Thursday, December 13, 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:
The Sooners are back in the mix for a four-star California cornerback
Florida defensive back target ready for OU official visit
Third time's the charm for the nation's top wideout
Breaking down OU's search for a defensive tackle
Which tight ends are the Sooners targeting?
Two 2014 running backs to watch after Devon Thomas decommitted
Read the Sooner Intel after the jump.
Moore back in the mix
L.J. Moore says the Sooners are currently third on his list.
OU coaches Bob and Mike Stoops made a trip to Fresno (Calif.) Central East to check in on ESPN 300 safety commit Hatari Byrd. They left knowing Byrd was still solid with the Sooners and that one of his teammates might be coming with him.
At least the door is open once again. Four-star cornerback L.J. Moore confirmed he is going to take an official visit to OU on Jan. 11. Moore was originally scheduled to take an official with Byrd to OU back in October until it was canceled a few days before the trip.
“There was bad miscommunication between me and Coach [Mike] Stoops,” Moore said. “I didn’t call as much during the season so they thought I wasn’t interested. They weren’t showing as much attention before so I thought they weren’t interested.”
But this week’s trip sorted that all out. The Stoops brothers watched Moore’s senior highlight tape and Moore said they were very impressed with what they saw. After viewing the tape, they asked Moore if he was willing to give OU another look, and he’s open to it.
Moore made official visits during the season to Oregon State, Notre Dame and Texas Tech, but he said he wasn’t going to make any decisions during the season.
It’s a new game in these next two months.
“I would say OU is definitely my No. 3 school at this point,” Moore said. “Oregon State and Arizona State would be my top two, and then maybe OU is tied with Notre Dame.”
Moore had a great time on his Notre Dame visit, but the Irish simply have no room for him at this time. If Notre Dame were to lose any recruits, Moore will jump right back into the picture.
Moore is taking it easy until his OU visit and said Arizona State or Washington will get his last official on Jan. 18.
Somebody not taking it easy is Byrd when it comes to recruiting Moore to join him in Norman, Okla., next season.
“Every day. Every single day he talks about it,” Moore said. “I hope to be as happy as he is when I make my decision.”
Baker ready to see campus
The last couple of weeks have seen one big development after another for ESPN 300 athlete Adrian Baker (Hollywood, Fla./Chaminade-Madonna).
Baker, a Florida State commit, learned that his future defensive coordinator Mark Stoops was leaving FSU to become Kentucky’s head coach two weeks ago.
Last weekend Baker went on his official visit to Clemson, which he said was better than what he had even hoped for.
On Tuesday, he learned that Florida State running backs coach Eddie Gran, Baker’s primary recruite, is likely to leave for another job. And now he’s ready to see Norman as Baker is one of several top prospects expected to be on hand for OU’s banquet weekend.
“This has been crazy. I’m just trying to soak it all in and figure everything out,” Baker said.
OU has been criticized by fans for the way the coaches have attacked some recruits. There is nothing more the Sooners can do with Baker.
Mike Stoops made an in-home visit with Baker last week and then made another one Wednesday night. It’s clear Baker and Stoops’ personalities mesh, but will it be enough?
“He’s such a funny guy. I love talking with him,” Baker said. “When I talk with him, I don’t feel the pressure or stress of recruiting.”
He was originally supposed to make an official visit to OU in October before being told to stay home by Mike Stoops. OU didn’t go sour on Baker, but Stoops explained to Baker the Sooners would not host Baker as long as he was committed to FSU and Mark Stoops was still on the staff.
Obviously that’s not the case anymore and Mike Stoops has gone all-in with the hopes of flipping Baker’s commitment.
One opinion Baker will be seeking is his grandmother’s. She is expected to make the trip this weekend, and Baker said she has enjoyed getting to know Mike Stoops.
Third time’s a charm for Treadwell
It’s really going to happen. Seriously. We’re not joking this time. No. 1-ranked wide receiver Laquon Treadwell (Crete, Ill./Crete-Monee) is going to make the long awaited official visit to OU this weekend.
This is the third time Treadwell has attempted to see the campus, and OU is hoping the third time is the charm.
Courtesy of Zach Perry/intersport
Laquon Treadwell is finally taking his official visit to OU this weekend.
Treadwell is no longer receiving calls, but he tweeted earlier this week how excited he is about finally getting to go on the OU visit.
He was originally supposed to see OU in April for the spring game. He was going to drive with then-signee David Smith and Smith was going to do all he could to get Treadwell to join him at OU.
That weekend was littered with inclement weather with a severe threat of tornadoes so Smith and Treadwell both stayed home.
Try No. 2 was Notre Dame weekend, just like Moore and Baker. This also fell apart through the fault of nobody. The Illinois state playoffs started that weekend and Crete-Monee was forced to play Saturday and not Friday. So Treadwell stayed home.
That worked out as Treadwell and Crete-Monee ended up winning the state championship on the same day OU had its thrilling overtime win against Oklahoma State.
The weather is supposed to be nice in Norman this weekend. There are no more high school games to be played. Treadwell is going to make the visit.
He had a great time on his Ole Miss visit a couple of weeks ago, and the Rebels are the early favorite because of how much his mother loved the campus and the coaches.
OU made a visit to Treadwell’s school last Friday and will obviously do whatever it can to make the best possible impression. Once again Smith should play a role. Based on tweets and common sense, expect David Smith to be Treadwell’s host.
Despite not playing this season, Smith has been a popular recruit host because of his passion for being part of the program and his familiarity with Treadwell should make for a nice, comfortable experience.
Treadwell has sort of backed away from Michigan as the Wolverines haven’t expressed as much interest as before. Another new development is at Oklahoma State, also expected to get one of Treadwell’s official visits.
OSU offensive coordinator Todd Monken left earlier this week to become the head coach at Southern Mississippi. There is no telling how big of a role that could play with Treadwell and the Pokes in the future.
Obo another versatile pickup
According to ESPN’s scouts, the Sooners have four defensive end commits. For a class that needs to be heavy on defensive tackles, that number sounds crazy.
But take another look. It’s clear there won’t be any moving of ESPN 300 commits D.J. Ward (Moore, Okla./Southmoore) and Matt Dimon (Katy, Texas/Katy).
Evans committed two weeks ago and said OU coaches Tim Kish and Mike Stoops are not sure where he fits. He fits in, no doubt, but the question remains if it’s at defensive end, linebacker or safety.
Okoronkwo dominated this season at end, but he said things are up in the air with him, too.
“They’ve talked about end, but they also said it could be as an outside linebacker. I don’t care. I’m open to try new things, and I know I can play at either spot.”
OU has aggressively pursued Okoronkwo’s teammate Torrodney Prevot, a USC commit, but maybe not as much as has been reported.
Houston Alief Taylor recruiting coordinator Cedric Hardeman said he’s not convinced Prevot was OU’s first choice at the school.
“I don’t know if it was because Torrodney has been with USC for so long or what, but OU, to me, has gone after Obo even more than Torrodney. Coach Kish really has put in the work with Obo.”
Not just Kish. Bob Stoops made the trip Wednesday, helping to answer any questions Obo’s parents might have had. It also made a strong impression on Hardeman.
“He’s a class act. A real class act,” Hardeman said.
Hardeman’s son is 2014 Watch List prospect Chris Hardeman, who is already committed to LSU. It was initially thought Stoops was making the trip to secure an official visit from Prevot, but neither Hardeman nor Okoronkwo could confirm Prevot will be in Norman this weekend.
Defensive tackle search goes on
That’s your primer for a big banquet weekend. Look for more content regarding the weekend Friday on SoonerNation. Moving on. Here’s some reality as it pertains to OU and its search for some defensive tackles for the 2013 class: it’s still not looking good.
Top junior college target Toby Johnson (Hutchinson, Kan./Hutchinson CC) visited Georgia last weekend. As expected, it was a great atmosphere and the exact type of visit Georgia fans were hoping it would be for Johnson.
Johnson might not commit this week, but he is now a strong favorite with the Bulldogs. His relationship with OU defensive tackles coach Jackie Shipp is a great one. He said he believes Shipp is somebody he can be friends with for a long time.
But that has been a common theme for the class. Defensive tackles like Shipp, appreciate Shipp but end up choosing another school when it’s all said and done.
His teammate, Ben Bradley, also won’t be at OU this weekend. The Sooners stopped by Hutchinson last week and met with Bradley, but Hutchinson coach Rion Rhoades said there hasn’t been any contact since that trip with the Tennessee commit.
“OU and Nebraska were both in last week,” Rhoades said. “Ben was waiting to see what would happen at Tennessee. The Tennessee coaches were actually here today [Tuesday] to meet with Ben, and he seemed pretty pleased.”
Bradley is going to visit Missouri this weekend, Rhoades said.
Another possibility was three-star tackle Rod Crayton (Dadeville, Ala./Dadeville). Crayton made an unofficial visit to OU during the summer, but it doesn’t look like the Sooners are going to be in the mix here down the stretch.
Crayton gave a list Tuesday about some of the school he is looking to visit and OU was nowhere to be found.
The Sooners still hold out hope with ESPN 150 tackle Maquedius Bain (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./University School). Bain had a great official visit to OU and the in-home visit went well, too, said University School coach Roger Harriott.
“He really likes OU and what it has to offer,” Harriott said. “He is excited about the possibility of playing as a freshman, which is something OU is telling him he can definitely do.”
Despite that, Bain is set to visit LSU this weekend. The Tigers have already beaten OU out for one top tackle in Greg Gilmore (Hope Mills, N.C./South View). The Bain picture will get a lot clearer following his trip to Baton Rouge this weekend.
Sooners also are trying to make late runs with Northeast Mississippi juco tackle Lavon Hooks. OU had an in-home visit with him earlier this week. But no OU visit has been set and he is scheduled to visit Auburn this weekend.
OU is also still a player for ESPN 300 tackle Jay-nard Bostwick (Port Saint Lucie, Fla./West Centennial). Bostwick has the Sooners in his top six, but it will be a tough battle to win.
Then there’s Garland (Texas) South Garland defensive tackle Charles Walker. At 6-foot-4 and 280 pounds, he has the size for the spot.
But does he have the durability? He suffered three concussions as a junior and said the third one was something that took him a long time to recover from. He broke his leg as a sophomore and dislocated his shoulder this summer.
The positive sign, Walker said, is he was able to go through his senior season healthy.
“It has been frustrating, but there’s nothing I can do about it,” Walker said. “I battled through it. Next week I’m finally having surgery on my shoulder. I had a labrum tear. Doctors say in two months I should be ready to go.”
Walker has been busy, too, with recent visits to North Texas and Houston. This weekend he will head to New Mexico, but he’s still in constant contact with OU defensive tackles coach Jackie Shipp.
“He talked to me Sunday to see how things are going,” Walker said. “He said he should come down here later in the week to see how everything is going.”
Walker said OU has always been one of his top two schools. LSU is the other, but the Tigers have not shown the same type of interest.
He hasn’t seen the OU campus, but he’s hopeful to set up a January visit. One of the things he’s most excited about is dealing with a full-time trainer.
“I know I’m a great player, but I haven’t been able to show it,” Walker said. “I want to see what happens when I have somebody watching over me and making sure I stay healthy and doing what they can to prevent injuries.”
Tight end picture coming into focus
Though it's not nearly as pressing as defensive tackle, there have been a lot of questions regarding OU’s pursuit of tight ends.
That mess is starting to resolve itself as well. The Sooners have missed out on top juco target Beau Sandland (Woodland Hills, Calif./Pierce College), but options remain and have been found.
One of them is California commit Ray Hudson (Pleasanton, Calif./Foothill). A three-star prospect, Hudson met with OU coaches earlier this week.
“It was a great visit,” Hudson texted. “I met with Bob Stoops and Coach [Bruce] Kittle after they contacted me because of watching my film. They wanted to meet with me before heading back to meet with the staff.
“They laid out the recruiting situation for me at TE and said I’m one of three guys plus a juco for two spots. They said it’s a matter of time now.”
SoonerNation Recruit Tracker
Stay up to date on Oklahoma's 2013 commits, targets and offers. Tracker: Defense | Offense
The juco target remains Iowa State commit Emmanuel Bibbs (Yuma, Ariz./Arizona Western). Kittle had an in-home with Bibbs’ parents in Illinois last weekend and there is a good reason to believe Bibbs could flip to the Sooners.
As for the other two high school targets, two to keep an eye on are Mitchell Parsons (Parker, Colo./Chaparral) and Jason Reese (Euless, Texas/Trinity).
Parsons, a three-star prospect, decommitted from Colorado last month and Kittle recently checked in to see how things are going.
“Kittle called me the other day just to check in,” Parsons texted. “I guess they are looking at some juco but wanted to see how many visits I had left.”
Reese, though, could be a very intriguing option. A three-star prospect, he decommitted from Arizona State earlier this week and is good friends with OU quarterback commit Cody Thomas (Colleyville, Texas/Heritage).
The main reason Reese decommitted from the Sun Devils was he wanted to play closer to home. OU fits the bill, he said.
“Yes, that would work. That is very close to home,” Reese said. “I have a lot of interest in OU. They were recruiting me before I committed. Coach Kittle came to watch one of my practices and recently asked for my highlight tape.”
Reese said he felt he could trust the ASU staff so trust is something he also values. He also likes familiarity and would like to play with fellow Texans. He experienced that last weekend during a visit to Missouri.
“Sharing that common interest and bond means a lot to me,” Reese said. “There were a lot of players from Texas on Missouri and a lot from my area. I’m sure it’s the same way with OU. I want my parents to be able to come to every game and watch me play.”
Reese said he’s not sure which schools are still in play since he only made the decision earlier this week. However, he is excited about the process. He spoke to Kittle on Saturday night and is hopeful a visit can be set up.
“I want to see the town and players,” Reese said. “I want to know I’m going to be comfortable.”
But luckily for OU, running back has never really been a huge area of concern. Cale Gundy has done a tremendous job of recruiting the spot. And when you have Adrian Peterson and Demarco Murray as former backs, that sort of does the job for you, too.
One back to keep an eye on moving forward is North Richland Hills (Texas) Birdville’s Xavier Turner. Coming off a stellar junior season, Turner is likely to see schools flock to him. But OU was there first.
Turner was at OU’s spring game and has been developing his relationship with Gundy since that time.
“He’s a good coach and always really nice and respectful,” Turner said. “Every time I go there, I get more comfortable.”
And he has been coming often. Turner saw OU play three times in home games against Kansas and Kansas State and in Dallas against Texas. Needless to say, the Texas experience is not one he will soon forget.
“That atmosphere was amazing,” Turner said. “I don’t know if you can really top that. In college football, OU-Texas is pretty much as good as it gets.”
Turner is friends with OU redshirt freshman Zack Sanchez and said the two talk when they can. Turner grew up in Tennessee and moved to Texas before high school. But instead of being enamored with the Longhorns, it’s always been about the Sooners.
“I don’t know. I would watch OU and feel like that is where I want to be,” Turner said. “I’ve enjoyed watching them play, and I love the campus.”
Turner doesn’t have an official offer at this point but is among the top 2014 Texas running backs to be on the watch for moving forward.
Sooners, Starks still in good shape
Another reason OU fans could take the Thomas decommitment in stride is because Sooners remain in strong standing with fellow Watch List running back Nathan Starks (Las Vegas/Bishop Gorman).
Courtesy Starks Family
Class of 2014 running back Nathan Starks is hoping to make a visit to OU soon.
Starks helped lead Las Vegas Bishop Gorman to a state championship and now is ready to start playing the recruiting game.
One game stood out this season: Notre Dame vs. Oklahoma.
“To me, that was the most exciting game of the season,” Starks said. “Watching them battle it out was really cool. Both teams were fighting every step of the way.”
Starks said Notre Dame has entered the picture for him, but OU remains his top choice because of the relationship he has developed with Cale Gundy.
Starks said he talks with Gundy on the phone at least once a week and the two talk often via direct messages on Twitter.
He said he likes USC and though he hasn’t heard much from either school lately, Oregon and Texas are still in the mix.
The biggest difference in his game this season was his mentality.
“I ran a lot harder with a lot more confidence this season,” Starks said. “I worked a lot on pass protection, but I know I need to work on that a lot more. Coach Gundy has been telling me how happy he is with my improvement in that area.”
Starks said he would like to visit OU sometime soon, but he has no idea when that would be financially possible.
Aggies jump out for Hampton
For months, Watch List linebacker Cameron Hampton (Dallas/Carter) has said OU is his favorite school and linebackers coach Tim Kish is his favorite coach.
And then he took an unofficial visit to Texas A&M last weekend. Now it’s the Aggies out in front and Kevin Sumlin is his favorite coach. The recruiting momentum for A&M is simply not coming to a stop anytime soon.
“He came down a week before, and it was a great visit,” Hampton said. “He gives it to you straight up where he sees you fit and how much he wants you. He thinks I can play a major role in his defense. He’s now my No. 1 coach on my list. The visit there was great because I knew so many of the players already.”
Hampton made news by openly saying he was rooting for OU to beat Texas in the Red River Rivalry. He said he doesn’t regret that decision.
“I like OU a lot and felt like they were ready to win that game,” Hampton said. “I didn’t get a lot of grief from anybody about saying it. I said what I felt.”
But recently the contact between Hampton and Kish has fallen off. He said it has been five weeks since the two last spoke on the phone and that Ohio State and Notre Dame are also starting to show a lot more interest.
Hampton had 10 sacks, seven forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries this season.
“This is a great feeling right now. But I’m learning how you can have a big head,” Hampton said. “That’s not going to be me. I’m going to stay humble and keep working hard.”