Thursday, August 2, 2012
Sooner Intel: Recruiting news and notes
By Bob Przybylo
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:
• Why Oklahoma's newest commitment chose the Sooners over a regional school
• Will OU now look at interior offensive lineman for the class of 2013?
• Tim Kish has already made an impact on a top 2014 linebacker
• A standout Texas receiver hopes to take a visit to OU this fall
• A longtime in-state commitment starts school in a new city
Most believed UCLA was out in front in the Byrd race, but the connection to Mike and Bob Stoops proved to be enough for the Sooners. Byrd said Mike Stoops has been talking to him since his sophomore year.
Tom Hauck for ESPN.com
New Sooners commit Hatari Byrd could play several positions in Mike Stoops' defensive scheme.
It was still a little bit of a shock considering Byrd has yet to see the campus and won’t see the campus until his official visit Oct. 26. To Byrd, though, that’s not a problem.
“Really how I feel about it is that it’s all football,” Byrd said. “I’m the type of person where I can go away from home, and it’s not going to be that much of a problem.
“And I feel at home when I talk to the coaches. It’s a different type of relationship I have with them.”
With Byrd in the bank, it’s only natural for OU fans to wonder if his teammates, four-star cornerbacks L.J. Moore and Johnny Johnson Jr. will follow suit.
There's no telling at this point, but it won’t be because of a lack of effort made by Byrd.
“I’m going to try to talk them into it, but they are going to do what’s best for them,” Byrd said.
Moore said he knew Byrd was serious about OU for a long time, but he didn’t realize how serious until last weekend at the Gridiron Kings event. He could sense his friend and teammate was ready to pull the trigger and go with the Sooners.
“Normally he would say OU and then talk about another school five minutes later and not really give anything away,” Moore said. “Last week, though, he was really hinting at OU. I’m really proud of him.”
Byrd said part of the reason he picked OU was because of its tradition at defensive backs, something he hopes to only add to the legacy.
“I want to do something better than what they did there,” Byrd said.
Sooners still after Moore
The focus now will shift from Byrd to Moore for the Sooners. Moore and Byrd have talked about wanting to play together, but it’s not set in stone.
“I don’t want to say we’re a package deal,” Moore said. “But what I can say is it’s possible that after I do my research that OU could be the right place for me.”
Moore said he has been talking to Mike Stoops on a regular basis and is doing all he can to learn more about the OU program. And while Byrd was able to commit to the program without seeing it first, don't expect that to happen with Moore.
“It would be too hard for me to commit without seeing everything first,” Moore said. “It’s not just about football. It’s about the atmosphere. Do I really want to spend the next four years of my life at this place? You have to see it all to find out.”
Moore credits most of his success to defensive backs coach Tony Perry. Moore was moved to cornerback last season and said he is fired up about showing what he can do now that he understands the position better.
“He has me ready,” Moore said. “I know what’s going to come now. I’ve been studying film. Last year I played off my athletic ability.
“My aggressiveness and smarts are my two biggest strengths. I like to challenge receivers, (I'm) not afraid to mix it up.”
Moore said last week OU and California are his co-favorites. However, he tweeted a top six Wednesday night of Notre Dame, UCLA, Cal, Oregon State, Arizona State and Washington. In a later tweet, Moore said OU is still in consideration, and he will stay take the Oct. 26 official visit. He said he will definitely visit OU, Notre Dame and Cal.
Interior linemen now an option?
Throughout the 2013 recruiting class, one thing has been consistent. OU has not been searching for interior linemen.
Coach James Patton has had to be the bearer of bad news to several top offensive guard prospects. Patton always tried to keep door just a little cracked open. And now, well, that door might have actually been opened.
With the Sooners losing two linemen this week in center Ben Habern and redshirt freshman Dylan Dismuke to career-ending injuries, is now the time OU does look for some inside help?
Tulsa commit Rob Boyd says he's solid to the Golden Hurricane.
If it does, the obvious place to look is at three-star prospect Rob Boyd (Vian, Okla./Vian). Boyd is the top offensive lineman prospect in the state and attended OU’s junior day earlier this spring.
When Patton said an offer wasn’t going to come, however, Boyd moved on. He didn’t wait long before committing to Tulsa. And since then, Boyd has been taking it easy.
“It has been great. I know a lot of other kids are sweating it out, but I was able to enjoy my summer and get stronger,” Boyd said. “If [the Sooners] come to me, they come to me.
“It would be awesome and I would be honored if they offered. But like I said before, once I make a commitment, that’s it. I know where I’m going.”
Another option is Kansas City (Mo.) Rockhurst guard Zach Hannon. A three-star prospect, Hannon visited OU in the spring and, like Boyd, was told by Patton OU simply wasn’t looking for an interior lineman.
Hannon has been closer to coming to a decision, but he did text message on Wednesday saying everything could possibly change if OU came knocking.
“Right now they haven’t contacted me yet. But yea, if they did, it could possibly change,” Hannon said.
And you want a longshot? Look at Lawton, Okla., guard Ryne Yost. A transfer from Elk City, Okla., Yost is 6-foot-5 and 270 pounds.
I got a chance to see Yost during spring practice, and he definitely has the look and feel of a big-time recruit.
“Coach Patton was here in the spring and said they would have offered Ryne if they needed somebody at that spot,” Lawton coach Randy Breeze said. “Ryne did really well at OSU’s camp, and we’re happy to have him.”
Yost has no offers, but with more exposure, expect that to change.
OU in early good spot for Hampton
There has been much discussion among OU fans about how well first-year linebackers coach Tim Kish is doing on the recruiting trail.
The Sooners have one commit in Dallas Jesuit’s Jordan Mastrogiovanni, ranked No. 201 in the ESPN 300. But the rest of their offered 'backers have either committed to other programs or do not have OU in their list of favorites.
But there is one 2014 linebacker where Kish has already made a big dent, and that’s with Dallas Carter’s Cameron Hampton.
Hampton was at six camps this summer, including OU, Texas, LSU and Texas A&M. And which one stood out the most?
“I don’t know, there was just something about being at OU,” Hampton said. “There was a lot of good competition there, and you know OU is always going to have a good football team.”
Hampton attended the one-day camp at OU in June. And since then, his relationship with Kish has only improved. Hampton said he has talked to Kish four times this summer.
“He’s a real cool coach and likes me as a player,” Hampton said. “I can see myself playing for the Sooners.”
But don’t get excited just yet. Although OU has made a strong initial impression on Hampton, he said he is in no rush to make an early commitment.
But if you want to get excited again, you can regarding OU and Hampton’s choice of major. Hampton is looking at mechanical engineering and said he knows OU and Texas both have good engineering programs.
OU, though, went out of its way to do something else for Hampton on his camp visit.
“I had a meeting with the advisers, and they showed what the engineering classes would look like for me,” Hampton said. “It definitely helps because academics is going to be a huge factor for me.”
Hampton is excited about his junior season because he’s not the “young pup” anymore. He is ready to emerge as a leader. He is hopeful he can visit OU in the fall for one of its games, but he said it will all depend on his parents’ work schedules.
Hampton, who is 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds, also has offers from Notre Dame and Ohio State to go along with OU, LSU and A&M, among others.
OU door is open for Mathis
It has sort of been my running joke the last month that USC cannot get them all, but there was some reality in the statement, too. The Trojans made their choice Sunday by closing out their class with ESPN 300 defensive end Torrodney Prevot (Houston/Alief Taylor).
It’s an incredible 18-member class with 12 in the ESPN 150 and 17 in the ESPN 300. Sixteen of the 18 commits have OU offers.
Tom Hauck for ESPN.com
Joe Mathis was thought to be a USC lean, but now the Trojans are out of scholarships.
But that leaves a lot of prospects left on the table and one the more prominent recruits is defensive lineman Joe Mathis (Upland, Calif./Upland). Mathis, the cousin of USC commit Su’a Cravens, was thought to be among the top choices for USC.
“It is what it is. Nothing I can do about it,” Mathis said. “If they wanted me bad enough, they would have kept a spot open. I have other options.”
One of those options is certainly the Sooners. Though Mathis has yet to see the campus, Tim Kish is doing all he can to keep in constant communication with Mathis.
In the last few months, Mathis has seen Washington, Michigan, Nebraska, Oregon, Cal, UCLA and USC. However, he said he is still in no rush to make a decision and left open the possibility of an official visit to OU in the fall.
Mathis, who is 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds, is ranked No. 249 in the ESPN 300. He said he got up as high as 270 pounds, but he is back in the 245-250 range heading into his senior season.
“I’m faster and stronger, but the thing I worked on the most was my technique. I want to show what I can do,” Mathis said.
Hunter busy on the trail
Things can change in a hurry in the recruiting game. Nobody is finding that out more than Prosper, Texas, wide receiver Torii Hunter Jr.
An unknown commodity when the spring evaluation period started, Hunter is one of the most sought after prospects around. He has gone from being not ranked to now No. 50 in the ESPN 150 and No. 8 at receiver. And now he’s making the rounds. Hunter visited Princeton, West Virginia and Notre Dame last week. The Mountaineers and Irish were among the first schools, along with OU, to offer Hunter.
Hunter enjoyed his visits and once again stressed the fact he needs to be able to play baseball, too, for a school to have a realistic shot at getting his signature.
He won’t be able to visit OU before his senior season starts, but he said he would like to make an unofficial or official visit during the fall.
“I have no idea how the schedule is going to break down, but that is one place I would definitely like to see,” Hunter said. “I’ve enjoyed getting to know Coach [Jay] Norvell and want to see what they have to offer.”
Treadwell has developed a tight bond with Morris. Not only in terms of the proximity of where they live but also because they’ve been to all the same all-star events this summer.
Thomas has reached out to Treadwell a couple of times, but right now, it looks like Taylor is the No. 1 recruiter for Treadwell. The two spent a lot of time together last weekend at the Gridiron Kings event.
Receiver Laquon Treadwell stills wants to take a visit to OU.
“Oh yeah, me and Laquon talked a lot,” Taylor said. “He said OU is in his top choices. I can really tell he wants to get down there. He wants to see the campus.”
Taylor isn’t known as a very boisterous personality so he didn’t put on the full court press regarding Treadwell. He simply told him the truth as Taylor sees it.
“I told him everything I feel about the campus and the state of Oklahoma,” Taylor said. “How the atmosphere is in Norman and how he needs to see it on game day. OU is always dominant and successful. It would be great to have him come with.”
Treadwell, who is 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds, is No. 38 in the ESPN 150 and No. 4 at receiver.
Coincidentally, Taylor’s roommate at Gridiron Kings was Texas commit Jacorey Warrick. Taylor said Warrick said OU was among his final choices, but he feels the Longhorns will be the best fit for him.
OU’s stability a big factor for Bennett
It wasn’t a long courting process between OU and receiver commit Austin Bennett (Manvel, Texas/Manvel). Bennett picked up the offer at OU’s satellite camp in the Houston area, made an unofficial visit the campus the next week and then committed.
So why did everything happen so fast for him? In a word, stability.
“The coaching staff is out of this world,” Bennett said. “Bob Stoops has been there since 1999 so you know he’s not going anywhere. Jay Norvell knows how to bring out the best in his receivers. The proof is in the pudding.”
Bennett was able to show OU fans a taste of what they’re hoping to see with a quality outing at the Texas state 7-on-7 championships in July. The event was the start of what Bennett hopes is going to be a special latter half of 2012.
“This is my team, and I need to start taking over as a leader,” Bennett said. “I’m very comfortable in that spot and believe I’m a natural born leader.”
Bennett said his relationship with Norvell gets better with each week. He talked to him earlier this week and said each time he talks with Norvell all it does is get him more excited about coming to OU.
And he hopes he’s not coming alone. Teammates Kyrion Parker (Texas A&M) and Tavares Garner (Texas A&M) have committed to other schools, but Bennett has not given up hope on trying to flip them.
If Bennett cannot make a dent with his 2013 teammates, he has also begun making the charge at 2014 tight end teammate Koda Martin.
“He’s a great player and a real hardworking kid,” Bennett said. “I know he is going to make the best decision for him, but I’m doing all I can to convince him OU is the place to be.”
Bennett said he has never been in a better place in terms of his football mindset. He’s ready to show off his speed.
“I have big-time speed,” Bennett said. “Some don’t think it. But when you’re running next to me, you find out how fast I’m going.”
Ward in new home
All OU defensive end commit D.J. Ward wants to do is play football. With all the confusion that has surrounded him in the last few weeks, few recruits are looking forward to the 2012 season more.
Ward officially transferred to Oklahoma City Douglass from Lawton, Okla., this week as Oklahoma City Douglass began school Wednesday.
SoonerNation Recruit Tracker
Stay up to date on Oklahoma's 2013 commits, targets and offers. Tracker: Defense | Offense
“Thinking about the last few weeks, all I can say is confusion,” Ward said. “It has been a tough time. Now it’s a new start and meeting new people.”
One of those new people is 2014 defensive end Deondre Clark, who already has an offer from the Sooners. Clark is pumped to learn from Ward. And though the move wasn’t exactly what Ward wanted to happen, he was able to crack a smile about playing with Clark.
“It’s going to be great. We should be able to dominate and do whatever we want,” Ward said.
Ward is making the move because his father received a teaching job at Oklahoma City Douglass. One person who might be thrilled about the move is defensive ends coach Bobby Jack Wright as he can visit Clark and Ward at once.
“I talked to Coach Wright earlier today [Tuesday]. He was just checking in and said he hopes I can make [OU's] practice Friday,” Ward said.
Ward is the highest-ranked OU defender at No. 88 in the ESPN 150.
Key, Thomas growing up
You can’t keep a secret for too long. The cat has been out of the bag about 2014 running back Devon Thomas (Broken Arrow, Okla./Broken Arrow). Already with offers from OU, Oklahoma State and Clemson, among others, it will be a busy fall for the junior.
And now you can start to say the same thing for 2014 Broken Arrow quarterback Coleman Key. Though he still hasn’t started a varsity game he picked up an offer from Arkansas State and appears to be on the very short list for Michigan in 2014.
Key camped at Michigan in the summer and made a return visit last weekend for the annual Big House BBQ. He said nothing has changed regarding his relationship with Josh Heupel, saying things are still good between him and the Sooners.
Nobody would know better about the progression of Thomas and Key than 2013 running back Cameron Wrenn. Here’s what Wrenn had to say about his talented teammates.
“With Devon, he’s a great running back,” Wrenn said. “He showed a lot of people what he can do last season. I think his speed throws a lot of people off.
“He’s thick. He’s going to be around 205 pounds a junior, but he can run. He can juke you and his vision is incredible.”
Wrenn split time with Thomas at the spot in 2011. Both should see carries in the fall, and it’s possible Wrenn could be moved out to the slot.
“We saw some footage of him at Owasso, and you could tell Coleman has that something special,” Wrenn said. “His body structure is exactly what you want at the quarterback position.
“He has great accuracy, and he’s done a great job in making the transition after his transfer [from Owasso to Broken Arrow].”