- Bob Przybylo, Reporter, RecruitingNation
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:
• The state's top 2013 prospect is blowing up
• More on a member of OU's 2012 class that wants to play two sports
• A top Florida running back is very serious about the Sooners
• News on another 2014 prospect that attended OU's junior day
• In-state quarterback wants to commit before summer starts
Read the Sooner Intel after the jump.
OU will have to work for Ward
The Sooners jumped on Ross before anybody knew who he was, and Shepard was practically guaranteed to be a Sooner if OU wanted him with his father and two uncles all having played football at OU.
But in 2013, the battle is on for defensive end D.J. Ward (Lawton, Okla./Lawton). In an uncharacteristic move, OU offered Ward before his junior season, letting everybody know how much they thought of his talent.
Ward attended several OU games in 2011, even wearing OU apparel at some of them. The offseason, however, has seen some major programs start making their own run at the 6-foot-3, 225-pound prospect.
“We don’t get coaches from Texas and Ohio State making their way to Lawton. That just doesn’t happen,” Lawton head coach Randy Breeze said. “I think that tells you all you need to know about what people are thinking about D.J.”
Breeze said Texas defensive ends coach Oscar Giles visited Lawton a couple of weeks ago and Ohio State assistant Mike Vrabel plans to visit Lawton for spring practice. LSU has also started to show some interest, sending Ward several letters in the last couple of weeks.
Ward was expected to be at OU’s junior day last weekend, but a family issue came up that forced him not to make the trip. He hopes to be at OU’s second junior day March 3.
“It’s really unbelievable how many letters he gets,” Breeze said. “He’s such a humble and intelligent kid. He’s very polite. I don’t think he’s going to make a commitment until he sees everything he feels he needs to see.”
Junior day, take two
Going into last weekend’s junior day, there seemed to be some pretty clear cut storylines. But Saturday morning a lot of those were thrown out the window.
Ward was just one of several top prospects that, for one reason or another, were unable to make the trip to Norman, Okla.
Recruits like defensive tackle Justin Manning (Dallas/Kimball) and Wylie (Texas) East wide receivers Quan Jones and Marcell Ateman were among some of the others that didn’t make the trip. Quarterback Kelly Hilinski (Sherman Oaks, Calif./Notre Dame) was asked to stay home and said OU quarterbacks coach Josh Heupel will watch him throw in the spring.
Regardless, OU’s junior day did come off as a success with a lot of top prospects coming in. Offers were made but no pressure was put on the recruits for commitments and OU didn’t earn a commitment.
The Sooners will have another junior day March 3 and one of the first invitees is offensive lineman Rob Boyd (Vian, Okla./Vian), who is considered the best in-state lineman.
Boyd is staying in shape right now by playing basketball.
“It’s something I’m doing for fun,” Boyd said. “I’m playing basketball to stay in shape for football. I can’t wait for the spring to come around.”
Boyd, 6-foot-4 and 285 pounds, has a Tulsa offer and will be at Tulsa’s junior day on Feb. 18.
Simon a two-sport star?
OU knew it was getting a lockdown cornerback in three-star athlete Gary Simon (St. Petersburg, Fla./Gibbs), but Lon Kruger will be pleased to know he might have another scoring threat, too.
As of now, Simon intends to play both football and basketball for the Sooners.
“I definitely want to play basketball, too,” Simon said. “I was able to watch a practice and stuff like that. I’m excited.”
Simon said if OU didn’t offer him the chance to play basketball that it wouldn’t have been a deal breaker, but it certainly didn’t hurt the Sooners’ chances in getting Simon.
Simon didn’t mince words when asked what his biggest asset is in basketball: “Scoring. I can score the ball.”
Simon said he was recruited by Florida International, South Florida and Jacksonville to play basketball, but he knew he wanted to play football.
He won’t be the only Gibbs High product with the Sooners in 2012 as Simon thought it was cool to have former teammate offensive tackle Will Latu (St. Petersburg, Fla./College of the Canyons) join OU as well. Latu was a senior when Simon was a freshman.
“It’s going to be good to catch up with Will again,” Simon said. “It’s weird how that worked out. That’s one of the things I love about OU. It’s like a family there.”
Recruits get their questions answered
In talking with a lot of the junior day invitees, one thing was obvious to Brandon Chatmon and I: a favorite part for each attendee was when current Sooners answered questions from the recruits.
There were no coaches around and players like Landry Jones, Kenny Stills and others simply answered any questions the kids had.
“It was just interesting to hear what some of the questions and answers were,” said 2014 running back Devon Thomas (Broken Arrow, Okla./Broken Arrow). “It was a real look as to what we’re thinking.”
For wide receiver Jacorey Warrick (Houston/Cypress Falls), it offered him another perspective.
“They all seemed like brothers and I love being around that type of atmosphere where everybody gets along with everybody. Nobody seems to have a big head or anything everyone was humble.”
Warrick received an offer from OU on junior day.
Scott waiting but not too long
One of the major storylines going into junior day was the quarterback situation. Though Brayden Scott (Tahlequah, Okla./Sequoyah) didn’t receive an offer, there's no need for Sooners fans to panic.
It is clear that Scott and OU quarterbacks coach Josh Heupel have reached an agreement on how Scott is going to handle things.
One big positive is that Scott said he definitely plans on visiting spring practices at OU. Scott is very active on the recruiting trail, but he might be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.
“Things can always change, but I want to make all the junior days and camps and spring practices, and then I’d like to commit before the summer,” Scott. “I want to be able to focus on my senior season and finishing things right.”
OU firmly in the hunt for Florida tailback
OU offered running back Altee Tenpenny (North Little Rock, Ark./North Little Rock) early, but he committed to Alabama two weeks ago.
Now, the Sooners have their sights set on another top national back and this time it’s looking good with Greg Bryant (Delray Beach, Fla./American Heritage).
Bryant recently said his top four is OU, Florida State, Notre Dame and USC. It’s too early to compare him to former OU great Adrian Peterson, but the fathers are thinking alike, according to OU running backs coach Cale Gundy.
“Gundy said this is like déjà vu with meeting Adrian Peterson’s father,” said Greg Bryant Sr. “He said I had the same questions.”
Bryant, 5-foot-10 and 195 pounds, has offers from Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and LSU, among several others.
But it’s an Oklahoma mindset that has Bryant looking hard at the Sooners.
“One of the things Adrian Peterson enjoyed most about Oklahoma was the same things I mentioned earlier,” Bryant Sr. said. “It’s we want you, we would like you to come, but there’s no special treatment.
“You have to work hard for everything you get. There’s no guarantees. That’s what myself and my son really like about Oklahoma versus other universities saying we know you can play, we know you can run the ball. But Oklahoma is like come here, and you’ll have the opportunity to perform. If you perform well, you’ll play. If not, you will not play. He really liked that during the conversation with coach. And so did I.”
Smith a 2014 prospect to watch
Running back Devon Thomas said it didn’t feel too weird being a sophomore at OU's junior day. Some of that was because he wasn’t the only sophomore there.
Thomas said offensive lineman Braden Smith (Olathe, Kan./South) was also at OU’s junior day. Smith, already 6-foot-6 and 265 pounds, is receiving interest from Kansas State, and it won’t be long before other teams get involved.
“That boy was big,” Thomas said. “I couldn’t believe he was just a sophomore. I definitely see why OU brought him in, too.”
Just as Thomas is expected to be one of the top in-state products in 2014, Smith is on pace to be the top-ranked Kansas product for 2014.
Teammates not a package deal
Oliver already was offered by OU before junior day, and Gustafson was offered by the Sooners on Saturday. The thought of playing together is intriguing but not something the two have talked much about.
“We both understand that it would be cool,” Gustafson said. “But you have to do what is best for you. It might work out for one of us, but it might not be the best program for the other.”
Oliver and Gustafson both said they’re in no rush to make a commitment, and Gustafson said he isn’t even close to being ready to make a decision as his stock has blown up in the last month.
Clark, OU in sync
One of the more puzzling stories regarding OU basketball had been the lack of an offer to 2013 point guard Stevie Clark (Oklahoma City/Douglass).
With OU coach Lon Kruger’s emphasis on finding the best in-state kids, it was even more strange that he had not offered somebody who lives less than 20 miles from campus.
Turns out it was a bad case of mis-communication on both sides. OU thought Clark wasn’t interested in playing for the Sooners. The Clark family thought OU didn’t think Clark fit its style of play.
Both sides couldn’t have been more wrong. Kruger reached out to Clark’s mother, Dorshell, and everything got straightened out this weekend.
And it didn’t take long for things to start going in the right direction as Clark was invited to Monday’s game against Missouri and offered. Clark is easily one of the best players in the state, regardless of class, and is ranked No. 58 in the ESPNU Super 60.
Last year’s version of Clark might have not been what OU was looking for as he was pure scorer. However, this season has seen Clark become a complete point guard as he has been just as effective as a passer as he has simply pulling up from 25 feet and draining a three-pointer.
Either way, OU is certainly in the conversation regarding Clark now, who has offers from Connecticut, Vanderbilt and Florida State, among numerous others.
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.