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Sooner Intel: Recruiting news and notes

4/18/2012

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:

• Could Oklahoma be close to offering an in-state cornerback?

• A Sooners linebacker offer is eyeing a summer visit.

• The father of an OU commit has been sold on the idea of his son as a Sooner.

• An in-state defensive tackle is listening to the advice of an OU assistant coach.

• Several 2014 prospects attended the Red-White spring game, and all were impressed.

Read the Sooner Intel after the jump.

Ward solid with Sooners

Defensive end D.J. Ward (Lawton, Okla./Lawton) hasn't had a hectic week since his commitment to Oklahoma on Saturday. A fun one, for sure, but not exactly stressful.

For Lawton coach Randy Breeze, however, it has been a different story. When Breeze found out Ward committed to OU last weekend, he knew this week would be busy.

“I’ve had coaches calling like crazy every day this week wondering what’s the story with D.J. and his commitment,” Breeze said. “How much is he committed to OU?

"I’ve told them all the same thing. Knowing D.J. and knowing his family and his love of OU, he is about as solid a commitment as you’re ever going to find.”

That hasn’t stopped coaches from saying they still intend to make the trip to Lawton to see Ward during this spring evaluation period.

“I know they have to do what they have to do and follow up on things, but there isn’t a doubt in my mind D.J. is signing with OU," he said.

Ward, who is ranked No. 93 in the ESPN 150 and is the No. 8 defensive end, said minutes after his commitment that he was done taking any more potential visits and is firmly committed to the Sooners. He had talked about a potential visit to Ohio State but has backed off those words since last weekend.

Dimon family onboard with OU

Following his first trip to OU’s campus in March, defensive end Matt Dimon (Katy, Texas/Katy) was sold on the Sooners. He was ready to commit there or in the immediate days after. But his parents told him to wait to make sure he was 100 percent satisfied with his decision. Dimon was and committed March 13.

But his father committed to OU last weekend.

“My dad wasn’t really sold on Norman at first,” Dimon said. “He had some questions about everything. But this trip changed everything. He really had a good time and is happy with everything.”

Dimon, a four-star prospect ranked No. 17 in the country at defensive end, said he felt a lot more comfortable in the Norman area this time around. He was more familiar with everything and wasn’t nearly as worried or nervous.

“I was able to relax and see the community more,” Dimon said. “The OU community is incredible. The way these fans love their football, love their team -- it’s something I cannot wait to be a part of.”

OU looking in Chandler’s direction?

OU coaches have been camped out in Lawton for the last year to watch elite defensive end D.J. Ward, but it has also given them a chance to see junior cornerback Maurice Chandler.

At first, it was just some passing interest and a few letters. But as OU defensive backs coach Mike Stoops keeps looking for big and fast corners, Chandler has become a viable option.

Chandler, 6-foot and 185 pounds, is among the fastest kids in Oklahoma. He ran a 10.36 in the 100-yard dash in a track meet last week.

He already has offers from Texas Tech and Kansas State, among others, but it was the Red Raiders's offer that opened his eyes.

“I admit I wasn’t really taking football too seriously until I got that first letter from Texas Tech,” Chandler said. “It came last year and made me realize I need to start working hard. And then they were my first offer, and it has really made me realize what can be out there.”

The biggest concern for Chandler has been qualifying academically. Chandler took the ACT last weekend and said he felt pretty confident about how he performed. He was a little iffy on the math section, but he is hoping this will take away any doubts schools might have.

And the schools that are interested in him are increasing.

“You know Notre Dame was looking at D.J., but they’ve told me they really like Maurice, too, and want to come down in the spring,” Lawton coach Randy Breeze said.

Ward is known as the quiet one, not so much the case with Chandler. His outgoing personality has made him a favorite among teammates and coaches. Chandler was at OU’s spring game last weekend and Stoops reiterated that once his grades are in order, an offer will most likely come.

The interest didn’t stop there. Breeze said he had a long talk with Stoops on Tuesday morning about Chandler and who he is on and off the field.

“It would be great if we could have two kids go to OU," Breeze said. "That’s all you want as a coach for your kids to get a chance for a great education and a chance to play at the next level like that."

Cox eyes summer OU visit

Back in February, it looked like OU had the inside track for athlete Chans Cox (Pinetop, Ariz./Blue Ridge), but a lot can and has changed since then. It doesn’t mean the Sooners are out of the race by any means, but there are a lot more suitors than there were two months ago.

And if you think things are slowing down for Cox, think again. He was offered by USC last week, and while OU sees Cox as a linebacker, the Trojans see him as a fullback.

“That was a huge offer. I went out there for their junior but there were so many kids. I felt that they were trying to show interest, though,” Cox said. “I thought I would have to go to their camp so I was very happy.”

Cox wants to begin to narrow his choices in the next month. But if you asked him right now, there are several teams in the mix: OU, Arizona State, USC, Arkansas, Notre Dame, Nebraska, Boise State and Washington.

One advantage OU has had over most schools is that Cox didn’t have to build a relationship with the Sooners' coaching staff. Cox already knew OU linebackers coach Tim Kish from his time at Arizona, and it has made the process very smooth.

“I had a great relationship with Coach Kish when he was at Arizona. To already have that built in like that makes things a lot easier,” Cox said. “I don’t have to try to question anything he says or anything like that.”

Cox, a three-star prospect who is ranked No. 41 in the country as an athlete, said he considered making a trip to OU this spring but has decided to wait until the summer or fall. It is also a strong statement that Cox is not ready for a commitment anytime soon.

He said distance is not a factor but graduating early will be.

“I want to graduate in December and play spring football. There is no doubt in my mind that’s what I want to do,” Cox said. “So I’m definitely going to start narrowing things down because I want to be ready in the fall to make that commitment.”

Harlow accepting his fate

It had been widely speculated that tight end signee Laith Harlow was going to be placed on a medical hardship, but Harlow ended the speculation Wednesday evening by confirming that was the case.

Harlow spoke to OU coaches Bob Stoops and Bruce Kittle where it was determined his back injury has forced him to quit football. He will still attend OU. Stoops wouldn’t comment on Harlow’s situation on national signing day, which led many to believe something was wrong with Harlow.

When asked about the situation days after signing day, Harlow said he still intended to play football at OU. He was still working hard and rehabbing from back surgery to get back on the field.

After another conversation with Harlow in March, he was still optimistic about things. He was swimming laps and had started running again. But he admitted Wednesday night the pain never went away.

Harlow is trying to remain positive about his situation. When asked what was the No. 1 thing on his mind Wednesday night, he had this to say.

"I'm so glad I can go to school at OU. If Coach Stoops would have said I can't play and I can't go to school, I don't know how I would be feeling right now,” Harlow said. “But that's not the case. They say OU is a family. Now I know what that means. I can still be a Sooner if I won't be catching touchdown passes."

Harlow was OU’s first commit at tight end for 2012. He injured his back early in his senior season and had surgery in the fall. Harlow knew something was wrong because he said he has always had a high threshold of pain, but this was pain he had “never felt before.”

Harlow said Wednesday was the first time he had spoken to Stoops in a while, but Harlow and Kittle have been in constant communication.

“Coach Kittle, man, I cannot say enough good things about him,” Harlow said. “He’s more than a coach to me. I feel like I can go to him about anything.”

Cullom taking Shipp’s advice

Defensive tackle is a clear position of need for OU’s 2013 class. There is no doubt Justin Manning (Dallas/Kimball) is OU’s top target at the spot. Manning, the younger brother of former OU player DeMarcus Granger, is ranked No. 85 in the ESPN 150.

But one dark horse name to be on the watch for is Novis Cullom (Tulsa, Okla./Memorial). Sometimes the listed heights of linemen get exaggerated. But not with Cullom. Participating in the NIKE camp in Dallas last month, Cullom was measured as a legit 6-foot-3 and 290 pounds.

The 6-foot-3 part is nice. The 290 pounds is something OU defensive tackles coach Jackie Shipp has been trying to work on with Cullom.

“He told me he wants me to slim down. I was able to get down to 275, but now I’m closer to 280,” Cullom said. “I’m definitely listening whenever Coach Shipp has something to say.”

And lately the two parties have been talking more than ever. Cullom was at OU’s summer camp last year, and Shipp really started to pay more attention in the late fall.

Shipp and Cullom have been having more frequent talks and Cullom was at OU’s spring game. Like some other prospects, grades are a concern right now for Cullom as it relates to an offer.

“I know what I have to do. I have to get those grades up,” Cullom said. “If I do that, I believe I will get an offer.”

Cullom said OU, Arkansas, Nebraska, Arizona and several other schools in the Big 12 have shown strong interest. However, the grades have kept all the teams from pulling the trigger.

“It’s a little bit frustrating, but it’s on me to work harder," he said. "I understand where Coach Shipp is coming from. I have to change things."

Cullom said he enjoyed the game day atmosphere and getting to meet some of the players. The Sooners have been his favorite team for a long time.

“I’ve always wanted to play for them,” Cullom said. “I used to go to Bedlam games and the Texas game and stuff like that,” Cullom said. “Being at a game as a recruit, it definitely makes it feel more real. I can play at this level.”

Spring evaluation period begins

These next six weeks will go a long way in determining the focus and direction of OU’s 2013 class. From now until May 31, assistant coaches are allowed to make one phone call to a recruit and are allowed to visit them at their high schools.

One of OU’s first calls was to defensive end Torrodney Prevot (Houston/Alief Taylor). Prevot has listed Texas, LSU and Texas A&M as his top three, but the Sooners aren’t about to call it a day just yet.

Interestingly enough, one of Texas’ first calls was to defensive back target Stanvon Taylor (Tulsa, Okla./East Central). Taylor was hoping to be at OU’s spring game but couldn’t make it. Texas defensive backs coach Duane Akina called Taylor on Sunday.

“I was shocked. I didn’t even know they could do that stuff,” Taylor said. “He explained Sunday was the first day. It was cool to know I was one of their first calls.”

Taylor is still hoping for an OU offer, but he is definitely interested in Texas. He was invited to the Longhorns junior day but couldn’t make it. Taylor said he will try to make a visit to Texas, but he is not sure when it will be possible.

Taylor is a four-star prospect ranked No. 22 as an athlete.

USC has been active, too, having already called Prevot and wide receiver Ra'Shaad Samples (Dallas/Skyline).

The next few weeks will be very busy so keep checking back on the forum and here on SoonerNation because things will likely be changing on a near daily basis.

2014 in-state prospects get a taste of OU

It became clear toward the latter part of last week what OU’s thinking was regarding spring game visitors. Any 2013 visitors were considered recruits the Sooners are still seriously thinking about offering.

And the 2014 prospects were the ones OU is already eyeing. The weekend sort of fell apart on the 2013 front because of the threat of severe weather. However, it essentially became a coming-out party for the top in-state kids in 2014.

No. 1a and No. 1b were both there in quarterback Justice Hansen (Edmond, Okla./Santa Fe) and running back Devon Thomas (Broken Arrow, Okla./Broken Arrow).

Thomas said last week that OU running backs coach Cale Gundy has done a great job of building the relationship with his parents just as much as with Thomas. And there was Gundy on Saturday spending most of his time talking with Thomas’ mother. OU is in great standing with Thomas at this point. He is clearly interested and the Sooners have done a quality job of letting him know how much they’re intrigued.

• Saturday was a positive step for OU and Hansen. The last couple of months have been a little testy for OU fans regarding Hansen. He already has offers from Missouri and Arkansas and was receiving minimal interest from the Sooners. The weekend changed things.

“It felt really good to talk to them again in person,” Hansen said. “I’ve been on the phone just a little bit with them since the summer, and that’s about it.”

Hansen said he plans to attend OU’s camp in early June. With how patient OU has been offering 2013 quarterbacks, it wasn’t a shock at all to Hansen to leave OU without an offer last weekend.

“I expected to have a pretty good time, and I did,” Hansen said. “They’re still looking at 2013 quarterbacks so I know they’re busy. But I definitely feel better about things.”

• And where you see Hansen, you’re likely to see quarterback Coleman Key (Broken Arrow, Okla./Broken Arrow). Key transferred to Broken Arrow recently and went to the game with Devon Thomas. Key said this was one of the first times he was able to talk with OU quarterbacks coach Josh Heupel for more than just a short meet-and-greet.

“It was good to hear what he thought about everything," Key said. "He wants me to camp at OU so that’s something I hope I can do."

Key, already 6-foot-5, said he liked being the focus for once. Whenever Key had talked with Heupel before, it was because Heupel was evaluating and talking with Key’s older brother, Kason. With Kason graduated, it is now Coleman’s time.

One of the people Key got to meet was D.J. Ward. When told Ward committed to OU, Key was pretty happy.

“That’s awesome. He seems like a good dude,” Key said. “I would love to be one of his future teammates.”

Michigan, Oklahoma State and West Virginia already are starting to show interest in Key as well.

• One of the more surprising invites was ATH Kai Callins (Guthrie, Okla./Guthrie). It’s not a shock when you watch Callins play, but he is tough to label in just about every way possible. He is 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds. He has been a running back his entire life, but he spent the most time Saturday with OU wide receivers coach Jay Norvell.

“Yeah, he really wanted to show me a lot of the facilities and stuff like that,” Callins said. “He told me all about the program. It was a great time.”

Callins’ older brother, Keaton, sort of flew under the radar and is now a wide receiver at Fort Hays State. Kai Callins was dominant in Guthrie’s state championship victory against Lawton (Okla.) MacArthur.

Only a sophomore, it was clear he was the best player on the field on that day. He can play running back, wide receiver, cornerback and is also a kick returner.

• A prospect that started to pop up last fall was Michael Farmer (Edmond, Okla./Memorial). Right now he is a running back, but he is outgrowing that position with every day. He is listed at 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, but he might be more than that at this point. Farmer was another late invite to OU’s spring game.

“I had already talked to Coach [Cale] Gundy about coming to the camp in June, but they called my coaches and asked me to come to the spring game, too,” Farmer said.

One team already on Farmer’s radar is Arizona State. Farmer has spoken with the coaching staff a couple of times and he feels he could be close to an offer. Iowa State has also shown a considerable amount of interest.

Farmer is another in-state kid that has liked the Sooners his entire life and admitted it was a lot different Saturday.

“It is really tough to describe what I was feeling," Farmer said. "I mean getting to walk through the Switzer Center like that and seeing all the championships. It was really cool."

Farmer said he has been working on his speed and agility since the end of last season and said he doesn’t care if his future is at running back, defensive end or linebacker. “I just want to play," he said."

• There wasn’t a bigger OU fan among the recruits than 2014 defensive tackle Ivan Thomas (Lawton, Okla./Lawton). Heading into the weekend, the goal of D.J. Ward was to help his friend and teammate start to build that relationship with the OU coaches.

Ward’s plans changed when he decided to commit, but he still was able to get Thomas some introductions to the staff.

As for Thomas, it wasn’t the easiest experience for him.

“It took me a long time before I could relax in front of those guys,” Thomas said. “I had goosebumps when I got there. It was incredible.”

Eventually Thomas settled down and met briefly with Mike Stoops. He also said he was able to talk with Kenny Stills and Roy Finch.

Thomas, 6-foot-2 and 268 pounds, is recovering from a torn ACL but said he will be ready by the time the 2012 season starts. He plays running back for Lawton but understands his future is at defensive tackle.