Shipp has been high on Crayton for a while. And if it was up to Shipp, Crayton would have an OU offer. But the coaches have to wait for the approval of OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops.

The Sooners were in this position before with three-star defensive tackle Hardreck Walker (Houston/Westfield). Shipp wanted to make the offer but needed Stoops to give the approval. By the time OU came around to offering Walker, it was a little too late and Walker committed to Texas A&M at the beginning of this month.

Walker’s decision was forced by himself as he didn’t want to be a distraction for his team. Harrison said Crayton doesn’t feel that same type of pressure.

“He doesn’t get rattled by the media and all the attention,” Harrison said. “He’s taking his time. When he makes the decision, it will be his decision and his only decision.”

The question mark on Crayton has been his height. At 6-foot-1, he’s a couple of inches shorter than what some coaches would like. Harrison turns that around and says Crayton does, however, have a 6-foot-7 wingspan and unparalleled strength.

“He is a unique player around 300 pounds that can go from sideline-to-sideline. He has 30 sacks in his career and can do it all on the line,” Harrison said. “Coach Shipp is not worried about his height so we’ll just see what happens.”

Gaines moving on from OU

OU’s pursuit of a 2013 tight end continues, and it is becoming evident the answer won’t be three-star prospect Jeremiah Gaines (Red Oak, Texas/Red Oak).

The initial interest was there as Gaines was invited to OU’s junior day in March. He had a great time, he said, but tight ends coach Bruce Kittle didn’t keep in touch all that much.

Gaines, ranked No. 9 at the position, said he believes the Sooners have moved on from looking at him. And at this juncture, so has he.

“It would be hard to go somewhere when you’re not sure just how much you’re wanted to be there,” Gaines said. “I don’t get that feeling that OU wants me. That’s fine. I have other options so we’re all moving on.”

Gaines is about ready to make his commitment. He wants to have it done before the start of his senior season and said he is down to six: SMU, Central Florida, Wake Forest, North Texas, California and Washington State.

“It’s important to me to have this done with so I can focus on the season,” Gaines said. “I’m a real quiet person. I’m blessed with these opportunities, but I’ll be happy when this process is over with.”

Reality has set in for Smallwood

There wasn’t a bigger surprise commitment in OU’s class than three-star wide receiver Jordan Smallwood (Jenks, Okla./Jenks). By now, we all know the story. Smallwood’s best offer coming into OU’s camp in June was from Wyoming. But following a lights-out performance at the camp, Smallwood was offered and committed four days later.

He said at the time he couldn’t believe it. He said he was living his dream. He is still living his dream, but he’s not in awe anymore.

Bob Przybylo/
Jordan Smallwood is the top receiver in the state for the class of 2013.

“I know what I have to do now. The reality is here, and I have to show everybody that I do belong that I do deserve this shot,” Smallwood said.

Smallwood was already known for his physicality and said he has only gotten stronger in the summer. He said he has put on 10-15 pounds and hit the weight room hard.

When he committed, he said he hoped everything would die down with his recruitment and he could enjoy his summer. That’s exactly what has happened.

“Summer has been great. It has been so chill. I’m loving it,” Smallwood said. “I’m ready to get back to work. I’m focused and pumped to go out with a state championship.”

When Smallwood committed, it almost encouraged 2014 Jenks prospect Steven Parker to do the same thing. Instead, Parker has elected to wait. He might have people whispering in his ear about OU, but it won’t come from Smallwood.

“I’m not like that,” Smallwood said. “I don’t try to tell him anything. I know how much he likes OU, but it’s not my place.

“He is such a good athlete. A lot of kids don’t have his size. He’s about as big as me and he’s just going to be a junior. I’m looking forward to seeing what he does this year.”

Stoops gives Moses words of encouragement

The Oklahoma high school scene appears packed with 2014 talent and there might be an early contender for a 2015 prospect to watch.

Cornerback Markale Moses (Tulsa, Okla./Memorial) was impressive at the NUC event, earning the top defensive back honors for his age group. Moses, who is 5-foot-9 and 160 pounds, attended OU’s camp in June and is already developing a relationship with Mike Stoops.

“It was good. He told me I need to get a little bit bigger and faster, but he liked what he saw being that I am so young,” Moses said. “I enjoyed being at this NUC event and showing what I can do. It’s a lot of confidence moving forward.”

Moses said he started as a freshman on the varsity team. He suffered some ups and downs, but he’s ready for a big sophomore season.

As much as he respects OU and Oklahoma State, it looked like Moses had a clear favorite: Miami (Fla.). When asked if he had to choose between the Sooners and Cowboys, Moses smiled, “Miami.” But after thinking about it some more, Moses said “OU. Yeah, I would put Oklahoma over Miami. Things are different now.”

Wide receivers shine at NUC

As I said before, OU coaches couldn’t contact any recruits at the NUC event and the OU staff was not affiliated at all with the event.

However, it was a form of free advertising for any prospective recruits. And two recruits who definitely came away impressed with the surroundings were 2014 wide receivers Quadrekas Key (Jasper, Ala./Walker) and Elliott Davis (North Potomac, Md./Quince Orchard).

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