Friday, March 1, 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:
OU's top running back target is trying to make it to Norman soon
Texas running back has OU and Alabama on top
Have the Sooners contacted an in-state tailback?
Offensive line signees get acquainted with their new coach
There's no pressure on one legacy on being a Sooner
Elite Texas wideout wants to make it to OU junior day
In-state receiver is staying patient with the process
Read the Sooner Intel after the jump.
Starks still eyeing OU visit
Going to start this Intel with a rundown of the top 2014 targets at running back. OU running backs coach Cale Gundy has already made a quality number of offers and his eyes set on some backs.
Texas Tech commit Justin Stockton (Cibolo, Texas/Steele) is expected to be at OU’s junior day next weekend, while Newton (Texas) High athlete Kevin Shorter is picking up steam on the trail. Both have OU offers.
Courtesy Starks Family
Watch List running back Nathan Starks has a list of three favorite schools.
But the conversation for running back starts with one target. The same target it has been since last summer and that’s ESPN Watch List back Nathan Starks (Las Vegas/Bishop Gorman).
Starks has been hopeful about making a trip to see OU’s campus, but it has never materialized. And it’s tough to pinpoint when the pieces will all come together for Starks and the Sooners.
“I definitely want to visit Norman as soon as I can,” Starks said. “It’s really hard to get out there. It comes down to financial reasons and having to pay for the transportation to get there. I don’t know when, but I definitely want to get there.”
For now, it has been Gundy coming to Starks as Gundy has been a frequent visitor to Las Vegas Bishop Gorman to check in with Starks.
Starks has said for a while he has developed the best relationship with Gundy. And as the months keep going by, nothing is changing on that front.
“Coach Gundy is great because he cares about me more as a person than he does as a running back,” Starks said. “Whenever he asks about me, he doesn’t really ask about how I’m doing on the field. He asks about my grades and how life is going.”
The seeds are all there. Las Vegas Bishop Gorman was the home of former OU star Demarco Murray and Murray has been more active with Starks in the last year. They’ve met on two occasions and are starting to develop bond.
And of course like a lot of running backs, Starks’ favorite is former OU great Adrian Peterson. Starks said his running style has been compared to a lot with the way Peterson runs the ball.
It’s not a one-horse race, though. Starks is definitely seriously considering Notre Dame and USC, among other schools. He wants to visit OU, but he will definitely make an unofficial visit to see the Irish this spring.
“My coach is going to Notre Dame in April so I’m going to go with him,” Starks said. “Those three are my top three, but I’m keeping all my options open.
“I talk the most with Coach Gundy, at least once a week. OU has been dealing with me the longest and was my first offer.”
Perine grew up an Alabama fan and left Tuscaloosa, Ala., last Saturday with an offer from the Crimson Tide.
“I was hopeful to get an offer, and it’s a great honor,” Perine said. “I went into Coach [Nick] Saban’s office, and we talked for a couple of minutes. He was telling me what he liked and what I need to work on and made the offer.”
There was no talk of committing on the spot, said Perine. He said that was never the plan because he wants to get to know the Alabama coaches better and the coaches want to get to know him better.
The same can’t be said to the similar extent with OU. He knows about as much as he needs to know about the Sooners. It came as a huge surprise to Perine when he realized he was the only running back invited to OU’s junior day Feb. 2.
The relationship built there has spilled over as Perine said he interacts with Gundy at least every other day if not every single day.
Perine knows he can make a splash at OU.
“That running back tradition does help with OU,” Perine said. “Coach Gundy said when they are at their best, they are running the football.”
The depth chart is something very important to Perine and something that might ultimately be the deciding factor in where he goes to school.
OU only signed one running back for 2013 in ESPN 150 prospect Keith Ford, while the Tide signed three of the top 10 in the class.
“With Alabama, I haven’t really gotten a chance to talk to Coach [Burton] Burns about the whole running back situation,” Perine said. “We haven’t talked about how many they’ve gotten so I haven’t really touched base with him to see where they stand as far as actually at running back.”
Perine said he thinks he might be done with junior days. He has an unofficial visit planned for TCU this weekend, and then it could be a matter of time.
So is it OU that leads? Or Alabama?
“It’s so close to call,” Perine said. “I might give OU the slight edge. What it’s going to come down to is what school offers the best opportunity for me to play as early as I can.”
Turner waiting in the wings
It’s clear OU wants at least two running backs for the class. The Sooners have their top targets marked but that doesn’t mean Gundy isn’t still keeping an eye out for others.
One of those to watch in case Perine and/or Starks go elsewhere is Xavier Turner (North Richland Hills, Texas/Birdville). Turner was at OU’s spring game last year and made two unofficial visits to campus during the season.
Class of 2014 tailback Xavier Turner has yet to pick up an offer.
Turner, though, hasn’t been active on the junior day circuit. Instead he has been focusing on his high school track season. That should change this weekend.
“I definitely plan on being at Kansas State this weekend,” Turner said. “I want to make it out to that one. I’ve heard a lot of great things about the program and want to see what it’s all about.”
Turner said he is hearing the most from OU, North Texas and Oregon has entered the picture. He has been in contact with coaches from the Ducks who said they really liked his junior season film.
As for OU, Turner is being patient. He said direct communication with Gundy has tailed off a bit, but he still receives multiple letters from the Sooners on a weekly basis.
Turner is looking for his first offer. But he most likely won’t just jump at the first one that comes around.
“I don’t want to commit too early and miss out on other opportunities that could be there,” Turner said. “I’m trying to open as many doors as possible.”
OU, Thomas officially done
Following his sophomore season, an argument could be made that Watch List running back Devon Thomas (Broken Arrow, Okla./Broken Arrow) was the top target for OU.
That’s not the case anymore. Thomas announced his commitment to OU in late November only to decommit a couple of weeks later and commit to Bedlam rival Oklahoma State.
Thomas attended OSU’s junior day once again and feels at home with the Cowboys. Is OU still in the picture?
“I’m not in contact with them anymore,” Thomas said. “At all.”
There has been a lot of speculation about Thomas and OU going their separate ways. It appeared that way in recent months and that might be officially confirmed at this point.
OL signees get acquainted with Bedenbaugh
It is said in recruiting all the time to commit to the school and not to the coach. OU’s 2013 signees are finding that out the hard way, but they’re also learning change sometimes isn’t a bad thing.
Three-star offensive tackle prospect Christian Daimler (Houston/Stratford) admits he had an uneasy feeling following the departures of OU offensive line coaches James Patton and Bruce Kittle.
Following his first talk with new line coach Bill Bedenbaugh, though, Daimler said he has nothing to worry about.
Sam Khan Jr./ESPN.com
OU signee Christian Daimler is excited to get to Norman.
“I’m really excited to be able to work with him and learn from him,” Daimler said. “He is somebody you can really respect.”
Coincidentally, Daimler was recruited by Bedenbaugh when Bedenbaugh was the line coach at West Virginia. So when Daimler heard the name, he knew it sounded familiar.
Bedenbaugh said he is excited to work with Daimler because he really likes what Daimler brings to the table.
“He said I’m exactly the type of guy he wants to work with,” Daimler said. “I’m long, athletic, and he said he can get the full potential out of me.”
Daimler was primarily recruited by Patton and then transitioned over to Kittle, but he is realizing it’s all business and OU is doing what it feels is best to try to succeed.
“That’s the way things work,” Daimler said. “OU will bring in the best possible guys they can. He is somebody that is being brought to OU to help the running game. He wants us to be hard-nosed and aggressive and shove defensive ends around.”
The message was the same to four-star ESPN JC 100 signee Josiah St. John (Athens, Texas/Trinity Valley CC). St. John was also a product of Patton and Kittle. But he said after his first talk with Bedenbaugh, he’s excited to see what can be done.
“It was weird because I had developed a relationship with those guys,” St. John said. “But Coach Bedenbaugh told me to be ready to work because he’s going to hit the ground running. It’s a new attitude right now.”
No pressure on Hansen being a Sooner
It’s destined to happen, right? It’s what dreams are made of -- the Oklahoma kid (Edmond Santa Fe’s Justice Hansen) gets an offer from OU and becomes the next great Sooners quarterback.
It has felt like it has been written for the last couple of years. But according to Edmond Santa Fe coach Lance Manning, he said there is no pressure on Hansen to commit to the Sooners.
“He doesn’t have anything to prove,” Manning said. “I don’t think there’s any pressure on him. I think the pressure is on OU to get him, to step up and get him. He’s going to go where he’s comfortable no matter what.”
It’s true OU wasn’t Hansen’s first offer. That right belongs to Missouri after Hansen’s sophomore season. And it’s true OU wasn’t the first school to offer following his junior season. Texas A&M beat the Sooners to the punch.
But what’s also true is how consistent the communication has been between OU quarterbacks coach Josh Heupel and Hansen. Despite not officially receiving the offer until four weeks ago, Heupel has been talking with Hansen for more than two years.
Manning is not just Hansen’s head coach but also his position coach which has led to an even deeper relationship.
“He’ll ask me questions, and I’ll give him my opinion on something,” Manning said. “But that’s it. I’m not trying to sway him one way or another. It would be great, from a selfish standpoint, if he went to OU because we could see him.
“But quarterback is something different. You can’t miss on quarterbacks in recruiting. When you miss there, you’re looking for another job. So I understand why it takes a while, but I do feel like he is definitely one of the best in the country.”
Sims gets the call from OU
Alabama offensive lineman Jordan Sims admits he doesn't know a lot about the Sooners.
Offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh hasn’t just been busy talking with signees, he has been forging relationships with new 2014 prospects.
The offer puts OU in the door, but it’s clear the Sooners have some work to do, especially since OU hasn’t been a huge factor in the past with kids from Alabama.
“I don’t know much about Oklahoma because I didn’t think they knew about me,” Sims said. “So I am starting to look into them more.”
Sims visited Auburn last weekend and said he intends to make visits to Vanderbilt, Alabama, Ole Miss and Georgia in the spring.
The OU offer caught him off guard but it’s a sign Bedenbaugh is going to try to lure in the best prospects no matter where they’re from.
“There was a letter in my locker saying that the new O-line coach wanted me to call him, and I did,” Sims said. “He told me they are going to lose a lot guys up front and they wanted big, physical guys with athleticism. So I called him, and he offered me a scholarship.”
Brown looking to head to OU
OU found success at Houston Alief Taylor for its 2013 class with three-star defensive end Ogbonnia “Obo” Okoronkwo. The Sooners are back at the school for 2014 wide receiver Keenen Brown.
Brown was offered by OU last month but has yet to see the campus. He intended to be at OU’s first junior day but a death in the family kept him from making the trip.
“My grandmother passed away that week so I couldn’t go,” Brown said. “I wanted to, but I was at a funeral that weekend.”
Brown said the only junior day he has been able to hit is at LSU. He was offered by the Tigers a week after the event.
Brown said he has liked LSU and Alabama for a long time so it was big for him to get that offer from the Tigers.
“LSU and Alabama are the two best schools to go to in terms of going to the NFL,” Brown said. “You have to look at that. That’s my dream, but I don’t know where I want to go yet.”
He said Arizona State, Missouri, TCU, Texas A&M, Baylor and OU are all among the schools talking to him the most. He hopes to be at OU’s junior day next weekend, but he has another one on his mind this weekend with Texas A&M.
Because A&M’s campus is so much closer to home than OU’s, Brown believes he’ll be able to make it to College Station on Saturday.
“That doesn’t mean that’s where I want to go, though,” Brown said. “I want to get out of Texas and get in a new environment. If I stay close to home, I don’t think I would be able to focus on my goals. Being away from everybody would let me stay focused all the time.”
Brown said OU wide receivers coach Jay Norvell is in constant communication with him. And when he’s not, Norvell lets Obo do the talking for him.
“I talk to him all the time, and he keeps telling me to join him at OU and stuff like that,” Brown said. “I don’t know. The whole process has just been so exciting so far.”
Mead content in being patient
For some Oklahoma natives, recruitment is over when the Sooners make that offer. One of the more surprising offers at OU’s first junior day was wide receiver Jeffery Mead (Tulsa, Okla./Union).
Mead didn’t commit on the spot and said he would stay patient. Four weeks later, he is staying true to his word although his relationship with OU wide receivers coach Jay Norvell is growing.
In-state receiver Jeffery Mead isn't in a rush to end his recruitment.
“I’m just not in a rush right now,” Mead said. “I want to see what else is out there so I’m 100 percent sure with my decision.”
Mead has picked up offers from Washington State and California in the last week and was able to attend Oklahoma State’s junior day two weeks ago. He also has an offer from the Cowboys.
“Nothing really stood out that much,” Mead said. “I did get to meet Coach [Mike] Gundy for the first time. He talked to me and said how much they want me at OSU.”
The Washington State offer came as a shock but not Cal because he said his coaches had told him Cal had been showing a lot of interest. And after looking over his transcripts and realizing there is nothing to worry about academically with Mead, Cal didn’t hesitate.
Right now Mead is focused on basketball. He’s not sure if he’s going to play both sports in college, saying he’ll go with whichever sport gives him the best opportunity to succeed. At 6-7 and 168 pounds, he has options at receiver or small forward.
Mead is getting attention from Tulsa for basketball and might get more if he can continue playing like he did last week. Mead scored 24 of his 27 points after halftime in an overtime victory against Stillwater (Okla.) High.
“It’s up there in terms of my best performances,” Mead said. “It’s definitely top three this season. We lost 10 seniors [from last year’s championship team], but we’re finding our groove now.”
Mead and Tulsa Union play familiar rival Jenks (Okla.) High for the right to go to the state tournament Friday night. Jenks is headlined by a familiar face, too, in Watch List safety Steven Parker.
Mead has been invited to junior days at Georgia Tech and Cal but said he is unlikely to be able to attend because of the distance.
Hamilton ready to be a Sooner
It was revealed last week that OU basketball had moved away from junior college signee Dominique Elliott (Athens, Texas/Trinity Valley CC) because of academic concerns.
OU fans don’t have to worry about fellow juco power forward signee Keshaun Hamilton (Parsons, Kan./Labette) as he said he passed all his classes last semester and is in great standing for this one.
“Knowing I’m going to OU has given me that focus in the classroom,” Hamilton said. “I have a goal. All my classes are going well.”
And his time on the court didn’t go too shabby, either, this season. Hamilton was coming off a torn ACL last season and had no idea how his knee would respond.
He admits he was a bit hesitant and wasn’t sure how playing with a knee brace would be. After winter break, he took off the brace and felt like himself again.
“I felt more comfortable, felt like myself again,” Hamilton said. “I did a much better job of finding my teammates and being a better post player this season.”
Hamilton said he hasn’t been able to see any OU games in person but has watched a lot on TV. He said he also plans to see OU at the Big 12 tournament later this month.
He has been talking to the coaching staff every week and said he has been excited to see the progress the Sooners have made in Lon Kruger’s second year. They have a clear vision of what Hamilton can bring to the table.
“They see me playing the [Romero] Osby role,” Hamilton said. “I’m someone who can post up down low but can go outside and hit the mid-range jumpers. I’ve got the ability to do that.”
Hamilton said he averaged 10 points and seven rebounds per game this season. He said he didn’t play as much as he wanted to but did everything he could when he got his opportunity.
“When I’m on the court, I give everything I have,” Hamilton said. “That’s how I have always been. I’m excited to see what this next chapter has for me at OU.”