Thursday, January 3, 2013
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:
How did OU get involved with its latest offer in California?
ESPN 300 ATH talks about his top two
Sooners DE commit getting comfortable with rest of class
Is there an in-state possibility at tight end?
Class of 2014 in-state LB ready to see OU
Recent OU commit has no doubts about the Sooners
Read the Sooner Intel after the jump.
Kish connection comes through with Young
It was strange initially talking to wide receiver K.J. Young (Perris, Calif./Citrus Hill) because as there were reports about an OU offer, he admitted he had never talked to wide receivers coach Jay Norvell.
Tom Hauck for ESPN.com
New offer K.J. Young is going to visit Oklahoma this month.
Instead his contact has been linebackers coach Tim Kish even though there is no chance of Young playing that position.
So how did it all come about? Perris Citrus Hill coach Eric Zomalt gives some insight.
“My relationship with Coach Kish goes back to when he was at Arizona,” Zomalt said. “I texted him a couple of weeks ago and told him just to take a look at K.J.’s film.
“If he didn’t think it was OU-caliber good, that was fine. But what have you got to lose? He took a look and things have progressed in a major way since then.”
Young is the definition of an under-the-radar prospect. Not many top schools have looked at him. The OU offer is clearly his top offer. Young said he is having a tough time coming to the realization that the Sooners have actually offered him.
Zomalt said there were a couple of reasons he believes why Young’s recruitment didn’t take off until the last month. One of them, unquestionably, has been his move from playing out wide to playing the slot position.
“His junior film didn’t reflect his skill set,” Zomalt said. “He’s a dynamic receiver and a very good return man. He actually came to us as a running back, and then we moved him to receiver.”
Young has made visits to UNLV and Boise State. Colorado State is expected to receive a visit although that could change following his trip to OU on Jan. 11. Colorado and Utah are also showing strong interest but no visit invitation or offer has been extended.
As more schools have seen Young’s film, the question has remained the same to Zomalt: “Where did this kid come from?”
“It has been so interesting because everybody is wondering why he hasn’t been snatched up by some top school,” Zomalt said. “They’re wondering if it’s grades or character. It’s not. He’s a good student who tries real hard, and he has a great attitude.
“When they watch his film, you know, seeing is believing. And K.J. is a top-quality kid, and I’m glad he is getting the attention he deserves now.”
Baker has Sooners, Tigers on his mind
One of the more talkative 2013 prospects has been ESPN 300 athlete Adrian Baker (Hollywood, Fla./Chaminade-Madonna).
But following his OU visit three weeks ago and decommitment from Florida State the next day, Baker went quiet. He simply needed to get away from it all.
“This dead period has been much needed,” Baker said. “It was just becoming too much for me. I’ve been able to spend time with my friends and family and not think about things.”
Baker visited Clemson a week before his trip to OU. He had talked about how much he has admired Clemson star Sammy Watkins. Following his trip, his admiration only grew for Watkins and for the Tigers.
“He was a cool guy,” Baker said. “Laid back and very engaging. It was cool just going out there and hanging out with some of the guys.”
Baker said he wanted to decommit from FSU after the Clemson visit, but he didn’t want people to think it was because he was committing to the Tigers.
But by decommitting after his visit to OU, the impression became the Sooners were the clear favorite. That’s not true, either. There is no favorite heading into the final month before signing day.
“No, sir, I’m not any closer to a decision today [Tuesday night] than I was last month,” Baker said. “It’s a two-team race. I cannot go wrong with either program.”
With OU, the connection has been defensive backs coach Mike Stoops. Following the visit, though, he has found a new bond.
“I had a great time with [OU nickelback] Julian Wilson,” Baker said. “He talked about how I could come in and have a huge opportunity to make something happen. Those words have had me thinking.”
With both of his official visits in the books and FSU a distant third at this point, in-home visits could be what turns the tide.
Baker said OU and Clemson have set up those visits this month, but he couldn’t remember exactly when those would be.
“My family is going to sit down and weigh the pros and cons of both schools,” Baker said. “I’ll have a decision before signing day. I’ll let the coaches know. But I plan on announcing on signing day.”
Dimon getting comfortable with OU family
Is there a better person to speak on some of OU’s Houston-area commits than ESPN 300 defensive end Matt Dimon?
ESPN 300 DE Matt Dimon says he's solid with the Sooners.
Dimon, a four-star OU commit, was up close and personal with a few other OU pledges en route to winning a state championship for Katy, Texas.
It started early when Katy took out Houston Alief Taylor 23-9 in September. Fellow defensive end commit Ogbonnia Okoronkwo played for Alief Taylor.
“They did a tremendous job against our team,” Dimon said. “That ended up being our lowest point total and lowest yardage output of the season. They played their best game of the season and disrupted the line. I’m happy to be playing with Obo.”
It was after that game when Obo was offered by OU, and he eventually flipped his commitment from Oklahoma State to OU last month.
Up next was ESPN 150 running back Keith Ford. Katy dominated Cypress (Texas) Ranch in their playoff encounter, but Dimon came away very impressed by what Ford was able to do.
“I knew coming in how good he was, but it was crazy what he was able to do at times,” Dimon said. “He was just playing at a higher level than everybody else. He’s a tremendous player.”
Before playing for the state championship, Dimon got a chance to interact with Obo, Ford and wide receiver Austin Bennett (Manvel, Texas/Manvel) at an awards banquet.
“That was a lot of fun,” Dimon said. “I was able to spend like 30-45 minutes with Austin and Keith. We were talking about football. They were both coming up on their official visit. It was the first time to really sit down and talk with them.”
Defensive tackle Charles Walker (Garland, Texas/South Garland) still hasn’t seen the OU campus, but he can say he has seen the OU team in person.
Walker was in attendance for OU’s practice Sunday at Cowboys Stadium. Because it was the dead recruiting period, he wasn’t allowed to talk to the coaches so he simply nodded to them to let them know he was there.
“They looked like they were having a lot of fun,” Walker said. “They were relaxed. But when it was time to get to work, they got after it.”
Walker isn’t sure if he will make Friday’s Cotton Bowl against Texas A&M. He’s not too worried, though, because he is making his official visit to OU next weekend.
Some schools shied away from Walker because of his injury history. He was able to get through his senior season without missing a game but not without any injuries.
He injured his labrum during the summer but played the whole season with the injury. He had surgery on it two weeks ago.
“It was a success,” Walker said. “I was in a lot of pain, but I’m fine. It’s just a lot rehabbing right now. About every morning I’m going to rehab. Next month I should be able to test it out more and see.”
Walker has made official visits to Houston, North Texas and New Mexico. Following the OU visit, he is hoping he will be able to make a decision.
Transfer rules help out with Russell and OU
There is no doubt OU was going to be in the hunt for ESPN JC 100 prospect Quincy Russell (Athens, Texas/Trinity Valley). Defensive tackles coach Jackie Shipp had already made a big imprint so the Sooners were going to be there in the end.
But what did help is the academics transfer rules. Russell, ranked No. 54 in the ESPN JC 100, was eyeing SEC schools to go with OU and Nebraska. But like a lot of other juco products, he had to eliminate all SEC schools because his online math class wouldn’t transfer.
“Once that happened, I had to evaluate things again,” Russell said. “But I know I’ve made the right decision. I’m ready to be a Sooner.”
And ready to join his teammate. Hours after signing with OU, fellow ESPN JC 100 offensive tackle Josiah St. John committed to OU over Kansas.
Russell is set to enroll at OU this month, while St. John will have to wait until the summer. Russell is excited to play with St. John one more time.
“It’s cool to get to play with somebody I’ve already went to school with,” Russell said. “He’s tall and has long arms. He’s great at protecting the quarterback. He’s big time.”
TE picture still cloudy
Concerns at offensive and defensive tackle have been alleviated in the last month, but there is one position where OU is still searching.
Tight end is simply not coming together for the Sooners in 2013. Top juco target Beau Sandland (Woodland Hills, Calif./Pierce College) signed with Miami. Another potential target, Emmanuel Bibbs (Yuma, Ariz./Arizona Western), chose to stick with Iowa State instead of joining the Sooners. And last weekend, another potential prospect committed elsewhere as three-star tight end Jason Reese (Euless, Texas/Trinity) chose Missouri.
SoonerNation Recruit Tracker
Stay up to date on Oklahoma's 2013 commits, targets and offers. Tracker: Defense | Offense
Originally an Arizona State commit, Reese was being looked at by the Sooners. But after his visit to Mizzou, he decided to pledge to the Tigers.
The Sooners are still dragging their feet with three-star TE Mitchell Parsons and Ole Miss is starting to emerge as his favorite.
So might OU look for an in-state prospect? It’s possible two-star linebacker Jackson Dillon (Ringling, Okla./Ringling) could be the man.
Dillon has been committed to Memphis since June but said OU tight ends coach Bruce Kittle has been contacting him a lot on Facebook here lately.
“Yeah, we started talking here again,” Dillon said. “It was about two or three weeks ago so I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Growing up Dillon said he has been a huge OU fan, but he’s not sure how serious the interest is right now between him and the Sooners.
Recruited as a linebacker by Memphis, it’s clear OU sees Dillon as a tight end at 6-foot-6 and 210 pounds.
Dillon has only made an unofficial visit to Memphis but is set for his official visit sometime later this month. A move in position wouldn’t mean much for Dillon.
“I don’t really have a preference of offense or defense,” Dillon said. “I just want to go to a school where I can make a difference.”
Dillon helped Ringling win the Oklahoma Class A state championship last month.
“Frank and Corey have kept reassuring me everything is going to be fine,” Huggins said. “They have been telling me it’s a good place for me, telling me Coach Shipp is going to bring out the best in me.”
Even though A&M was the school he first committed to, it was actually OU and Shipp that made first contact with Huggins. It was a relationship that never soured and has only grown since switching to the Sooners three weeks ago.
Huggins was at one of OU’s practices at the Cotton Bowl and said his job now is to get more Skyline players to join him.
“I’m already working on it, on getting that pipeline going,” Huggins said. “I’m talking with Ced Collins and Ty Barrett. I’m trying to convince them.”
Collins is a defensive back committed to the Aggies, while Barrett is expected to be one of OU’s top offensive tackle targets for 2014. Both are ESPN Watch List members.
Cochran gets questions answered
Tom Hauck for ESPN.com
Four-star offensive tackle Aaron Cochran is taking his time before committing.
With a month remaining until signing day, OU is still gunning for one more offensive tackle. It looked like it might come with three-star prospect Sean Dowling (Fallbrook, Calif./Union). But in a bit of a shocker, the former UCLA commit picked Vanderbilt over the Sooners.
OU also started to make a late push for Sonny Odogwu, who spent this semester at Harave Military Academy. But Odogwu committed to Miami late last week.
One top prospect still remains in four-star tackle Aaron Cochran (Atwater, Calif./Buhach). It feels like a four-team race with OU, Arizona, Cal and Nebraska.
The Sooners might not win the battle, but Kittle and Bob Stoops have done what they can so far to try to lure Cochran back to Norman.
Cochran made an official visit in November and Kittle and Stoops both made in-school and in-home visits with Cochran last month. The in-home visit went a long way for Cochran’s parents, who haven’t been as receptive about their son playing so far away from home
“That visit answered a lot of questions and my parents feel a lot better about things,” Cochran said. “They really liked what they had to say.”
Cochran’s father and Kittle have bonded because of a spiritual bond. Kittle was once a pastor, while Cochran’s father is a pastor.
Cal seems like the biggest roadblock at this juncture. Coaching changes with the Bears have left things in limbo, though. Cochran’s brother just finished his freshman season at Cal, but it is vital to see what type of impression new Cal coach Sonny Dykes makes on Cochran and his brother.
“I don’t know much right now because I have to visit with the new Cal staff,” Cochran said. “I’ll know a lot more after that.”
Akem excited to see OU
It sort of came out of nowhere and also felt long overdue. For some reason, OU didn’t show much interest in 2014 linebacker Gyasi Akem (Broken Arrow, Okla./Broken Arrow) during the season.
But with the season in the books, the Sooners have jumped on board in trying to get Akem to become a Sooner.
After sending more and more letters in the last month, things stepped up a notch when he was invited to OU’s junior day next weekend.
“I’ll be honest because I didn’t see that coming at all,” Akem said. “I really want to go. I hope I can. I want to see the campus and see what it’s all about.”
Akem was strangely enough pretty much ignored. Coming off a solid junior season, Akem is already back to work.
“I’m working a lot on open field tackling,” Akem said “I’m breaking down a lot of film figuring out what I need to do better. I’m learning where I need to have my eyes.”
Akem stood out during spring and summer camps, but it took a while for things to click during his junior season. But once it did, he was on a big-time roll to close out the season.
“He is somebody with a lot of potential,” Broken Arrow coach Steve Spavital said. “He got more and more comfortable during the season. He’s so quick but also so strong. He’s going to have a lot of schools looking his way in the future.”
Beyer finds a home
Offensive line recruiting has been odd in the last two seasons for OU, highlighted by the cases of 2013 tackle Matt Beyer (San Antonio/Reagan) and 2012 signee John Michael McGee.
Beyer committed to OU in July and there was never a doubt at all about his commitment. However, a neck injury has forced him to quit football.
He realized his dream in October by seeing an OU home game in person against Notre Dame and was fortunate enough to be able to see the Sooners defeat TCU in December, too.
He had hoped he might be able to attend OU anyway, but it hasn’t happened. He was recently accepted by the University Minnesota for its science and engineering program.
“I have nothing but great things to say about OU, but I’m glad I’m getting this opportunity,” Beyer said. “I get to go home and get a great education.”
Beyer was a four-star prospect before his injury. He grew up in Minnesota and has a lot of friends and family still in the state.
McGee was expected to be a big contributor at offensive guard in the upcoming years. Before preseason practice began, though, McGee decided to go home.
He said he doesn’t regret his decision. He never loved football, but a semester away from everything has helped him realize football is still in his blood.
McGee is going to attend Henderson State, a Division II school. It doesn’t close the door on McGee and OU, who have had talks in the last month. But it might be OU’s way of proving to them McGee is serious about playing football.