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Friday, April 5, 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:

Read the Sooner Intel after the jump.

Sam returning to OU

There was no hesitation in linebacker/safety Christian Sam’s voice when discussing his spring football plans. The Allen (Texas) High star knows exactly what he wants to do.

“I’m planning on going to OU’s spring game,” Sam said. “And Arkansas, I might go there, too. But I know I want to be at OU.”

Max Olson/ESPN
Class of 2014 defender Christian Sam is visiting the Sooners and Arkansas soon.

That’s good news for Sooners fans because Sam has already seen the OU campus this spring. Sam attended last month’s junior day with teammate Tay Evans. He said he had a great time but wants to experience the energy again.

A big reason for Sam’s willingness to return to Norman, Okla., is linebackers coach Tim Kish. Sam said he developed a solid rapport with Kish during junior day. It hasn’t slowed down since.

“I talk to him on an everyday basis right now,” Sam said. “I love the way Kish is coaching, and he has me really excited about things.”

Recruited as a linebacker by some schools and strong safety by others, Sam said he doesn’t have any preference about which position he wants to play.

“They’re talking about a linebacker-type, but it doesn’t really matter to me,” Sam said. “Wherever I play, I’m going to use my speed and quickness to my advantage.”

Along with OU, Sam said Ole Miss, Texas Tech, Baylor and Arizona State are among the other schools talking to him the most.

All signs point toward OU with a great shot of landing his commitment. But Sam has said he hasn’t put too much thought into it yet.

“I haven’t really thought about it, to be honest,” Sam said. “If it feels right, then I will.”

Sam said before he would never commit on the spot because he would need to talk it over with his family and coaches. But he did already visit OU once and that might give the Sooners enough familiarity to be able to have the slight edge.

There has been a lot of talk of Sam and Evans being a packaged deal. Sam admits it would be great if that was the case, but he said it’s not a deal-breaker by any means.

OU also has the edge on the Razorbacks with timing. OU’s spring game is next weekend, while Arkansas’ is April 20.

Beck surprised by OU interest

When Tampa (Fla.) Plant linebacker Andrew Beck gets an out-of-state offer, he normally has some sort of connection to a coach or to the program. But Beck has zero connections to Oklahoma and zero with the Sooners coaching staff so it came as a bit of a shock when he received an OU offer last week.

“I had talked to them a couple of times before, but we had never talked about an offer or anything like that,” Beck said. “It’s great to get the offer because it was so unexpected.”

Beck said he has been recruited by linebackers coach Tim Kish. Though they haven’t built a long relationship, it has been a good one so far.

“He seems like a great guy,” Beck said. “You can tell he really knows what he’s doing. I wouldn’t mind him coaching me at the next level.”

But there are suitors for Beck. He lived in Texas during his middle school years, and the Longhorns offered him two weeks ago. He visited Florida this week and is visiting Stanford this weekend.

And he already has a July 14 target decision date. His father leaves July 15 for military obligations, and Beck said he wants to have it locked in before his father departs.

“It gives me some direction by having a set date,” Beck said. “It helps me get it out of the way so I can focus on my senior season.”

That’s less than four months away and Beck admits he hasn’t narrowed it down. He also has offers from Miami (Fla.), Florida State and Kentucky.

OU is in the mix, too. Beck said he wants to go through spring football first, but he said he intends to visit OU some time after May 23.

And what Beck believes he could bring to the Sooners is some physicality.

“I’ve been told I would be a force in the middle,” Beck said. “I like to hit people and hit people hard. I can be that dominant force inside.”

Longview (Texas) High a hot spot for Sooners

Make no mistake about it, the OU coaches have missed out on some top Texas high school prospects in the last couple of years. This spring has seen a renewed focus in Texas, especially in the eastern part of the state.

Courtesy of Longview HS
Class of 2014 receiver Dorian Leonard picked up a Texas offer last weekend.

It started the weekend before signing day when wide receivers coach Jay Norvell made a trip to Longview, Texas, and spotted some under-the-radar prospects in Longview defensive tackle Zaycoven Henderson and wide receiver Dorian Leonard.

Henderson has committed to TCU, but Leonard is definitely still in play.

“His size and physicality stand out,” said Longview coach John King about Leonard. “He’s a good route-runner with good hands who is willing to block. He could play tight end for a lot of schools.”

King said Norvell was among the first coaches to make the trip to Longview but that it has been a list of who’s who in college football since then.

A lot of people were surprised when Henderson committed to the Horned Frogs, and you can add King in that category. But after talking to Henderson following the commitment, King said it wasn’t as rash a decision as many think.

“The timing caught me off guard,” King said. “He had only been to a couple of junior days and hadn’t really had a chance to go through the process. But he came back and we sat down and talked about it. He gave some really good reasons that make me think it wasn’t an irrational or impulsive move.

“The interest hasn’t slowed down, but Zaycoven has remained the same. He keeps saying he’s going to stay with his boys.”

Another prospect to look out for is free safety Stephan Maxey, who was also at OU’s junior day with Henderson and Leonard. King said Maxey is somebody whose interest should pick up in the spring but also noted Maxey has some academic work to do as well.

As for Leonard, King said he’s acting merely as a consultant for his receiver. And though schools like Florida State, Texas and Texas Tech have also joined the hunt for Leonard, he’s simply taking it all in stride.

“He’s just Dorian,” King said. “You would never know he’s such a big recruit. He’s the same happy-go-lucky Dorian he has always been. We haven’t talked much recruiting. If he wants to, we can. But that hasn’t been his focus right now.”

Mead’s stock continues to soar

It was a bit of a surprise to SoonerNation when Tulsa (Okla.) Union wide receiver Jeffery Mead picked up an OU offer in February. But as one top school after another joins the race, it’s proving Norvell isn’t the only coach who see the potential in the long and rangy Mead.

Tuesday was a huge day for Mead as he picked up offers from LSU, Texas A&M and Georgia Tech. Or maybe his LSU offer was confirmed is a better way of saying it.

“I guess the LSU offer was already out there, but I didn’t know about it,” Mead said. “I called them around 11 a.m. and talked to Coach Les Miles for about 30-40 minutes. He sounded like a good guy, and I definitely want to take a visit.”

Later that day Mead got a text from the Aggies asking him to call and that A&M was offering him, too.

“That was the first phone call I’ve had with them,” Mead said. “We’ve been exchanging messages but that was the first time I had talked with them.”

And later in the night Georgia Tech made it official. The Yellow Jackets have been pursuing Mead for a long time so this offer was no shock.

But Mead has some things to think about. Not only is he proficient in football and basketball, but he’s solid in baseball. He wasn’t talking about a football/basketball combo with Miles. Instead, they were discussing playing football and baseball for the Tigers.

“I just don’t know right now,” Mead said. “I have a lot I need to figure out.”

Mead has remained in contact with OU but said he’s not sure about attending OU’s spring game next weekend.

“I don’t know,” Mead said. “I’ve already been there once. There are a lot of schools that want me to show up April 13 for a spring game. I’m not sure yet.”

Another Darlington to OU?

OU has done well with one Darlington, so why not another? There is a lot of speculation about Josh Heupel’s second choice at quarterback behind ESPN Watch List and Under Armour All-American quarterback Justice Hansen (Edmond, Okla./Santa Fe).

If Hansen picks Texas A&M instead of OU in the near future, is it possible Zack Darlington (Apopka, Fla./Apopka) becomes a name to remember? It’s possible but there hasn’t been any contact yet.

Tom Hauck for Student Sports
Class of 2014 signal-caller Zack Darlington hasn't heard much from the Sooners.

“It would be great to hear from a school like OU,” Darlington said. “That would definitely give me something to think about.”

Darlington, who is 6-foot-1, 198 pounds and is labeled as a dual-threat quarterback, has some pretty good offers already with Virginia Tech, Nebraska and Ole Miss among them. And it wouldn’t hurt OU’s chances as his older brother is sophomore offensive lineman Ty Darlington.

Zack was able to spend some time with his brother during spring break. So far so good for OU and Ty Darlington.

“He loves OU, loves all of it,” Zack Darlington said. “He’s battling for a starting job, but he knows he has to work for it. I’m not worried. He’s always been a tireless worker.

“I can’t remember him going to sleep before midnight. I always remember falling asleep with the light on because he was still working on something with football or school. That’s just how he has always been.”

Zack Darlington said there is no chance he can make OU’s spring game, but he is excited to see what happens during the spring evaluation period that begins April 15.

Whatever does happen will happen pretty fast. Darlington said he’s determined to enroll early at whichever school he chooses to attend.

OU on Dixon’s wish list

Dallas Skyline safety Derrick Dixon already has one spring game circled as he said he will be at Texas Tech this weekend. He also knows where he would like to visit next.

“I’d really like to go to OU,” Dixon said. “That’s one school I haven’t been to that I would really like to see and meet the coaches.”

Dixon has offers from West Virginia and TCU, among others, but said he would like to start to develop a relationship with the Sooners.

He was originally invited to OU’s first junior day in February. He wanted to attend but was unable to and hasn’t heard a word from OU since that invitation. He’s not too worried about it at this juncture.

“I know there are a lot of schools out there, and I’m just keeping my options open right now. I’m chilling and enjoying things.”

Dixon has said in the past he wants to wait until after his senior season to make a decision. With a loaded secondary group in Texas this year, that could be dangerous. But he is staying consistent with that train of thought.

“It’s still the same. The end of my senior season,” Dixon said. “I want to find the best program for me, and I don’t care how long it takes me to find it.”

Ball working with former OU fullback

Midwest City (Okla.) Carl Albert tight end Trenton Ball knew where he stood with former tight ends coach Bruce Kittle. Days before Kittle was fired from OU, he told Ball he was No. 3 on his target board at the position.

Bob Przybylo/ESPN
Trenton Ball, a 2014 tight end, hasn't heard from new OU assistant Jay Boulware.

But Kittle’s gone and Jay Boulware is in. Two months later and Ball said he hasn’t heard one word from Boulware. There is another OU connection, though, that has come to light.

“I’ve been working out with [former OU fullback] J.D. Runnels,” Ball said. “He’s teaching me technique and getting me faster and getting me stronger.”

Ball said Runnels called him up and said he liked the potential he had and wanted to help him out. Ball said they’ve only been together less than three weeks, but he knows it’s working out.

“I already know I’m getting faster,” Ball said. “I love it.”

Ball visited Kansas State and is still hearing from Oklahoma State. He won’t be able to reconnect with the Sooners at the spring game. April 13 is the same date as ACT testing and is also the same night as prom for Midwest City Carl Albert.

Ball will be at the Nike Football Training Camp event Sunday in Allen, Texas, and said Nebraska, Memphis and Missouri are also showing interest.

Back to Norman (Okla.) North for OU?

Norman (Okla.) North is going to be a popular destination this spring for colleges with ESPN Watch List quarterback David Cornwell.

Cornwell has to throw the ball to somebody and that somebody could end up being tight end Payton Prince. Already with offers from Tulsa and Memphis, Prince said he plans to attend the spring games at OU and Tulsa.

“OU has been sending me a lot of letters, and I’m looking forward to being at the spring game,” Prince said. “I just came back from a visit to Tulsa last weekend and really like what they’re doing there.”

Prince never developed a relationship with former tight ends coach Bruce Kittle so he didn’t have to start over. He also hasn’t started to develop a bond with Jay Boulware, but he said Cale Gundy has been talking to him and wants to see him in person.

It won’t be Prince’s first time to OU, but it will be the first time he will be the focus. OU signee Jordan Evans, also from Norman North, took Prince to Bedlam last year. It was the first time the OU coaches really got to see Price's appearance.

There’s still work to do for Prince. He knows it and now he’s willing to put in the work. Prince said he measured in at 6-foot-4 and 236 pounds. The troubling part is he was also told he has 25 percent body fat.

“My coaches got me on a certain diet right now,” Prince said. “It’s a lot different. The goal is to have me at 225 by the summer. Not lose any muscle but get rid of some of the fat and be leaner.”

A lean Prince could be scary moving forward. Prince has shown glimpses in the past of being a top prospect. His issue has been consistency. This is something he is addressing with Norman North coach Wade Standley.

“He has been staying on my butt all the time now,” Prince said. “He said he knows what I can do and what my potential is. The rest is up to me.”

Prince attended Oklahoma State’s junior day and is also receiving letters from California, Nebraska and Oregon. Prince knows what he brings to the table.

“For as big as I am, I have really soft hands. I can make a lot of tough catches in traffic and am more agile than people think,” Prince said.

Montgomery putting in work with Marshall

The connections first-year defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery built at Michigan continue to carry over to OU. But now comes the hard part in trying to get Midwest prospects to make the trek to OU.

Chantel Jennings/
Defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery is trying to get 2014 DE Lawrence Marshall to visit the Sooners.

Another case of that is defensive end Lawrence Marshall (Southfield, Mich./Southfield), who was offered by the Sooners last month.

“Coach Montgomery is a good guy, a down-to-earth guy,” Marshall said. “He told me he was leaving Michigan to go to OU and that meant a lot to hear it from him.”

That hasn’t stopped Michigan’s momentum with Marshall as he has visited the Wolverines multiple times. Marshall said he has no favorites, though.

The offers keep piling up, too, with the likes Tennessee and Ole Miss coming into the mix. The one-time Ohio State commit said he made his decision too fast and now he’s ready to take it easy and let the process play out.

It’s highly unlikely the Sooners will get Marshall to campus on anything but an official visit. The Montgomery connection might be enough to keep OU in the mix until the fall.

“Everything is going good right now,” Marshall said. “I’m keeping my options open and looking to make all the visits I need to so I can make the best decision.”

Sooners enter race for Barnett

It has been well documented just how good the in-state Class of 2014 is, but what about 2015? On the surface, it doesn’t appear like it’s as deep a group. But there is definitely a star on the horizon.

Offensive tackle Jalin Barnett (Lawton, Okla./Lawton) already had offers from Texas State and Oregon State going into his unofficial visit to OU earlier this week.

Barnett now has three offers as the Sooners offered the 6-foot-4, 285-pound prospect on Thursday morning.

“This is the first college he has seen, and he loved it,” Lawton coach Randy Breeze said. “He wears a size 17 shoe so he has a lot of growing to still do.”

Breeze accompanied Barnett on his visit Tuesday. Breeze has developed a great relationship with the OU coaches because of prospects like Barnett and 2013 signee D.J. Ward, who was at Lawton his entire career before transferring twice in his senior season.

Former OU offensive line coach James Patton raved about Barnett last spring to Breeze, and Breeze said first-year line coach Bill Bedenbaugh has taken over exactly where Patton left off.

The visit was a memorable one, Breeze said.

“He got to meet Coach [Bob] Stoops,” Breeze said. “He went into his office and talked to him. He got to sit in the offensive line meeting. It was a great day.”

And a meaningful day for the Sooners. Barnett didn’t grow up an OU fan. Breeze said Barnett grew up a huge Oklahoma State fan. That has changed following the visit and the offer.

“OU might have converted him over is what he told me after the visit,” Breeze said. “He didn’t realize the facilities and the coaches and stuff like that. He was really impressed.”

Breeze said Barnett is now 310 pounds and is only growing at this point. His upper body is what people notice, but there’s something else Breeze said will be why Barnett continues to get looks from top schools.

“He has long arms, really long arms,” Breeze said. “He is able to keep defenders off of him. He has the potential to be a special one.”

Barnett is the first in-state offer by OU for the 2015 class.