Thursday, August 16, 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:
• OU's lone running back commit solidifies his commitment.
• What type of linebackers is Tim Kish looking for? We have an answer.
• An ESPN 150 wideout has the Sooner State on his mind.
• OU has offered a Chicago linebacker in the 2014 class. Is he interested?
• One of the state's best 2014 prospects almost committed during the summer. But to which school?
Read the Sooner Intel after the jump.
Ford comfortable with Gundy
Not always the most talkative OU commit, Cypress (Texas) Ranch running back Keith Ford wants everybody to know he is still fully committed to the Sooners.
Ford’s quiet attitude has led to some rumors being spread about him looking around. He said any rumors at this point do nothing but make him laugh.
“My mind is set on being a Sooner," he said. "Nobody can change that."
One big reason why is because of the relationship he has developed with running backs coach Cale Gundy. When Ford visited the campus in November, one thing that stood out was getting to meet Gundy’s family. He knew right then it was all about family, the Sooner family at OU. Nothing has changed since his first visit. And as Ford has talked more with Gundy, he sees something else in his future coach.
Running back Keith Ford is solid to the Sooners.
“He seems like a guy that will push me to my limit,” Ford said. “He is going to make me work harder and compete more than I ever have before.”
It’s all about competing for Ford, ranked No. 3 at running back and No. 32 in the ESPN 150. It’s that mindset that didn’t deter him when OU took another ESPN 150 running back in Delray Beach (Fla.) American Heritage-Boca Delray’s Greg Bryant. Ford said he never had any negative feelings about Bryant being in the same class and that he hasn’t gotten a chance to speak with Bryant since his decommitment.
“Either way, when you get to college, you’re going to have to compete,” Ford said. “I like to compete. My mom is like ‘Why do you get so mad some times?’ I hate losing and will do everything to win.”
For this season, though, it’s more about staying healthy. Ford broke his foot midway through his junior season and said he has been itching to get back on the field since.
When the team is going through walkthroughs right now, he can’t help but go full speed because he is so excited to be back.
“That first month after I was off my boot I was kind of scared about breaking it again,” Ford said. “I’m good now. I’m ready to get back to work and feel great.”
Mastrogiovanni enjoying the quiet life
Before I even started the conversation with Dallas Jesuit linebacker Jordan Mastrogiovanni, he cut me off mid-sentence.
“I’m so happy to be a Sooner,” Mastrogiovanni said.
Mastrogiovanni, ranked No. 7 at inside linebacker and No. 202 in the ESPN 300, said committing to the Sooners in June allowed him to enjoy his summer. Instead of fielding recruiting calls and trying to get in touch with schools, Mastrogiovanni said he felt like a regular high school senior and just had fun.
But that doesn’t mean he stopped talking with Tim Kish or Mike Stoops.
“I talk with them when I can. I would say I’m talking to them at least a couple of times a month,” Mastrogiovanni said. “Coach Kish is so busy right now with camp that we haven’t talked, but it’s OK.”
Linebacker recruiting has been a hot topic of debate since Kish took the job. Some fans, though not ready to write him off the new assistant coach, have been wondering what might be going through Kish’s mind.
Mastrogiovanni did his best to answer that.
“What I see right now is he wants more size on the roster,” Mastrogiovanni said. “There are a lot of guys like 6-foot or 6-1 that have a lot of athleticism and speed. But I think he’s looking for bigger guys.”
One of those bigger linebacker targets would definitely be ESPN 150 linebacker Mike Mitchell (Plano, Texas/Prestonwood Christian). Mitchell took an unofficial visit to OU last weekend that has helped put the Sooners in the mix for the four-star recruit.
And Kish will have an ally in Mastrogiovanni in trying to get Mitchell to Norman.
“Oh yeah, I told Coach Kish anything he needs from me to try to help to let me know,” Mastrogiovanni said. “I’ve friended Mike on Facebook, and I’m going to do what I can. I’m just going to tell him why I love OU so much and why I think it’s a great place to be.”
Mastrogiovanni was an admitted OU fan so it wasn’t going to take too much to get his pledge. But he said any doubts he might have had were wiped away with Kish.
“He solidified everything,” Mastrogiovanni said. “He’s a really genuine guy and made me feel like I was at home.”
Treadwell with OU on the brain
The beauty of Twitter. One 2013 recruit who has been getting the hopes up of OU fans everywhere with his tweets this week is ESPN 150 receiver Laquon Treadwell (Crete, Ill./Crete-Monee).
Receiver Laquon Treadwell will take all of his official visits before deciding.
It's safe to say the four-star prospect has the Sooner State on his mind.
“I’m liking the Sooners a lot,” Treadwell said. “I’ve been talking to the coaches a lot on Facebook, but we haven’t tried to set up any official visits.”
Treadwell was supposed to see OU for the spring game on April 14 but canceled his trip because of severe weather. That would have given him a chance to see the facilities. Instead, he has had an alternative.
“It’s not like seeing it in person, but I’ve been YouTubing a bunch of videos that have guides to the campus and facilities,” Treadwell said. “I’m really excited to see everything.”
Treadwell is good friends with Michigan quarterback commit Shane Morris, but OU commits Cody Thomas (Colleyville, Texas/Heritage) and Stanvon Taylor (Tulsa, Okla./East Central) have tried to reach out to Treadwell.
“It does mean a lot to have all these guys and all these schools after me,” Treadwell said. “I want to take my official visits first.”
Auburn, Ole Miss and Florida are other schools Treadwell is high on. What might set OU apart from the rest is the style of offense, something Treadwell thinks he would be perfect for.
“They get the ball into their playmakers’ hands," he said. "That’s all you can ask for as a receiver."
Clark waiting for first offer
At this point, Denton (Texas) Ryan’s 2014 defensive end Sekou Clark is done thinking about recruiting and done wondering why he doesn’t have his first offer.
Clark, who said he is now 6-4 and 225 pounds, camped at OU, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and Texas Tech this summer. He got rave reviews at all four sites but still, he waits.
“It is making me work that much harder at everything I do,” Clark said. “I’m still working for that scholarship."
Clark got to watch from one of the best defensive ends in the country last season, backing up Florida State freshman Mario Edwards Jr., who was ranked No. 1 in the ESPN 150.
All that waiting didn’t allow him to see the field too often. He said he only had significant playing time in three games last season. He has been telling himself that is why the offers haven’t come.
The bright side, though, is he was able to hone his craft.
“This season I’m out to prove I’m not a backup anymore,” Clark said. “Last year I had to sit and learn from players that were better than me. I developed my game a lot from watching them. Now I’m ready.”
Clark has camped at OU three straight summers and said he is still high on the Sooners. However, he has not had much contact with OU defensive ends coach Bobby Jack Wright since the June camp. He has been keeping in touch with coaches at Texas Tech and Texas A&M.
Always a lean defensive end, Clark said he has worked hard on his toughness this summer. Adding the weight was one thing and now he wants to prove he can be a run-stopper.
“You can’t pass rush every down, and I want to be an every down player so I’ve had to step up,” Clark said. “I think I have. Now I’m just waiting for the opportunity.”
Sooners make push for Garrett
Spend one minute talking with OU freshman David Smith, and it’s easy to get along with his engaging personality.
So was it Smith, a native of the Chicago area, that turned the OU coaches onto Plainfield (Ill.) South 2014 linebacker Clifton Garrett? That's unclear right now, but not long after Smith mentioned Garrett on Twitter, Garrett received an OU offer.
“I know a little about the program,” Garrett said. “It’s a tradition-rich program, definitely a winning program. They have a great coaching staff.
Tom Hauck for ESPN.com
Linebacker Clifton Garrett says he has no favorites right now.
“I only talked to Coach Kish for like 10 to 15 minutes. We were just trying to get to know each other. He said he would love if I could make it down for a game. They really like the way I play.”
Garrett talked to Smith the day before the offer came and got to know Smith in the last year. The two were members of the Core 6 team comprised of some of the Chicago area's top athletes. Also included in that bunch is Laquon Treadwell.
When Garrett talked to Smith, he asked him how everything was going at OU. Smith had nothing but rave reviews in the middle of his first fall camp with the Sooners.
It is incredibly early for a list of favorites, Garrett said, but he did list some schools he likes in OU, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Notre Dame and Illinois.
One thing he is not afraid of is expectations.
“This year is going to be, what do they call it, a breakout year," Garrett said. "Yeah, this is going to be my breakout year to help me get closer to reaching my dreams."
Clark ‘that close’ to LSU commitment
In a perfect scenario, OU would be the destination for the Clark boys, 2013 point guard Stevie Clark (Las Vegas/Quest Prep) and 2014 defensive end Deondre Clark (Oklahoma City/Douglass).
But what fans don’t realize is OU was incredibly close to missing out on both of them and would have had Deondre had his way.
“Dre loved his visit (to LSU),” said Dorshell Clark, the boys’ mother. “LSU has been his most favorite since he was younger. As he has gotten older, he has liked Alabama. He talks about OU but not as much as LSU.
“He was ready to commit right there on the visit. I told him no. I think it’s in his best interest to wait.”
And now OU has some added ammo in trying to land Deondre. Defensive end commit D.J. Ward, who recently transferred to Oklahoma City Douglass, is excited about the chance to play with Deondre and the feeling is 100 percent mutual.
“He is going to force Dre to step up,” Dorshell said. “Dre brags to me all the time. ‘Mom, he’s so good. No, seriously, mom, he is so good.’ He is somebody he can look up to and make him work harder. D.J. being there is making Dre work harder whether D.J. knows it or not.”
With Stevie Clark, ranked No. 58 in the ESPN 100, transferring last weekend that has pretty much eliminated all chances of him ending up at OU and Lon Kruger. That move, however, should have no real effect on what happens with Deondre.
“He taught me how to become a young man, on and off the court and on and off the field,” Deondre said. “I knew it was going to happen, but I’m heartbroken. But I have to get used to it because he was going to have to leave eventually anyway. He’s the brother I’ve always been the closest with.”
Dale’s stock on the rise
He might be a little on the small side at 5-foot-8, but all 2014 defensive back Cedric Dale (Keller, Texas/Timber Creek) does is make plays.
Tom Hauck for ESPN.com
Undersized defensive back Cedric Dale has an offer from Texas Tech.
And that’s starting to get him noticed. Dale fared well at OU’s three-day camp in June but his parents were a little concerned about the fact he didn’t get to go up against the elite performers at the camp.
That wasn’t a problem at Texas Tech’s camp earlier this summer and Dale earned an offer from the Red Raiders, his first one.
“It felt great,” Dale said. “I just want to go out there and be able to show everybody what I can do.”
Dale has been high on USC and OU for a long time with strong family ties to both programs. He said he wants to develop a better relationship with the Sooners coaching staff moving forward, but he knows he can't sit and wait for OU’s offer.
Dale said Oklahoma State and Nebraska are both starting to show increased interest after getting a chance to watch his film.
Though he hasn’t received the attention he thought he might have at this point, Dale knows he can make an impact with a strong junior season.
“We’re going to be in the spotlight a lot so I have to perform and give it my best,” Dale said.
Wolves on the prowl
When talking about Edmond (Okla.) Santa Fe, the obvious name that comes up is 2014 quarterback Justice Hansen.
But there might be another 2014 prospect worth keeping tabs on in running back Cameron Westbrook, who camped at OU in June.
“Cameron has really turned the corner,” Santa Fe coach Lance Manning said. “He has matured in a big way. He is so gifted, and it feels like it is all coming together for him.”
Westbrook doesn’t have any offers yet but camped at OU, Oklahoma State and Kansas State this summer. He was supposed to camp at North Texas but couldn’t make the trip.
Despite being an Oklahoma kid, Westbrook said Texas was his favorite school growing up. At this point, he has no favorites.
As for Hansen, he said he enjoyed his final month of the summer. He camped at OU and took unofficial visits to Florida and Florida State. He already has offers from Missouri and Arkansas.
Just because things are quiet doesn’t mean things are bad. Hansen said he has been speaking to Josh Heupel on a regular basis and spoke to him last week.
“I don’t think I’m going to make any visits or anything like that here coming up, but I’m still in contact with the coaches I’ve been talking to for a while,” Hansen said.
Hansen had a breakout sophomore season for Edmond Santa Fe. The team, as a whole, shocked everybody in going from 1-9 to 10-2 and district champions. They won’t shock anybody this season and that’s OK.
“That’s what you want,” Hansen said. “You want to be one of those teams that are consistent and are one of the best. I’m not afraid of that. It’s not being cocky, but we’re confident.”
Broken Arrow talent getting national looks
There is tunnel vision at Broken Arrow High in Broken Arrow, Okla., and it is all about winning the Class 6A state championship.
Broken Arrow lost 23-22 in the 2011 championship to Tulsa Union. This year’s group might even be more stout, and it is done talking recruiting. However, with the talent on the squad, recruiting talk is going to find them a lot this season even if it’s not their No. 1 priority.
“No, I’m not really paying any attention to that at all,” 2014 running back Devon Thomas said. “I kind of kept myself confined the last two months. I have one focus and that’s the gold ball.”
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Thomas has offers from OU and Oklahoma State, among several others. He said he has a good relationship with running backs coach Cale Gundy but also said he has a quality relationship with the Texas coaching staff. Thomas camped at Texas this summer.
Another 2014 prospect getting looks from a big-time program is quarterback Coleman Key. He took unofficial visits to Texas, Michigan and Notre Dame. And then went back to Michigan for the team-bonding BBQ event.
“I got to see how much they stress family, and it was a really good time,” Key said. “I got to spend time with some of the 2013 commits and get a feel of why they love Michigan.”
Key also camped at OU and said his relationship with Josh Heupel is solid. The Sooners will always be in the running because Key “grew up a big OU fan. That’s where you want to go.”
The 2014 stars don’t stop there for Broken Arrow although it might take a little bit longer for linebacker Gyasi Akem to start racking up the accolades.
Akem missed his sophomore season because of a torn ACL but already has an offer from Arkansas State and should see the offers pile in if he can deliver in the fall.
“I got to learn a lot about the game mentally last year and how to get better,” Akem said. “I know I can be one of the best at my position for the class.”
Akem said he likes Oklahoma State more than OU, but he would definitely listen if the Sooners come calling. He was originally supposed to camp at OU in June but was unable to attend.