Friday, March 8, 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:
Two prospects from a north Texas high school will be on campus this weekend. One is the son of a former Sooner.
ESPN Watch List OT is building a relationship with OU's new assistant.
A Dallas safety target talks about being a lifelong Sooners fan.
OU is hosting a defensive tackle this weekend who's looking to see what the Sooners are all about.
An ESPN Watch List safety is visiting, too, but maybe not for junior day.
How the Sooners lost out on their top defensive tackle target.
More on ESPN Watch List DE Deondre Clark's decision to drop OU ... for now.
More on OU basketball target Frank Booker and what the coaches are telling him.
Read the Sooner Intel after the jump.
OU will have Allen (Texas) High flavor this weekend
OU’s second junior day doesn’t have the quantity of the first one but that doesn’t mean it’s not providing the quality.
Two prospects to be on the lookout for are Allen (Texas) High teammates linebacker Tay Evans and safety Christian Sam. Evans is the son of former OU basketball player Bobby Evans and Sam already has an offer from the Sooners.
“I’ve never been on the campus before,” Evans said. “A month or two ago, I got a visit from Coach [Tim] Kish and that’s how things got started.”
Tay Evans has never seen OU's campus but has heard about it from his father.
Evans hasn’t seen the campus but he definitely knows about OU. He said growing up all the football his father would watch were OU and Dallas Cowboys games.
Evans doesn’t have an OU offer yet and has been to junior days at SMU and Texas. How strange was it to be at Texas with all his ties to the Sooners? Not strange for Evans but a little out of the ordinary for his father.
“He hasn’t pressured me. He has just said to do what I got to do,” Evans said. “But it was funny when we went to Texas’ junior day with my brother, my dad said both of y’all can’t go here. One of you has to go to OU.
“Texas was cool, and I liked it. But my dad was said he felt so out of place there.”
Evans has offers from SMU, Boise State, Rice, San Diego State and Nevada but admits an OU offer would change things drastically. Enough to make a commitment?
“I don’t know, I might,” said Evans if he got the offer. “I plan on doing it next season. But if I get the right offer, that could definitely change. My only expectation for this week is I want to see what OU is all about.”
And he’ll get to do that with Sam as both re-confirmed they will be in Norman on Saturday. It will be Sam’s first time on campus as well.
Sam said since he received the offer, he has done a lot of research on the Sooners and likes what he sees.
“I had a clue the offer might be coming,” Sam said. “I’ve watched a lot of games on TV in the past, and I like what they have with their academic programs.”
Sam said he doesn’t have a set list of favorites, but the schools that stand out right now are Texas Tech, Ole Miss and the Sooners. He is being recruited by OU assistants Tim Kish and Josh Heupel.
Sam knows what he’s looking for this weekend.
“The No. 1 thing with me is atmosphere,” Sam said. “I want to feel good, comfortable being there. Then I want to see how the coaching staff and players interact with each other.”
He said he has not timetable on when a potential decision might happen.
Barrett ready to get to know Bedenbaugh
When OU fired former offensive line coach James Patton a few weeks ago, it didn’t faze ESPN Watch List offensive tackle Ty Barrett (Dallas/Skyline).
He tweeted later that night it was OK because the Sooners still had offensive tackles coach Bruce Kittle. The very next day Kittle was let go and Barrett admitted he was a little worried.
But last week put those worries to rest as he spoke with new offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh for the first time. Well, not the first time, but the first time with Bedenbaugh representing the Sooners and not West Virginia.
“It was very refreshing to talk with him,” Barrett said. “Happy to finally get on the phone with him. I know he had been hired for like a week, and I hadn’t talked to him. Coach Bedenbaugh actually gave me my first scholarship offer to West Virginia.”
The talk with Bedenbaugh erased any doubts he might have, but it was his mother who initially calmed him down when he found out Patton and Kittle were gone.
“I was like 'Both of them are gone? What am I going to do?' ” Barrett said. “My mom was like 'Coach [Bob] Stoops has connections everywhere. He’s going to find people.'
“She was right. I trust Coach Stoops to get things done. He’s a straight-forward guy and [is] going to get the best people he can.”
Barrett said he in constant communication with Bedenbaugh through either the phone or social media and OU has not hurt itself one bit in the race.
Neither has Texas, said Barrett. He attended Texas’ junior day a week after OU and left without an offer to the surprise of some.
But Barrett said it doesn’t mean too much right now although things can change.
“It’s a business, you know,” Barrett said. “I still like Texas, but I’m not going to chase them. I want to give every school a chance, and I know I have a lot of options.”
Barrett said he is considering a second trip to OU this weekend. He went to OU’s first junior day, which is where he received an offer.
It was Kittle, however, who he talked to the majority of the time. He has enjoyed talking to Bedenbaugh but said meeting him in person might be enough incentive for him to make another trip to Norman.
Regardless, things are not slowing down for Barrett. He said coaches from Ohio State, Oregon and Arkansas are starting to talk to him.
With so many offers and so many schools entering the picture, Barrett said he has no favorites and can't even imagine the thought of making a decision.
Larue hoping for OU offer
Dallas Bishop Dunne athlete Ronnie Larue knows how strange it sounds saying he grew up a diehard OU fan in Texas, but he doesn’t care.
It’s the truth. Ever since Adrian Peterson put on the No. 28 jersey, Larue has been all about the Sooners. And he still is.
Courtesy LaRue Family
Class of 2014 athlete Ronnie Larue doesn't have any offers yet.
But that didn’t mean OU had taken a big interest in him. Somebody had to initiate that process and that was OU safety commit Vontre McQuinnie (Lancaster, Texas/Lancaster).
When McQuinnie committed to the Sooners, he told defensive backs coach Mike Stoops about Larue and said he would be a quality addition to OU, too. Everything has taken off for Larue and OU since that point.
“That means a lot to me,” Larue said. “It means he believes I can play with the best, and it shows just how good of a friend he really is.”
Larue is one of two Dallas Bishop Dunne players confirmed for junior day, joining offensive tackle offer Jovan Pruitt.
Pruitt is starting to roll in offers but that time still has not come for Larue.
“I’m using it as motivation,” Larue said. “It’s making me work harder. I see other people getting offers, and I know I can play with them. It’s just making me better.”
Larue said Texas Tech, OU, SMU, Baylor, Oklahoma State and UCLA are the schools talking to him the most. He said he has talked to Mike Stoops three times now and is excited about getting to meet him this weekend.
It will be Larue’s second trip to campus as he was there once for a National Underclassmen Combine event where OU coaches are not allowed to interact with the participants.
He said most schools see him at strong safety. But with OU it might be different because McQuinnie is also at strong safety. That’s part of what he is hoping to find out this weekend.
“I want to see what it’s like and what they have to offer,” Larue said. “If I got an offer, that would really change everything. It would relieve a lot of stress knowing I have a place. I’ve been working at cornerback, free safety and strong safety. They just have to see my skill set.”
He has attended junior days at Baylor and SMU, and the prevailing thought has been coaches need to see what he looks like in pads before making an offer.
Larue is hesitant to confirm any spring practice visits because he said he wants to make see if any offers come his way and see which schools are the most interested.
Montgomery doing work on Lealaimatafao
OU has had its eyes set on defensive tackle Trey Lealaimatafao (San Antonio/Warren) for a while. But without a defensive line coach, nothing could really be done.
The minute Jerry Montgomery was hired as OU’s defensive line coach, his instructions were simple. OU assistant coach Bobby Jack Wright told Lealaimatafao to call Montgomery as soon as he could and just like that, he had another offer.
“I’m talking to him like once a week at this point,” Lealaimatafao said. “I’m excited to see the campus and watch them practice and see first-hand how they work.”
He picked up an offer from Oklahoma State earlier this week and said OU, Baylor and Ole Miss are the three schools talking to him the most.
He went to LSU’s junior day but didn’t go him with an offer. But Lealaimatafao did say he was optimistic after talking with LSU coach Les Miles.
The last couple of weeks have seen top Texas high school defensive tackles commit with Zaycoven Henderson (Longview, Texas/Longview) going to TCU and DeShawn Washington (Nederland, Texas/Nederland) pledging to Texas A&M, but there’s no added pressure to commit.
“I’m not really concerned about it,” Lealaimatafao said. “I don’t know about committing. I’m making a decision for myself, not for others.”
Listed at 6-foot-1, he said his doctor said he has another growth spurt to hit and should grow at least a couple of more inches.
He said this junior day is all about interacting with the coaches.
“The team chemistry has to be there, and you have to have a good relationship with the coaches,” Lealaimatafao said. “I want to be a coach after I graduate so I want to get to know the coaches better and see what options there are for me with being a coach.”
Adams set to return to OU
OU’s second junior day has suffered from some things the Sooners couldn’t control. Saturday is SAT testing so some recruits have said they’re missing the event in order to take the test.
ESPN Watch List safety Jamal Adams will visit OU this weekend.
Another problem has been some fatigue with too many junior days in such a short period of time that some recruits want to take it easy and relax.
But OU got a break with Watch List safety Jamal Adams (Lewisville, Texas/Hebron). Adams hasn’t been able to attend many junior days because of track, but the Sooners got a gift this weekend.
Adams’ track meet is Thursday, which will allow him to return to OU this weekend. If not for junior day, then at least for an unofficial visit Sunday, said George Adams.
“We’re definitely going to make it there,” George Adams said. “That’s not a tough drive at all so we’ll be there.”
The family did the same thing last weekend at Texas, visiting the Longhorns for a spring practice. George Adams said both the Longhorns and Sooners are in Jamal’s top seven. Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Florida, Texas Tech and TCU round out that list with no set order among the seven schools.
Though a lot of Texas high school defensive backs are committing recently, George Adams said there is no rush to commit.
“We’re going to take our time,” George Adams said. “Right now we’ve been looking at the Army Bowl in San Antonio as when we want to do it, but it could happen sooner.
“All I know is that when he commits, that’s it. There won’t be committing, decommitting, anything like that. He’ll be staying where he’s at so we’ll need to make 100 percent sure he’s set. This is his decision."
OU back in the mix for Newell
The Sooners were among the first schools to really take notice of defensive lineman Peyton Newell (Hiawatha, Kan./Hiawatha). But OU wasn’t even among his first 20 offers.
OU did enter the Newell race in the last couple of weeks, and there is a strong chance he will try to visit OU either for junior day or for spring practice.
“We went to OU for a one-day camp going into his sophomore year,” said Frank Newell, Peyton’s father. “We worked with Coach Kittle the whole time, but Coach Bobby Jack Wright has stepped it up here recently.”
Newell was originally being looked at as either an outside linebacker or defensive end, but he has grown so much and put on so much weight that his father said nose tackle is more than likely going to end up being his position.
“He has put on 20 to 30 pounds in the last year,” Frank Newell said. “He’s that strong and that quick so let’s move him down was the logic. It was actually at a Nike camp last year where he was first moved down in the line.”
One thing that stands out to the Newell family is the vibe from the players and coaches. It was actually something Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy brought up to Frank Newell.
“What he told me if that if his players do not have a smile on their face, then there’s a problem,” Frank Newell said. “He said the kids have to enjoy being there.”
With that said, how has the vibe been when the Newell family has seen the Sooners?
“It has been great,” Newell said. “A lot of smiles, players jumping and joking around. You can tell they really like being around each other.”
Frank Newell said the goal is to get to a top 10 for Peyton early in the summer and then move on from there.
Coaching change hurt OU with Henderson
Defensive tackle Zaycoven Henderson committed to TCU at its junior day.
Defensive tackle Zaycoven Henderson’s first offer came from OU, and he had the Sooners as his favorite school until the coaching change.
In one fell swoop, OU went from being No. 1 to No. 3. When Jackie Shipp was fired from OU, it put the Horned Frogs in a good position to make their move.
Henderson said his top three schools were TCU, Texas Tech and OU. Instead of waiting, Henderson was looking to end the process as soon as possible.
“I just got tired of all these people calling me so I wanted to get it over with,” Henderson said. “I felt very comfortable at TCU and know it will be a great place for me.”
Henderson was the only defensive tackle at OU’s first junior day, and the Sooners appeared to be in great position. Instead, Jerry Montgomery will have to find another defensive tackle to be his first pledge as an OU coach.
In-state DE Clark shuts door on OU for now
Continuing with the Shipp trend is the saga of Watch List defensive end Deondre Clark (Oklahoma City/Douglass).
Clark confirmed last weekend OU is currently not in his top five, naming Texas A&M, USC, Ole Miss, Georgia and LSU as his five at the moment.
He said the Sooners were in his top five until Shipp was let go. It has been clear in dealing with the Clark family how much the coach-player relationship is valued.
ESPN 100 point guard Stevie Clark and his mother, Dorshell, never felt 100 percent comfortable with OU coach Lon Kruger. They did with Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford and Stevie signed with the Cowboys.
Even in the summer it became apparent the only OU coach they were comfortable with was Jackie Shipp. The day Shipp was fired, Dorshell Clark voiced her concerns about that.
And it turns out that was a pretty big deal. The question SoonerNation posed to Deondre on Saturday night was is there anything OU can do to get back in the race?
“I’ll just have to see,” Deondre Clark said. “Right now I don’t want to talk to them because I don’t have any idea what the new coach is going to be like.”
Of course what several SoonerNation readers have pointed out is how will Deondre know what Montgomery is like if he never talks to him or answers his calls?
It’s clear right now OU is on the outside looking in for Deondre, but a lot can change. One big thing to watch for is location. I’ve always felt that Deondre Clark is going to go to college close to home. What will be the Clarks' definition of close to home?
And with Clark picking the Alabama offer he so desperately craved earlier this week, things are constantly changing in his recruitment.
Blackmar starting over with the Sooners
OU made several coaching changes in the last month. The Sooners have repaired the connection with some recruits. But so far OU has not gotten in contact with Houston Clear Lake offensive tackle Blake Blackmar.
Blackmar said he heard from Kittle the day before Kittle was fired from the Sooners but has yet to hear from Bill Bedenbaugh.
“I like everything I’ve seen from OU. I’ve been there a lot, but I do need to hear from the new guy before I can say they’re one of my favorites,” Blackmar said.
Blackmar wouldn’t go as far to say he’s moved on from OU, but the Sooners have gone from being No. 1 in his book to OU having work to do after he received offers from Baylor and Kansas State.
All Denton (Texas) Ryan defensive end Sekou Clark can do at this point is continue to work hard. Despite numerous schools showing considerable interest, he still has received his first offer.
Clark has been a frequent visitor to OU in the last two years but said communication has dropped off between he and the Sooners. He hasn’t been invited to either of OU’s junior days.
He can’t worry about that, though. He has been to junior days at Kansas State and LSU and was invited to junior days at Ole Miss and Georgia Tech.
“What most coaches are saying is they want to look at me in the spring and evaluate me and see where I’m at,” Clark said. “I can’t cry about it. All I can do is try to get better.”
Clark said he likes Texas A&M, LSU, Florida State and Notre Dame a lot. The Irish have been in constant contact with him.
Clark said he is 6-foot-5 with his shoes on and 240 pounds, having put on almost 30 pounds since the beginning of his junior season.
“I’m trying to add more intensity to my game,” Clark said. “I’m eating and eating and eating some more. I don’t think it has slowed me down, but I do think I’m a lot stronger and tough than I was before.”
Booker knows where he fits in with Sooners
OU is still working on filling out its 2013 basketball class, and it’s no secret three-star shooting guard Frank Booker (Augusta, Ga./Westside) is the leader in the clubhouse.
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It culminated last weekend with Booker making OU his first official visit. With Booker it’s simple. OU needs a shooter, scorer. He fits that mold perfectly.
“I asked the coaches how I would fit in, and they said they liked the way I scored the ball,” Booker said. “We watched a lot of film and I watched practice and pregame and felt real at home.
“It helps that so many young guys are getting a chance. I know they have Steven Pledger, who is a senior and a shooter. He’s leaving. I can step in and do what he has done.”
Booker was hosted by power forward Ryan Spangler, who of course sitting out this season after transferring from Gonzaga. On the surface, it didn’t make much sense. But Booker said he couldn’t have asked for a better host.
“He is one of the coolest people I’ve ever met,” Booker said. “He’s a workhorse that does every little thing it takes to win. I’m like that. All I want is the W [win]. I’ll do whatever it takes.”
And Booker explained exactly how he has matured as a player.
“In ninth grade, I was a pure spot-up shooter,” Booker said. “In 10th and 11th grade, I developed a lot of moves and getting to the basket more. This year was just adding to that. I know I can score, but I have to be more than that to succeed.”
Harris playing the field
It has been known for a while that OU is very interested in three-star guard Omega Harris (Oklahoma City/Putnam City West).
OU assistant coaches spent the most time with the 2014 prospect at the summer camp, and he has been a frequent visitor to Lloyd Noble Center the last two seasons.
Harris confirmed he has offers from OU, Tulsa, Fresno State and Wichita State with interest from Oklahoma State, Minnesota, Miami (Fla.) and Georgia.
“I’m going to make my decision in the summer. That’s what I’m looking to do,” Harris said. “I don’t have any favorites. I’m just focusing on my season.”
That focus was never more on display last weekend when he hit 12 3-pointers in two games in helping lead Oklahoma City Putnam City West back to the state tournament.
Harris had an uneven junior season for the most part, but he showed exactly why he is so coveted with his two best performances of the season last weekend. OU coach Lon Kruger happened to be in attendance for his 31-point outing Friday.
“Honestly, I had no idea he was there,” Harris said. “I didn’t know who was in the stands. I just knew it was for the right to play state. People have been doubting me and talking about me, and I wanted to send a message.”
Harris has made unofficial visits to OU, Oklahoma State and Wichita State this season but said besides going to the games, he hasn’t really watched much college basketball. He did say he has liked what he has seen from the Sooners under Kruger.