Thursday, October 25, 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 makes the final three for an elite defensive tackle who is visiting this weekend.
An in-depth look at some of this weekend's visitors.
OU is hosting two Florida State commits. Do the Sooners have a shot?
A 2012 signee is also making it to Norman this weekend and talks about when he'll be enrolling at OU.
A top DE target is making his third trip to OU
OU has a chance to make a strong impression on a 2014 in-state star
Read the Sooner Intel after the jump.
OU makes final three for Gilmore
When talking about defensive tackles, a few names have routinely come up as realistic Sooners targets. Juco DTs Toby Johnson (Hutchinson, Kan./Hutchinson CC) and Quincy Russell (Athens, Texas/Trinity Valley), along with ESPN 150 prospect Justin Manning (Dallas/Kimball), are among those with high interest in OU.
But another one has emerged. Maybe emerged isn’t the right word as much as has let it be known defensive tackles coach Jackie Shipp has been in contact with him throughout these last several months.
ESPN 150 defensive tackle Greg Gilmore is taking his official visit to OU this weekend.
ESPN 150 defensive tackle Greg Gilmore (Hope Mills, N.C./South View) confirmed Tuesday he will be taking an official visit to OU this weekend for the showdown with Notre Dame.
Gilmore, who is 6-foot-4 and 285 pounds, said he is down to OU, Florida and LSU. He has already visited Florida and will visit LSU next week. His tentative plan is to announce on ESPNU on Nov. 8.
Some recruits have a good idea of what to expect heading into a visit. Not Gilmore.
“I have no idea about Oklahoma,” Gilmore said. “I want to see what it’s all about. I know nothing about the OU staff except for the talks I’ve had with Coach Shipp. I know nothing about how the atmosphere is going to be.”
So why would Gilmore take an official visit to a place he admits he knows nothing about?
“You don’t pass up OU,” Gilmore said. “If OU is looking at you, you take that serious and take that into consideration. I want to go where I know I can make an impact. OU is losing a couple of guys and not sure who is going to step up. I can be that guy.”
Unfortunately for Gilmore his senior season is going to end this week. His team has no shot at all of making the state playoffs, which has sort of allowed him to focus more on recruiting and on his game.
For some, the atmosphere Saturday is going to be the biggest and best thing they’ve ever seen. Gilmore is not so sure about that, but he wants to see how OU stacks up.
“I’ve seen some pretty crazy atmospheres,” Gilmore said. “I was there last year for LSU and Alabama. I was in The Swamp this season for Florida and Kentucky. I’m curious to see what it’s going to be like at Oklahoma.”
For the most part, recruits will admit whether a school wins or loses on a trip isn’t a big factor. Don’t lump Miami Southridge three-star cornerback Lamar Robbins into that group.
Robbins has made two official visits this season. And in both of them he has seen the school he is visiting get blown out. It happened at Purdue against Michigan and unexpectedly happened last week at West Virginia with Kansas State.
Attempt No. 3 is this weekend at OU.
“I don’t want to see another loss,” Robbins said. “I want to see a team that is clicking from beginning to end. Clicking on all cylinders. OU has been that team here lately.”
Robbins has enjoyed his trips to Purdue and West Virginia and said there are positives about going to a loss, something recruits said about OU following its loss to KSU last month.
“What it does is show me how much they need me,” Robbins said. “They made it clear. They don’t want me to attend their school. They need me to and that does mean a lot.”
He said he was happy with the initial start of his senior season until he suffered an ankle injury in the third game of the season. Instead of taking time off, he has played through it. One touchdown was thrown on Robbins, and he hasn’t forgotten about it.
“It motivates me. I can’t believe I let that happen,” Robbins said. “I’m healthy now, though.”
For the last couple of months Robbins has been open about his love of OU but also how he would not commit to the Sooners until he saw the campus.
He gets that chance this weekend and didn’t rule out a commitment. Robbins has been taking these visits by himself and will once again be by himself this weekend.
“It depends, you know,” Robbins said. “It depends on the environment and how it compares to the other two visits I’ve taken. Will OU stand out more? If it does, that is going to play a role.”
Robbins said he has been having weekly conversations with Mike Stoops since the summer.
Sooners intriguing Levenberry
Courtesy of Eric Levenberry
Florida State commit E.J. Levenberry Jr. is visiting OU with his mother this weekend.
One of the most notable official visitors this weekend is ESPN 300 linebacker and Florida State commit E.J. Levenberry Jr. (Woodbridge, Va./Hylton).
Levenberry committed to the Seminoles in the spring and was one of OU’s first offers for the 2013 class. He was a favorite of former defensive coordinator Brent Venables.
After Venables departed for Clemson, there was a brief period where OU and Levenberry lost touch. But Bob Stoops stepped in and Tim Kish has carried the day since and things couldn’t be better between the family and the Sooners.
“The communication is great,” said E.J. Levenberry Sr., E.J.’s father. “We talk at least once a week and everything is fine.”
This will mark Levenberry’s third visit to OU, but the first one for a game weekend. Levenberry Sr. has no problems with OU and doesn’t need another trip. But when the family is serious about a school, the mother is coming. E.J.’s mother is making the trip to Norman this weekend.
“She went to FSU with him and got a good feel of everything,” Levenberry Sr. said. “Now she’s going to do the same thing at OU. We want a place where he is going to be comfortable and know that’s where he wants to be.”
And OU has made it clear that Norman is where it wants Levenberry to be. Levenberry Sr. said only two schools have sent written offers to the family, FSU and OU.
Right now it’s a two-horse race, but Alabama is lurking in the distance.
“We’ve heard that Alabama and Nick Saban are going to try to make it up here and talk with us in December after E.J.’s season is over,” Levenberry Sr. said. “That’s all we know at this point, and you know things can change so fast.”
Stability is one thing the family is searching for, too. With Bob Stoops, they feel they have found that stability. There aren’t nearly as many questions about whether Stoops will still be at OU as there are with some other coaches.
Being in the Big 12 isn’t hurting OU, either.
“We like that it’s the Big 12,” Levenberry Sr. said. “The NFL is now a passing league. The Big 12 is a passing league, and it’s going to show how E.J. can play both the run and pass. It’s going to bring out the best in him.”
The plan was for an early commitment. The logic was the schools that were real serious about Levenberry would still come anyway. In that aspect, everything has turned out exactly the way the family thought it would.
“There are no questions about his grades or his ACT scores. He’s in. He’s qualified,” Levenberry Sr. said. “We knew the serious schools would stick around, and they have. And OU is definitely one of them.”
Baker finally getting OU look
Four-star athlete Adrian Baker (Hollywood, Fla./Chaminade-Madonna) has had this weekend circled for a long time. Even before his commitment to Florida State in the summer.
Now that it’s here, Baker is even more fired up about seeing OU for the first time.
“It’s finally here,” Baker said. “This is the one I’ve been looking forward to and the one I’ve wanted to see. I just had a feeling it would be special.”
Baker was involved in a mini-controversy last month. When Plano (Texas) Prestonwood Christian tight end Christian Morgan decommitted from FSU, Baker didn’t rag on Morgan.
In fact, he went in the opposite direction. Baker tweeted: “I love FSU but once you commit they think it’s a done deal, not the same amount of love.”
That tweet was public for about two minutes before Baker deleted it. FSU coach Jimbo Fisher heard about the tweet and addressed Baker about it.
“I didn’t mean any disrespect by it, but I was speaking the truth,” Baker said. “Everything is fine now.”
Baker has been talking to Mike Stoops since the spring and said he loves how honest Stoops is. He also likes how family-oriented he is.
Clemson is also in the running for Baker, but this weekend is all about the Sooners and seeing where he fits into things.
“I’m going to watch the defensive backs real closely during the game,” Baker said. “I can play man[-to-man coverage]. I can play zone. I feel like I can fit in anywhere, but I want to see where I might fit best with OU.”
Gardner returning to OU
There are a lot of top 2013 prospects coming to Norman. There are even more top 2014 recruits expected to be in attendance.
And then there’s junior college wide receiver Courtney Gardner. Yep, the same Gardner who signed with OU for the 2012 class but was unable to get all the college credits necessary to be on campus this fall.
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Stay up to date on Oklahoma's 2013 commits, targets and offers. Tracker: Defense | Offense
Gardner is coming back to OU this weekend and couldn’t be more excited.
“I cannot wait to see a game day,” Gardner said. “I was there in January, you know, when the season was over so I can’t wait to see the atmosphere and see all the guys and coaches again.”
It was going to be an ambitious task for Gardner to pass all the classes he had to take in the spring and summer and make it to OU. He said he started to realize around July that no matter how hard he worked, it just wasn’t meant to be.
That hasn’t taken away his love of OU nor has it turned off wide receivers coach Jay Norvell as Gardner said the two speak at least twice a week.
“Oh yeah, everything is real tight between me and Coach Norvell,” Gardner said. “I’m still 100 percent committed to the Sooners, and I’m looking forward to talking with him in person again.”
Gardner said he is on track to be on campus in January. He is taking two classes at Sierra Community College in Roseville, Calif., and getting his work done. And when he’s not in class, well, he’s simply watching OU football.
“It gets me fired up every time,” Gardner said. “I’ve watched every single game this season and some of them more than once.
“You can see how better the chemistry is between Landry [Jones] and those young receivers now. It wasn’t there at first, but it couldn’t be better right now.”
Gardner said it is disappointing to not be with the team this season, but he knows he cannot dwell on it and must keep moving forward.
“I have a tremendous opportunity here,” Gardner said. “It might take a little longer than we thought, but I’m going to be there. I’m taking control of the situation. Everything is fine.”
Mixon with another trip to OU
If OU has nothing else in its favor with three-star defensive end Dimarya Mixon (Mesquite, Texas/West Mesquite), it has proximity.
Mixon, who is committed to Arizona State, has made official visits to OU, Arizona State and West Virginia in that order.
But he added another OU visit a couple of weeks ago when he said he was thoroughly impressed with the Sooners’ shellacking of Texas at the Cotton Bowl.
And you can add one more. Mixon said there was no way he is going to miss the game against the Irish this weekend. The relative close distance of Mequite to Norman has Mixon never hesitating about making return trips to OU.
“I can’t miss this one,” Mixon said. “It’s homecoming this week for us so that tells you how bad I want to see this one.”
Mixon said he has no problem missing the homecoming festivities for the Sooners game. He also said he still wants to make no decision on his commitment until after his senior season.
It is down to the Sooners, Sun Devils and Mountaineers, but it’s all about West Mesquite at this point in time.
OU makes impression on Dowling
There is a part of Sean Dowling (Fallbrook, Calif./Union) that wishes his official visit to OU wasn’t last week but was this week.
But Dowling, a UCLA commit, doesn’t have anything bad to say about his first experience in Norman. And what might have stood out most were the fans.
“I’m walking out of the locker room and fans are begging me to sign their stuff,” Dowling said. “I’m not even a part of the university. It was crazy.
Tom Hauck for ESPN.com
UCLA commit Sean Dowling was impressed with OU fans on his visit.
“The fans at OU are nothing like the West Coast fans. I know that might get some West Coast fans mad, but the OU fans have so much more passion for the game. They have so much more knowledge. It was incredible.”
Dowling was hosted by tight end Sam Grant and spent a lot of time with freshman tight end Taylor McNamara, who is also from the San Diego area.
So some OU players naturally assumed Dowling, who is 6-6 and 260 pounds, was coming in and being looked at as a tight end. When they found out he was an offensive tackle, well, the boys had some fun with it.
“They kept telling me things about how the strength and conditioning coach was going to make me put on the weight,” Dowling said. “They were saying ‘Schmidty [Jerry Schmidt] has another one’ and stuff like that. I loved it. It made me feel like part of the team.”
And nobody has a better sense of humor about himself than Dowling when it comes to the new athletic dorms.
“That’s great because it looks like the football players will get their own rooms,” Dowling said. “That’s important because I snore a lot, and I don’t know if anybody would want to be my roommate.”
Dowling said he is still committed to the Bruins. His father is in the Middle East so no change in his commitment status will happen until he gets a chance to discuss everything with his parents. But OU could not have done anything more on the trip.
“I’ve never been in an environment like that,” Dowling said. “I won’t forget it.”
Treadwell and OU not destined for each other?
It has been all good news with OU and recruiting here in October. Can you take just a tablespoon of bad news this week?
ESPN 150 wide receiver Laquon Treadwell (Crete, Ill./Crete-Monee) was pumped up for his planned official visit to OU this weekend.
SoonerNation spoke to Treadwell on Sunday afternoon and this is what he had to say.
“I’m excited about everything,” Treadwell said. “I want to see everything. The school. The coaches. The players. Everything. It’s going to be an electrifying atmosphere. Cannot wait.”
Unfortunately for the second time OU and Treadwell will have to wait. The regular season is over in Illinois and Treadwell’s undefeated Crete-Monee team will play its first-round game Saturday, it was announced Monday.
So Treadwell will not be making the official visit this weekend but said once again he is still aiming to see Norman before he makes his decision.
Is this a case where maybe it just wasn’t meant to be? Treadwell’s first trip to OU was supposed to be in April with running back signee David Smith. Nobody is more positive or persuasive than Smith so that would have been a big shot in the arm.
On that weekend, however, severe weather swept through the state and both stayed at home. Treadwell vowed to make a return visit to campus. It was six months later, but he had made good on his promise. Now it’s a waiting game to see when Treadwell can make it back.
Treadwell was also supposed to be at Michigan last weekend and didn’t make that trip if OU fans are looking for a sliver of a silver lining.
Treadwell said not seeing OU hasn’t hurt its chances and that he remains upbeat and excited about the opportunity to actually see the campus.
Byrd fired up for visit
Ready for more good news again? Here you go regarding OU safety commit Hatari Byrd (Fresno, Calif./Central East). It’s possible no recruit is more fired up about his official visit this weekend than Byrd, who committed to the Sooners on July 31 without having seen the campus.
“I’ve been looking forward to this visit since before I committed,” Byrd said. “The atmosphere is going to be crazy.”
Tom Hauck for ESPN.com
S Hatari Byrd committed to OU over the summer without ever visiting the campus.
He also had somebody in his ear telling him to go to this game.
“Mike Stoops said I should go to this one," Byrd said. "Hey, if Mike Stoops tells me to do something, I’m going to do it."
But it still remains to be seen if Byrd will be coming alone. It was originally thought his four-star defensive back teammates L.J. Moore and Johnny Johnson Jr. would be making officials with Byrd this weekend.
As the week has progressed, however, it doesn’t look like that will be the case. I haven’t heard a confirmed "no," but there are reports of both Moore and Johnson not making the trip. In a text message Monday, Moore said he was “most likely” going to stay home but didn’t rule out the chance of still making the trip.
Byrd wants his teammates to be with him this week. But he also doesn’t really care because he is going no matter what, and he is hoping to bring somebody else with him.
Byrd said if he is able to, he is bringing 2014 athlete Michiah Quick with him. Byrd and Quick are cousins and Byrd has been in Quick’s ear about OU since the day he committed.
“We talk almost every day, and he wants to go where I’m going,” Byrd said. “He is very interested in OU. We’ve dreamed about going to the same college, but I don’t know if we ever thought it would actually happen.”
Quick is in the ESPN Watch List and Fresno Central East defensive backs coach Tony Perry said he believes Quick is actually going to be higher rated than the 2013 trio.
Byrd doesn’t disagree.
“He is somebody who works hard and is very talented,” Byrd said. “Every time he catches or touches the ball, something special is about to happen. Just a freak of an all-around athlete.”
Byrd hasn’t seen the campus but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t kept tabs on what has been going on with OU this season. Especially the 63-21 victory against Texas in the Red River Rivalry.
“That was crazy,” Byrd said. “I had to get up early in the morning to watch it, but it was worth it. “The game almost didn’t even seem to be real with the way we were able to beat them down.”
Kish still pursuing Davis
There is no telling whether four-star linebacker Raaquan Davis (Heath, Texas/Rockwall-Heath) would have attended this weekend’s game anyway, but a family event is keeping him away.
Davis, a Baylor commit, is turning 18 this weekend and his mother has a big event planned for him. He still has not given one tiny sign of backing out of his commitment to the Bears but that hasn’t stopped Tim Kish from trying.
“Yeah, he’s still trying to talk to me,” Davis said. “I understand that’s his job, but I’m not going anywhere.”
Davis developed a good relationship with Kish in the spring, especially at OU’s junior day. But Baylor came in first with the offer and got the commitment a mere days before OU extended the offer.
He is not the only well-known linebacker target not making the trip. ESPN 150 linebacker Mike Mitchell (Plano, Texas/Prestonwood Christian) will also not be in Norman this weekend, confirmed Ken Mitchell on Monday.
Mike Mitchell did make the trip to Texas A&M last weekend so there was some hope that maybe he would take in OU again for this huge showdown, but they are going to stay home.
It’s tough to read what that might mean in the long run. Is it because OU is falling behind? Or is it because OU and Mitchell are so comfortable that another visit is not a priority?
To me, the school waiting in the wings is Ohio State. The Buckeyes have pursued Mitchell hard and are hopeful for an official visit to Columbus, Ohio, in November.
If Davis and Mitchell don’t head to Norman, don’t be surprised to see Norman (Okla.) North linebacker Jordan Evans become a Sooner. Evans has been at every OU home game this season, went to OU-Texas and will once again be at the stadium for OU-Notre Dame.
Not nearly with the impressive set of offers as Mitchell and Davis, but Evans has exploded onto the scene this spring/summer and has been in constant contact with Tim Kish the last two months.
OU with chance to make strong impression
It’s not Bedlam week, but one recruit is torn between OU and Oklahoma State. OK, torn might be too generous. 2014 running back Lawrence Evitt (Wagoner, Okla./Wagoner) has openly stated he is Cowboys first and Sooners second.
Courtesy of Wagoner High School
2014 RB Lawrence Evitt confesses he grew up an Oklahoma State fan.
But it is OU who has reached out first to the 5-8, 170-pound speedster. And Evitt is listening and will take in his first OU home game Saturday night.
“I have to see what this is all about,” Evitt said. “I have so many friends telling me to go to OU. I got to give it a shot and be open-minded.”
SoonerNation saw Evitt last week when he rushed for 336 yards on 25 carries and two touchdowns. Both were impressive scores from 63 and 80 yards out.
Even though he admits to being OSU first, so, too, was former OU star linebacker Curtis Lofton. If nothing else, it doesn’t hurt for Cale Gundy to reach out to Evitt even if Evitt didn’t believe it at first.
“I had coaches and teammates telling me Gundy was calling to see how I was doing and inviting me to the game,” Evitt said. “I thought they were all playing a joke. When I learned it was true, I jumped out of my chair in excitement. So yeah, I guess I can’t rule out OU because I am really pumped for this.”
Cornwell rising up the ranks
It looked like it was an open-and-shut case that Edmond (Okla.) Santa Fe’s Justice Hansen would be the top in-state 2014 quarterback. Hansen has been nothing short of impressive, but David Cornwell (Jones, Okla./Jones) is making his bid.
Cornwell had an offer from Indiana before he had even thrown a pass in a varsity game. Now that he’s played eight games, the Hoosiers look pretty smart. And Auburn has joined the chase, too.
“I understand what I have in front of me,” Cornwell said. “I’m not taking anything for granted, and I’m going to take advantage of all the opportunities I have.”
Those opportunities include never having a weekend. He has seen Michigan, Oklahoma State and will be at Arkansas this weekend. He camped at OU but said he hasn’t heard much from Josh Heupel since that experience.
He’s not down about that, but he is hoping that will change soon.
“He told me not to expect too much during the season,” Cornwell said. “Going into that camp he didn’t know who I was. A lot of people didn’t. But once he saw me throw, I think he realized how good I can be. I want to see OU and get to know Heupel better, but it just hasn’t happened yet.”
Cornwell visited Michigan two weeks ago and said the trip couldn’t have gone better, noting the 100,000 fans as reason enough for anybody wanting to attend Michigan.
He is also learning the recruiting game, too. Cornwell wanted to attend OU’s home game against Kansas State last month. However, he inquired about tickets the Thursday of that week. By that time, there were none to be given.
“It’s a big deal with OU is what I learned,” Cornwell said. “I’m going to have to call a lot earlier in the future. They’re passionate and there’s nothing wrong with that.”
So are SEC schools. Alabama sent Cornwell 76 letters on Friday. Auburn sent him 36 and LSU sent him 20 on Monday. His mailbox is quickly becoming full.