Thursday, November 29, 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:
Crazy week continues for new OU commit
More on the defensive end situation
Is OU down to one legitimate tight end target?
Florida DB has the Sooners on top
Juco DT has positive experience on OU visit, but is there another school out in front?
Juco OT getting ready to decide
Read the Sooner Intel after the jump.
Evans’ crazy week continues
The feeling was in the air. With a quality list of official and unofficial visitors for Bedlam last weekend, it felt like OU was going to get some commitments.
The Sooners have added two more to the 2013 class this week. One was a huge surprise in junior college punter Jed Barnett (Oakland, Calif./Laney CC). The other was someone SoonerNation has talked about a lot in recent months in three-star defensive end Jordan Evans (Norman, Okla./North).
Jordan Evans is fine with playing any position for the Sooners.
Evans, who is 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds, was offered at Bedlam and committed to OU on Tuesday night. Originally classified as a linebacker, ESPN scouts have moved him to defensive end after reviewing his film.
Nobody can say for certain what position Evans will play, but most agree he just finds ways to make an impact no matter where he’s lined up.
“If they want me at defensive end, that’s fine,” Evans said. “I’ve put on weight before. I’m sure I could somehow add another 25-30 pounds. That happens all the time in college, and I know my body would respond well to it.”
For a while it almost felt like OU was teasing Evans. He had attended every OU home game this season. He went to Dallas for OU’s destruction of Texas in the Red River Rivalry.
He was talking to linebackers coach Tim Kish on a weekly basis but no offer. He was dominating on the field Friday nights but no offer.
When the offer came, nobody would have blamed Evans for feeling slighted. But it couldn’t be any further from the truth.
“I was kind of surprised it happened as early as it did,” Evans said. “Seriously. OU has a history of making late offers to kids from Norman. I know Ryan Broyles was a really late offer.
“For them to do it at a game like that really caught me off guard. You can’t hold a grudge. They have to do what’s best for them just like I’ve been trying to do what’s best for me.”
Evans said Sunday night he wanted to reevaluate things following this weekend’s state championship game. But he knew. The only reason it took until Tuesday night was because he wanted to give a courtesy call to the other schools who have offered him.
With Evans staying close to home, one major dilemma is wiped out. Evans said one of the biggest things he was looking for in a school was a strong church. Now he doesn’t have to leave the Westside Church of Christ in Norman.
“Football is great, but I don’t want football to consume me,” Evans said. “I’m not going to lose myself, lose my soul to the sport. I want to continue to grow spiritually off the field as I develop as a player on it.”
Defensive end mystery solved?
ESPN scouts agree Evans is a defensive end. And if he is, that might answer the lingering question from Tuesday afternoon. Three-star defensive end Dimarya Mixon (Mesquite, Texas/West Mesquite) said he was going to commit to OU sometime in the very near future.
This seemed odd as OU has been looking for three defensive ends the entire time and has had two big-time commits at the spot since April.
If Evans is the guy, Mixon’s comments ring even more true. Because not only did Mixon say the defensive end spot is full, he said it was because of commitments made following the Bedlam game.
Mixon said the OU door is closed so there's no point in looking back.
“They told me it’s full so I’m not going to sulk or be depressed or call them back to see if anything has changed,” Mixon said. “I’m going to move on. There are a lot of schools out there.”
It’s possible had Mixon committed earlier, none of the confusion would have happened. But Mixon said he has no regrets with how he has handled the situation.
If it’s Evans, mystery solved. If it’s not Evans, well, there's still some information that needs to be released. Mixon is out the door. And an assumption would be that three-star Oklahoma State commit Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (Houston/Alief Taylor) would be off the board, too.
Okoronkwo said Tuesday afternoon he hasn’t flipped his commitment and that he hasn’t heard from OU coaches since last week. It is highly unlikely Okoronkwo would have flipped his commitment before seeing Stillwater for the first time. He still hasn’t seen the Oklahoma State campus.
The other possibility is OU offensive tackle commit Dalton Rodriguez (Tulsa, Okla./Union). Rodriguez hasn’t voiced a displeasure at being tackle but has said he flat out feels a lot more comfortable and would help the team out a lot more at defensive end.
Rodriguez said he has felt this way for a while, but he has not approached the subject with OU offensive tackles coach Bruce Kittle yet. He wanted to wait until after OU’s regular season was in the books.
Rodriguez admitted Tuesday if he is forced to stay on offense, it could change things for him. It would make him think about his recruitment once again.
The obvious answer is Oklahoma State as the Cowboys offered Rodriguez first, and at defensive end. But OSU has since filled up its spots at defensive end.
One person it won’t be is junior college prospect Chris Martin (San Francisco, Calif./City College of San Francisco).
Martin was ranked in the ESPN 150 coming out of high school for the 2010 class and signed with Florida. To say his road has been tumultuous is putting it mildly. Numerous off the field problems have derailed what could have been a successful career.
Martin said that’s one reason he hasn’t talked at all about his recruitment.
“I was young and dumb,” Martin said. “I made a lot of stupid choices, did a lot of stupid things. I’m focusing on getting better as a person and as a player. That’s all I’m worried about.”
Martin said OU, Kansas and Pittsburgh have been the three schools who have shown the most interest. However, he has not made any visits at all this season and confirmed he wasn’t at Bedlam.
Martin is friends with the Cali Trio of Brennan Clay, Kenny Stills and Tony Jefferson and City College linebackers coach is former OU linebacker Lance Mitchell. The OU connections are there, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen.
“I’ve been humbled by what has happened,” Martin said. “I can’t change what I did. All I can do is look forward to the future. I feel I can still play football at a high level so I’m only concerning myself with things I can control.”
Sandland, OU remain on good terms
Switching focus from defensive end to tight end. OU hosted two juco tight ends last week in Arizona Western teammates Emmanuel Bibbs and Cam Clear.
Bibbs is already committed to Iowa State. And Clear made his intentions known Tuesday night by committing to Texas A&M.
Courtesy of Pierce College
Junior college tight end Beau Sandland is getting ready to wrap up his official visits.
So it looks like OU is all-in on juco TE Beau Sandland (Woodland Hills, Calif./Pierce College). And Sandland hasn’t backed off from the Sooners.
“You talk about OU and you have to talk about their tradition and the success Coach [Bob] Stoops has had,” Sandland said. “He is one of the most prolific coaches out there.”
Sandland visited OU in August and said his relationship with Bruce Kittle remains as strong as ever. He is going to fill out the rest of his official visits with a trip to Miami (Fla.) this weekend and Texas Tech next weekend.
How is OU selling any tight ends right now? The position has been non-existent this season. That’s not a concern for Sandland.
“OU does a great job of using tight ends, but they don’t have them this season,” Sandland said. “When I went down there, I couldn’t believe how young and inexperienced all those guys were at tight end.
“But you look at Jermaine Gresham. When OU has a tight end, it knows what to do. If I didn’t know about OU’s history at the spot, it would be a red flag.”
Others can also point out that with OU utilizing a four-wide receiver attack some of the time, there won’t be any balls for Sandland to catch. Again, not a concern for Sandland.
“You want to have great wide receivers. You want to be able to spread the field and get as many people involved as possible. That’s not a bad thing,” Sandland said.
Sandland’s tentative plan is to narrow his choices down to three following his visits. And ultimately he would love to take his mother to the top three schools, but he has no idea if that will be financially possible.
Russell with positive OU visit experience
You know cannot go an Intel without a healthy dose of defensive tackle talk. OU hosted a couple of big ones in juco target Quincy Russell (Athens, Texas/Trinity Valley CC) and ESPN 150 prospect Maquedius Bain (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./University School).
So far Bain has been mum about his OU experience, simply tweeting he had a great time. But I was able to catch up with Russell to see how his first experience in Norman went.
“It was a great experience,” Russell said. “Coach [Jackie] Shipp had been explaining everything about OU and the campus. But he said I needed to see it for myself. He was right. It was a great time.”
Russell originally signed with Texas out of high school but right now it feels like OU’s biggest competitor is Nebraska to land Russell.
In watching OU’s 51-48 overtime victory, a couple of things stood out to Russell. One, the atmosphere was intense. Two, OU needs help at defensive tackle.
“Casey Walker was my host, and he said OU is going to need a lot of help at DT in the future. He’s right,” Russell said. “There’s a great chance to come in and play right away. That’s big for me. I don’t want to waste any time on the sidelines.”
Russell said he was impressed with how OU battled back. When it was 14-0 OSU, he was sort of scared it was going to turn into a long, boring day at Owen Field. That, of course, quickly changed and led to one of the more memorable atmospheres at OU in a while when Brennan Clay scored the game-winning touchdown.
But football wasn’t a huge concern for Russell. He had more academic questions than anything else and all those were squared away.
Understandably his first trip to campus made him a little confused about his surroundings. But it’s not something he’s worried about.
“The campus is big, but I know I would get used to it,” Russell said. “Everything is right there once you know your way around.”
Russell has visited Texas Tech and Nebraska and said right now he doesn’t have any more visits lined up. That doesn’t mean there won’t be more in the future, but he just doesn’t know at this point.
He would like to sign in December, but he’s not putting any pressure on himself.
“I don’t have a set period about when I want to do it,” Russell said. “I don’t want to announce a time or day and then back out or something like that. When my mind is made up, I’ll do it.”
Russell loved his Nebraska visit and his OU visit, but Cornhuskers might still have the edge.
“The only difference between the two was the Nebraska fans," he said. "I haven’t seen anything like that. They could be down 50-0, and they would all be screaming and cheering like crazy.”
Thomas comfortable at OU
Three-star safety Ahmad Thomas (Miami/Central) had no problems committing to OU in May without seeing the campus. For the last few months Thomas has had one concern. Would he be bored in Norman?
Following his official visit last weekend, his answer is a resounding no and now he said he’s 100 percent with the Sooners.
“I expected something totally different,” Thomas said. “I thought it was going to be all country. I didn’t want to be bored. I knew I would be comfortable with football. But I needed to be comfortable outside of football. I will be.”
Thomas was hosted by safety Tony Jefferson and freshman running back David Smith. He said their No. 1 message to him was to work out as much as possible before arriving on campus.
“It’s going to be a grind, they said,” Thomas said. “You have to be willing to put in the work. That’s fine. I don’t mind working hard.”
Thomas said he had a high opinion of OU before the visit. He initially said it was the same following the visit. But after thinking about it more, he said he actually likes OU more than he did before.
“All doubts are gone. I didn’t have many, but they’re gone,” Thomas said. “No visits, nothing. I’m done. I’m going to OU.”
Manning sets decision date
The good news is ESPN 150 defensive tackle Justin Manning (Dallas/Kimball) has decided when he is going to announce his commitment.
The bad news? No telling if Sooners are going to be his choice. It’s hard to rule out Texas A&M from getting any recruit right now.
Justin Manning is choosing between OU, TCU and Texas A&M.
Manning confirmed he is going to announce next Friday, Dec. 7, at Dallas Kimball High between 3:30-4 p.m. CT.
I do not think Manning has based this decision at all on what Russell, Bain or any other OU targets are thinking. Manning is his own person and always has been.
Manning, of course, is the younger brother of former OU defensive tackle DeMarcus Granger. He made a lot of OU fans happy Tuesday night with a tweet of “Boomer” followed by a picture of a huge OU logo.
It has felt like Manning has been OU’s No. 1 target for a long time and Manning has seen the Sooners play three times this season.
There is nothing OU can do in the next week to change things. Manning is so familiar with the program, with the coaches. It’s all in his hands at this point.
Robbins sees potential future at OU
The second time worked and the visit could not have gone any better for three-star cornerback Lamar Robbins (Miami/Southridge).
He was originally supposed to visit OU last month but a last-minute schedule conflict forced him to change it up.
Robbins wants to make something crystal clear: He’s a cornerback.
“I am not a nickelback. I am not a safety,” Robbins said. “I am a cornerback. Doesn’t matter if I’m the boundary corner or what, but that’s my position. I will not play safety. I’ll play wide receiver before I play safety.”
Robbins has two official visits left and has no idea which two schools he is going to see. If he didn’t have those visits left, there is a strong chance he would be an OU commit right now.
Because he has that option, however, Robbins will test the waters. Right now it’s uncertain what other schools could be in the mix, though.
One thing that stood out to Robbins on the visit was the presence of NFL scouts.
“I saw dudes from the Atlanta Falcons there. That’s the first time I’ve seen NFL scouts at a college game,” Robbins said. “I know it happens all the time, but it was the first time I’ve seen it for myself. It let me know what could happen if I play at OU.”
Robbins was there with his four-star teammate Jamal Carter, committed to Miami, and OU commit Ahmad Thomas (Miami/Central).
It was a reunion of some sorts with Robbins and Thomas and a chance to bury the hatchet.
“Everywhere we went on campus it was all three of us,” Robbins said. “It was good to get to know him better because of what happened last year.
“We played Miami Central last year, and there was a lot of trash talking going on before the game, a mini-brawl. I wasn’t just talking, I was talking to Ahmad so that was interesting to see him at OU, too. I got respect for him, though. He never backed down.”
Baker excited for Mike Stoops visit
This week also brought four-star athlete Adrian Baker (Hollywood, Fla./Chaminade-Madonna) back into play for the Sooners.
OU coach Mike Stoops will visit Adrian Baker next week.
Upon learning Mark Stoops was leaving Florida State to become the head coach at Kentucky, Baker knew the first coach he wanted to talk with was OU defensive backs coach Mike Stoops.
The two spoke briefly Tuesday night to arrange an in-home visit for next week. Initially part of the purpose of the in-home visit was to schedule the official visit. However, Wednesday night Baker revealed the official visit will be Dec. 14, banquet weekend.
“He sounded really excited about talking to me again,” Baker said. “We’ve always had such good talks so it was great to talk with him again, too.”
Baker has had FSU, OU and Clemson as his top three schools for a long time. He had even planned an official visit to OU for last month back in the spring.
After he committed to FSU in the spring, however, things changed. Mike Stoops told Baker he would not let Baker visit OU as long as his brother was with the Seminoles.
Baker was recruited by Mark Stoops and Stoops was the defensive backs coach for the Seminoles. Baker said he understood the loyalty Mike Stoops has for his family and actually respected him and OU more for saying something like that.
He said he is not sure what position OU is looking at him to play. The best bet is cornerback, but Baker said he is under the impression he is being recruited as an athlete at this point.
Baker, who is No. 198 in the ESPN 300, is going to make an official visit to Clemson next weekend. Baker is a major fan of Sammy Watkins so Clemson is not out of this at all.
Another FSU commit the Sooners will have their eyes on is definitely ESPN 300 linebacker E.J.Levenberry Jr. (Woodbridge, Va./Hylton).
Levenberry wasn’t officially recruited by Mark Stoops and did take his planned OU official visit last month for the Notre Dame game.
In talking with his father in the past, it has felt like a two-horse race between the Seminoles and Sooners. How serious is it? Serious enough that it was Levenberry’s mother who went on the OU visit. She doesn’t travel often unless the family is really considering the school.
Back at the time of his OU visit, the only schools to send Levenberry the written offer were OU and FSU. Expect OU to make a major push this month. Levenberry had already made two unofficial visits to campus before last month’s official visit.
Barnett ready to make impact
Raise your hand if you knew OU was interested in juco punter Jed Barnett? You’re lying. That’s just how fast things can happen in recruiting.
It only took two weeks for Barnett to go from Louisiana Tech commit to OU visitor to Sooners commit. Barnett said he owes a lot of gratitude to his kicking coach, Chris Sailer.
Sailer, who has developed a strong bond with OU assistant coach Bobby Jack Wright, said the Sooners have picked up a good one in Barnett, who is 6-3 and 220 pounds.
“I’ve known Jed since he was a junior in high school,” Sailer said. “I’ve trained him for a long time. He’s a big kid, a strong kid. The timing didn’t work out at Cal. Instead of being down about things, he kept working. He kept improving.”
Sailer said he has developed a great relationship with a lot of different schools and does his best to make sure the best kickers he has are recognized. He brought up Barnett to OU a while ago, but the Sooners were looking at a scholarship for a kicker in 2013 at that point.
That all changed in the last few weeks, and Sailer quickly got Barnett and Wright talking to each other. A great official visit to OU last weekend sealed the deal, and Barnett could not be more fired up to be coming to OU.
“When I was on the visit, I still couldn’t believe I was actually on a visit at OU,” Barnett said. “Here I am at one of the best schools in the nation. It’s incredible. I’m so motivated to show them they’ve made the right choice.”
Brown sees OU with his own eyes
Another big visitor, both literally and figuratively, was juco offensive tackle Trenton Brown (Albany, Ga./Georgia Military College).
Brown, who is 6-8 and 350 pounds, has seen a lot of campuses but said he wanted to see OU’s first before making any decision.
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“I’m not sure why. I just wanted to see what the campus and what the atmosphere was like,” Brown said. “The game stood out. It was a great game.”
Brown was hosted by offensive lineman Bronson Irwin and said his first impression was about how big the stadium is.
Brown said interest between him and the Sooners really picked up in the last six weeks. He knows about the great tradition OU has, especially with linemen, and wanted to see it for himself.
“I’ve been talking to Coach [Bruce] Kittle every day on Facebook for a while,” Brown said. “It was good to meet the coaches and spend time with the players.”
Brown has visited Florida, Texas A&M and Arizona. Florida State also recently joined the mix. He said he feels pretty confident he is almost ready to make his decision.
Evitt misses Bedlam for family reason
Nobody was more excited about visiting OU for Bedlam than 2014 running back Lawrence Evitt (Wagoner, Okla./Wagoner). But Evitt wasn’t able to make the visit because of the death of his grandpa earlier in the weekend.
“It was rough weekend,” Evitt. “I loved my grandpa so much. We lost on Friday night, and I took that loss pretty bad, too. I called Coach [Cale] Gundy to let him know Saturday morning. I didn’t want him to think I’m not interested or that I was a jerk or something like that.”
Evitt finished an incredible junior season with 2,982 rushing yards and 39 touchdowns. Up next, though, might determine his football career more than any stats.
“I’m taking the ACT next month. I’ve been working real hard on it,” Evitt said. “If I can make an 18 or 19 on it, I’ve been told I can pretty much go where I want. I want to get a lot higher than that, though.”
He might not have been at Bedlam, but he didn’t miss it.
“When I was watching it, I was almost a little disappointed because I wanted to be there,” Evitt said. “It seemed like it was such a great game and such a great atmosphere.”
Evitt made his first ever trip to OU last month for the Sooners’ home game against Notre Dame. A lifelong Oklahoma State fan, he said that trip has put OU right in the mix from this point forward.
Foreman learning from Norvell
Sam Khan Jr./ESPN.com
Armanti Foreman still hasn't seen Oklahoma's campus.
OU wide receivers coach Jay Norvell has been busy but not busy enough to help out 2014 commit Armanti Foreman (Texas City, Texas/Texas City).
Foreman and Norvell haven’t spoken in a while although Foreman said that’s not a big deal. However, after every game, Norvell will write out a letter to Foreman detailing what went right and what went wrong with OU’s receivers during that particular game.
“It’s crazy the amount of detail it has,” Foreman said. “It helps. He gives a lot of tips, and it just shows you how much he knows about the position and how much he cares as a coach.”
Foreman is hopeful to visit OU. With each day, it gets a little bit harder.
“Man, I really want to see everything,” Foreman said. “I want to make sure I feel comfortable there. I have really enjoyed getting to know the coaches. But you have to be happy and comfortable on campus. That’s where you’re going to be most of the time.”