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Sooner Intel: Recruiting news and notes

3/8/2012

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:

• OU get its chance to host one of the nation's top quarterbacks

• One Texas defensive back almost committed to the Sooners at junior day

• Which part of junior day stood out most to visitors?

• 6-foot-10 offensive tackle hopes for an OU offer

• The state's top player in 2014 has an idea of which school he wants to attend

Read the Sooner Intel after the jump.

Browne visiting Oklahoma

Not everybody was thrilled with the outcome of Oklahoma’s second junior day. The Sooners earned one commitment in running back Keith Ford (Cypress, Texas/Ranch) and gave out just one offer in defensive tackle Justin Manning (Dallas/Kimball).

This weekend, however, is shaping up to be an interesting one for OU as well. It starts with a biggie as potential five-star quarterback Max Browne (Sammamish, Wash./Skyline) will arrive in Norman on Thursday night and stay until Sunday.

Browne, 6-foot-5 and 205 pounds, is regarded by many as the top quarterback in the 2013 class and was offered by OU last month.

Even before the offer, Browne has expressed his interest in the Sooners. He said he has a great relationship with OU quarterbacks coach Josh Heupel.

Two weeks ago Browne said he wanted to make his decision before the end of his junior year. If that is still the case, this is essentially OU’s tryout for Browne.

Browne will get to see a normal Sooners practice as OU coach Bob Stoops said that Saturday will be the first full pads practice of the spring.

“That wasn’t a coincidence. I definitely planned on being there for a practice,” Browne said on Wednesday. “I want to see how everything works. I want to see how the players and coaches act. I want to get a vibe of everything.

“I’ve enjoyed getting to know Coach [Josh] Heupel. He is a real down-to-earth guy, and it feels like we’re learning more about each other with each conversation.”

In the last month, Browne has picked up one big-time offer after another, including powerhouse programs Alabama, USC and Auburn. Browne’s older brother, Mitch, said Max doesn't have any favorites, but there is a good chance OU, Alabama and USC are going to be in the mix until the end.

Browne is unquestionably the most notable visitor for the weekend, but there are at least two defensive names that are planning to check out OU’s Saturday practice, too.

In-state linebackers Devin Rolan (McAlester, Okla./McAlester) and T.J. Ponds (Wagoner, Okla./Wagoner) both plan to be there. Ponds was at OU’s junior day last weekend and Rolan was invited to both of OU’s junior days, but was unable to make them. He said he is very excited about heading to OU for the first time this spring.

Safety Alfred Pullom (Cypress, Texas/Woods), who was invited to OU’s second junior day, was expected to attend, but he said Wednesday night that this weekend's trip to Norman is now up in the air.

Ford puts team first

There were a lot of reasons for OU fans to be excited with the Ford commitment. An ESPNU Watch List member, Ford is considered one of the best Texas high school running backs in the class.

He has been passionate about the Sooners for a long time so fans can feel confident that he is not committing just for the sake of committing.

And if you ask Cypress Ranch coach Gene Johnson, it’s Ford’s character that is his biggest asset.

“He’s a team-first guy. Always has been,” Johnson said. “He could easily be somebody that carries the ball 30 times a game and worries about his numbers. He’s not that way. He was a big help in teaching the younger kids how to get better last year.”

Ford missed the latter half of the season with a foot injury but that is in the past now. Johnson said Ford is healthy and is eager to start spring practice in the next couple of months.

The next commit?

Despite the fact that Manning and defensive end D.J. Ward (Lawton, Okla./Lawton) have said repeatedly they’re going to wait on making a commitment, Sooners fans believe they could be the next members of the 2013 class.

Following a very successful trip to OU’s junior day, Ward said nothing had changed for him as OU remains one of his top schools.

As for a commitment? You all will still have to wait.

“No, I didn’t think about committing this weekend,” Ward said. “That’s still a long ways off. I’m not ready to make my decision.”

Manning, the younger brother of former OU defensive tackle DeMarcus Granger, has remained adamant that he will wait until December to announce his decision. Manning was excited to receive the OU offer after receiving other top offers from around the country in the last two months.

Based off junior day, the two names worth watching for Oklahoma's next verbal commitment are defensive end Matt Dimon (Katy, Texas/Katy) and cornerback Maurice Smith (Sugar Land, Texas/Dulles).

Both have admitted they were close to pulling the trigger Saturday but both are now content to wait at least a little bit longer.

Dimon said OU is his clear No. 1 favorite although he would like to see more schools. Dimon said Wednesday that nothing is new, and even though he loves OU, he's going to take more time.

For Smith, it has always been about OU or Texas. Even though he has said the Longhorns are his dream school, he is also a big OU fan. Other schools are in the running, but it's clear that the Sooners and Longhorns are in a great spot for Smith.

He was a little disappointed about not having a Texas offer after its junior day, but a conversation with Texas defensive backs coach Duane Akina on Tuesday helped calm him down.

“I called him up and he was telling me to not give up on Texas and not be depressed or anything like that,” Smith said.

Texas has not offered any defensive backs, while Smith received his OU offer a few weeks ago. He said he loved his OU experience but wants to make 100 percent sure he is ready with his decision.

“There was a part of me that was ready to commit to OU on Saturday,” Smith said. “I talked it over with my parents, and they were totally supportive. But I couldn’t do it just yet.”

SoonerNation will have more with Smith later this afternoon.

Arnold awaits more evaluation

Defensive end Jay Arnold (Heath, Texas/Rockwall-Heath) earned an offer Saturday, but it wasn’t the one he was expecting.

Arnold, who attended OU’s junior day, was offered by Wake Forest on his way back home to Texas. Like a lot of junior day attendees, he is still waiting to see if he will receive an OU offer.

“Overall, it was pretty good experience,” Arnold said. “I was able to see everything. My favorite part was definitely seeing the locker room.”

Arnold is not a stranger to the Sooners as his older sister attends OU. He did say it was weird seeing the stadium empty. He has usually visited OU during the fall to see the Sooners play.

Arnold was able to speak with OU defensive ends coach Bobby Jack Wright. And as has been the M.O. for OU coaches, Wright didn’t mince words with Arnold.

“He told me they were back and forth on offering me at this point,” Arnold said. “They want to do more evaluation and go from there. I wanted the offer, of course, but I wasn’t that disappointed because I know OU isn’t offering a lot of kids.”

Arnold, 6-foot-3 and 245 pounds, is an ESPNU Watch List member and has eight offers. He said he wants to visit Northwestern and Purdue during spring break. As of now, he is playing it by ear and has no official set of favorites.

McGhee’s height a concern

Manning wasn’t the only defensive tackle on campus last weekend as Antonio McGhee (Bossier City, La./Parkway) also attended junior day.

McGhee, however, made some early news as he was gone from OU before noon Saturday. He said not to read too much into it.

“No, it was nothing bad. We had to be back early Sunday, and it was a long drive,” McGhee said. “It was definitely worth the trip to meet the coaches. I don’t regret it at all.”

For McGhee, it was his second trip to the state in three weeks as McGhee also attended Oklahoma State’s junior day in February.

McGhee would definitely like to make another visit to OU, but it’s no guarantee following a revelation involving his height. McGhee has been listed at 6-foot-2 and 271 pounds, but he measured in at 5-foot-11 with his shoes off Saturday.

OU defensive tackles coach Jackie Shipp let it be known that his height will play a big factor in OU’s interest in McGhee.

“For me, it’s just another chip on my shoulder,” McGhee said. “I want to prove to everybody that I can make it, that I will make it.”

McGhee said that Shipp told him OU will continue to monitor McGhee’s progress and Shipp plans to watch McGhee during spring practice.

McGhee has offers from Oregon State, South Carolina, Tulane and Louisiana Tech. He grew up a big LSU fan but realizes it’s not about going to your favorite school but about going to the school where you fit best.

One thing OU and other schools in the area have going in their favor is location. He said he is family guy and wants to stay relatively close to his family. He also wants to stay in the south, saying he doesn’t want to live through a cold winter in the north.

As for the Sooners, McGhee said he was impressed with the enormity of the stadium and enjoyed getting to know the coaches.

Skipper likes old-school feel

One of the most common answers recruits say when discussing visits is how nice the facilities are. Offensive tackle Dan Skipper (Arvada, Colo./Ralston Valley) said he was impressed by OU’s stadium as he has never seen anything that big.

However, the weight room, that was another story. But even that worked to OU’s advantage on Skipper’s first trip to campus.

“I loved the weight room,” Skipper said. “It opens from a garage door. It has that red brick. It doesn’t have the nice bells and whistles like some of the other places.

“You take a look at OU’s weight room, and you know you’re going to go hard. They’re going to make you a hard person. I liked it a lot.”

Skipper wasn’t the only recruit to mention the weight room as defensive end Jordan Points (Heath, Texas/Rockwall-Heath) echoed those sentiments.

The verdict is still out on Skipper as many are skeptical that he can play the position at high level at 6-foot-10 and 270 pounds. Skipper said he isn’t worried what others are thinking, and he can only focus on what he can control.

OU offensive tackles coach Bruce Kittle is expected to watch Skipper work during the spring and that’s when it will be decided if Skipper will receive an offer. But the Sooners will have to work quickly on Skipper, who already has five offers since mid-January. He is planning on visiting Arizona State during spring break and said he remains wide open at this point.

Skipper did say, however, that distance won't be a factor on where he ends up.

“It won’t matter as much as people think,” Skipper said. “I’m not sure my parents are set living in Colorado. They don’t need to be able to drive to see me, but as long as they can take a flight that will get them there in a short time, I’m happy.”

Davis wants to be next Adrian Peterson

OU was one of the first teams to jump on the Justin Davis (Stockton, Calif./Lincoln) bandwagon. That wagon is about as full as it can be at this point.

The Sooners were the first team to offer Davis in November. Boise State followed suit after that, and the interest hasn’t slowed down since. Now? Davis has 15 offers, including USC, Michigan and Nebraska, among others.

But something OU has that no other school can talk about is Adrian Peterson, somebone Davis has looked up to for a long time now, he recently told Brandon Chatmon.

“I try to do everything like him. I’ve been following him since his freshman year in college,” Davis said. “That’s the first thing I thought when they offered me. Adrian Peterson went there so that made me even happier. Coach [Cale] Gundy coached Adrian Peterson so that’s even better.”

Great memories of Peterson aside, that can’t be the only thing that would bring Davis to OU. In a word, Davis is searching for comfort.

“How comfortable I am with the coaches, how comfortable I am with the campus and how comfortable I am in the offense,” Davis said.

Davis is 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds and is on the ESPNU 150 Watch List.

Recruits get questions answered

Linebacker Raaquan Davis (Heath, Texas/Rockwall-Heath) said one thing he was really happy about regarding OU’s junior day was a question-and-answer panel with current players.

It was a big hit during OU’s first junior day on Feb. 4, and it meant a lot to last weekend’s crop of recruits, too.

Davis said the panel hasn’t been at every junior day he has attended, and it’s a big plus.

“The players aren’t going to tell you what you want to hear. They’re going to tell you exactly how it is,” he said.

Davis asked what the players would have changed in getting prepared for college, and the consensus was time management.

“They said to take care of your responsibilities. Don’t waste time on things that don’t matter. It got me thinking about what I can change,” Davis said.

Most of the junior day attendees were within driving distance from their location to OU, but Skipper wasn’t one of them. For that reason, the Colorado offensive tackle said the panel was a great asset.

“It wasn’t like one question or anything like that. It was the whole process,” Skipper said. “The answers made me feel like I could see myself at OU.”

Is Porter the OT answer?

The Sooners haven’t had much luck at offensive tackle for 2013, but it hasn’t been from a lack of trying. So far it has been one offer after another pledging with another school.

One tackle the Sooners haven’t looked at but might in the future is Maurice Porter (Fort Bend, Texas/Marshall).

Porter, 6-foot-5 and 284 pounds, has offers from Baylor, Texas Tech and West Virginia

“I haven’t heard from the Sooners yet. I would be interested, but so far I haven’t heard anything,” he said.

Porter fared well at the Nike camp in Houston last weekend and also attended Baylor’s junior day Sunday.

Porter could receive a harder look from the OU staff considering the Sooners are hot on the trail for Porter’s teammate, defensive end/linebacker Deon Hollins Jr.

Hollins Jr. was not at OU’s junior day, but his father said they are interested in OU and hope to make an unofficial visit soon.

Taylor, OU heating up

It has been a busy month for defensive back Stanvon Taylor (Tulsa, Okla./East Central). Following a visit to OU’s junior day on Feb. 4, Taylor hit junior days at Arkansas and Tulsa. He is also one of the starters for the Tulsa East Central basketball team that reached the state tournament this week.

With all the good things going on for Taylor, he’s not dwelling on the fact he doesn’t have an offer from Oklahoma yet.

“I’m not really frustrated. I’m patiently waiting and definitely hoping it comes,” Taylor said. “I didn’t get to play most of my junior year so I want to get out there and show everybody what I can do in the spring.”

Taylor broke his ankle in the first game of the season and didn’t play the rest of the season. Taylor was recently offered by Arkansas State and was invited to Texas’ junior day. That invite and a call from Akina to Taylor led to the Sooners coming right back into the picture.

“It was that same day when Coach [Jackie] Shipp called me up to check on things,” Taylor said. “I have a good relationship with Coach Shipp and things are good.”

Taylor said he would like to check out Texas, but he is not sure when he can. He said his ankle is finally 100 percent, and he plans on visiting an OU spring practice when basketball season is over.

Thomas looking to stay close to home

Even before OU had its first running back commitment of 2013, a 2014 running back got Sooners fans excited last week.

Sophomore Devon Thomas (Broken Arrow, Okla./Broken Arrow) sent out some suggestive tweets: “Im starting to think Crimson and Cream are my colors…JS”

J.S. is short for “just saying” and Thomas mentioned bringing the No. 28 back to the Sooners.

“Pretty much what happened was me and my family were talking about things and what we’ve decided is we want to stay close to home,” Thomas said.

Thomas attended OU’s first junior day and already has been offered by OU and Oklahoma State. He also attended OSU’s junior day last month.

OU running backs coach Cale Gundy has realized how vital an addition Thomas could be to OU’s 2014 class, showing the sophomore a lot of attention.

“Coach Gundy is a really good guy, and I can tell he cares about me as a person and not just as a player,” Thomas said. “I spoke to him a couple of days ago, and we’re speaking on a weekly basis.”

Thomas has also been offered by OSU. Don’t expect a commitment anytime soon as Thomas said he is focused on his junior season and winning the state championship. Broken Arrow was defeated by Tulsa Union in the Oklahoma Class 6A state championship in December.

Week in Review

Here is a list of all the OU-related recruiting content produced by SoonerNation and the RecruitingNation staff this week:

Weekly OU offer update

• OU gets first commitment of 2013 class from Keith Ford

• DE Matt Dimon thought about committing Saturday

• OG Rob Boyd didn’t get an OU offer and learned guards are not a focus for OU’s class

Q&A with Cypress Ranch coach Gene Johnson, coach of Keith Ford

Patience and honesty are the words of the weekend for OU’s junior day

Weekly mailbag

• Raaquan Davis is high on the Sooners after junior day

• OU, Justin Manning on same page following offer

• Top 5 junior day visitors that deserve offers

• WR Ellis Jefferson eyes return trip to OU

• DE Jordan Points a fan of the old school OU weight room

• Safety Alfred Pullom excited to see OU practice Saturday

Q&A with defensive back Maurice Chandler

Nothing has changed with D.J. Ward and OU, and that’s a good thing

• OT Dan Skipper says OU trip was an eye-opener

• LB T.J. Ponds had a great junior day experience, will return for practice

• 2012 signee Daniel Brooks suffered a torn ACL during a track meet