Friday, February 22, 2013
Sooner Intel: Recruiting news and notes
By Bob Przybylo
Every Friday, 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:
An OU commit is visiting another Big 12 school this weekend
A Watch List wide receiver has several ties to the Sooners
A San Antonio tailback knows about OU's tradition in the backfield
The Sooners have ground to make up with an in-state defender
LSU leads for a talented OU offer
One in-state athlete says he's a running back all the way
A 2015 tight end wants to hear more from the Sooners
An OU basketball commit talks about his move to a new school
Read the Sooner Intel after the jump.
Andrews has several Oklahoma ties
ESPN Watch List wide receiver Mark Andrews (Scottsdale, Ariz./Desert Mound) doesn’t have a list of favorite schools, but he knows OU will be up there whenever he decides to make one.
Andrews, who is 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds, has an offer from the Sooners and will be at OU’s second junior day on March 9.
Being from Arizona and so anxious to see OU, you could assume it’s because of his ties to Tim Kish and Mike Stoops. But it’s not. Andrews said they were both gone too early before a real relationship could develop.
But he has plenty of other reasons why OU could be his future home.
“I grew up as a huge OU fan,” Andrews said. “I’ve been watching them since I was little. It’s a dream school that intrigues me a lot.”
How did a kid from Arizona grow up a huge OU fan? Through family ties.
“My grandpa went to OU and lived in Oklahoma for most of his life,” Andrews said. “My dad grew up living there. It’s just sort of been our team growing up.”
Andrews was among the first recruits to confirm he will be at junior day, and he has developed a solid foundation with OU receivers coach Jay Norvell. Andrews talked on Tuesday with OU offensive coordinator Josh Heupel on the phone.
“I really like their offense and feel like I would fit in well there,” Andrews said. “Both of them have been down-to-earth guys who have been fun to talk with.”
Andrews said he has no intention of making an early decision, tentatively planning to make his announcement following his senior season.
To go along with OU, he said he is receiving the most interest from Arizona, Arizona State, Notre Dame and UCLA. He wants to make an unofficial visit to Notre Dame in the spring.
Though he is a different type of receiver, there is one former OU star Andrews has looked up to at the position.
“Ryan Broyles, for sure,” Andrews said. “He was a great, great player that did everything the right way and got the best out of his abilities.”
His grandfather loves OU. His father loves OU. Oh yeah, there’s one more family member involved.
“My brother just completed his first year at OU [medical] school,” Andrews said. “What can I say? It’s a family thing.”
Andrews said in the spring and summer he will start to narrow down school. For now, he’s wide open.
Foreman looking around?
Watch List receiver Armanti Foreman (Texas City, Texas/Texas City) has been committed to OU since October and it’s going to be tough to keep that pledge until next February.
With junior days here, the interest is picking up for Armanti and his twin brother running back D’Onta. And the brothers are looking to see a familiar school this weekend.
“We’re going to try to head to Texas this weekend,” Armanti Foreman said. “They watched our film and said they really liked what they saw. My family is big Texas fans.”
The Longhorns went after OU wide receiver commits for 2013 in Austin Bennett and Dannon Cavil. Texas has just accelerated the process this time around.
Foreman said it doesn’t mean he’s not happy with OU. It’s not really about him looking around, but it is about trying to get D’Onta’s name out there more. As talented as his brother is, D’Onta does not have any offers.
“I want to go with him and see what’s out there,” Armanti Foreman said. “Our parents would definitely like if we played together. We would like it, too, but we understand that if we have to split up, then that’s what we have to do.”
Foreman said Baylor has also turned up the pressure, but OU has not fallen out of favor with him. He spoke to the OU coaching staff on signing day, and the staff said they cannot wait for that same scene next year when Foreman will sign with OU.
He’s not sure if he will be able to make it to junior day because of his track schedule, but he said his relationship with Norvell is still very strong.
“He is always writing me letters and keeping me up-to-date on things,” Foreman said. “I’m just trying to get stronger and get ready for spring ball. I’m ready to get back out there.”
Turning point for Clark
In-state defensive end Deondre Clark has picked up several big-time offers.
Oklahoma City Douglass coach Willis Alexander was looking for an answer, looking for some way to ignite the spark in Watch List defensive end Deondre Clark.
All the physical tools but something wasn’t clicking so Alexander took matters into his own hands.
“We had a heart-to-heart talk midway through his sophomore year,” Alexander said. “He wasn’t playing anywhere near his potential. He responded immediately.”
Alexander said an upset loss to Cushing, Okla., forced him to say something.
“We shouldn’t have lost to them,” Alexander said. “We thought we could show up and win. He had a couple of costly penalties. So I pulled him in and challenged him. Step up or step away. He has stepped up, and I’m not shocked at all with how things are going now.”
Clark had 99 tackles and 22 sacks in his junior season and has become one of OU’s top targets. His mother, Dorshell, is concerned about OU firing defensive tackles coach Jackie Shipp so it will be crucial for OU to make a big-time hire to stay in the race for Clark.
Texas Tech commit Justin Stockton (Cibolo, Texas/Steele) said right now that’s about all he knows about OU, but he’s hoping to find out more at junior day March 9.
“I think everybody knows about those two backs in Peterson and Murray,” Stockton said. “The tradition is something you cannot ignore.”
Stockton has made it clear he is with the Red Raiders but is not afraid to look around. He knows what he is looking to get out of his trip to OU.
“I want to learn about their academic program,” Stockton said. “First and foremost, that’s what it’s all about. I want to major in kinesiology and learn how the body works.
“After that, it’s about being comfortable and getting along with the coaches. I don’t think that will be a problem, but we’ll find out.”
Akem has not committed ... yet
The Sooners have work to do with 2014 LB Gyasi Akem.
It looks like Oklahoma State is the clear favorite to land Watch List outside linebacker Gyasi Akem (Broken Arrow, Okla./Broken Arrow), but he wants to let everyone know he hasn’t committed to the Cowboys yet.
After a second trip to Stillwater, OSU has done all the right things but calling him an OSU commit is premature.
“I haven’t decided where I’m going to school yet,” Akem said. “My future is not set in stone. I’ll do what’s best for me in the end.”
Akem has been invited to OU’s upcoming junior day. He was unable to attend the one earlier this month and said he is not sure if he can be there March 9. He wants to attend because he wants to see OU and get a feel of the campus and coaches.
“That’s a school I’ve always been interested in, but we’ll have to see what happens,” Akem said.
OU has work to do with Mabin
The Sooners were among the first schools to offer Watch List linebacker Josh Mabin (Spring, Texas/Klein Oak), but OU has some serious ground to make up to be in consideration.
Following a great junior day visit to LSU, Mabin is clearly a fan of the Tigers even though an offer wasn’t extended his way.
“I’ve always been a huge fan of the Tigers,” Mabin said. “The area is not that much different from Houston so that’s something I really like.”
Mabin said OU linebackers coach Tim Kish visited the school a couple of weeks ago but right now he has no plans to attend OU’s junior day on March 9.
One junior day he does want to attend is Texas A&M, but he’s not sure about his status with the Aggies at this point.
Not getting the offer from LSU has not discouraged Mabin, though.
“It’s more motivation,” Mabin said. “Not many linebackers have my speed. I can run side-to-side with the best of them. And then I just want to be somewhere with the best family environment.”
Mabin said Oklahoma State has offered him, but he hasn’t had a chance to visit Stillwater yet.
Vaughns’ interest taking off
Mesquite (Texas) Poteet athlete Verkedric Vaughns doesn’t know why he now has the interest of several schools but he also doesn’t care.
Vaughns said he was only hearing from Rice but now OU, Texas Tech, Boise State and Northwestern have all entered the mix. The Wildcats have already offered.
“I got invited to Oklahoma State’s junior day last weekend but went to SMU’s instead because it was a lot closer to home,” Vaughns said. “I want to play cornerback, but a lot of schools see me at wide receiver and kick returner, too.”
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Vaughns said he hasn’t been invited to OU’s junior day just yet but said he would do everything he could to attend if he gets an invite. He recently started talking with OU assistant coach Cale Gundy and would love to help out with OU’s secondary.
“I’m real aggressive,” Vaughns said. “I love guarding somebody and shutting them down. That’s a lot of fun for me.”
Vaughns never imagined his future would be in football. He grew up playing football and basketball and has been playing AAU for a long time. But he never grew like his brother did.
“My older brother Vertrail plays basketball for George Mason. That’s what I thought I would do, but I love football and see it can really help me in the future.”
Vaughns said he is working on getting stronger but the first thing he wants to address is his speed.
“I want that breakaway speed to be able to stay with all the top receivers,” Vaughns said.
Callins says offense is his ticket
For some recruits, position doesn’t really matter. For others, though, it’s something that can be a deal-breaker.
Athlete Kai Callins (Guthrie, Okla./Guthrie) has always said he wanted to play offense but few realized just how much until recently.
Callins has the ability to play running back, wide receiver and defensive back. But he has no desire to play in the secondary in college although he has good cornerback size at 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds.
He is still recovering from a torn ACL suffered during the first game of the season, but he is determined to show offense is his calling card. Not just offense, too, but running back.
Oklahoma State and Ohio are two schools showing a lot of interest in Callins so SoonerNation proposed a hypothetical to Callins. What if Ohio wanted Callins at running back and OSU wanted him at defensive back, what would he choose?
“OSU is a great program, but I would pick Ohio,” Callins said. “I want to go where I feel I can succeed the most. I’m a running back. That’s what I know, that’s what I love.”
That stance might be tough to see him fit in with OU’s plans. The Sooners are already targeting several top running backs. Norvell has kept good contact with Callins, but it looks like OU has been trying to wait to see just how healthy Callins is before moving forward.
Callins said he has one more month of rehab before he will be cleared 100 percent.
Dixon weighing his options
Dallas Skyline cornerback Derrick Dixon knows there is pressure to pick a school because of how many talented defensive backs there are in Texas.
But that’s not his plan. He wants to wait and will make his decision after his senior season. Until then, he is enjoying the process and has been to junior days at Baylor and Texas.
“I’m looking to go to Texas Tech and TCU as well, and I’m not sure about any others right now,” Dixon said.
Dixon was invited to OU’s first junior day, but he went to Baylor’s instead because it’s closer to home. He said he would try to attend OU’s event on March 9 if he gets the invite.
“I wasn’t trying to say I like Baylor more than OU, but it was just a lot easier for me to get to Baylor than OU on that weekend,” Dixon said. “OU is a great school that has produced a lot of great defensive backs.”
OU has already offered Dallas Skyline Watch List offensive tackle Ty Barrett and has the signature of defensive tackle Kerrick Huggins.
“It does help to have so many kids in the same position,” Dixon said. “We can ask each other questions from the campuses and coaches we talk with and see how things are.”
Moon remains interested in OU
A lot of the talk with the loss of former assistant coach Bruce Kittle focused around 2014 prospects. But there were some 2015 recruits Kittle had grown a great rapport with.
One of them was tight end Harrison Moon (Signal Mountain, Tenn./Signal Mountain). Moon camped at OU in the summer and was among the most impressive tight ends.
Since then, he had kept in constant contact with Kittle and is hopeful he can return to Norman for camp this summer. With Kittle gone, nothing has changed.
“I was disappointed that Coach Kittle was fired,” Moon said. “I talked with him on Saturday, and he seemed OK. He told me what he had said all along -- ‘Like the school first.’ "
Moon doesn’t have any official offers but a number of schools have come by see him, including Clemson, Tennessee, Alabama and Memphis. He has made unofficial visits to Memphis and Tennessee and plans to see Clemson in March.
He’s eager to reconnect with OU.
“I liked Oklahoma a lot and want to stay in touch,” Moon said.
Brooks still at running back
Another unexpected loss in the secondary has OU fans wondering if anybody is expected to switch positions.
It wasn’t surprising news, but it was disappointing to hear cornerback Gary Simon is no longer a part of the team as OU defensive backs coach Mike Stoops was giddy upon getting Simon to sign last year.
With Simon’s loss, the Sooners are down to three cornerbacks for the spring. One player that could move is redshirt freshman Daniel Brooks, but according to his father, Tony, that’s not going to happen.
“Daniel is doing great. He tested out well with his spring drills,” Tony Brooks said. “He ran a 4.35 40-yard dash, but he’s still not 100 percent.
“Daniel is still 100 percent running back. Coach [Bob] Stoops and the staff are still making sure he’s fully recovered. Great coaching staff and training and physical therapy.”
Brooks is still on the road back from a horrific injury suffered during track season of his senior year in high school. Not even supposed to be competing, he participated in the high jump and tore his ACL and injured several more ligaments in his knee.
He’s closer to a full recovery, but will he see any time at all with the Sooners in the spring?
“Yes, but we still don’t know if he’ll go through full contact,” Tony Brooks said. “Coach Stoops is really bringing him along slow. Mentally, Daniel sounds ready but not sure to what extent he’ll play this spring.”
Move working out for Hammond
Class of 2014 power forward Jacob Hammond (Bel Aire, Kan./Sunrise Christian) hasn’t stayed at one school for more than a year during high school but that didn’t make his decision to transfer to Sunrise Christian any easier.
OU commit Jacob Hammond says he's 100 percent with the Sooners.
Hammond grew up in Duncan, Okla., and went from Duncan to the Oklahoma City Storm last season. He originally was going to play for another homeschool team in Oklahoma City before deciding to move to Kansas before the season started.
How has it gone? Better than the OU commit ever thought possible.
“This has been like 10 times better than I ever thought it would be,” Hammond said. “I’m much stronger. The coaches here are so smart. The assistants are so young so they relate to us better. It’s incredible.”
Hammond, a three-star prospect, committed to OU in August and is now at the same school that produced OU freshman guard Buddy Hield.
Hammond said he is pleased with how his game has progressed, averaging between 10-12 points per game with 12 rebounds and two blocks.
But it’s things that don’t show up in the stat books that have him the most excited.
“I’m so much quicker,” Hammond said. “I’m able to run up and down the court a lot better. I can guard 3s and 2s on the perimeter, but of course I feel comfortable in the paint.”
Hammond said since his commitment, not many schools have been coming his way. He said that’s a good thing, though, because he is 100 percent with OU. He has only gotten to see OU once this season, arguably the best moment of the season in a home win against Kansas.
“It was so great, and I had so much fun,” Hammond said. “I can’t imagine what the next 2-3 years are going to be like with Coach [Lon] Kruger. He’s such a good coach and knows how to get the best out of his players.
“I talk on the phone like once a week with the staff and text them all the time to just keep them up to date on everything.”
Hammond is getting a little taste of college now in high school. Sunrise Christian is known for traveling and that hasn’t stopped this season with stops in Chicago, Ohio, Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas among some of the places the team has played.
“It builds a great chemistry and trust in each other,” Hammond said. “It was tough leaving my parents, but I was going to do it for college anyway so why not get a head start?”