Friday, March 29, 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:
Could the Sooners add a top receiver at their spring game?
A Texas wideout is hoping to visit Oklahoma soon.
Texas athlete is focused on a handful of schools.
Will an in-state linebacker make another visit to OU?
A Sooners signee is "like a big brother" to a 2014 target.
What's next for ESPN Watch List safety Steven Parker?
A Florida wideout has a connection to a new OU assistant coach.
Read the Sooner Intel after the jump.
Todd high on Sooners
It’s less than 25 miles from USC to La Mirada, Calif., but right now Norman, Okla., feels closer to home than USC for ESPN Watch List wide receiver Dallis Todd (La Mirada, Calif./La Mirada).
Could Oklahoma add ESPN Watch List wideout Dallis Todd next month?
Todd, who is 6-foot-5 and 210 pounds, is excited about his unofficial visit to OU coming up for the spring game. So excited that it might very well be his last visit of the spring.
“If everything goes good and goes like I hope it will, I might end up committing there,” Todd said. “If not, I’ll wait it out and take my visits and see what happens.”
Todd has offers from all over the country, but the OU interest didn’t pick up until last week when he talked to first-year tight ends coach Jay Boulware. Todd said he can normally talk to a coach for a good 25 minutes. His first talk with Boulware was for 75 minutes.
“I just felt something good about him,” Todd said. “He expressed the high interest they have in me, and he said he would always be there for me.”
Todd is a southern California kid, but he has numerous ties to the Oklahoma City area. The aunts and uncles on his mom’s side of the family all live in Oklahoma City. He sees them all the time and said being able to be so far away from home but also so close to family is going to play a big role in his recruitment.
Todd said he grew up liking the Sooners and admired the way former OU receiver Kenny Stills played. With Stills being a Cali kid and a receiver, it has given Todd a solid impression of what to expect at OU.
“It does play a big role because I know I’ll get a chance if I decide to go out there,” Todd said. “With OU it doesn’t matter where you’re from. You’re going to play.”
Todd said he considers himself still 100 percent open to all his offers. He is scheduled to visit Ohio State next weekend but might cancel that trip so that he can definitely visit OU in two weeks. And again he reiterated his thoughts that there might not be a need for any official visits after his OU trip.
He did say, however, that even if he committed early, he would not shut down his recruitment and would continue to listen to other schools.
Even though it’s Boulware who is doing the recruitment, Todd said there has been no mention of a move to tight end. He is being recruited as a receiver, but Boulware has ties to the California area which made it a more natural fit.
Todd said the craziness has died down in the last month. There was a point where he was talking to a different coach from a different school every single day. He visited USC and said he liked it, but OU is next on his agenda.
Todd has tremendous size for his position, but he said that’s not what stands out the most in his game.
“I think my route-running ability is my biggest strength,” Todd said. “I run crisp routes, and I’m able to stretch the field. I’m still working on everything because you can always improve. I’m staying hungry.”
Clemson, Florida, Florida State and Washington are among his other offers and among some of the schools that stay in contact with him.
Brown hoping to see OU
Wide receiver Keenen Brown (Houston/Alief Taylor) has a lot of reasons to commit to LSU. But when he talks about what school he really wants to visit, OU was the first school to come out of his mouth.
Brown attended LSU’s recent junior day and picked up an offer. He said he would love to make a return trip to Baton Rouge, La., but right now he has Norman on his brain.
“I’m definitely going to try to come to the spring game,” Brown said. “I want to visit LSU again, but I haven’t seen OU yet so I really want to make it out there.”
The Tigers feel like a natural fit. It’s much closer to home. His father likes the school and doesn’t miss a game. And his mother went to LSU. Safe to say the Tiger colors run deep in the Brown household but that’s not everything to Brown.
“I’m not going to say it doesn’t factor in a little bit because it does,” Brown said. “But at the end of the day, it’s my choice. I’m going to go where I feel most comfortable.”
And that could be OU as Brown said he really likes OU’s style of offense. Other schools besides the Sooners and Tigers on Brown’s current list are West Virginia, Missouri and Michigan State.
The problem for Brown has been trying to find the time to see the schools. Football season took him straight to basketball season. Basketball season has taken him straight to track season. No time to breathe and no time to see campuses.
Because of that, Brown said he cannot rush his decision because he doesn’t know what else is out there.
“Right now I would say probably December as when I’m going to make my choice, but I know a lot can change,” Brown said.
Brown said he is being tugged back and forth by a couple of his good friends. Houston Alief Taylor defensive end Ogbonnia Okoronkwo has signed with OU, while Watch List cornerback Chris Hardeman has committed to LSU.
OU realizes it. Texas A&M realizes it. And most importantly, Hansen knows that this is the way it has to be for him.
QB Justice Hansen will decide between Oklahoma and Texas A&M soon.
Following a great visit with the Aggies last week, Hansen returned to OU on Wednesday to experience his first OU practice.
The plan was to take his OU visit as soon as possible after the A&M visit. The OU coaches suggested Wednesday so even though Hansen was sick, he wasn’t about to cancel the trip.
“The practice went sort of how I thought it would go,” Hansen said. “It was a good time, and it was good to experience the campus. When you go for games, you’re just looking at the stadium and don’t even think about the campus.”
Hansen said he noticed a lot of differences in the way Texas A&M quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital runs things compared to the way OU quarterbacks coach Josh Heupel conducts practice.
“Coach Heupel gets on you more,” Hansen said. “He’s not afraid to tell you what’s going on. A lot of OU’s stuff has to do with skill and the physical stuff, but a lot of it is about making the right reads.”
At this point, Hansen has seen everything he needs to see from both schools. He admitted it’s all on him now, all about making the choice. So any idea when he'll be ready to decide?
“Soon,” Hansen said. “I wouldn’t say in the next day or two or anything like that but soon. For some, I think they think I mean a matter of hours. For others, they’re thinking weeks. I’m going to do it when I feel I’m ready.”
It’s possible Hansen will have his choice by next weekend when he participates in the Elite 11 quarterback regional camp in Dallas. But it’s more likely Hansen will have his choice by April 13, which coincidentally is the spring game for both the Sooners and Aggies. Hansen said Thursday night he’s not sure which game he will attend.
Akem returning to OU?
There is no question the Sooners have put themselves in the mix for Watch List outside linebacker Gyasi Akem (Broken Arrow, Okla./Broken Arrow). The junior day visit three weeks ago couldn’t have gone better.
But he’s not an OU lean. He’s not an Oklahoma State lean. Frankly, Akem is sick of being told by everyone else where he’s going to go. Because he doesn’t know.
“I wish I could say I’ve narrowed things down, but I really haven’t,” Akem said. “A lot of things keep happening and a lot of people keep saying I’m going to Oklahoma State. I don’t know where I’m going.”
The only thing Akem does know is he wants to visit Baylor sometime soon. The Bears have been one of the schools recruiting him the most, and he wants to give them a chance.
Other than the Baylor visit, Akem said he has no definite plans about where he’s going to be next. He said he could see himself attending the spring games at OU and OSU, but he’s not 100 percent sure that will be the case.
Akem and his mother had outlined a plan of how they wanted to attack his recruitment. With so many schools entering the mix, Akem is doing his best to stick with it.
“We’re still thinking,” Akem said. “It’s great to have all these offers. I’m going to make a decision eventually, but I’m tired of people telling me where I’m going.”
The key from OU’s perspective was to start building that relationship. Akem said that has happened with linebackers coach Tim Kish. Since junior day, the two have been talking more. The only time they didn’t was last week where Kish told Akem to enjoy his spring break, and they would talk again after the break.
Cavil connection strong with Daniels
Tom Hauck for ESPN
Class of 2014 receiver Byron Daniels has the Sooners in his top three.
Another receiver with whom OU coach Jay Norvell has put in some quality work is San Antonio Madison’s Byron Daniels. OU was the first school to offer him late last month and has stayed in touch.
One big connection the Sooners will have that no other school will is former teammate Dannon Cavil. The ESPN 300 receiver signed with OU and enrolled early in January. The friendship runs deep for Daniels and Cavil.
“He’s like a big brother to me,” Daniels said. “I think it will help for OU because we were so tight and he helped me out so much on and off the field.”
Daniels said he hasn’t been able to talk with Cavil in a while, but he would like to reconnect with his former teammate at OU’s spring game in two weeks.
Daniels’ short list is OU, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech. Right now it’s clear the Red Raiders are in the lead. But a positive visit to OU can certainly change that. As is said so many times, it’s going to be about getting Daniels on campus for OU to make a big move.
OU’s turn with Parker?
OU fans can breathe a sigh of relief as Watch List safety Steven Parker (Jenks, Okla./Jenks) completed his trips to Texas and Texas A&M without committing to either school last week.
It was a necessary evil for OU as it was important for Parker to experience other campuses that aren’t in Oklahoma. Instead of really talking about A&M or Texas, it was all about that experience for Parker that stood out most.
“There’s more out there than Oklahoma,” Parker said. “It opened my eyes and let me know there are other opportunities for me. It was a great week.”
Each visit brought along something Parker liked. At A&M, it was head coach Kevin Sumlin assuring him as long as Parker is interested, the Aggies are interested. For Texas, Parker developed a quick rapport with defensive backs coach Duane Akina. He had never met Akina before last week, but he’s eager to build that relationship.
“He’s crazy in a good way,” Parker said. “He’s like the energy giver of the team. He’s the first person there shaking hands with everybody. And he kept calling it 'DBU' [Defensive Back University] because of all the DBs they’ve sent to the league.”
Parker also got to talk to former Texas star cornerback Aaron Ross for just a little bit. Parker said it was cool to see Ross and quarterback Vince Young come back to campus when they don’t have to anymore.
So now it might be time for OU and Oklahoma State to take their shot once again. Parker said he will most likely see an OU spring practice or be at the game. And again, the Jenks connection is so strong at OU with redshirt running back Alex Ross and wide receiver signee Jordan Smallwood.
But this should let OU defensive backs coach Mike Stoops know there is a lot of competition for Parker so it will be important to keep building that connection moving forward.
Shorter exploring options
It’s a good problem to have, but athlete Kevin Shorter (Newton, Texas/Newton) is ready for the drama to end. He said his phone has been ringing nonstop for the last couple of months.
He would like to make a decision, but he’s not near that point where he can. His most recent visit was to LSU where he left with an offer from the Tigers after talking to LSU coach Les Miles.
Shorter has already visited Texas A&M and said he would like to make another visit to College Station. The problem is it’s the same weekend as his birthday, and he doesn’t know what has been planned.
Shorter has some favorites in Arkansas, A&M and LSU, but there are schools he hasn’t seen yet that he really said he must before he can make a decision. Florida, Florida State, UCLA and OU make up that list for now.
“I talked to OU two weeks ago,” Shorter said. “I talked with Coach [Cale] Gundy on Twitter. I don’t know when I can make it there, but I want to.”
Shorter has been recruited as a safety by some schools and a running back by others. When OU first approached him early last month, the Sooners saw him at running back.
Position won’t be too much of a factor in his decision but what will be is his major. Shorter wants to major in kinesiology and said finding the best kinesiology program to go with football is going to be a huge factor.
“I’ve always been interested in it,” Shorter said. “I still need to do a lot of research and see what’s out there.
“I’m going to go where I feel like I’m at home. I got to know I fit in with the program and the coaches and players. And if they have a good kinesiology department, that’s going to mean a lot.”
Scott has connection to Montgomery
It’s not going to be easy to lure Watch List receiver Artavis Scott (Tarpon Springs, Fla./East Lake) away from the Sunshine State, but OU is hoping a couple of things might give him reason to look elsewhere.
To start just about every school sees Scott as a wide receiver. But when he was approached by the Sooners, the prevailing thought was cornerback.
Does he have a problem with that?
“Not at all,” Scott said. “It doesn’t really matter to me when it comes to offense or defense. I just want to play.”
The only preference Scott does have is he wants to play special teams and be a kick returner. He said when he’s in the open field, that’s when he’s the most dangerous.
If position cannot get OU a look, then maybe a coach can. Scott developed a great relationship with first-year defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery when he was at Michigan. All that has simply done is carried over to the Sooners.
“It meant a lot to me to have him tell me he was leaving Michigan for Oklahoma, to hear it straight from him,” Scott said. “We talk every couple of weeks and just catch up on how everything is going. I feel like the relationship is only getting stronger.”
It’s going to have to be strong with all the schools pursuing Scott. Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Clemson and Oregon are among his numerous offers.
Scott said he wouldn’t mind playing away from home, but he said he believes his mother would love for him to play closer to home.
At 5-foot-11 and 177 pounds, Scott has the size to play either cornerback or be a slot receiver. But it’s way too early to say OU is squarely in the mix or that he has a list of favorites.
Vaughns hopeful of OU visit
Schools are already flocking to Mesquite (Texas) Poteet to see Class of 2015 linebacker Malik Jefferson. With offers from OU and Texas already, it’s going to be a long, eventful process for him.
But there’s another reason to stop by the school in athlete Verkedric Vaughns. Coming off a sensational outing at the Rivals camp in Dallas, things are getting a lot more interesting for Vaughns.
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“There are a lot of schools starting to show me a lot more attention,” Vaughns said. “Baylor, Texas Tech, SMU, it was great exposure.”
The camp wasn’t just about exposure, but Vaughns wanted to be able to get some up-to-date film out there, and he wanted to prove to himself and to other that he deserves to be up there with other top-ranked prospects. He said he feels he did that.
He had a Northwestern offer before last week and picked up an offer from Northern Illinois. With SMU being so close, Vaughns said he definitely hopes to see the campus once again.
But another campus he really wants to see is OU. He hasn’t been in contact with Cale Gundy recently, but the mail hasn’t stopped coming in.
“They’re the school I get the most mail from right now, but I haven’t talked to them in a while,” Vaughns said. “It’s not that far, and I would love to see OU, but we haven’t communicated anything about that.”
Vaughns said he is being recruited as a cornerback and a kick returner. West Virginia has entered the mix, too, but Northwestern is trying hard to land a top Texas prospect.
“I talk to them about once a week,” Vaughns said. “They were there before everybody else. I can’t take an unofficial, but I’m definitely going on an official visit there.”