Sooner Intel: Recruiting news and notes 

September, 27, 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:

• More on OU getting back in the mix with a top tailback.
• Could a out-of-state- prospect who was in Norman last weekend visit again this fall?
• Four-star offensive tackle knows he could play early at OU
• Sooners RB commit shaking off poor performance in season debut
• What happens next with OT Matt Beyer? He isn't sure.

Read the Sooner Intel after the jump.

Sooners making push again for Bryant

It wasn’t the weekend Oklahoma fans were hoping for, either on the field or on the recruiting trail. With so many top uncommitted prospects coming to Norman, the hope was for some good news.

Tom Hauck/ESPNHS
Three schools are standing out to tailback Greg Bryant and, surprisingly, one is Oklahoma.

And maybe it didn’t happen with some of the visitors, but OU running backs coach Cale Gundy was working the phones hard last weekend to get a familiar name back into the fold.

After nearly two months of no communication, Gundy reached out to former OU running back commit Greg Bryant (Delray Beach, Fla./American Heritage-Boca Delray) and the two spoke for more than 90 minutes, Bryant said.

What does it mean? It's tough to say. It doesn’t mean OU is now the leader again for Bryant, but the Sooners are realistically in the equation once again.

What’s tough for some fans to grasp is why Bryant decommitted in the first place when it seemed like he had no problems with OU or its coaches. Bryant reaffirmed that and said he still has no issues with the program. The issue, he said, was with his commitment on March 31.

“I never should have committed that day,” Bryant said. “I was just having so much fun and feeling right at home that I decided to do it. But I should have waited.

“I don’t regret the decommitment, though. I need to see what else is out there and be fair to everybody. What I should have done was taken that first visit, kept talking with Coach Gundy and then committed on the second visit.”

Of course what’s interesting about any talk of a second visit is the fact that Bryant never had a second visit to OU. He kept wanting to take one in June and July, but the stars never aligned for that to happen.

“It just wasn’t planned out very well on my end,” Bryant said. “I wanted to go, but I didn’t think about how much the plane tickets would cost, and I never got around to it.”

Bryant said he doesn’t have a top school, saying he wants to take official visits to OU, South Carolina and Auburn. For his OU visit, Bryant said he wants to be there for a game day weekend.

OU still has the commitment of No. 3-ranked running back Keith Ford (Cypress, Texas/Ranch). When asked about the possibility of adding Bryant, ranked No. 2 at the position, back with him, Ford was pretty pumped.

“I’m a team first guy all the time,” Ford said. “I want the best athletes to come with me and be a part of something special at OU. We are going to build something special there. It’s great that Greg is talking with coach Gundy again. I hope it all works out.”

Rodgers felt like part of the team on visit

Going back to the weekend, though, it was a big one in terms of official visitors. One of the biggest, both literally and from a class-need standpoint, was four-star offensive tackle Na'Ty Rodgers (Owings Mills, Md./McDonough).

Rodgers asked his father, Tyrone, to come from California for the visit, but Tyrone opted to stay home because he wanted his son to have his own experience. Tyrone played defensive line for OU in 1988 before transferring to Washington.

After talking to his son following the visit, Tyrone is glad he chose to stay home.

“We talked while he was on the visit. We talked when he got home, and he loved it,” Tyrone said. “He couldn’t stop talking about the school and the coaches.

“That’s what I wanted. I didn’t want people talking to me or for me to influence his visit. Now he has his own memories. That’s great.”

Tyrone Rodgers has spoken incredibly high of his short time with the Sooners, calling it a brotherhood that has never gone away. In his mind, he had a checklist of some things he had hoped Na’Ty would say following the visit.

This was the biggest:

“He said he felt like he was part of the team already,” Tyrone said. “That’s what I really wanted to hear from him. I wanted to hear that he felt a part of that brotherhood. He said he loved hanging out with the other linemen and felt right at home.”

But it never mattered how great the visit was because a commitment is simply not happening until after Na’Ty’s senior season. It was one of the rules Tyrone laid out after Na’Ty’s junior season. Right now Na’Ty’s commitment is tentatively set for the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl in early January.

“I don’t want him to get distracted,” Tyrone said. “I want him to keep working. I want him to get that 3.5 [GPA] this semester. We still have goals set for him at the high school level.”

It’s clear the OU visit has made a big impression on Na’Ty, and the Sooners have put themselves right in the mix with South Carolina and Maryland. OU has done so well that don’t be surprised to hear about a second visit to Norman.

Tyrone won’t be going on that one, either.

“No, it’s not needed. Every team needs to do a sell job, but the sell job is done with me,” he said. “I know OU isn’t a used car salesman. I know I can trust the program. But I think his mother is going to make that trip. She needs to see it, too, and be comfortable with everything.”

The game outcome obviously wasn’t what OU was hoping for. But sometimes a loss can say more about a team than a victory. That might have been the case with OU and Na’Ty.

“He kept talking about the camaraderie the team still had despite the loss,” Tyrone said. “He really liked that. Everybody was upset they lost, but everybody stayed together. I told you -- it’s a brotherhood.”

Benenoch has chance to make immediate impact

One line of thinking for a recruit after watching a team take a loss on an official visit is to say “that’s why I need to go there, to make an impact.”

That is the case for Katy (Texas) Seven Lakes four-star offensive guard Caleb Benenoch following his visit to OU last weekend.

Max Olson/
Offensive lineman Caleb Benenoch has narrowed his list but won't be committing anytime soon.

Ranked as a guard, Benenoch is one of the top priorities for OU at offensive tackle. For a couple of months the OU coaches have stressed how important Benenoch is because of OU’s lack of depth. Benenoch knows that’s not lip service.

“I had been told about how little depth they have, but it’s one to be told it and another to see it in person,” Benenoch said. “I think they had 10 total offensive linemen running through stuff in pregame. That’s not a lot.

“That really showed me I have an opportunity to go there and compete for a spot very early in my college career.”

Conversely, the situation couldn’t be more different at UCLA. The Bruins now have six offensive linemen commits, which has made OU offer and UCLA commit Christian Morris (Memphis, Tenn./East) contemplate if it might be time for him to look around.

Benenoch has been busy on the visit circuit although OU was his first official trip. He has made unofficial visits to Texas A&M and Baylor this season but things work a little bit differently on an official one.

He said if he had to rank them it would be OU, Baylor and A&M in that order. And like Rodgers said, the way the team responded after the loss made an impression on Benenoch.

“On an official visit you usually hang out with your host after the game and go to a party or something like that,” Benenoch said. “Nobody wanted to go out because they’d just lost. To me, that was a good thing. They hate losing that much that they don’t even want to go out to parties after a loss.”

But they also weren’t dwelling on the defeat. Instead, the guys were already talking about getting back to practice and fixing what went wrong.

“They were already figuring out ways to fix this and how to get better,” Benenoch said. “It was a locker room that you could tell they’re used to winning and they have high expectations for themselves.”

Benenoch is going to make an official visit to Texas next weekend for the West Virginia game and said he wants to see UCLA after his senior season. This visit has changed things up as for now Benenoch said he has no favorite school.

Ford finding groove

A late season foot injury ended Keith Ford’s junior season prematurely. All he wanted to do was get back to playing football.

But for Ford, pressure and attention don’t suit him well. He prefers to be the quiet guy and simply have fun playing the game he loves. That first game of the season was not fun by any means.

Ford was ejected in the second quarter of the season opener with rumors that Ford punched an opponent. He didn’t like people thinking that of him.

“That’s not my game,” Ford said. “I play with sportsmanship. I was trying to get up, and he was holding me down. I was just trying to get up. I went straight to the bench and coach came over and said I was ejected.”

It was a learning experience for Ford.

“People are going to try to get in my head. That’s what I really learned from that,” he said.

Cypress Ranch had a bye week the following week and the Ford of old has returned in two games since. He has rushed for 263 yards and seven touchdowns in the last two games.

“It’s about being comfortable and relaxed,” Ford said. “Practice and games are about having fun, loving what you do. Sometimes you get so uptight before a game you lose your focus and make a lot of mistakes. I’m trying to clear my mind.”

Ford is still in constant contact with the OU coaches and said he is aiming for his official visit to be the weekend of OU’s banquet following the season.

The one thing that has always stood out has been the family environment at OU. When he was on his unofficial to OU last season against Iowa State, he met Cale Gundy’s family and said that was really important.

“We’re very family-oriented and I love that about OU,” Ford said. “If you’re a troublemaker, you’re out. It’s all about discipline. I feel that way here at Cy Ranch. Our coaches really care for us. They make us stay on top of our school work. I get that same vibe at OU.”

Beyer hopeful to still be a Sooner

To say the last two weeks have been a rollercoaster of emotions for OU offensive tackle commit Matt Beyer (San Antonio/Reagan) would be an understatement.

Beyer, a four-star prospect, announced two weeks ago he has been forced to give up football because of a neck injury.

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