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Thursday, September 20, 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 is hosting recruits that have visited the Sooners many times, and some that have never seen the campus.
• A 2013 running back is "definitely interested" in Oklahoma.
• OU just offered a four-star DT. Are the Sooners a factor?
• A Florida State commitment still plans to visit OU.
• A look at linebackers coach Tim Kish's philosophy on recruiting.

Read the Sooner Intel after the jump.

Manning reflects on first OU experience

There is no question this is a big recruiting weekend for OU with Kansas State coming to town. For some prospects, it will be their first taste of the campus.

That is not the case for ESPN 150 defensive tackle Justin Manning (Dallas/Kimball). It won’t be his second or third visit to OU but he might be more familiar with the campus than any other class of 2013 recruit.

Damon Sayles/
The next month could have a big impact on Justin Manning's recruitment.

Manning, the younger brother of former OU defensive tackle DeMarcus Granger, has been going to OU for visits since he was in sixth grade.

He still recalls his first memory of OU.

“It was in sixth grade. OU was looking at my brother, and we were at this hotel. They gave me all the chocolate cake and ice cream I wanted. It was great,” Manning said.

Manning never thought about following in his brother’s footsteps at the time because he didn’t even like football. He admitted he was initially playing football because that’s what people told him to do.

That’s not the case anymore as Manning said he loves the game and appreciates the opportunity it is giving him.

This will be the first of four consecutive weekends of official visits for Manning. He will be at Texas A&M next weekend, TCU after that and then at LSU.

Manning is one of several notable visitors to campus this weekend. For a full list that is continually being updated, read the SoonerNation forum.

Foreman ready for first taste of OU

Three-star safety Tyler Foreman (Encino, Calif./Crespi Carmelite), however, is one of those recruits who will be getting his first look at OU.

The Sooners were one of the first schools to offer him. Many more would come later, but he never forgot about the interest defensive backs coach Mike Stoops showed initially.

Foreman said he has been talking to Stoops every week, and he is really excited about finally getting to see the campus.

“I know OU has a really good program and tradition, but I need to see how I feel when I’m there,” Foreman said. “I want to see the campus and see how everything fits.”

Foreman has already scheduled an official visit to Utah in October and said more schools are in the running for visits although he has not finalized when or which schools those will be.

He did say California and UCLA are also among his top schools. With most of his favorites being pretty close to home, is distance a factor for Foreman?

“No, not at all,” Foreman said. “I’m used to being independent. I’ll be fine on my own. Distance isn’t a concern. It’s going to be about team chemistry and how I interact with the coaches and players.”

Foreman said another major part of the visit will be about academics. He is looking to major in business and is hopeful that he likes the OU business program.

The Katy invasion

One thing that cannot be overlooked when looking at this recruiting weekend has been timing. It’s a perfect storm of everything coming together. Most notably when it comes to bye weeks as several top recruits in Texas will be able to make the trip.

It’s almost as if the whole city of Katy, Texas, will be taking it easy. And that’s a good thing for the Sooners as defensive end commit Matt Dimon (Katy) and offensive lineman Caleb Benenoch (Katy Seven Lakes) will both be taking official visits.

Dimon is not coming alone as running back Adam Taylor is also making the trip. Taylor wanted to commit to LSU in the spring but was told he had an uncommittable offer. He was adamant during the summer he was still going to be with the Tigers.

But now it looks as though Taylor has accepted that he needs to move on. And the Sooners might just be the home he is looking for.

Max Olson/
Running back Adam Taylor has been progressing after tearing an ACL last fall.

“He is definitely interested in OU now that the other running back is out [Greg Bryant],” Dimon said. “He definitely wants to take this visit.”

Taylor’s junior season was cut short because of a torn ACL. Dimon hasn’t minced words about his friend, saying Taylor hasn’t been the same player of old. Last weekend was a step in the right direction. Taylor rushed for 184 yards and five touchdowns in a blowout 63-10 victory against The Woodlands.

The margin of victory is the largest in school history for The Woodlands, who is the last team to beat Katy in a regular season game.

“He had been real tentative, but I was real proud of him,” Dimon said. “He was hitting people again and looked great. He’s not the old Adam Taylor, but he’s getting there.”

Taylor might not be the only Katy teammate coming along. Dimon is hopeful 2014 linebacker Jake Blomstrom can make the trip, too.

As for Dimon, there are no concerns regarding his commitment. He said he talks to OU defensive ends coach Bobby Jack Wright about once a day in one way or another. And when Katy took on Houston Alief Taylor, Wright, Tim Kish and Cale Gundy were all in attendance.

“There were so many schools at that game. It was a good game. Alief Taylor is a good team. I think they saw a good show,” said Dimon about Katy’s 23-9 victory.

Dimon is also pretty familiar with Benenoch. The two have been tweeting back and forth in the last week about seeing each other at OU.

Things weren’t always so friendly between the two.

“We had a strong hatred for each other my sophomore year, no doubt about that,” Dimon said. “He just thought he was all-world. I wasn’t impressed.

“Last year I killed him one-on-one. We’re not best of friends by any means, but we’re not the bitter enemies we used to be.”

Better late than never with Billings

We’ve talked a lot about the patient approach OU has shown with its 2013 offers but this is a case where maybe it might hurt the Sooners regarding four-star lineman Andrew Billings (Waco, Texas/Waco).

Billings had initially talked about making his college announcement this week. That doesn’t appear to be the case, but the clock is ticking before Billings does make his call. OU is the latest school to jump into the sweepstakes for his signature.

Billings has had a top five of Texas, Baylor, SMU, Mississippi State and TCU for a while. Of those five schools, Texas is the only program that has wanted him to play on the offensive line.

He has made it clear he prefers defense although he told HornsNation last week he is starting to come around to the idea of the offensive line.

But when he starts talking about playing on the defensive line, he does get a little excited.

“Defensive linemen get a lot of recognition, and I can really see the progress that I’ve been making,” he said.

The interest between Billings and OU is rather new, Billings said. It has only been in the last few weeks the Sooners have shown any interest.

With the rash of issues with interior lineman, it was possible OU was looking at Billings to fill that slot. But nope, Billings confirmed OU wants him at defensive tackle, and it is Jackie Shipp that is talking to him.

“He came down here recently, and I was a little shocked. But it’s pretty cool, too,” Billings said.

Billings didn’t grow up a big college football fan so the Sooners can still get in the hunt. But he also admits he has never really considered OU as a potential future home. Either way, Billings is hoping to have his decision done soon.

“This has been stressful,” Billings said. “I’m grateful for all the opportunities, but it’s not easy.”

Baker still set to see OU

It’s a different feeling for four-star athlete Adrian Baker (Hollywood, Fla./Chaminade-Madonna) in his senior season.

Corey Long/
Defensive back Adrian Baker will be in Norman in October.

He was under the radar last season, allowing him to make big play after big play. This season? Everybody is scared of him and not looking in his direction.

“It’s still fun, but it gets a little frustrating and boring,” Baker said. “It’s allowing other members of the secondary do big things, and we’re 3-0 so that’s all that matters.”

Baker, recruited as a cornerback by OU, has been committed to Florida State since the summer. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t still talking to other schools. It seems evident the Baker race is down to FSU, OU and Clemson.

He was supposed to take his official visit to Florida State this weekend for the mega-showdown with Clemson but tweeted Tuesday night he is unable to attend.

He is very familiar with the Stoops family. He has weekly talks with Mark at Florida State and Mike at OU.

“I definitely feel like I know the family," Baker said. "It’s a pretty unique situation, but it has been a lot of fun. Both coaches are alike and different at the same time."

Though firmly committed with FSU, Baker said he still intends to take his official visit to OU on Oct. 26, the weekend of the Notre Dame game.

“The resume speaks for itself,” Baker said. “The tradition is incredible. The distance is a concern, and that’s why I want to see everything for myself.”

Baker does have an OU alumnus in his ear in former star OU offensive lineman Davin Joseph. Baker said Joseph spoke to him last week for Baker’s 18th birthday. He jokes about Baker playing for the Sooners, but what he really stresses to Baker is to keep his focus and not get distracted.

High schools are preparing for Baker differently this season and so is Baker when it comes toward watching college games.

“I’m looking at tendencies and what the defenses are doing and things like that,” Baker said. “I’m not watching as a fan anymore. I’m taking notes when watching FSU, OU and Clemson.”

Baker said he would like to set up an official visit to Clemson, but he is not sure when he can make the trip.

Morris eyes OU visit

A couple of weeks ago three-star offensive tackle Christian Morris (Memphis, Tenn./East) said if OU made an offer, it definitely wasn’t too late for the Sooners to enter the chase.

Two days later OU officially did make that offer and Morris, a UCLA commit, has been a man of his word saying OU is definitely in consideration.

“Coach [James] Patton had called me a day earlier, but I missed the call,” Morris said. “I called him back and he asked if I was still interested. I told him I was. He gave me a breakdown and said I’m a high priority for them at this point going forward.”

Morris was rumored to have been at Arkansas last weekend, but he said that wasn’t the case. Instead, he stayed home and said he will most likely stay home the rest of this season. He would prefer to take his official visits after his senior season.

The three schools he is looking toward the most are UCLA, OU and Nebraska. He has an official visit with Nebraska coming up next week.

OU tackles coach Bruce Kittle was in attendance for his game last week. Morris said it was good to see Kittle out there, and he was excited about showing what he could do.

“We have different running backs this year so we’re having to work harder to the pave the lanes for the new backs,” Morris said. “I think I’m becoming a much better run blocker, too.”

Since the OU offer, UCLA has picked up another offensive tackle commit in Kenny Lacy (Phoenix/Mountain Pointe). With Lacy, the Bruins have three tackle commits. Coincidentally, Lacy, Morris and Sean Dowling (Fallbrook, Calif./Union) are all on OU’s short list for tackles, too.

Morris said he it doesn’t affect him one way or the other with the addition of Lacy.

“It doesn’t faze me,” Morris said. “I’m a competitive guy. The better linemen we have as a group, the better we’ll be as a team. But I know what I can do and the confidence I have in my abilities.”

Hardison with no favorites yet

With Matt Dimon and D.J. Ward, OU is pretty set at defensive end for the 2013 class. It does seem like the Sooners want one more to strengthen the bunch, though.

That answer could be in the junior college ranks with Marcus Hardison (Dodge City, Kan./Dodge City CC). But right now even Hardison doesn’t know what he wants.

“No, I don’t have any favorites right now,” he said. “I’m having fun right now. I don’t know where I want to go yet at all.”

Hardison took an unofficial visit to Texas Tech before the season and said he wants to take an official visit to a school Oct. 5, but he doesn’t know which one yet.

OU is in the mix, but he said he hasn’t heard from the Sooners recently. Bobby Jack Wright was at the spring game, and Hardison said he would still be interested if OU started to apply the pressure.

Hardison said Arizona State has been the school that has shown the most attention, but he’s not sure when he could set up a visit with the Sun Devils.

He said right now he is trying to go with the flow.

“I can adapt. I’m very coachable. I think that is my biggest strength as a player,” Hardison said. “I don’t panic, and I can adjust to any situation."

Taylor working to get 100 percent

OU has four in-state commits, but it hasn’t been the best of starts for the four. The only one who has played and stayed healthy is Tulsa (Okla.) Union’s Dalton Rodriguez.

And you don’t have to worry about his commitment.

“Coach Kittle and coach [Bob] Stoops have called me after each of my games. Things are going great there,” Rodriguez said. “I don’t even open mail from other schools.”

Jenks wide receiver Jordan Smallwood has missed the last two games with a separated shoulder, while defensive end D.J. Ward will likely not play a snap this season because of an eligibility issue with his transferring schools.

And then there’s Stanvon Taylor (Tulsa, Okla./East Central), who put on a dazzling display in his first game but has been quiet since.

“During the last scrimmage, I hurt my groin,” Taylor said. “I’m trying to stay healthy. Against Bartlesville [Week 2], it really hurt. I haven’t been playing much offense lately. Been trying to stay healthy and help the team on defense.”

That hasn’t been a problem as Taylor has made an impact on defense. Taylor was at OU’s game against Florida A&M and said he plans to be at the game this weekend.

Recruited as a cornerback, Taylor has excelled at wide receiver. So is a change in the cards?

“I don’t know. I don’t know about that,” Taylor said. “We haven’t really talked it over. Coaches have just been asking about how I’m doing. We haven’t really gotten into offense/defense or stuff like that.”

Evans working for OU offer

If OU is going to dip back into the state for its 2013 class, the No. 1 pick would be linebacker Jordan Evans (Norman, Okla./North).

Evans’ father, Scott, played for the Sooners and Jordan is starting to get a lot more familiar with linebackers coach Tim Kish.

Bob Przybylo/

In-state linebacker Jordan Evans 'blew up kind of late,' he said.

Evans attended the Iowa State game last season on an unofficial visit and was back in Norman for the Florida A&M game. It was a different atmosphere, and he is in a much different place than he was last November.

“I blew up kind of late. OU is a top Division-I team, and they’re not just going to put me on top of their board,” Evans said. “I’m going to keep fighting. I understand what I need to do.”

Evans boasts offers from Memphis and Ohio, among others, and took an unofficial visit to Kansas State last weekend.

The unofficial to OU, though, opened his eyes to what Kish is all about.

“You really see that he knows what he’s doing,” Evans said. “The linebackers understand their job. They take it seriously and have a lot of discipline.”

Evans said coaches from Ohio, New Mexico, Memphis and Arkansas State have been reaching out to him. But it felt a little bit different when Kish called him.

“Basically he said they’re going to keep watching me and seeing how I progress,” Evans said. “I like the honesty, and I know it’s in my hands.”

There is one school that would make things even more interesting. Evans hasn’t heard from Virginia Tech, but he would listen if the Hokies came calling. He said he has been a huge Michael Vick fan for a long time and has liked Virginia Tech ever since Vick’s time in Blacksburg, Va.

Kish offers some recruiting insight

The unknown commodity heading into this recruiting cycle was Tim Kish. Known as a stellar recruiter during his time at Arizona, would that translate with his move to OU?

Kish has the commitment of ESPN 300 linebacker Jordan Mastriogiovanni (Dallas/Jesuit), and the Sooners are in the running for ESPN 150 linebacker Mike Mitchell (Plano, Texas/Prestonwood Christian).

So what’s the biggest difference for Kish in recruiting for the Sooners compared to the Wildcats?

“It’s an opportunity to recruit the most elite athletes in the nation,” Kish said. “The tradition. Not many places have the attraction OU has. Stoops being here 13 years, there is a lot of positive to recruit toward. It’s bringing the elite of the elite, and that’s a little different.”

That’s not to say it makes the job any easier or more difficult. It was an adjustment for Kish the first couple of months, but he feels right at home now.

“You have to work at it,” he said. “I put just as much in and maybe more in how I recruit as I do coaching the current players. It’s all about developing the relationships with the potential athletes and their families.”

One of the questions in the summer was what exactly was Kish looking for? With offered linebackers committing to other schools seemingly on a weekly basis, was Kish in over his head?

That remains to be seen, but Kish does have a solid idea of what he is targeting.

“The passion to play the game is always important,” Kish said. “Game speed is obviously different from high school to college but looking at kids that don’t take plays off. They fly around the field. Good people, good character and leaders.

“Size does matter somewhat. You need guys that are physically strong enough to play in the box but also need guys that are fast enough to play outside. There is a need for an inside linebacker that is bigger but not as fast. Then there’s that need for the outside backer to be faster and maybe not as big. A perfect balance is what you’re striving for.”