Friday, December 7, 2012
One setback after another for OU on trail
By Bob Przybylo
Sept. 21 was supposed to be a magical weekend. Oklahoma was hosting Kansas State in one of the best matchups of the week. A number of top recruits were going to visit the campus.
The Sooners were going to win, followed by a slew of commitments from some of the prospects in the coming weeks and months.
The Sooners appear to be on the outside looking in with four-star offensive lineman Caleb Benenoch.
OU was upset by Kansas State. And the Sooners netted zero commits from the weekend. Not one. Worse yet, OU didn’t even have stand a realistic chance of getting any from that weekend.
That has been the story for OU on recruiting trail during the football season. One disappointment after another. One ESPN 150 or ESPN 300 target going elsewhere.
Take a look at the non-OU commit official visitors from that weekend.
• ESPN 300 ATH Chevoski Collins (Livingston, Texas/Livingston): Shortly after the visit, he chose Texas over OU.
• Four-star offensive tackle Caleb Benenoch (Katy, Texas/Seven Lakes): Following the visit, he has ended up being down to Baylor, Texas and UCLA. Benenoch is scheduled to make his announcement Monday.
• Three-star safety Tyler Foreman (Encino, Calif./Crespi Carmelite): Down to OU, Wisconsin, Utah and UCLA before recently committing to Wisconsin.
• ESPN 150 safety Marcell Harris (Orlando, Fla./Dr. Phillips): A long shot throughout, Harris picked Florida over OU, Florida State and Texas.
• Four-star offensive tackle Na’Ty Rodgers (Pomfret, Md./McDonough): Still uncommitted but appears South Carolina is the clear leader. Maryland, Michigan and Washington in hunt, too.
• Juco defensive tackle Toby Johnson (Hutchinson, Kan./Hutchinson CC): OU continues to show incredible interest, but it’s tough to gauge if Johnson shares same enthusiasm. Originally from Georgia, Johnson is taking an official to Georgia this weekend.
• And then there’s ESPN 150 defensive tackle Justin Manning (Dallas/Kimball). A shoo-in for OU, right? No, sir. Manning broke the collective hearts of OU fans everywhere by committing to Texas A&M on Thursday afternoon.
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Seven top official visitors. No commits.
But that trend wasn’t only for Kansas State weekend. Florida A&M had three-star defensive end Dimarya Mixon (Mesquite, Texas/West Mesquite). Mixon actually ended up wanting to commit to the Sooners before being told last week OU was full at the position.
Notre Dame weekend saw two more big-time targets disappear. Four-star cornerback Cole Luke (Chandler, Ariz./Hamilton) visited OU and then committed to the Irish less than a week later. Texas was his other finalist.
ESPN 150 defensive tackle Greg Gilmore (Hope Mills, N.C./South View) was also there. Gilmore committed to LSU two weeks later, picking the Tigers over Florida and the Sooners.
Visits before the season didn't fare well, either. Top juco tight end target Beau Sandland (Woodland Hills, Calif./Pierce College) was OU's No. 1 man since the spring. He visited Norman right before the season.
But late Wednesday night he said the Sooners are out. His top three consists of Miami (Fla.), Arizona State and Nebraska. OU, again, left out in the cold.
Even Bedlam weekend wasn’t immune to this problem. Juco tight end Cameron Clear (Yuma, Ariz./Arizona Western) took an official to OU and committed to Texas A&M 72 hours later.
The only official visitor OU was able to nab a commitment from was juco punter Jed Barnett (Oakland, Calif./Laney CC). Originally committed to Louisiana Tech, the Sooners came in and swooped up Barnett with less than three weeks of conversations.
Official visitors weren’t the only problems for OU, though. The Sooners lost their highest-ranked offensive tackle commit Matt Beyer (San Antonio/Reagan) through no fault of Beyer or OU.
Beyer was diagnosed with spinal cervical stenosis in September and has been forced to give up football. He attended two OU games this season and said he would do anything to be out there, but he simply cannot risk the long term health problems that could occur.
OU entered the 2012 season with 12 commits. Now in the middle of in-home visit season, the Sooners only have 14.
Or to put it another way, the Sooners did as much for their 2014 class as they did for 2013 during the last three months.
It’s a great start for OU in 2014 with Watch List members running back Devon Thomas (Broken Arrow, Okla./Broken Arrow) and wide receiver Armanti Foreman (Texas City, Texas/Texas City) but 2013 is a mess.
The only thing OU could do was defend its home turf. The Sooners flipped the commitment for three-star athlete Dominique Alexander (Tulsa, Okla./Booker T. Washington) from Arkansas to OU and were able to get the pledge from three-star defensive end Jordan Evans (Norman, Okla./North).
But as we enter the stretch run, where are the defensive tackles? Where are the offensive tackles? Where are the big uglies? Nowhere to be found.
OU has fared well with getting skilled position recruits to commit, but until the Sooners can pull off a commitment or two from the biggest positions of need, no other way to categorize the class than as a huge disappointment here in December.
There is still time to change all that. But it’s running out and OU defensive tackles coach Jackie Shipp and offensive tackles coach Bruce Kittle need to work hard and work fast.