Thursday, January 10, 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:
Stock soaring for recent Sooners offer who's visiting this weekend
Breaking down OU's big recruiting weekend
Former in-state star looking at visiting soon
More on the Sooners canceling junior day and the impact it has
DE D.J. Ward, who sat out his senior season, is ready to enroll early.
ESPN 300 safety staying true to OU
Three-star defensive back, once thought to be an OU lock, isn't hearing from the Sooners
Read the Sooner Intel after the jump.
Young’s stock soaring after OU offer
You’ll have to forgive three-star wide receiver K.J. Young (Perris, Calif./Citrus Hill) if he doesn’t want to rush into a commitment. You’ll have to forgive him if he wants to bask in the limelight just a little bit before he makes any sort of decision at all.
Two weeks ago not many people even knew who he was. An OU offer can change somebody’s life overnight, and it certainly has for Young, who is expected to make an official visit to Norman this weekend.
Tom Hauck for ESPN.com
K.J. Young has seen his interest pick up since the Sooners offered.
“Man, I can’t tell you how different things have been for me since that offer,” Young said. “Schools that I never thought would talk to me are talking to me. I have choices now.”
The giddiness in his voice cannot be overstated. Young said since his OU offer, he has heard from Iowa State, Texas Tech, Washington State and Washington. Oh yeah, and he has still been hearing from the Sooners on a regular basis.
His recruiting contact is still a head-scratcher in that it’s linebackers coach Tim Kish, but Young will get a chance to get to know wide receivers coach Jay Norvell this weekend.
Will a commitment happen this weekend? That’s a loaded question, Young said.
“Shoot, you had to go there, didn’t you? That’s a good question,” Young said. “I’ve thought about committing. Every time I’m talking to OU on the phone, I’ve thought about it. But then I also think it might be a good idea to take these final two visits and see what’s up.”
Young has tentatively scheduled an Iowa State visit for next weekend and a trip to either Utah or Texas Tech on Jan. 25.
He is grateful to be getting this attention now, but there is a small part of him that is wondering what took so long.
“I don’t know what the schools were looking for,” Young said. “All the schools are recruiting me as a receiver and everything is good to go now. This process hasn’t been overwhelming, but I will say it’s starting to get stressful.”
Young has made official visits to Boise State and UNLV and plans for a potential visit to Colorado State have now been scrapped.
Huge visitors weekend for OU
A couple of weeks ago it became apparent this was going to be a major official visitors weekend for OU. As time has gone on, it has only become even bigger.
Young is one of seven confirmed visitors to campus this weekend. Another California prospect making the trip is four-star cornerback L.J. Moore (Fresno, Calif./Central East).
It has been a strange ride with Moore and the Sooners, but he is finally going to see the campus. Moore was originally supposed to visit OU for the Notre Dame game to go with his teammate and OU ESPN 300 safety commit Hatari Byrd.
But the visit was canceled the week of the visit. After OU coaches Bob and Mike Stoops made a visit to Fresno Central East in December, a visit was back on.
Still, after this weekend, Moore wasn’t sure. He said Sunday he wanted to visit, but he would have to check in with Mike Stoops to see what was up.
He did that Monday and confirmed his visit was approved. Oregon State is in great standing with Moore, but there has been something about OU that has kept Moore around for a while.
“I wasn’t really sure where I stood for a while,” Moore said. “We didn’t get in contact as much but everything is good now.”
OU only has one cornerback commit in ESPN 300 athlete Stanvon Taylor (Tulsa, Okla./East Central), but Taylor isn’t a pure cornerback, at least not at this point. Getting someone like Moore would solidify the spot even more.
“L.J. is a great talent who is still learning the position,” Fresno Central East defensive backs coach Tony Perry said. “His upside is tremendous and his instincts are so good about how to play the position.”
Joining Young and Moore on official visits are: ESPN 150 safety Tahaan Goodman (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif./Rancho Cucamonga), four-star athlete Devin Lauderdale (Houston/Bellaire), junior college offensive tackle Matt Finnin (Crete, Ill./College of Dupage), defensive tackle Charles Walker (Garland, Texas/South Garland) and OU offensive tackle commit Christian Daimler (Houston/Stratford).
Matthew Emmons/US Presswire
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops is making sure the Sooners are closing out 2013 in a positive way.
This weekend was supposed to be even bigger with a planned junior day on Saturday. SoonerNation had confirmed around 15 top visitors expected to be on hand heading into the week when OU delivered a bombshell and postponed the event Monday afternoon.
There is logic to the decision. OU’s 2013 class still has a lot of work to be done. The Sooners have way too many official visitors coming in to be able to spend the necessary amount of time with the visitors and the junior day recruits.
But a last-minute postponement is not a good sign. And it’s not just fans who are confused by the whole situation.
“I’m really confused with what’s going on right now at OU,” said one recruit who was planning to attend this weekend. “I have no idea what’s happening. It’s weird.”
For obvious reasons, recruits have preferred to be anonymous regarding their comments. But if OU was looking to get 2014 off to good start, it misfired with the cancellation of its first big event for juniors.
“I’m OK with canceling it, but it’s tough when no reason is given and no new date is set,” said another top expected visitor. “I guess you just have to go with the flow.”
One more junior day visitor brought up another point. OU was setting itself up to having the stage all to itself this weekend. No matter when junior day is rescheduled, it’s likely to face some stiff competition from other top schools in the area.
Essentially, there is no guarantee the turnout will be what OU is hoping for.
“It’s tough to make plans like that and change them during this time of year,” another recruit added. “I’m not sure I’ll be able to go to the next one.”
The decision might help OU figure things out with its 2013 class, but it has left a bad taste in the mouths of several prominent 2014 recruits.
Lauderdale excited to see campus
Four-star athlete Devin Lauderdale (Houston/Bellaire) was a firm Texas Tech commitment until all the coaching changes took place.
That opened the door for OU, and Lauderdale has let the Sooners in. Lauderdale is also expected to take an official visit to OU this weekend.
“I really like the way their offense works,” Lauderdale said. “They have a good history at wide receiver, and I want to see what it’s all about.”
Lauderdale had a great visit at Oklahoma State last month but said he doesn’t have a favorite or a timetable for his decision.
Following his OU visit, he is scheduled to visit Notre Dame in two weeks, but the Red Raiders are also right back in the hunt.
“I’ve gotten to know the new coaching staff better in recent weeks, and I’m really excited about how things are. Things are really cool.”
Lauderdale said he has been recruited by OU by defensive backs coach Mike Stoops. But Lauderdale also said every school that is looking at him as a receiver.
Even though he is appreciative of all the attention, he said the process is starting to wear him down a bit.
“It has been a little stressful,” Lauderdale said. “But I want to go to OU and see what it’s all about.”
Henry coming home?
Give all credit to OU defensive back Julian Wilson for this next piece of info as it was Wilson who tweeted Monday evening the Sooners had offered juco outside linebacker d'Vante Henry (Yuma, Ariz./Arizona Western).
And why would Wilson know? Because Henry was on those same Moore (Okla.) Southmoore teams as Wilson and Kendal Thompson and former OU players Nyko Symonds and Austin Haywood.
Henry, who is 6-foot-5 and 205 pounds, is a three-star prospect committed to West Virginia. But could the prospect of coming back home be too much for him to resist?
“He has talked about wanting to play closer to home for a while,” Southmoore recruiting coordinator Greg Bryant said. “He’s still as fast as he was when he was playing for us. We’re excited about the possibility of him coming back.”
Henry committed to Oregon State for the 2011 class but was unable to qualify academically. Bryant was able to confirm Henry’s official visit to OU will be next weekend.
Defensive end Bobby Henry, a sophomore at Southmoore, is d’Vante’s younger brother and is already 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds himself.
“Bobby knows he has a lot to live up to with how good his brothers have been,” Bryant said. “But he’s not afraid of it. He wants to show what he can do.”
The offer to d’Vante Henry is no doubt in correlation with ESPN 300 linebacker Jordan Mastrogiovanni (Dallas/Jesuit) flipping his commitment from OU to Texas A&M on Sunday night.
It will be awfully tough for OU to sneak up on a quality high school prospect at this time so Sooners have practically been forced to go the juco route on this one. Henry seems like a good bet although West Virginia is not giving up that fast.
Walker adds options
If there’s one visitor OU could get a commitment from this weekend, it is defensive tackle Charles Walker (Garland, Texas/South Garland).
With visits to New Mexico, Houston and North Texas in the books, it has looked like the Sooners are in the driver’s seat.
But things might have changed a little bit Wednesday night. Walker tweeted Baylor has started talking to him. No offer, at least not yet.
“They were saying I will probably get an offer if I decide to make a visit,” Walker said.
OU defensive tackles coach Jackie Shipp has made a huge impression on Walker, but he’ll have to close the show this weekend.
Elite defensive tackle Keith Bryant has switched his Jan. 25 official visit from OU to Tennessee, and the thought has been it was a mutual parting of ways because the Sooners are in such good position with Walker.
But if the Bears are able to sneak in and become a real player for Walker, these next couple of weeks will get even more interesting.
Walker did say he is super excited about his OU visit so it will definitely be something to monitor this weekend.
Ward ready to be a Sooner
There’s no doubt ESPN 150 defensive end and OU commit D.J. Ward (Moore, Okla./Southmoore) would love to forget his senior season. Because he didn't have one -- through no fault of his own.
D.J. Ward will enroll at OU this month to get a jumpstart on the 2013 season.
But Ward has tried to stay positive and is one of four recruits expected to enroll at OU next week.
“He’s all business,” Southmoore recruiting coordinator Greg Bryant said. “He doesn’t mess around. He handled things about as well as he could have.”
Ward had been a star at Lawton, Okla., before transferring to Oklahoma City Douglass for family reasons late in the summer. A second transfer to Moore Southmoore was his undoing as the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association ruled him ineligible at Southmoore.
Ward could have returned to Oklahoma City Douglass to play his senior season, but he opted to stay at Southmoore, knowing full well it would signify the end of his high school football career.
He was making the rounds this week, catching up with old friends as he is ready to begin the next chapter.
“D.J. was actually here Monday afternoon talking with everybody,” Lawton coach Randy Breeze said. “He’s such a good kid, quality young man. He never gets too high about anything or too low about anything.
“He has the perfect personality to be able to handle what happened to him. It’s unfortunate because I know he had nothing to do with how everything happened, but he still looks in great shape and has a good attitude.”
But it still doesn’t look like his former Lawton teammate, three-star cornerback Maurice Chandler, is going to join him in Norman.
Chandler, a Texas Tech commit, has stayed loyal to the Red Raiders so far, and Breeze said OU has not called to talk about Chandler in a while.
“Right now it looks a lot like Texas Tech or Arkansas,” Breeze said. “I’m not for sure on that, but Arkansas is showing a lot of interest. I know Mo would love to stay with Tech, but we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.”
Byrd staying true to Sooners
All Hatari Byrd could do was look up at the scoreboard and shake his head. At the same time Texas A&M was drilling the Sooners in the Cotton Bowl, Byrd was playing in the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl in Los Angeles.
“Did that really happen? I was teammates with a couple of A&M commits, and it was bad,” Byrd said. “It’s all good, though. It won’t happen again.”
The week was another showcase opportunity for Byrd, who took full advantage of the chance. He said he had 12 tackles and made some big hits in the game. But more than that, though, it was the respect he earned from the other players.
“It felt great for a lot of players to come over and congratulate me and tell me what a great player they think I am,” Byrd said. “You want that respect from your peers. I thought I had a great week, and it’s nice to get that recognition.”
He might be thrown right into the fire, too. With Javon Harris graduating and Tony Jefferson announcing his intention to skip his senior season and enter the NFL draft, the depth chart is looking pretty good for Byrd to make an immediate impact.
Safe to say, he’s pretty excited about that.
“It’s my turn,” Byrd said. “Time for me to step up to the plate and show what I can do. It opens up the gates for me to give me that opportunity. Now I have to be ready.”
Byrd said he talked with defensive backs coach Mike Stoops after the Semper Fi game and said Stoops was very frustrated and upset about OU’s defensive performance against Johnny Manziel and the Aggies.
The Cotton Bowl didn’t work out, but it’s that fire from Stoops that has Byrd so excited about coming to Norman. An in-home visit last month by Bob and Mike Stoops didn’t hurt the cause, either.
“That was a blessing,” Byrd said. “How often can you say you have two great coaches like Bob and Mike Stoops in your living room? It was incredible. I cannot wait to get there.”
Semper Fi brings commits closer
Byrd, of course, wasn’t the sole OU commit at the Semper Fi game. He was joined by fellow safety commit Ahmad Thomas (Miami/Central) and three-star wide receiver Jordan Smallwood (Jenks, Okla./Jenks).
Courtesy of Erik McKinney
Three-star safety Ahmad Thomas impressed folks at the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl.
With Byrd being from California and Thomas from Florida and neither taking their official visit at the same time, last week was the first time the two safety commits met each other.
“I was real comfortable with Ahmad,” Byrd said. “We got up there, and we were playing pool together. We talked a lot about wanting to be roommates.”
The feeling was mutual for Thomas regarding Byrd.
“For my first time meeting him, I didn’t know what to expect,” Thomas said. “But it was real cool. It’s going to be great playing with him. Our personalities mesh really well. We have the same style of play of attacking the offense.”
Smallwood got to know Byrd on their official visit together for the Notre Dame game and the two have been in constant contact since then. Smallwood also got a chance to talk with Thomas a bit on Thomas’ official visit for Bedlam, but he said last week was the first time he really got to know Thomas.
“He’s a really good athlete that a lot of people are going to need to pay attention to in the future,” Smallwood said. “He can do a lot of things well. I was impressed.”
Thomas and Smallwood were on the same team going against Byrd. They’ll be teammates and friends at OU, but last week was all business even if that meant hitting each other.
“It’s funny because we developed a good bond, but when it was time to go to work, we did that,” Smallwood said. “We all love to compete so much. When we went against each other, we didn’t hold anything back. It was 100 percent all the way.”
If there was one recruit guaranteed to be an OU commit, many thought it was three-star cornerback Lamar Robbins (Miami/Southridge).
In the summer, all Robbins could do was talk about how much he loved Mike Stoops and simply wanted to see the campus before he could commit.
OK, that makes sense. A lot of recruits say that. Robbins set up a visit for Notre Dame weekend in October before realizing he had a high school game on the same day.
So try No. 2 was for Bedlam and Robbins made the visit fine. He had a great time, naming OU as his top school. But the commitment didn’t come.
He was scheduled to announce his commitment two weeks ago at the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl in Houston, but he missed his flight from Miami and never attended the event.
And it’s possible the Sooners have moved on from Robbins.
“I haven’t heard from them for a while,” Robbins said. “I’m not worried about it, though. I know they have things to do, too.”
It’s possible Stoops feels confident enough with Robbins that they want to focus elsewhere. It’s also possible that, after talking it over, OU has decided to look at other recruits.
One of those recruits is juco three-star prospect Damarious Randall. Originally committed to Arizona State, Randall has become a very popular recruit this week.
In addition to his OU offer, Arkansas also offered Tuesday. Things got better for Randall when Hawaii and Texas Tech also offered Wednesday morning.
The Sooners haven’t had a defensive back commit since Byrd in July, and OU is looking at adding at least 2-3 more pledges.
Burau waiting for the word
Tight end continues to be a sore spot for OU’s 2013 class. After missing out on several juco targets, it’s not clear at all if there is a leader in the clubhouse. And really, it’s tough to even guarantee the Sooners will add a scholarship tight end for this class.
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One tight end who would love nothing more than to get that call is Austin Burau (Lee’s Summit, Mo./West). Burau, who is 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds, doesn’t have an OU offer but is keeping his options open in case tight ends coach Bruce Kittle looks his way.
“He told me he would know by late-January what exactly is going on at tight end,” Burau said. “He came up for a visit a couple of months ago, and I really enjoyed it.”
Burau doesn’t have any Division I offers but said he does have a lot of offers from Division II schools. He recently visited Missouri Western but said he doesn’t have any visits on the horizon. But he would love to make one at OU.
He doesn’t know why the offers haven’t been rolling in, but he does have one reason he thinks might be the cause.
“I play three sports during all seasons so I’m always lean,” Burau said. “I think schools are worried I’m not going to be big enough. I’ve been as small as 205 pounds and as heavy as 225. But I think I can get up to 240-250 with no problems.”
Burau said he is in contact with Kittle on Facebook on a regular basis and mentioned OU’s tradition as the biggest selling point.
He doesn’t view his size as a bad thing, either.
“I think it gives me versatility,” Burau said. “I’m fast enough to be lined up out wide in the slot and be a mismatch against linebackers and safeties. But I’m big enough to stay in close and block and pass protect against defensive linemen.”