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Friday, September 14, 2012
Offensive line search is on for Sooners

By Bob Przbylo

It has been evident for a while that offensive tackle is one of Oklahoma’s major needs for the 2013 recruiting class. Entering the season, though, it looked like OU had two commits in Tulsa (Okla.) Union’s Dalton Rodriguez and San Antonio Regan’s Matt Beyer.

But it’s possible the Sooners don’t have any commits at the spot. Beyer, a four-star prospect, said earlier this week he has to give up football because of a neck injury.

Rodriguez, a three-star prospect, has not played offensive tackle in high school. If he cannot put on the weight needed to be a tackle, he will most likely stay at his more natural defensive end position in college.

OU is looking for at least three offensive linemen in this class. Where are the Sooners going to find that help? Here is a look at the prospects who have had the most recent contact with the OU coaching staff:

Caleb Benenoch (Katy, Texas/Seven Lakes, 6-foot-6, 321 pounds, No. 19 OG, Uncommitted)

Caleb Benenoch
Caleb Benenoch will take an official visit to Oklahoma next weekend.
Why OU is in the mix: Because ever since Benenoch decommitted from Michigan State, it has felt like a two-horse race between OU and Texas.

Texas A&M made a strong impression on Benenoch following his visit last weekend, his brother plays at Baylor and he is \ intrigued by what UCLA has to offer after the Bruins’ recent interest.

OU offensive guards coach James Patton has made a strong connection with Benenoch throughout the summer, and Benenoch is going to be one of many top-ranked recruits taking his official visit to OU next weekend for the showdown against Kansas State.

Why OU is out: Benenoch is not bashful about saying he grew up a huge Longhorns fan. And no matter how good of an impression some of the other schools make, it’s going to be tough to top Texas in this pursuit.

Rob Boyd (Vian, Okla./Vian, 6-4, 285, No. 39 OG, Committed to Tulsa)

Why OU is in the mix: Because if history has taught us one thing, it’s that the Sooners can come in as late as they want to and snatch up a top in-state prospect.

OU can show minimal interest initially, but once it decides to get in the race, the Sooners are usually successful.

Boyd has admitted to wanting to play for the Sooners and is the best offensive lineman prospect in the state.

Why OU is out: Boyd has remained adamant that he is a man of his word. He has committed to Tulsa, and he is done with the process. There is no way to guess how things will go if OU makes the offer, but the first part of that statement has to happen. The Sooners have still not offered Boyd.

Aaron Cochran (Atwater, Calif./Buhach, 6-8, 364, No. 24 OT, Uncommitted)

Why OU is in the mix: The Sooners offered Cochran in May. Though not much was reported during the summer, he and tackles coach Bruce Kittle kept in steady contact.

It has been that relationship that has helped the Sooners not only stay in the race but also made them a legitimate candidate in trying to land Cochran.

He is hoping to make an official visit to OU sometime this fall and is eyeing Nov. 9 as his target date. The Sooners host Baylor that weekend.

Why OU is out: Could the Sooners really steal a quality West Coast prospect like this? Especially one who has an older brother that plays for California? Cochran said distance is not a concern at all for him, but what happens if it comes down to UCLA, Cal and OU?

Sean Dowling (Fallbrook, Calif./Union, 6-6, 260, No. 58 OT, Committed to UCLA)

Why OU is in the mix: Dowling has been pretty honest about how much he enjoys talking with Kittle. The encouraging part is most of it doesn’t have to do with football.

Dowling has been so intrigued about Kittle’s life experiences that he said he has felt a different type of bond with Kittle than some of the other coaches.

He promised OU that his first official visit would be with the Sooners. He has kept his word and will be in Norman on Oct. 19, the weekend of the Kansas game.

Why OU is out: Because the Bruins haven’t done anything to make Dowling look elsewhere. Dowling was among several UCLA commits that took a lot of pride in the victory against Nebraska last weekend. It appears he likes OU but it also appears that he hasn’t soured on UCLA either.

Sterling Korona (San Antonio/Reagan, 6-7, 260, No. 69 OT, Committed to Duke)

Why OU is in the mix: With all the time the OU staff spent getting to know Beyer, they didn’t forget about his teammate. Kittle started to increase his interest in the summer and has already contacted Korona in the last two weeks.

No offer has officially been made, but the Sooners would be in the mix if one is extended.

Why OU is out: Because the offer isn’t there and Korona is firmly committed to Duke. He is taking an official visit to see the Blue Devils this weekend, which could reaffirm his commitment to Duke or make him start to think about looking elsewhere. That question can't be answered yet.

Kenny Lacy (Phoenix/Mountain Pointe, 6-5, 260, No. 42 OT, Committed to UCLA)

Why OU is in the mix: The relationship between the OU coaches and Lacy goes back a while, especially with Mike Stoops and Tim Kish back when they were at Arizona.

This spring, Lacy got comfortable with James Patton and Bruce Kittle so he has a good feel about the OU coaching staff and likes what he has heard and talked about with them.

Despite his recent commitment to the Bruins, he said he is still going to take his official visit to OU for Bedlam weekend. The Sooners visit is the last of his five officials and will give OU a chance at a great last impression.

Why OU is out: Nobody thought Lacy was going to make his commitment before taking all five of his official visits. The atmosphere and the coaching staff at UCLA must have been something special for him to make that call less than 48 hours after the visit.

Christian Morris (Memphis, Tenn./East, 6-6, 293, No. 74 OT, Committed to UCLA)

Why OU is in the mix: It hasn’t mattered that Morris has been committed to UCLA as more and more schools are looking in his direction in recent months.

One of those is OU, who made the official offer last week. Morris said he got to know the OU coaching staff better in the spring and was hopeful of an offer.

He also said he doesn’t feel disrespected with the offer taking this long to be official and that OU is in strong consideration for an official visit.

Why OU is out: Because his interest is not dying down. Sometimes coaches think they know what they’re getting when they evaluate a prospect, but Morris is a kid that is improving with each evaluation. His offer totals are rising, and he has looked incredible during the early part of his senior season. It won’t be easy to sneak up and snatch him away.

Na’Ty Rodgers (Owings Mills, Md./McDonough, 6-4, 285, No. 29 OT, Uncommitted)

Why OU is in the mix: Family ties. His father, Tyrone, played at OU in 1988 and has remained a major OU fan and kept in contact with a lot of his former teammates.

Rodgers has heard stories about how great OU is from his father for years and now will get to experience everything for himself. Rodgers will join Benenoch among the recruits taking their official visit to OU next weekend.

Why OU is out: It’s still early in the race, but Rodgers has made a strong connection with South Carolina and considers the Gamecocks his favorite at this point.

His father transferred from OU to Washington, and the Huskies are also firmly in the race. With so many factors at hand, it could be a guessing game trying to figure out where Rodgers actually wants to attend.