Thursday, October 18, 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:
ESPN 150 prospect enjoyed watching OU's defense vs. Texas
The Sooners make the top four for a former decommitment
Dowling ready to visit OU
Defensive end has OU in his final three
Newest commit "wowed" by Sooners' performance
Read the Sooner Intel after the jump.
Mitchell family impressed with OU beatdown
Hindsight being 20/20, it would have been the best thing for OU had ESPN 150 linebacker Mike Mitchell (Plano, Texas/Prestonwood Christian) been at the Cotton Bowl for the 63-21 thrashing of Texas on Saturday.
Mitchell, scheduled to be there, said late Friday night he wasn’t making the trip. Mike and the rest of his family watched the game on TV. Though it wasn't quite the same experience, the victory still resonated.
Tom Hauck for ESPN.com
Mike Mitchell will be at Texas A&M's game vs. LSU this weekend.
“The OU coaches were so enthusiastic and so energetic,” said Ken Mitchell, Mike’s father. “You can tell they really wanted to play and make a statement. On the other side of the field, I don’t know. The Texas staff didn’t look like it wanted to be there that day.”
Mike Mitchell said the stress of homecoming and a grueling academic week made him want to take it easy. But he is getting ready to start hitting the road. It starts this week with a planned official visit to Texas A&M for the Aggies battle with LSU.
Mitchell said he has a favorite in his mind although he wouldn’t come out and say it. From talking to him, it feels like that favorite is the Aggies. Not by much, but he definitely got a little more excited when talking about Texas A&M in person.
Conversely, Ken Mitchell gets fired up when talking about OU and coach Bob Stoops. And after what linebackers coach Tim Kish did two weeks ago, add Kish into that mix.
In last week's Intel, I talked about how Kish saw Mike Mitchell play, but Ken Mitchell went into more detail about what actually happened.
“First of all, we had no idea he was coming,” Ken Mitchell said. “No clue. But I looked on the sideline and told my wife that I think I see Coach Kish. Sure enough it was Kish. After the game, he stayed and talked for a little bit [to the parents].
“What I didn’t know until later was that Kish was supposed to leave that night and fly back to Oklahoma City. But instead he stayed, and he ended up missing his flight to spend time with us. Mike was impressed with that. I was really impressed with it.”
And the Mitchell family was extremely impressed with the OU defense in the beatdown of Texas. From the mentality of the group to the results on the field, it was a good day for the Sooners.
“What I liked most about that game, and Mike said it, too, was how OU never took its foot off the gas pedal,” Ken Mitchell said. “They played that game like it was 0-0 in the second half even though they were up like 30, 40 points.”
Mike Mitchell is hoping to make official visits to A&M, OU, Ohio State and Oregon before deciding. But with the close proximity, it will be interesting to see if OU can get an unofficial from the family for next weekend’s battle with undefeated Notre Dame.
Dowling taking it all in
The first thing three-star offensive tackle Sean Dowling (Fallbrook, Calif./Union) wants to make clear to everybody is he is still a UCLA commit. That hasn’t changed.
But then he also wants people to know he is just exploring his options. It’s what he did last weekend on his first official visit, a trip to Washington State. The trip wasn’t something Dowling had been planning, but it sort of all came together for him.
His trip to OU this weekend, however, has been in the works for some time. And the Sooners are riding a wave of positive momentum after the victory against Texas.
“It was like as if Texas didn’t even show up,” Dowling said. “It was a smackdown from beginning to end, very impressive.”
He said he has talked a lot with Kittle and had a few conversations with Bob Stoops, but he wants to interact with the players and get a feel of everything.
“I just want to see where I fit in with the team and the program,” Dowling said. “I’ve never been to Oklahoma before so I don’t know what to expect.”
Dowling said he talks to at least one UCLA coach every other day and that next in line is Kittle. His team has late practices Tuesday night so he actually woke up Kittle with a call on Tuesday, forgetting about the two-hour time zone difference between California and Oklahoma.
He said he is going to fly out to Oklahoma City on Saturday morning and the tentative plan is to stay until Monday morning. He doesn’t want to shortchange his trip and leave Sunday.
Vanderbilt has also entered the equation and Dowling has talked about an official to Vandy in January, the same weekend as its banquet.
Regardless, Dowling said he is taking everything in stride.
“I feel like I’m a level-headed guy,” Dowling said. “I’m never going to let anything get to my head, but I can’t comment on a lot of things until I’ve seen it all. I need to see the campus and see how I feel when I’m at a place.
“I’m a competitor and will outwork anybody to get to where I want to be. UCLA has great coaches. Coach Kittle is a great coach. I couldn’t ask to be in a better spot.”
Mixon down to three
Tom Hauck for ESPN.com
DE Dimarya Mixon is committed to Arizona State, but he likes two other schools.
Chalk up another positive impression for OU when it comes to three-star defensive end Dimarya Mixon (Mesquite, Texas/West Mesquite) following the Texas victory.
Mixon, an Arizona State commit, said he went to the Cotton Bowl with one objective in mind and that was to see the OU defense play to its full potential.
He saw OU on his official visit earlier this season against Florida A&M, but he wanted to see what the Sooners would do against a quality opponent, their biggest rival.
“They were on it the whole time,” Mixon said. “The defensive line gave a great push all. The defense looked 100 percent better than what I saw against A&M.
“I don’t know what was in the air that day, but it was impressive. I was out there living it up with the OU fans in the end. It was a great time.”
Instead of waiting until after his senior season like most recruits, Mixon chose to make his official visits during the early part of the season. He has already made trips to OU, Arizona State and West Virginia. And he said he is good to go.
ASU made a strong impression a few weeks ago, and it hasn’t hurt that his teammate, Will Earley, has also committed to the Sun Devils.
“Me and Will have a pretty good connection,” Mixon said. “That helps a lot. Coach [Todd] Graham is from the Mesquite area, too. I didn’t get the game experience at ASU the first time around. I loved it. A lot of fans were coming up and talking to me.”
Mixon said he is done thinking about recruiting and is purely focused on school and his senior season. When his season is complete, he said he will sit down and evaluate things. Unless something changes, it’s clear it is down to ASU, OU and West Virginia.
The Sooners did everything they could Saturday.
“They never got off the gas pedal,” Mixon said. “When halftime was over, you could see all the crimson in the stadium, but the orange was gone. It was impressive.”
Bryant down to four
ESPN 150 running back Greg Bryant (Delray Beach, Fla./American Heritage-Boca Delray) let the world know Tuesday he is going to make his decision at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in January in San Antonio.
Originally committed to the Sooners, OU has actually found itself back in the mix. He will choose between OU, South Carolina, Auburn and Florida State.
Bryant was so impressed with his unofficial to OU in the spring that he committed on the spot. He wasn’t the only Bryant who thinks Norman, Okla., has a lot to offer.
“There was nothing I didn’t like about OU,” said Greg Bryant Sr. “I liked everything about OU. I played college ball. OU is tradition. It is an honor to see a school like OU be interested in my son.
“I love the program. I love Stoops. I would love for my son to play for OU. But then again, I would say that about a few more universities. There are no bad choices.”
A lot of stuff has happened with his son’s recruitment, but so far none of it has shocked his father.
“These kids -- they’re young, you know,” Bryant Sr. said. “I wasn’t surprised he committed because it was his first visit to a campus. I wasn’t surprised he decommitted because he wasn’t in tune to the process yet.
“I know he’ll make the best decision for himself, and I’m going to support him 100 percent of the way. Right now he’s concentrating on winning that state championship.”
One thing Gundy told Bryant was he wanted Bryant to make an official visit to OU for a game weekend. On paper, there is no better weekend than next week with Notre Dame coming to town.
His father is excited about the chance to see that game but said nothing has been decided when it comes toward an official visit at OU.
He did, however, see the Sooners impressive display against Texas.
“That was unbelievable,” Bryant Sr. said. “I was expecting a huge dogfight. We watched a lot of the OU game the week before [at Texas Tech], and you can see OU just use that momentum right into the game against Texas and put it on them.”
Foreman wowed by OU-Texas experience
Last Saturday was a chance for OU to win over some top 2014 recruits from the state of Texas. It was also a chance to help solidify its only 2014 commitment in ESPN Watch List wide receiver Armanti Foreman (Texas City, Texas/Texas City).
Foreman and his twin brother, D’onta, were both in attendance, and Armanti said it was proud day for him and his family.
Sam Khan Jr./ESPN.com
Armanti Foreman's first OU game in person was last weekend's Red River Rivalry.
“I kept trying to put things into words, but all I kept thinking was 'Wow,'” Foreman said. “That was the first time I had seen something like that. So much red, so much orange -- at least in the first half.
“OU played that whole game like you should against your rival. They never let up. That was a great show to see. I was proud and cheering them on like a fan after every big play. I was thinking just wait until I get out there.”
And he’s hopeful it’s not the only OU game he will see this season. The plan is for the Foreman family to make it to Norman next week for the Notre Dame game, too.
When Foreman made his commitment, he had only talked to OU wide receivers coach Jay Norvell. He was able to talk with Bob Stoops later in the week and said that only made him more confident he had made the right decision.
Foreman said his life hasn’t changed that much since his commitment. Everybody expects it to be different, but you cannot put any more pressure on Foreman than what he puts on himself.
“I want to be a leader,” Foreman said. “I want to be that guy that fixes things. I want to be a role model for the little kids and set a positive example. I don’t go to parties. I want to represent me, my family, my friends and my school the best way I can.”
Starks, Gundy bond keeps growing
During the summer, 2014 running back Nathan Starks (Las Vegas/Bishop Gorman) said his top three choices were OU, Texas and USC.
But he let the truth slip out a little earlier this week admitting once again the Sooners have always been his favorite school. And the fact he has weekly talks with Cale Gundy sure isn’t hurting OU’s chances with the Watch List running back.
Starks said Oregon has entered the race, while USC has fallen back a little. But after last weekend, it’s tough for him to not talk about OU.
“I was so proud of what OU did and watching them go to work like that,” Starks said. “It was a fun three hours. They never stopped. Besides the fact OU has always been my favorite school, [there's] really nothing else to say.”
Starks said he hasn’t been able to make any unofficial visits at this time although he would love the opportunity to see the Sooners against Notre Dame next week.
His junior season has not been disappointing at all. He knew this would be the season people would start recognizing him, and he has scored 12 touchdowns so far. The interest is picking up across the board, but Starks said he is still in no rush.
“Coach Gundy came by a few weeks ago and that was cool,” Starks said. “He just said how much OU really wants me and how I could definitely come in and compete for playing time.”
He admitted Saturday also didn’t hurt Texas’ chances, though, saying every now and then teams will have those types of days.
But it was special to think about playing in one of those games.
“I grew up watching Demarco Murray [also from Bishop Gorman] play in that game and Damien Williams was so impressive,” Starks said. “I would love to show what I can do, too.”
Manning delays decision
Tom Hauck for ESPN.com
Justin Manning isn't sure when he'll make a commitment decision.
In talking to ESPN 150 defensive tackle Justin Manning (Dallas/Kimball) on Sunday, it became apparent he wasn’t quite ready to make his decision Friday night.
He confirmed as much with Damon Sayles on Monday morning, but I still don’t think it is a huge cause for concern for OU fans.
Manning has taken official visits to OU, Texas A&M and TCU and had one planned for LSU last weekend. He opted to see OU and Texas one more time instead of heading to Baton Rouge, La.
But he does still want to see the campus and that fifth official visit sure looks like it will be a trip out west to see USC.
It’s tough to accurately prognosticate, but it feels like this is a case of a recruit wanting to see all available options before making his decision. It can be seen as a positive that he saw OU impressive once again.
Manning’s OU official visit was for the Kansas State game, not the best showing by the Sooners. If 63-21 is the last impression OU makes on Manning before his decision, then it can rest easy.
His attitude following the game was interesting, too. That borderline cocky persona came out when he said it was just another OU blowout of Texas. Nothing new to Manning, he said, as he has seen a few of them in his time.
Alexander thrown for a loop by offer
Not much was expected of the Oklahoma high school class of 2013. Only two prospects are in the ESPN 300 in D.J. Ward and Tulsa East Central’s Stanvon Taylor. Both are committed to OU.
The Sooners have four in-state commits and might be knocking on the door of a fifth one with a Tuesday offer to three-star athlete Dominique Alexander (Tulsa, Okla./Booker T. Washington).
Alexander was impressive at OU’s camp in June, but it looked like the Sooners were going to look in another direction. So Alexander did, too, and he committed to Arkansas shortly after the camp.
But things changed drastically when his father, Derrick, had a conversation with OU assistant coach Jackie Shipp.
“My dad was telling Shipp how Oregon State, Pittsburgh and Arizona State have offered me here recently. And Shipp stopped my dad and told him to add OU to the mix,” Alexander said.
There is some debate as to what his position he is going to play in college. He said after talking to Shipp on Tuesday night, it looks like it will be some sort of hybrid linebacker/safety spot. But then again, he hasn’t committed and hasn’t put on weight. And Alexander is excited about putting on some weight.
He said the heaviest he has ever been is 205 pounds, but he’s playing at 190 right now. He said he stopped putting on weight because the Razorbacks were looking at him at safety, and he didn’t want o get too big.
But if outside linebacker is his future spot, Alexander said he can carry 215-220 with no problems.
“No, putting on weight and staying fast has never been a problem for me,” Alexander said. “It will make me stronger, but it won’t make me slower.”
Alexander has been so impressive through the first seven games of the season despite the team’s struggles. Shipp said they would keep tabs on him and evaluate him again. And Alexander, to his credit, said he has not taken one play off this season.
He explains why:
“One of my favorite athletes ever is Michael Jordan,” Alexander said. “And I play by words that he said one day. He said this might be the first time somebody is coming to watch you play. How do you want to be remembered? Every game, every play this season -- I want to give people something to remember.”
Alexander said Tuesday was a blur to him as everybody was chiming in with opinions about what he should do, stay at Arkansas or flip to the Sooners. He was able to talk with Shipp for a good 15-20 minutes Tuesday night and told Shipp he needs to do his own research on where he fits.
“Coach Shipp stopped me at that point and said I definitely fit. And once I get on campus, we’ll see exactly where I fit,” Alexander said.
And add Alexander’s name to the Notre Dame visitors list. Did the thought of switching ever cross his mind this week?
“No comment,” Alexander said with a huge laugh. “No comment. What a crazy, awesome day.”
Ford with bragging rights
He lives in Houston, never considered the Longhorns and committed to OU on its junior day earlier this spring. To say Saturday was a satisfying day for Cypress (Texas) Ranch running back Keith Ford is a huge understatement.
“I had a smile on my face the whole day,” he said.
RB Keith Ford is solid to the Sooners.
Ford heard it all week during school from classmates and teammates about how he should pick Texas and how Texas was going to beat OU. He has remained adamant OU is the best choice for him and nothing changed after this weekend.
What did change was Ford’s appreciation for the Red River Rivalry. This was the first time he had experienced it in person, and he couldn’t believe the dynamic atmosphere.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” Ford said. “When I went through the gate, there were tons of OU and Texas fans with me. And then I walked out and saw how divided it was, it was something special.”
Ford said he called Cale Gundy before the game and wished him luck. He said turns out the team didn’t need any luck.
“Everybody played their role. Everybody was disciplined,” Ford said. “From the offensive line to the running backs to the fullback to the wide receivers – everybody did their part.”
It helped illustrate what has been a major difference for Cypress Ranch. After an 0-2 start, Cy Ranch has now won four in a row and Ford said a lot of it was based on everybody finding their role. Not trying to do too much but stick to what you have to do and do it.
For Ford’s part, there isn’t much more he can do. Through six games, Ford has rushed for 885 yards on 109 carries with 13 touchdowns. He is averaging 8.1 yards per carry.
Ford is still content in taking his official visit in December but that doesn’t mean he’s done with OU this season.
“Oh yeah, me and my dad are going to fly up next week for the Notre Dame game,” Ford said. “Not going to miss that one, no doubt. I’ve been looking forward to that one for a long time.”
Evans still with eye on Sooners
Early last week Norman (Okla.) North linebacker Jordan Evans didn’t think he would be attending the OU-Texas game. After talking to Kish, however, he was invited and things could not have worked out any better.
“I was there as a fan a while ago. We were up kind of high. It was nothing like Saturday,” Evans said. “That was a real experience. The atmosphere was crazy and ridiculous.”
Evans said as much as he enjoyed the game and time with friends, he spent most of the game trying to see where he would fit in with OU’s defense. A little alarming, Evans said he wasn’t sure where he would fit in. But he knows he wants to.
He has had a stellar senior season so far, picking up offers from Air Force and Memphis since the season started. He has also been in consistent contact with Kish although the OU offer is not there at this point.
He has seen all OU home games this season but noticed a big difference in the OU defense vs. Texas compared to the rest of the season.
“They were a lot more prepared, definitely the better team,” Evans said. “There was a lot more movement before the snap, good rotations. They were focused and put it on them.”
Evans has been more of a two-way threat than what was initially thought this season. He has 38 tackles, but he has also rushed for 205 yards and four touchdowns. In an upset of previously undefeated Edmond North, he took back a kickoff return for a touchdown.
“Everything is clicking right now,” Evans said. “We’re all fired up and feeling good. It’s an all-in attitude right now. Everybody is onboard.”
Evans said he is also still talking with New Mexico, Arkansas State and Ohio.