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Friday, February 15, 2013
Sooner Intel: Recruiting news and notes

By Bob Przybylo

Every Friday (starting this week), 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:

Read the Sooner Intel after the jump.

Building the Fresno pipeline

There is no reason for OU to abandon Fresno (Calif.) Central East right now. So OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops isn’t.

Tom Hauck for
Class of 2014 athlete Michiah Quick is the cousin of OU signee Hatari Byrd.

The Sooners went back to the school to offer defensive tackle Tashon Smallwood, making him the second 2014 offer from Central East and the fifth in the last two recruiting classes.

It has all been built on Stoops’ prior relationship with Fresno Central East defensive backs coach Tony Perry, and it has taken off from there. Smallwood is another one of Perry’s kids even though he’s not in the secondary.

“He’s 293 pounds and still growing. He’s going to be something special,” Perry said. “He’s fast and quick with long arms, and he’s too explosive for offensive lineman.”

Of course, OU nabbed two defensive backs from the school for its 2013 class with ESPN 300 safety Hatari Byrd and four-star cornerback L.J. Moore.

Perry said it didn’t shock him for Moore to pick the Sooners, and he is hard at work right now getting ready for the summer.

“I knew it was on his mind because he loved that visit so much. He felt so at home,” Perry said. “Ever since he said OU, he hasn’t taken a break. He’s doing a lot of lifting and busting his butt right now. He’s hungry.”

When the Sooners were evaluating that special 2013 group, they made sure to offer Watch List ATH Michiah Quick. Perry said in the fall he believes Quick has the potential to be the best out of the bunch. Nothing has changed in the winter.

“He’s the best overall player in the class,” Perry said. “He’s the best out there on both sides of the ball. He has so many offers. He just has to figure it all out.”

And could Quick and Smallwood figure it out at OU? Perry dropped some major news earlier this week when he said he was coming to OU’s summer camp in June and bringing Quick and Smallwood with him.

If it happens, it’s tough to explain just how big this is for the Sooners. Two kids from California on campus but not on an official visit? That simply does not happen often.

A lot of things can happen between now and the camp, but Perry said he intends to be at OU’s camp and he’s not coming alone.

Ball knows where he stands ... or does he?

No Class of 2014 prospect made more unofficial visits to OU last season than tight end Trenton Ball (Midwest City, Okla./Carl Albert).

Ball got on OU’s radar at its summer camp and he was in contact with former tackles coach Bruce Kittle on a regular basis. With Kittle gone now, there’s no telling where Ball’s recruitment stands with the Sooners.

Before Tuesday, Ball knew exactly where he stood following a lot of one-on-one time with Kittle during junior day.

“He told me he has three guys ahead of me at this point, and I just have to keep working hard,” Ball said. “He wants a tall tight end. It was great to hear because now I know what I need to do.”

If you’re looking for film on Ball, stop. Playing for the biggest run-first team in the state, Ball finished the season with six catches for 80 yards. But that hasn’t stopped both Oklahoma State and the Sooners from showing a considerable amount of interest in him.

Ball, who is 6-6, also attended OSU’s junior day but said he feels he fits in better with OU because of the style of offense. He said Kittle was the coach who talked to him the most.

But other schools are taking notice of Ball.

“Nebraska and Missouri have started sending letters and talking with me,” he said. “Tulsa has been sending some stuff, but OU is definitely the school showing the most interest.”

Ball said he enjoyed getting to learn more about the program during junior day, especially the academic portion and what the university does to help its athletes stay on course in the classroom.

“OSU didn’t show that as much, the emphasis on academics,” Ball said. “I really liked that at OU. I definitely feel like I could succeed there. I just have to keep getting better and better.”

Huggins working to qualify

One of the biggest questions regarding OU’s 2013 class is the academic standing of Dallas Skyline defensive tackle Kerrick Huggins.

Damon Sayles/
OU signee Kerrick Huggins double-signed last week.

Huggins originally committed to Texas A&M before flipping to OU. A&M fans have said it’s because there’s no chance Huggins is going to make it to campus.

Huggins, though, remains optimistic and said last weekend was a big reason why he thinks things are going to work out.

“My GPA is at like a 2.7 right now,” Huggins said. “The problem was I hadn’t taken the ACT yet. I took it this weekend. It was pretty easy. I’m pretty confident everything is going to be fine.”

Huggins, a three-star prospect, does have a backup plan just in case. He double signed with Trinity Valley Community College in Athens, Texas, on the advice of Dallas Skyline recruiting coordinator Jason R. Garrett.

Huggins will also have to deal with the loss of his primary recruiter with defensive tackles coach Jackie Shipp not returning to the staff. He tweeted he was disappointed Shipp wasn’t coming back but text messaged me saying everything is OK.

Another sticking point is Huggins still has not made a visit to the campus. But once again Huggins doesn’t view that as an issue.

“Frank [Shannon] and Corey [Nelson] keep telling me how great it is there, and I respect their opinions a lot,” Huggins said.

Huggins said he’s not sure if any schools tried to contact him in January. He told Garrett to tell all schools asking about him that it was a waste of time, that he was 100 percent with OU.

That moment hit him on signing day.

“Seeing that tweet that said I’m officially with OU, man, that’s something I won’t forget,” Huggins said.

Shorter emerging as top prospect

OU running backs coach Cale Gundy has been active in making offers but one that hasn’t gotten as much attention is Kevin Shorter (Newton, Texas/Newton).

Shorter, who is 6-0 and 188 pounds, has offers from OU, Texas A&M, Arkansas and Georgia, among several others. Some schools, such as Georgia, see him at safety, but Shorter said it’s clear the Sooners like him at running back.

“I talked to Coach Gundy last week, and he seems like a good guy,” Shorter said. “They really want me to come up for a junior day or spring game or something like that.”

OU will have to do some work because Texas and Arkansas were his two clear favorite schools growing up. He hasn’t heard much from the Longhorns, but the Razorbacks are one of the programs showing him the most amount of attention.

“For family reunions, we’d always get together and watch Arkansas games,” Shorter said. “I really liked Texas when Vince Young was there because I used to play quarterback. I moved to running back when I was a freshman.”

Shorter said his biggest asset is his speed, and he is set to attend LSU’s junior day Saturday and hopes to make junior day stops at Georgia and Baylor.

“Right now I’m working on my footwork and ball handling,” he said. “I’m watching film and figuring out how to hit the right holes. I’m excited for next season.”

Springs getting familiar with Stoops

It has been a busy few weeks for Watch List safety Arrion Springs (San Antonio/Roosevelt) with junior day stops at OU and Texas Tech. Coincidentally, those are his only two offers at this point although that should change soon.

Tom Hauck for ESPN
Defensive back Arrion Springs likes the Sooners early but wants to look around more.

Springs was offered at OU’s junior day and said he was excited about the offer.

“I always liked them growing up so it means a lot to get that offer,” Springs said. “I didn’t think about committing because I want to wait until the summer.”

At junior day, Springs had an opportunity to interact in-depth with Mike Stoops for the first time. Springs said his primary contact has been defensive ends coach Bobby Jack Wright, who is in charge of San Antonio area recruiting for OU.

“I definitely want to take another visit there and keep building that relationship with the coaches,” Springs said.

His first offer came from Texas Tech last summer. His trip to Lubbock last weekend was to make sure that offer still stands. It does, and he said he came away impressed with new coach Kliff Kingsbury and what he brings to the table for the Red Raiders.

Springs doesn’t plan on being done with junior days just yet. He said he hopes to attend either Oklahoma State’s or Mississippi State’s junior days in the future.

“I’m looking at coaches and atmosphere right now,” Springs said. “As for what I’m working on, I’m working on my hips and forcing more turnovers. That’s my goal for my senior season -- more turnovers.”

Back to the drawing board with Henderson

There’s no such thing as a good time to fire a coach. But if there is, right about now would be the ideal time. Before spring practice, after signing day and before most recruits have built that relationship with the position coaches.

But there is one major target for OU that had already started to develop a tight bond with Shipp in defensive tackle Zaycoven Henderson.

Already with offers from OU, Baylor and TCU, the Sooners were in great standing with Henderson with Shipp as his primary recruiter.

How great? Great enough that he was strongly considering committing to OU, he tells Brandon Chatmon.

“Yes sir,” Henderson said about the possibility.

Henderson tweeted his displeasure about the move but also realizes life goes on. Shipp might not be at OU, but the Sooners are definitely still in play once a new coach is in place. He said he’s willing to return to OU as soon as it gets a coach to start building the new relationship.

“I’m sure they’re going to find someone good,” Henderson said.

From there, it will be all about trying to forge the best possible relationship with the new coach. And it is incredibly vital to his decision, Henderson said.

“It’s going to be very important,” Henderson said. “The coach-player relationship has to be good. You have to get to know your players.”

Henderson has been invited to Texas’ junior day next weekend.

OU offer a surprise to Leonard

OU wide receivers coach Jay Norvell said the Sooners were going back to East Texas. There's no better place to do that than Longview (Texas) High with a bevy of top kids coming up for the 2014 class.

OU didn’t waste any time in being the first school to offer defensive tackle Zaycoven Henderson and wide receiver Dorian Leonard.

For Leonard, it was an offer he certainly didn’t see coming.

“Me and my mom stayed up the whole night because we were so happy that he gave us the offer,” Leonard said. “He visited us one day and then gave us the offer the next. It was crazy.”

Other schools have jumped in with Henderson and it won’t be long for Leonard. He has invites to both Texas Tech and Texas junior days on Feb. 23.

But right now it’s pretty clear the Sooners are the top choice for Leonard.

“My favorite school is OU,” Leonard said. “Right now that’s No. 1 for me. I don’t really have any other schools at this point.”

Leonard was at OU’s junior day and the thought of committing popped into his head, but he wants to wait. That decision was made a little tougher after touring the campus at junior day.

“Everywhere you went, you saw all the trophies and stuff like that,” Leonard said. “You start to understand what the tradition is all about.”

Adams’ stock on the rise

One name that is picking up steam is receiver Jalen Adams (Moore, Okla./Southmoore). A relative unknown heading into his junior season, he is squarely on OU’s radar. He made unofficial visits for OU’s final two home games and was at junior day.

At junior day, Adams had a chance to connect with Norvell as he said he has been primarily recruited by OU quarterbacks coach Josh Heupel.

“Coach Norvell said he likes how explosive I am with the ball, and they like my speed and versatility,” Adams said.

Adams has also picked up an offer from Tulsa and said Oklahoma State wants him to come up for spring practice. Junior day allowed Adams to take his time and really see everything instead of being in a rush on an unofficial visit.

“I never really noticed just how many championships OU has,” Adams said. “The indoor facilities are really nice. It’s definitely in my top schools.”

Adams has his own ace in the hole in the form of defensive back Julian Wilson. Wilson was a star at Southmoore, and Adams said he has maintained a great relationship with Wilson.

“I stay in touch with Julian a lot,” Adams said. “He can give me some info on the program that not a lot of other recruits can get.”

Adams said he is friends with quarterback Kendal Thompson, who was also a star at Moore Southmoore, but he doesn’t keep as in touch with Thompson as he does with Wilson.

Adams, who is 5-11 and 165 pounds, said he wants to work on his overall game heading into his senior season.

“I never expected to do as well as I did as a junior, but I don’t just want to be known as that vertical threat,” Adams said. “I’m just going to keep working harder.”

OU, Dale moving on?

Adams and OU are getting more familiar, while the opposite looks like is true between the Sooners and Watch List ATH Cedric Dale (Keller, Texas/Timber Creek).

Dale camped at OU in the summer and was invited to some of the early home games but said communication with OU has dropped significantly.

“I haven’t gotten anything at all from OU in a while,” Dale said.

That’s not to say schools aren’t pursuing Dale, who said he is 5-foot-9 and 181 pounds. He attended Baylor’s and Oklahoma State’s junior days, expects to be at Georgia on Saturday and has invites to Kansas State and Texas Tech junior days. The Red Raiders offered Dale last fall.

Some of the lack of interest could be not knowing exactly where he belongs on the field. Baylor sees him at defensive back, while OSU sees him at running back. Dale said he doesn't have a preference. At OU’s camp, he split time at both positions.

Dale suffered a season-ending injury but said he is 100 percent now. And he has found a new winter sport in lacrosse.

“I played basketball my freshman year but that wasn’t really for me,” Dale said. “I wanted to find another sport, and I have really liked playing lacrosse. It’s helping my awareness, quickness and reaction. It has been a lot of fun.”

Dale hasn’t ruled anybody out and said he would definitely listen to OU again if the Sooners decide to start talking with him again.

Johnson decision next week

Hutchinson CC Sports Information
Do the Sooners have a shot with juco defensive tackle Toby Johnson?

The saga of ESPN JC 100 four-star defensive tackle Toby Johnson (Hutchinson, Kan./Hutchinson CC) will come to an end next Tuesday.

Johnson sent out various tweets Tuesday with national letters of intent from OU, Georgia, Auburn and Mississippi State.

Upon hearing the news of Shipp being let go from OU’s staff, it feels like the Sooners are an even bigger long shot than they were before. Johnson was not happy about the news.

But it never really felt like OU was in the mix here late in the game. It has felt like an Auburn-Mississippi State battle for a while. Even though he showed Georgia, the folks at DawgNation have remained consistent saying the Bulldogs have moved on from Johnson.

There hasn’t been any question at all regarding his ability, but there are some health concerns after his knee injury and some academic concerns. Either way, we’ll all have our answer Feb. 19.

Second junior day set

The great mystery of the last couple of weeks has been getting confirmation on the date of OU's second junior day. It was Watch List wide receiver Mark Andrews (Scottsdale, Ariz./Desert Mound) who confirmed the Sooners have set March 9 as the date.

There were talks of Feb. 23 but that didn’t make too much sense with Texas Tech and Texas both having their junior days on the same date.

March 2 was an option but no recruit could confirm that date. March 9 works, however. Spring practice starts March 6 so it gives recruits a chance to see practice and how things run.

More importantly, it gives OU coach Bob Stoops enough time to find the new coaches to the staff and let the recruits get to know the new guys in town.

One thing to be on the watch for is if there are any repeat visitors. Zaycoven Henderson was building a tight relationship with Shipp. Kittle had built a nice bond with Watch List offensive tackle Ty Barrett (Dallas/Skyline).

Barrett, who received an OU offer at the first junior day, wasn’t rattled when assistant coach James Patton was let go Monday because he said Stoops and Kittle were still there. With Kittle gone, the relationship will have to be reformed.