Thursday, November 8, 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:
New commit popular among OU coaches
Official visitor has formed a tight bond with his OU recruiter
More on Greg Gilmore's decision on Thursday
Are the Sooners in the lead for a recent PAC-12 decommitment?
Once the excitement died down about getting another pledge, the real question started to pop up. Where is Alexander going to play?
In-state athlete Dominique Alexander decommitted from Arkansas this week and pledged to the Sooners.
No, really, where is he going to play? Alexander is listed at 6-foot and 190 pounds. He says he is closer to 6-1 or 6-2 and 195 pounds. He also believes he can carry 225 with no problems.
The Sooners coaches don’t know which position he'll play, but they’re fighting over him. And you won’t hear Alexander compared to former OU defensive end Dan Cody too much, but that’s the comparison being made right now. No, not in playing style or position but in determination.
“They said I’m a lot like Dan Cody,” Alexander said. “When he got there, they didn’t know where to play him. All they knew was they wanted him. That’s what they said it is for me right now.
“Coach Bob Stoops was saying how much Mike Stoops and Tim Kish both want to coach me. I can’t tell you how much that means.”
One thing nobody can question about Alexander is his desire. He believes it was that determination that finally won over the OU coaches last month.
If you ask me, Alexander is not wrong. He wasn’t high up on the board in the summer, but he never stopped working. Tulsa Booker T. Washington is on its third coach in four seasons. The offense has struggled mightily, but Alexander might have more pride in this season’s playoff berth than any of the championships.
“This is my senior year. This is my class. How do I want to be remembered?” Alexander said. “I wanted to show everybody I could be a leader, and I wanted to show those younger kids what being a leader is all about.”
Alexander has done that all season but never more than last week. Needing a win against Bartlesville, Okla., to clinch a playoff berth, Alexander returned an interception for a touchdown to seal a 34-26 victory.
At one point, Alexander only had Utah State and Texas Tech knocking on his door. Following his OU commitment, the first non-family member he told? Stanvon Taylor.
“I’m really excited to be able to play with Dominique,” Taylor said. “Finally get a chance to play with him and not against him.”
Alexander and Taylor have battled each other since second grade and have never once been teammates. Strangely enough, it is going to take college to make them wear the same colors.
“Being around good people like Stanvon and Jordan [Smallwood] -- that’s how you win national championships,” Alexander said. “We’re going to compete for championships. This is a good class, and we’re going to show people what we’re all about.”
Cochran with tight bond with Kittle
Not every home game can have the anticipation and atmosphere of Notre Dame two weeks ago. Certainly there isn’t much buzz around OU and Baylor on Saturday.
But the Sooners are hosting a giant official visitor in four-star offensive tackle Aaron Cochran (Atwater, Calif./Buhach).
And when I say giant, I mean it as Cochran is 6-8 and 364 pounds and ranked No. 22 at offensive tackle.
Recruits often mention the fact they don’t know who to trust or what to believe from college coaches. Cochran said he has never once gotten that impression with OU offensive tackles coach Bruce Kittle.
Why? Because before Kittle was coaching OU, one of his numerous other jobs was being a pastor. Cochran’s father is also a pastor.
“It really helps because I know I can trust him,” Cochran said. “I know that if I went to OU, our relationship would only get better and deeper.”
Cochran’s father will join Cochran on his visit this weekend. They are scheduled to arrive in Norman on Saturday morning since Atwater Buhach has a playoff game Friday night.
This will be Cochran’s second official visit in two weeks. He was at Nebraska on Oct. 26 and said he came away very impressed with the Cornhuskers.
“I couldn’t believe how many people come into town just to watch the game,” Cochran said. “You just don’t see that often on the West Coast.”
Another thing Cochran said is helping matters is he is not going into any visits with any expectations. He is simply open to any and every thing and enjoying his time.
His mission for the OU visit? Have fun.
“I don’t get in with goals or anything like that,” Cochran said. “I just want to experience it all and see if it’s the fit for me.”
Because Cochran’s older brother plays at California, the natural assumption has been Cochran will follow and play for the Bears.
But Cochran isn't saying that. And he doesn’t feel any pressure to play at Cal, but he is feeling pressure from somewhere to join his brother.
“I’ve got more pressure from the town for me to stay close to home and play with my brother,” Cochran said. “My brother is fine, and my parents support me 100 percent no matter what I do. But the town would be upset if I don’t play there.”
Cochran is still considering Cal but probably won’t make an official visit there since he has seen the campus so much. He is also contemplating an official visit to Arizona later in the year.
He said the one OU game he really watched was the 63-21 dismantling of Texas in the Red River Rivalry, but he said he watched that as a fan and didn’t really pay too much attention to the schemes or how the offensive line was doing.
Gilmore ready to make the call
There is no question defensive tackle has been a priority for OU this entire class. And there’s no question it has been one disappointment after another regarding that spot.
Elite targets have passed on the Sooners. Recruits OU thought it had a good chance with went other directions.
ESPN 150 DT Greg Gilmore is choosing between Florida, LSU and Oklahoma.
And while all the focus has been on ESPN 150 prospect Justin Manning (Dallas/Kimball), is it possible OU has snuck in through the backdoor with fellow ESPN 150 tackle Greg Gilmore?
Most expect Gilmore to stay in the SEC. But Gilmore is his own man and has made that very clear.
“This is my decision,” Gilmore said. “I don’t really care about where other people think I should go. This going to be about where I want to go between three great programs.”
Normally when it gets this close to a decision, you can start to weed things out and figure out where a prospect might be headed. With Gilmore, good luck.
He doesn’t change his tone of voice when talking about any of the three schools. If you didn’t know any better, you might think it was a lack of enthusiasm across the board.
“No matter where I go there are going to be a lot of the same things,” Gilmore said. “Great fans. Great program. Academics will be the same.”
So why might OU have a shot? Because it’s different than what Gilmore knows. He knows the SEC. He knows Florida and LSU. He admitted not knowing much about the Sooners or the coaches before his official visit two weeks ago.
Maybe different is good. And maybe Gilmore’s decision will have an impact on Manning? The younger brother of former OU defensive tackle DeMarcus Granger is officially down to three schools in OU, TCU and Texas A&M.
Manning was originally scheduled to make an official visit to LSU last weekend, but it was canceled. By Manning or by the school -- nobody knows, but it’s clear Baton Rouge, La., won’t be where Manning plays college football.
Manning has said he is tired of the process and wants to get it over with, but he hasn’t made concrete plans at this point. OU is still the leader in the clubhouse in my estimation. The longer the wait, however, the more concern there is going to be.
Mixon to wait it out
Flipping Alexander’s commitment from Arkansas to OU was the big news of the week so this might have gotten lost in the shuffle: Three-star defensive end Dimarya Mixon (Mesquite, Texas/West Mesquite) decommitted from Arizona State on Sunday afternoon.
Mixon has seen the Sooners play three times this season, and it feels like OU is the favorite from this point going forward. Mixon won’t come out and say it as he is deflecting all recruiting questions until after West Mesquite’s playoff run.
Much like a few other commits, if OU is able to get Mixon, he has a lot of versatility. His natural position is defensive end, but he has been open to the prospect of playing defensive tackle. He is already 6-4 and 250 pounds so it’s not out of the realm of possibility he ends up at tackle.
The decommitment is a huge positive sign for the Sooners. It has been expected for a while Mixon would flip. But after teammate cornerback Will Earley committed to Arizona State, things started to get dicey.
But OU has not let up on Mixon and he has not given OU reason to let up. Since Earley’s commitment to the Sun Devils, Mixon has seen OU play twice -- in the blowout of Texas and the loss against Notre Dame. Mixon missed his homecoming for the Irish game.
Mixon isn’t as sure a bet to flip as Alexander was, but there is no reason for OU fans to not be excited about the possibility of a commitment very soon after West Mesquite’s season concludes.
Walker still in the mix
With all the talk of defensive tackles, there is another one to be on the watch for in the next month in Charles Walker (Garland, Texas/South Garland).
Walker, who is 6-4 and 280 pounds, has been in constant contact with OU defensive tackles coach Jackie Shipp though he does not have an offer.
“The interest started in my junior season,” Walker said. “We started talking then, and he came down to visit during spring ball. I’ve always been interested in OU.”
Walker was scheduled to see OU and Texas but some miscommunication didn’t allow him to make the trip. He said he is still hopeful to visit OU before the season is over.
Walker has offers from Houston and North Texas, among others, but he admits he has been waiting for that Sooners offer.
“I love how close the school is," he said. "I’ve been watching OU on TV for years. I would love to get my shot."
He said the concerns are not grades but test scores. Walker hopes those concerns have now been wiped away. Walker took the ACT two weeks ago and said he thinks he did a good job.
“I’ve been preparing myself for the longest on this. I got all the books, did all the studying. I feel pretty good,” Walker said.
Walker said LSU and Oregon are among his other favorites although he doesn’t have offers from those programs, either.
Harding staying patient
OU has five in-state commitments for the Class of 2013. A lot of people are wondering when No. 6 might come in Arkansas safety commit Khari Harding (Edmond, Okla./Santa Fe).
It seems like a natural fit. OU took Michael Onuoha from Edmond Santa Fe in 2012. The Sooners are showing heavy interest in 2014 Edmond Santa Fe and ESPN Watch List quarterback Justice Hansen. And as top defensive backs choose other schools, it feels like Harding would be getting some looks.
Nope, none at this time said Corie Harding, Khari’s father.
“We haven’t heard anything from any of the in-state schools,” Corie Harding said. “We haven’t talked to Josh Heupel or Mike Stoops since the camp.”
Perhaps putting too much pressure on himself, Khari Harding had a rough day at OU’s camp in June and committed to Arkansas the next week. The communication between Harding and Arkansas has been fine during the season but other schools are entering the mix.
Corie Harding said they have made unofficial visits to Oklahoma State and Texas Tech, while Oregon State watched Khari play earlier this season. A tentative official visit to Arizona State is also being discussed, while Nebraska is sending letters daily.
But nothing from OU. Harding, 6-1, 210 pounds, is ranked No. 21 at safety and No. 3 in the state. The Sooners have the commits of Nos. 1, 2 and 4.
“We can’t do anything about that,” Corie Harding said. “That’s something we’ve talked about from the start. We can only control what we can control.
“We’re not going to make any drastic changes during the season. We want to see what happens with the Arkansas coaching search, and we’ll make a decision from there.”
Perhaps a strong playoff run will help Harding get a look from OU. Edmond Santa Fe is one of the favorites to capture the Oklahoma Class 6A championship.
Gardner and OU go separate ways
It has been a pretty positive week for OU recruiting but one disappointment came from junior college wide receiver Courtney Gardner.
Stay up to date on Oklahoma's 2013 commits, targets and offers. Tracker: Defense | Offense
The news was a bit of a shock, but following a conversation with OU wide receivers coach Jay Norvell on Sunday afternoon, Gardner felt it was in his best interest to make that decision.
He has remained adamant the decision has nothing to do with a change of heart toward OU or the players and coaches. But a mix-up with his junior college classes was the final straw. Gardner said he would not be able to make it to campus by January and Norvell said it might be best if he look elsewhere.
That’s the plan, at least for now.
“So much can happen. Teams still have like three games left and a bowl game,” Gardner said. “I’m not going to rule anything out.
“If it looks like I won’t be drafted, I could always go back to school and try again.”
Gardner said he is going to lean on his cousin, Nevada senior cornerback Duke Williams, for assistance in terms of prepping for the draft and trying to get an agent or some sort of representation.
Gardner originally committed to Arkansas before flipping to OU on signing day in February.
“It’s a lot to take in right now because I love OU, and I’m always going to be about OU,” Gardner said. “But things change and you have to make the best out of the situation. That’s what I’m trying to do.”
Callins getting more familiar with OU
All 2014 athlete Kai Callins (Guthrie, Okla./Guthrie) can do is try to make the best of a bad situation. Callins tore his ACL in the fourth quarter of the first game of the season. A year that held such promise and where he was poised to break out was gone just like that.
Sound familiar? Same story OU commit Stanvon Taylor had for his junior season so it’s not crazy to think Callins can’t work his way back. He knows that, too.
“What this has helped me learn about myself is how gifted I am,” Callins said. “It has helped me work on my leadership skills even though I’m not out there. I have learned a lot.”
Callins was attempting to score his fourth touchdown of the game when he made a cut and felt a pop. He said a torn ACL was the first thing that went through his mind. A day later, he was right.
“I was OK. Disappointed, but I knew what I had to do,” Callins said. “My dad went through this in college. You can’t get discouraged.”
Callins will not only miss football season but will also miss out on basketball, too. He said he is hopeful by spring break to be back to where he used to be.
The time off hasn’t killed his recruiting momentum. He said he is talking to OU and Oklahoma State the most and continues to develop that rapport with Jay Norvell that started in the spring.
“I do talk to him quite regularly,” Callins said. “He’s always just checking up on me and seeing how things are going.”
Callins has seen OU play twice this season, against Texas and Notre Dame. Even though the Notre Dame atmosphere was intense, nothing tops the Red River Rivalry.
“Notre Dame was good, but OU-Texas was a different level,” Callins said. “It was so loud I had to cover my ears a couple of times. That’s what you want to be a part of. You want to play in games like that.”
Harris ready for junior season
Lon Kruger stayed in Oklahoma for his 2013 point guard. Might he do the same in 2014? Could be if the Sooners and Omega Harris (Oklahoma City/Putnam City West) remain on the same page like they are now.
Point guard Omega Harris is the No. 1 player in Oklahoma for the Class of 2014.
Harris, 6-2 and 175 pounds, is a three-star prospect ranked No. 1 in Oklahoma for the class and has been a frequent visitor to OU.
Enough to call the Sooners a favorite? Not quite.
“I don’t have a favorite right now,” Harris said. “I’m looking at everybody. I want to weigh my options and see what’s out there.”
Harris has made unofficial visits to Miami (Fla.) and Kansas to go along with numerous trips to OU. The Sooners have been the program in the most contact with Harris, talking with him since his freshman season.
He said Iowa State, Georgia, Fresno State, Missouri and Tulsa are some of the other schools talking to him. But OU has one ace up its sleeve that doesn’t include any coaches in Edmond (Okla.) Memorial point guard commit Jordan Woodard.
Woodard and Harris played on the same AAU team, Athletes First, in the summer and Woodard is not being shy about trying to get Harris to Norman with him.
“That’s my homeboy, for sure. I love Jordan,” Harris said. “He told me during the summer that I should just end it now and go ahead and come with him. It is really close to home so I like that.”
Harris has always been KU fan but said he just wants to see where the process takes him. For now, it’s about his junior season.
“We’re better than last year. I’m better than I was last year,” Harris said. “I’m ready to step up and be that leader the whole time. I’m not doubting myself. It’s time to go to work.”