Thursday, December 6, 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:
It's decision day for DT target Justin Manning
Has OU fallen behind on recruiting an ESPN 150 LB?
OU makes its mark on juco TE
DB target has positive in-home visit with Sooners
Two commits are firm with the Sooners
What did OU's quarterback commit want to improve most this season?
In a few hours, we’ll get a real feel of where OU’s recruiting class is headed. ESPN 150 defensive tackle Justin Manning (Dallas/Kimball) will announce his decision this afternoon between OU, TCU and Texas A&M.
Tom Hauck for ESPN.com
Have the Sooners lost ground in the race for Justin Manning?
The domino effect to this singular announcement could be astounding. If the Sooners get Manning, it’s positive momentum heading into the two craziest recruiting months of the year. Not to mention it would finally give OU a commit at defensive tackle, a huge position of need.
If Manning were to pass on the Sooners, a lot of fans will definitely feel like the sky is falling. If there was one sure bet for the 2013 class, it was thought to be Manning, the younger brother of former OU defensive tackle DeMarcus Granger.
All three schools took their turn with Manning this week. OU was visited on Monday, while the Horned Frogs and Aggies saw Manning on Tuesday and Wednesday.
There’s no way to quantify what a loss Manning would be for OU. On paper, it’s just one recruit. But it would symbolize just how bad the Sooners are struggling for their 2013 class. And how bad they’re struggling to find that one thing to get recruits to Norman, Okla.
RecruitingNation will have full coverage of Manning’s commitment ceremony.
OU also stopped by junior college target Toby Johnson (Hutchinson, Kan./Hutchinson CC) earlier this week, too.
Johnson suffered an ACL injury late in the season but was told the injury is not nearly as serious as originally thought.
He made an unofficial to OU in the summer and an official visit during the season. But it has felt for a while he is SEC-bound. And it could come as early as this weekend.
Johnson, originally from Georgia, is taking an official visit to see the Bulldogs this weekend. Georgia has had its eyes on Johnson for a long time.
And there is still ESPN 150 tackle Maquedius Bain (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./University School). Bain said his Bedlam visit was incredible, and OU coaches were expected to make an in-home visit with him Wednesday night.
There are many targets for OU at defensive tackle, just not a commitment at this point.
Buckeyes making their move for Mitchell
OU is starting to fall behind when it comes to the recruitment of ESPN 150 linebacker Mike Mitchell (Plano, Texas/Prestonwood Christian).
Mitchell, who made an unofficial visit to OU in the summer, made an official to Texas A&M in October and is set to see Columbus, Ohio, and Ohio State this weekend.
But that hasn’t been enough.
“Ohio State came in last week, last Monday,” said Ken Mitchell, Mike’s father. “Then Texas A&M came this Monday and Ohio State is coming again tonight [Tuesday].”
Ken Mitchell said Mike is fully recovered from a staph infection and that won’t be a problem moving forward. A teammate rolled up on Mike’s leg, and Ken said Mike’s leg turned black and swelled up to three times the normal size.
But because they recognized it so fast, no lingering damage has been done.
The Buckeyes have sent three different coaches to Mitchell’s house in the last two weeks. OU hasn’t sent any.
“OU is still talking to us, but I can’t say any visits or anything like that have been planned,” Ken Mitchell said. “I still believe OU and Oregon are talking to Mike but right now Ohio State and Texas A&M are talking a lot more.”
It could be a sign OU is moving more of its focus toward ESPN 300 linebacker and Florida State commit E.J. Levenberry Jr. (Woodbridge, Va./Hylton).
Levenberry has already seen the campus three times and took an official to OU in October. Linebackers coach Tim Kish is expected to make an in-home visit this week or weekend but don’t be surprised if OU has multiple in-home visits with Levenberry and his family in hopes of flipping this commitment.
Robbins with positive OU visit
Like all of the OU coaches, defensive backs coach Mike Stoops was busy making the rounds this week. And one notable stop was with Miami Southridge three-star cornerback Lamar Robbins.
Robbins went on an official visit to OU for Bedlam weekend and had his in-home visit with Stoops on Tuesday night.
“It went really good,” Robbins said. “He stayed for about an hour, and we just went over everything. He met my mom and my little brother. It was nice.”
Robbins said OU is still his No. 1 school but also said he never thought about committing during the visit. Robbins has made official visits to Purdue and West Virginia and still has two more left although he’s not sure where he will go.
Florida International also stopped by Miami Southridge earlier in the week but will have to come back in order to meet his mother.
Robbins said Stoops said he plans to be back a second time as well but no date on that visit has been set up.
“I can’t really describe what I like so much about Coach Stoops,” Robbins said. “There are just so many aspects of him I like. I feel real comfortable with the program. I have no more questions at all.”
Bibbs’ recruitment heats up
It is clear OU’s No. 1 target at tight end was junior college stud Beau Sandland (Woodland Hills, Calif./Pierce College). Tight ends coach Bruce Kittle has spent the most time in trying to make sure Sandland is a Sooner.
Sandland was set to visit Texas Tech this weekend and then narrow it down to three. Sandland changed his mind Wednesday night, releasing his top three. The Sooners were nowhere to be found.
Arizona State, Nebraska and Miami (Fla.) made the cut, but OU is out as are the Red Raiders. Not only is OU out for Sandland, but the planned in-home visit by Bruce Kittle to Sandland has been canceled.
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With Sandland out of the picture, expect Kittle to move all his resources to juco tight end Emmanuel Bibbs (Yuma, Ariz./Arizona Western).
Bibbs, committed to Iowa State, took an official visit to OU for Bedlam along with tight end teammate Cam Clear. Last week Clear committed to Texas A&M.
“Coach Kittle has been calling me basically every week,” Bibbs said. “I’m still committed to Iowa State but this is getting pretty exciting. I first started talking to OU in the spring.”
Bibbs, originally from the Chicago area, was hosted by freshman running back David Smith. Smith is also from the Chicago area.
“We clicked immediately,” Bibbs said. “He showed me a lot and told me all about the coaches. I had a great time with him and loved his honesty. He was right about the coaches.”
The connections don’t stop there. With Bibbs at Arizona Western, he was a former teammate of OU running back Damien Williams. Not just teammates, Bibbs said Williams is among his best friends.
Seeing Williams having great success with the Sooners shows Bibbs he would get an opportunity if he came to Norman.
“It does mean a lot,” Bibbs said. “I’m so happy for Damien to see him do what he is doing. Playing at OU has a pretty good sound to it.”
Bibbs said Arkansas and Auburn are also in the mix. With no more visits left on his agenda, Bibbs said it’s all about coaches coming in to see him and his family.
He said OU is scheduled to visit his parents this weekend.
“It really is going to come down to which one my mom and dad and myself feel the most comfortable with,” Bibbs said. “The coaches will talk to my mom and dad, and we’ll get a better feel for everything from there.”
Bibbs said he is looking to sign Dec. 19, the first day of the junior college signing period.
Bennett sticking with Sooners
There was a rumor last week that three-star athlete and OU commit Austin Bennett (Manvel, Texas/Manvel) was going to make an official visit to Arkansas in January.
But it wasn’t a rumor. Bennett said that was fact until he talked with OU coaches Jay Norvell and Bob Stoops about the situation.
“I talked to Coach Stoops, and he said it was a bad idea to go,” Bennett said. “I respect what my coach says. I’m going to stay faithful to OU and not take the visit.
“It’s like a relationship. You be faithful to the girl that wanted to be with you.”
Bennett was originally an Arkansas commit before decommitting following the firing of Bobby Petrino. Bennett said the visit wasn’t necessarily going to be about him. His older brother is at Blinn College, and he was hoping Arkansas might give his brother a look as well.
But Stoops and Norvell shot that down. Bennett said Norvell is scheduled to make an in-home visit sometime this weekend and also said his official visit is going to be the weekend of Dec. 14, banquet weekend. That’s not shocking as that is shaping up to be the major visit weekend of the season like it is every year.
Bennett said he finished his season with around 50 catches and 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns. His season ended with a 43-42 loss to Cypress (Texas) Ranch and OU commit Keith Ford.
Ford was incredible in the game, rushing for 133 yards and three touchdowns. He had four receptions for 145 yards and a touchdown and scored the game-winner with 11 seconds left.
It left quite an impression on Bennett.
“Man, he’s a great running back,” Bennett said. “Our defense couldn’t contain him. He did his thing, [I'm] happy to be his teammate at OU.
“What stands out is how versatile he is. He’s strong and quick and can catch. He’s everything you can want in a running back.”
Mastrogiovanni solid with OU
There is no question ESPN 300 linebacker and OU commit Jordan Mastrogiovanni (Dallas/Jesuit) is not the most talkative recruit out there.
So it might have gone a little under the radar how much Mastrogiovanni and Texas A&M had been talking with each other.
Jordan Mastrogiovanni will be in Norman next weekend.
Mastrogiovanni took an unofficial visit to College Station in October to be with some friends but was also seriously considering taking an official to the Aggies. He opted not to because he didn’t want to give the wrong impression to the OU coaches.
Following Tim Kish’s visit with Mastrogiovanni on Sunday, it appears like this is one commit the Sooners can feel comfortable with once again.
“Coach Kish is a great recruiter,” said Joe Mastrogiovanni, Jordan’s father. “He is a very nice person. It was a very nice meeting that lasted at least 90 minutes.”
Joe Mastrogiovanni said he is a huge OU fan. He grew up in Shawnee, Okla., and even though he attended Tulsa, he said OU was still the only game in town.
Mastrogiovanni is yet another recruit taking his official visit to OU on Dec. 14. And Joe Mastrogiovanni said there is one thing about Kish that stands out among the rest.
“He’s so genuine,” Joe said. “We’ve met a lot of coaches. Kish is very intelligent, and we genuinely like him. He is experienced at this and communicates well. That’s important.”
Thomas improves decision making
Rankings have never mattered to ESPN 300 quarterback and OU commit Cody Thomas (Colleyville, Texas/Heritage). He didn’t care when he was in the ESPN 150 in the summer. Didn’t care when he dropped out following the Elite 11.
He had one thing on his mind this season. He was looking to improve his decision making. He threw 15 interceptions as a junior. That was not going to be tolerated as a senior.
So how did he do? Thomas threw for 4,154 yards with 46 touchdowns and six interceptions. Mission accomplished.
“I was the captain and the leader this year, and I had to show why,” Thomas said. “I had to make better decisions. If something wasn’t there, don’t force it. Throw it away and get them the next play.”
Thomas has been described by his coaches as a leader by example. Thomas wouldn’t disagree with that assessment, but he said he had to grow into more of a vocal leader this season, too.
Originally Thomas was supposed to make his official visit for the Notre Dame game with wide receiver target Laquon Treadwell (Crete, Ill./Crete-Monee).
After Treadwell couldn’t make it because of a playoff game, they turned their attention toward Bedlam. Both Thomas and Treadwell couldn’t make it because of playoff games.
So both will attempt for a third time on Dec. 14 for their official visit.
Thomas did, however, take an unofficial visit for the Kansas game on Oct. 20.
“It was a lot of fun,” Thomas said. “Everybody knew my name in the crowd. People were asking me for my autograph the entire time.
Thomas has never once thought about looking elsewhere. It was his persistent nature that forced quarterbacks coach Josh Heupel to look at Thomas in the spring. That persistence hasn’t stopped in the fall.
“I call Coach Heupel at least once a week,” Thomas said. “We talk about my game and how everything is going. The relationship is great. No worries.”
Quick to follow Byrd?
Fresno (Calif.) Central East defensive backs coach Tony Perry isn’t afraid to talk about his kids. He knows he has a trio of great ones for the 2013 class in four-star prospects L.J. Moore, Johnny Johnson Jr. and OU commit Hatari Byrd.
But Perry believes the best is yet to come in 2014 wide receiver/cornerback Michiah Quick. That could be a good thing for OU.
Tom Hauck for ESPN.com
Michiah Quick could join his cousin Hatari Byrd at Oklahoma.
“At this point, I’m looking at OU, Notre Dame, Oregon, LSU and Alabama as my top five,” Quick said. “It’s early, but those are the five I’m looking at.”
OU might have a decided advantage against the rest of the schools. Quick’s mother lives in Oklahoma City, and he’s familiar with the area.
Quick lived with his mother for a year in Stillwater during middle school and then moved back to Fresno to live with his father. His mother got transferred from Stillwater to Oklahoma City.
There is also the Byrd factor. Quick and Byrd have talked about going to the same college for a long time. They never once considered it to be an actual possibility, but it is at OU with Quick already having an offer.
“It’s a big deal because of how tight I am with Hatari,” Quick said. “He showed me all his pictures from his trip. Those facilities are nice. I’d love to see them for myself.”
Quick said he talks to Mike Stoops on a regular basis but there is no set position for Quick, who is as natural at receiver as he is at cornerback.
“I’m going to let the college decide what position I play and where I fit best,” Quick said. “When I have the ball in my hands, I can pretty much do whatever I want.”
Quick said he is 6-0 and 175 pounds and is ready for his senior season. He was double-teamed and triple-teamed as his junior season progressed so he knows what to expect.
Clark not affected by brother’s decision
Watch List defensive end Deondre Clark (Oklahoma City/Douglass) wants to make it clear right now: his brother’s decision to play for Oklahoma State will not affect anything for him.
ESPN 100 point guard Stevie Clark signed with the Cowboys last week and many have speculated that Deondre would follow his brother to Stillwater.
“No, that’s not the case at all,” Deondre Clark said. “He is going where he feels he fits in best. I’m happy for him. I’m proud of him. He’s earned it. But I have to do what’s best for me.”
Deondre Clark picked up offers from Notre Dame, Baylor and Arizona as the season progressed, but it still looks like it is between the Sooners and LSU at this point.
He did not see the Tigers this season but saw OU twice. He watched the Sooners play Texas in the Red River Rivalry and was at OU’s loss to Notre Dame. The loss meant nothing at all to Clark.
“That was a life-changing experience,” Clark said. “It was incredible how great that was. I could get used to being a part of something like that.”
Clark said his relationship with defensive ends coach Bobby Jack Wright has gotten a lot stronger as the season has gone on, but he’s still not ready to make any decision.
“I’m so happy my brother is back [from Las Vegas],” Clark said. “I’ve been talking to him a lot about this stuff. He told me to enjoy it and take as much time as I need. That’s what I’m going to do.”
Hansen looking for answers
Watch List quarterback Justice Hansen (Edmond, Okla./Santa Fe) knows he is one of Josh Heupel’s top picks for quarterback for the 2014 class.
He just wishes he knew exactly where he stood.
Tom Hauck for ESPN.com
Class of 2014 quarterback Justice Hansen has interest from several school.
“I know I have to be patient, but I would love to know if I’m going to get the offer or not as fast as possible,” Hansen said. “Some of these schools you might be in their top five but you never get the offer. You wait for that offer and then see other ones go by because you were too busy concentrating on that one offer.”
He has offers from Missouri and Arkansas and is receiving major interest from Florida State, including taking an unofficial for the Clemson game this season.
A new school has emerged in Oklahoma State as Hansen said he enjoyed his first visit to Boone Pickens Stadium in a long time.
“It was a lot different,” Hansen said. “I’m so comfortable at OU and know everything and everybody there. But I had a great time, and you look at what they’re doing at quarterback. They had three this season and never missed a beat.”
Hansen said he is starting to develop a relationship with OSU quarterbacks coach Todd Monken. One thing that stands out with OSU is its use of the quarterback draw, a play Hansen runs often and successfully for Edmond Santa Fe.
“They’re really effective with that, and you know I would love to do that,” Hansen said.
He is also coach watching with the major changes at Missouri, FSU and Arkansas. Hansen didn’t pay much attention to that stuff in 2011. But this year is different.
“Oh yeah, I’m watching it closely,” Hansen said. “Every day it feels like something different. You have to know and have to stay on top of it.”
Cullom a dark horse candidate?
OU defensive tackles coach Jackie Shipp has kept tabs on one under the radar prospect in case things go south for the Sooners. Defensive tackle Novis Cullom (Tulsa, Okla./Memorial) would jump at an OU offer in a second.
Cullom, who his 6-foot-3 and 295 pounds, visited OU for the Kansas State game and said he talks with Shipp about once every two weeks.
The one issue, Cullom said, is he might not be a recruit who can sign on national signing day.
“My grades are going up, and I’m working real hard on that,” Cullom said. “Most schools have said they’ll stick with me. My two favorites are OU and Arkansas. I’ve always loved OU.”
Cullom had a monster senior season in helping lead Tulsa Memorial to the postseason for the first time in 23 years. He said it means a lot to him he got to play in a high school playoff game, but he’s ready to move on and see what the next chapter of his life has in store for him.
“I’m doing a lot of research of my own and seeing how I might fit in both with football and academics,” Cullom said. “I have a lot of work to do, but I’m dedicated and determined to make it happen.”
It’s a busy couple of months on the trail, especially because of where OU stands with its 2013 class. SoonerNation is trying to keep track of all the in-home visits going on.