- Bob Przybylo, Reporter, RecruitingNation
It was becoming a horrible repetitive song and dance for Oklahoma’s 2013 recruiting class. Make an offer to a top defensive tackle. Have OU defensive tackles coach Jackie Shipp develop a strong bond with the prospect.
Get the recruit to the campus. Have the Sooners reach the final three and then have OU fans’ hearts ripped out when he goes to another school.
And then the dagger for some OU fans when ESPN 150 prospect Justin Manning (Dallas/Kimball) pledged to A&M instead of OU. Manning, the younger brother of former OU defensive tackle DeMarcus Granger, was thought to be the closest thing to a Sooners lock for the class.
But he picked the Aggies. Would OU ever get good news? It came in a hurry last month, and it came from a familiar spot.
Manning and Walker were among five A&M defensive tackle commits. As Texas A&M worked its magic with Manning, OU coaches Shipp and Bob Stoops were working on swaying longtime A&M commit Kerrick Huggins.
Dallas Skyline has been a solid pipeline for OU, and the Sooners are hoping Huggins can be added to that list.
Huggins flipped his commitment from A&M to OU last month.
“Whew, this is like a big sigh of relief,” Huggins said. “It feels great to have this over with. For real this time. I cannot wait to make it official on signing day.”
Huggins was among A&M’s first commits, pledging to the Aggies in January. He admits he was overwhelmed by his visit to the campus. It was the first one he had seen, and he got caught up in the emotion.
As the months went on, he started thinking he made too rash a decision. The Sooners weren’t the first to offer. They weren’t even close. OU didn’t officially offer Huggins until September, but the relationship was established long before then.
“It started in my junior year, actually, with Coach Shipp,” Huggins said. “I had that connection immediately with him. What I always loved about Coach Shipp was he was cool with whatever decision I ended up making. Even if I didn’t go to OU, he didn’t care.”
But Shipp could sense Huggins wasn’t 100 percent sold on the Aggies. And following the offer, Shipp and Huggins talked at least once a week.
Huggins made an unofficial visit to A&M for the Aggies’ showdown with LSU. But something simply didn’t feel right.
“Wasn’t really a place I could see myself playing,” Huggins said. “The more I thought about it, the more I thought OU was beginning to look like a great backup plan. And after more time, I started thinking it was the place for me.”
In early December OU made its push. Shipp came down to the school and had another great visit with Huggins. The following week it wasn’t just Shipp, but OU coach Bob Stoops that came along.
“I was like I know what I want to do,” Huggins said. “It was during my talk with Coach Stoops I told him I wanted to be a Sooner. He was so excited.”
The timing couldn’t have worked out better. Huggins, the Dallas native, will get a taste of his past and his future Friday night, when OU takes on A&M in the Cotton Bowl.
Huggins initially thought he would be going there to cheer on the Aggies. He has no doubt about where his loyalties stand Friday night.
“I cannot wait to cheer for OU,” Huggins said. “I’m going to sit on OU’s side. I might see some A&M kids and that’s fine. I’m a Sooner now. Cannot wait.”
There have been lingering questions about whether or not Huggins will be able to qualify when he signs with the Sooners.
He said that might have been a problem when he was a junior, but a talk with the Dallas Skyline coaching staff has made him realize he needs to be serious.
“They told me about the huge opportunity I had for myself,” Huggins said. “I took those words to heart. I have a 2.6 GPA now. It’s only going to get higher.”
OU found more good fortune at defensive tackle later in the month when ESPN JC 100 defensive tackle Quincy Russell (Athens, Texas/Trinity Valley) signed with OU, picking the Sooners over Nebraska.
5dJake Trotter and Brandon Chatmon