Oklahoma Sooners: Raaquan Davis

Big 12 pre-spring breakdown: LBs

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As we await the start of spring ball, we’re examining and ranking the positional situations of every team in the Big 12, continuing Tuesday with linebackers. Some of these outlooks will look different after the spring. But here’s how we see the linebacking corps going into the spring:

[+] EnlargeDominique Alexander
William Purnell/Icon SMIDominique Alexander was a star as a true freshman and leads a loaded Oklahoma linebacking corps.
1. Oklahoma: After a couple of lean years, the Sooners are loaded at linebacker again. Dominique Alexander was the Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year, Frank Shannon led the defense in tackles as a sophomore, and Eric Striker is budding into the most ferocious blitzing linebacker in the country (just ask Alabama). Jordan Evans played extensively as a true freshman, too. This is an athletic group that can cover, stop the run and get to the quarterback.

2. Texas: This will be as deep as any linebacking corps in the league, with starters Peter Jinkens, Dalton Santos and Steve Edmond all returning off a unit that improved dramatically after the rocky nonconference start. After allowing a school-record 550 yards rushing to BYU, Texas had the Big 12’s fourth-best rush defense in conference games. Whether this group can take another step up will depend on what happens with Jordan Hicks, who enters his fifth year in the program after suffering season-ending injuries in back-to-back years. Hicks was the No. 1 linebacker in the country coming out of high school and has played well when healthy.

3. West Virginia: This will be the strength of the defense, as Brandon Golson, Isaiah Bruce, Jared Barber and Nick Kwiatkoski all return with significant starting experience. Kwiatkoski was West Virginia’s leading tackler last season, and Bruce was a freshman All-American the season before. Wes Tonkery and Jewone Snow also have starting experience, and Shaq Petteway, who missed last season with a knee injury, was a key rotation player the previous year. This level of experience and production with give the new defensive regime of Tony Gibson and Tom Bradley a foundation to build around.

4. Baylor: Bryce Hager is one of the best returning linebackers in the league. He was a second-team all-conference pick two years ago and would have earned similar honors last season had he not missed the final three games of the regular season with a groin injury. Grant Campbell, a three-star juco signee, is already on campus and will vie for the vacancy of departing All-Big 12 linebacker Eddie Lackey. Kendall Ehrlich and Aiavion Edwards are the only other players at the position with any meaningful experience, but Raaquan Davis, a former four-star recruit who redshirted last season, could be a factor.

5. Kansas: Middle linebacker Ben Heeney was a second-team All-Big 12 selection after finishing fourth in the league in tackles per game. His wingman, Jake Love, got beat out by juco transfer Samson Faifili during the preseason but took over when Faifili suffered an injury and was solid. As long as Heeney remains healthy, the Jayhawks will be solid here.

6. TCU: Projected to be the Achilles’ heel of the TCU defense last season, Paul Dawson, Marcus Mallet and Jonathan Anderson actually gave the position stability. Dawson led the Horned Frogs with 91 tackles, Mallet was third with 70 and Anderson was fourth with 66. All three will be seniors in 2014 and should give the Horned Frogs a solid, reliable linebacking unit again.

7. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders and their 3-4 scheme graduate two very productive players in Will Smith and Terrance Bullitt. Smith was second in the Big 12 in tackles, and Bullitt led all Big 12 linebackers in pass breakups. Austin Stewart and Micah Awe go into the spring as the favorites to replace Bullitt and Smith, respectively. Two starters do return in Sam Eguavoen and Pete Robertson, who was honorable mention All-Big 12 thanks to his impact off the edge. Tech also has several intriguing young players, including Jacarthy Mack, Malik Jenkins and Kahlee Woods, who will all be second-year players.

8. Kansas State: The Wildcats lose two stalwarts to graduation in captains Blake Slaughter and Tre Walker. The only returner is former walk-on Jonathan Truman, who was second on the team in tackles from the weak side. The Wildcats will be hoping for big things from D'Vonta Derricott, an ESPN JC 50 signee who had offers from Miami and Wisconsin, among many others. Will Davis, who was Slaughter’s backup as a freshman last season, could thrive if he secures the starting role in the middle.

9. Oklahoma State: The Cowboys are somewhat decimated here with the graduations of all-conference veterans Shaun Lewis and Caleb Lavey. The only returning starter, Ryan Simmons, could move inside, which would open the door for hard-hitting jucos D'Nerius Antoine and Devante Averette to start on either side of him. Seth Jacobs, who was a four-star recruit two years ago, should jump into the rotation, and the Cowboys could get an instant boost from freshman Gyasi Akem, who was an ESPN 300 signee. The potential ascension of this group, though, hinges on what Antonie and Averette accomplish.

10. Iowa State: The Cyclones graduate their defensive cornerstone in Jeremiah George, who was a first-team all-conference performer after leading the Big 12 with 133 tackles. Replacing George won’t come easy. But there’s reason to believe that Luke Knott can become Iowa State’s next cornerstone at the position. The younger brother of Cyclone LB great Jake Knott, Luke Knott started five games as a freshman and quickly racked up 45 tackles before suffering a season-ending hip injury, which required surgery. If he makes a full recovery, Knott has the talent to become the next in a growing line of All-Big 12 Iowa State linebackers. Seniors Jevohn Miller and Jared Brackens, who combined for 19 starts last season, flank Knott with experience.

Sooners searching for impact DTs 

December, 11, 2012
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There is one glaring hole in Oklahoma’s defensive recruiting for the 2013 class. But it’s a big one. The Sooners are faring well or at least decently at every other spot, but OU is lacking defensive tackles.

Worse than lacking at them is the fact OU has been involved in several tight battles at the position only to have never come out on top.

With less than two months until national signing day, here is a position-by-position breakdown of OU defensive targets.

Defensive end

No problems in this department. In fact, OU has probably had too many viable targets. The Sooners got started with a bang with two of their first three commits being ESPN 300 defensive ends in Matt Dimon (Katy, Texas/Katy) and D.J. Ward (Moore, Okla./Southmoore).

OU turned down a potential commitment from three-star recruit Dimarya Mixon (Mesquite, Texas/West Mesquite), who ended up committing to Missouri.

The Sooners might have a third commit in Norman (Okla.) North’s Jordan Evans. A three-star prospect, Evans could play either end or linebacker.

The only recruit the Sooners would accept a commitment from is USC pledge Torrodney Prevot (Houston/Alief Taylor). Prevot is considering an official visit to OU this weekend.

Defensive tackle

Maquedius Bain
Jeff Peoples/IntersportDefensive tackle Maquedius Bain is a top priority for the Sooners to finish their 2013 recruiting class.
It’s not pretty. And it’s not getting any better. Last week was a gut-punch when Sooners legacy Justin Manning (Dallas/Kimball) picked Texas A&M over OU. But all the Sooners can do is move on.

Viable targets are out there, but it’s up to defensive tackles coach Jackie Shipp to seal the deal. No. 1 on that list is ESPN 150 recruit Maquedius Bain (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./University School).

Bain took an official visit to OU for Bedlam and had an in-home last week. He is expected to visit LSU this weekend, which should give a better indication of where he stands.

OU is also targeting Hutchinson (Kan.) CC teammates Toby Johnson and Ben Bradley and has made in-home visits with both of them.

Johnson visited Georgia last weekend and the Bulldogs are a natural fit since he is from Georgia. Bradley is a Tennessee commit whom OU only recently started to turn its attention toward.

Then there is Quincy Russell (Athens, Texas/Trinity Valley CC). Russell also made an official visit to OU for Bedlam, but Nebraska feels like the leader in the clubhouse.

The Sooners have gone all out with Russell in the last two weeks, and it looks like if Bain is No. 1, then Russell is No. 1a for OU’s list of priorities.

Another name to be on the watch for is ESPN 150 recruit Keith Bryant (Delray Beach, Fla./Atlantic Community). Bryant has talked about visiting OU but so far that’s all there has been. No date has been set or discussed.

Linebacker

It’s looking a lot better here than it did a couple of months ago. The Sooners are still set with ESPN 300 prospect Jordan Mastrogiovanni (Dallas/Jesuit). After flirting with A&M, Mastrogiovanni appears to be good with OU.

OU looked in-state for answers, too, in the form of Evans and three-star athlete Dominique Alexander (Tulsa, Okla./Booker T. Washington).

Linebackers coach Tim Kish has wanted Baylor commit Raaquan Davis (Heath, Texas/Rockwall-Heath) for a long time, but Davis has been solid with the Bears.

Ohio State has made a big move to get ESPN 150 linebacker Mike Mitchell (Plano, Texas/Prestonwood Christian) so the Sooners are making a move of their own on ESPN 300 Florida State commit E.J. Levenberry Jr. (Woodbridge, Va./Hylton).

Levenberry made an official visit to OU in October and visited the campus twice as a junior. With FSU’s recent coaching changes, OU is pressing hard to flip him.

And don’t count out ESPN 150 prospect and UCLA commit Deon Hollins (Fort Bend, Texas/Marshall). Hollins and Kish have quietly still been talking often during the season and his father is a fan of Kish and Bob Stoops.

Cornerback

Breaking down the board: Linebacker 

November, 28, 2012
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Each week, "Breaking down the board" will take a deeper, position-by-position look at the prospects Oklahoma is target. SoonerNation will rank five players at each position with No. 1 being the player who should be OU’s top priority of the five recruits listed.

To be clear, this ranking has nothing to do with the Sooners' actual recruiting board/priority list. It's simply our ranking list compiled of the recruits at the position who have expressed legitimate interest in the Sooners and who could be the best fits for OU’s system. Today we look at Oklahoma's linebacker board:


1. Raaquan Davis, Heath, Texas/Rockwall-Heath

Measurables: 6-foot-2, 195 pounds

Commitment: Baylor

[+] EnlargeMike Mitchell
Tom Hauck for ESPN.comESPN 150 linebacker Mike Mitchell would be a good fit for the Sooners.
Rankings: No. 28 linebacker, No. 54 in Midlands, No. 17 in Texas

ESPN.com grade: 81, four-star recruit.

How he’d fit: Davis is a very good fit for the Sooners defense. He’s very similar to current Sooner linebackers Corey Nelson and Frank Shannon in terms of body type and skill set. He’s comfortable in space yet willing to play with aggression and physicality. He’s the type of versatile linebacker the Sooners should be aiming to sign.

Why he’s No. 1: He’s versatile and comfortable in space. He can excel in the running game and passing game which is an unique skill set and makes him extremely valuable, particularly with the different offenses the Sooners face each season. He’s been solid to Baylor throughout his senior season but OU needs to keep making him say “No.” until signing day.

Bob Przybylo's take: Forty-eight hours. That’s all it was. Davis committed to Baylor 48 hours before OU offered Davis. So far, that’s all it’s taken. Davis has not given one indication he is backing down from his Bears commitment despite the fact Tim Kish will not stop talking with Davis. He understands it’s a part of Kish’s job, but Davis has also made it clear Waco, Texas, should be his future home.

2. Mike Mitchell, Plano, Texas/Prestonwood Christian Academy

Measurables: 6-foot-4, 216 pounds, 4.45 in the 40

Rankings: No. 121 in the ESPN150, No. 10 linebacker, No. 19 in Midlands, No. 17 in Texas

ESPN.com grade: 84, four-star recruit.

How he’d fit: He’d be a terrific fit for what the Sooners would like to do. His combination of size, speed and physicality would help the Sooners defense handle the various offenses in the Big 12. He can make plays sideline to sideline and is very aggressive and physical. He’s very versatile in an era when versatility is critical, particularly at the linebacker position.

Why he’s No. 2: He’s a very good fit for what OU needs at linebacker. He has size, speed and versatility and would be able to help the Sooners immediately if he decided to play college football in Norman. Even though the Sooners appear to be a long shot at this point, they need to put the full-court press on Mitchell.

Bob Przybylo's take: OU feels like it’s on the outside looking in at this point. After an unofficial visit to campus in July, the Mitchell family has not made another trip to Norman and didn’t make an expected trip to Dallas for the Red River Rivalry. The leader in the clubhouse appears to be Ohio State, especially coming off a positive in-home visit. If Mitchell visits Columbus, Ohio, anytime soon, that could wrap it up.

3. Jordan Evans, Norman, Okla./North

Measurables: 6-foot-3, 205 pounds

Commitment: Oklahoma

Rankings: Not evaluated

ESPN.com grade: NR.

How he’d fit: Evans might eventually be a better fit at defensive end but he’s an versatile, athletic playmaker. He has the size to make plays in the running game and the athleticism to make plays in the passing game while being very comfortable in space. He’d could be a good fit at linebacker.

Why he’s No. 3: Even though he recently committed to the Sooners, he remains on the list because he may or may not end up at linebacker. Thus, if OU can land Mitchell or Davis, it could open up the possibility of moving Evans to a different position. If not, he could be the best available option to fill a need at the linebacker position in Norman. Regardless, Evans can play linebacker at OU because comfortable in space and versatile as a defender. Both attributes can be difficult to find in linebackers yet are critical attributes to have success in the Big 12. He’s not higher because Mitchell and Davis are a little more aggressive and physical while bringing similar versatility.

Bob Przybylo's take: Evans played his way into an offer with an outstanding senior season. He has seen every OU home game and has been in constant contact with Tim Kish throughout this season. All that everybody was waiting for was the offer, which came last weekend. And the commitment didn’t take that much longer as Evans officially pulled the trigger Tuesday night. He wanted to wait, but in the end, he knew he couldn’t. His dad is a Sooner, and he wants to be one, too.

4. Paul Whitmill, Bastrop, Texas/Bastrop

Measurables: 6-foot-0, 200 pounds


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Sooner Intel: Recruiting news and notes 

October, 25, 2012
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videoEvery Thursday, 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 makes the final three for an elite defensive tackle who is visiting this weekend.
  • An in-depth look at some of this weekend's visitors.

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Sooner Intel: Recruiting news and notes 

September, 6, 2012
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Every Thursday, 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:

• A Florida defensive back talks more about his appreciation for Mike Stoops.
• The Sooners have one big-time visitor in town this weekend.
• OU has made an impression on two UCLA commmits.
• Tim Kish isn't giving up on a linebacker committed to another Big 12 school.
• Will the state's top-ranked recruit play football this season?

Read the Sooner Intel after the jump.

Robbins needs visit to confirm feelings

Last month three-star cornerback Lamar Robbins (Miami/Southridge) surprised some by implying that he was close to a commitment and that his best relationship is with OU defensive backs coach Mike Stoops.

It’s now September and the commitment hasn’t come. Should OU fans be worried? Nope, not at all.

“Coach Stoops was actually the first coach to call me Saturday,” said Robbins, about the first day coaches could call recruits again. “He was just checking up on me. We’re trying to find a date that will work for an official visit.”


Tom Hauck for ESPN.com
Defensive back Lamar Robbins is itching to take a visit to OU.


But that looks like it is going to be more difficult than anticipated. And unfortunately, the visit is very crucial to Robbins.

Coincidentally, the Sooners have two defensive back commits that haven’t seen the campus yet in Miami Central’s Ahmad Thomas and Fresno (Calif.) Central East’s Hatari Byrd. Robbins made it pretty clear he will not commit until he sees the campus.

“Coach Stoops right now is the only coach I’ve talked to,” Robbins said. “I want to see how I interact with some of the other coaches and the players. And of course I want to see the campus.”

The problem right now is OU and Miami Southridge’s schedules aren’t compatible. On weeks where Miami Southridge plays on Thursday, the Sooners are on the road. When it looks like OU could bring in Robbins, he is not able to make the trip.

Robbins is fine with that, saying he has no problems waiting until after the season to make a visit. Three months, though, is a long time, especially with all the defensive backs the Sooners are targeting.

There is one thing Robbins would miss if he isn’t able to visit during the season.

“I would love to be there as they come out of the tunnel,” Robbins said. “Stuff like that is a once in a lifetime experience. It would be good to see a game and see how the coaches work.”

Robbins’ positive feeling of OU has not gone away. He also said he is considering West Virginia, but there is one thing that is helping Stoops stand out to Robbins.

“He’s so composed and straight up about everything,” Robbins said. “Some of these coaches want me to keep calling them. I’m busy, too. I can’t get around to everything and call like four times a week. Coach Stoops just tells me to get around to it when I can. I love his attitude.”

Big weekend for OU, Mixon

When your first home game is against Florida A&M, the expectations aren’t high as it pertains to visitors. But three-star defensive end Dimarya Mixon (Mesquite, Texas/West Mesquite) is here to save the day.

Mixon, an Arizona State commit, is taking his official visit to OU this weekend. It doesn’t matter to him about the opponent.

“No, that’s not a big deal,” Mixon said. “The coaches wanted me to come down for this game and meet me and things like that.”

Mixon said OU defensive ends coach Bobby Jack Wright and Arizona State are the two schools that have contacted him. Wright called him Saturday.

Not only will Mixon be in Norman on Saturday, but he is excited about Wright watching him play Friday night, too.

Mixon was one of several recruits scheduled to visit OU for the Red-White spring game in April that didn’t make it because of the severe weather.

“I don’t think about how things could have been different if I had made that trip,” Mixon said. “Things are working out for me, and I can’t complain.”

The visit won’t be so much about exploring the campus. Mixon said he camped at OU last summer and got an extensive tour of the campus. This visit is about the connection he will have with Wright and the other coaches.

Though on the surface it doesn’t look like visiting for FAMU is a good idea, it might actually benefit Mixon.

“I don’t know how many other kids are going to be there. I just know they wanted me to show up so I figured why not make it an official visit,” Mixon said. “If there aren’t many kids there, I definitely think I’m going to get a lot of one-on-one time and that will be good.”

The biggest thing for Mixon, he said, is to not compare OU to ASU. He still intends to take an official to ASU, but this weekend he wants to see how OU stands all on its own.

Kittle makes impression on Dowling

Three-star offensive tackle Sean Dowling (Fallbrook, Calif./Union) had no idea what type of interest he was going to receive so when UCLA came knocking at his door, he committed in April.

He’s still with the Bruins, but it wasn’t a coach from UCLA that called him first Saturday. That was OU offensive tackles coach Bruce Kittle.


Tom Hauck for ESPN.com
UCLA offensive tackle commit Sean Dowling is planning to enroll early.


“It didn’t surprise me, knowing coach Kittle,” Dowling said. “I was pleased to see he was the first call. He actually woke me up. I had spent Friday night looking at film and didn’t wake up Saturday until his call.”

Dowling didn’t mind the wakeup call. In fact, he hasn’t minded at all whenever Kittle has tried to get in touch with him or asked Dowling to call him.

“He’s one of those coaches I really enjoy talking to. I have a great relationship with him,” Dowling said. “I have a tight bond with the UCLA coaches, too, but coach Kittle is a great guy to talk with.”

Dowling received his OU offer after pledging to the Bruins, and the Sooners definitely have his interest. How much? Enough for Dowling to confirm he will take an official visit to OU on Oct. 19, for the Kansas game.

Dowling said he is also looking at potential visits to Michigan State and Vanderbilt. But he made a promise that OU would be his first visit, and it’s the only one he has officially set up.

It’s going to be a busy fall for Dowling because he is taking three AP classes to make sure he can graduate in the winter and enroll early for college.

The summer was pretty interesting, too. Dowling said he finished his junior season around 280-285 pounds. Through extensive footwork training, he is down to 260 pounds. But Kittle is OK with that.

“He likes that I’m nimble and athletic,” Dowling said. “I don’t like to toot my own horn, but I think my general athleticism is my biggest strength.”

Dowling said his slimmer size is allowing him to dominate against high school defenders. But he also understands he cannot be a 6-6, 260-pound college offensive tackle and knows he will have to put on weight to succeed at the next level.

Sooners looking at another Bruins commit

If Kittle cannot have any luck with Dowling, he has already taken a look at another UCLA commit, three-star offensive tackle Christian Morris (Memphis, Tenn./East).

Unlike Dowling, there is no question about Morris’ size at 6-6 and 293 pounds. However, there was also some initial confusion about where Morris stood with the Sooners.

“I think I have an offer, but I’m not 100 percent sure,” Morris said earlier this week. “They saw me in the spring and said they liked what they saw. But I haven’t heard from OU in a couple of months.”

That changed Wednesday night as Morris confirmed the Sooners have now offered Morris.

Even if OU didn't make the move, it's not like Morris doesn’t have a lack of suitors. Michigan State and Nebraska have recently entered the mix, and he is still contemplating potential visits to Ole Miss and Arkansas.

“OU would definitely get an official visit if I knew the interest was there,” Morris said earlier this week. “I’ve been interested in them for a long time. They have always been one of my favorites.”

And with the offer, OU should be in the mix for the visit.

Morris said he didn't feel disrespected at all by OU and would definitely see what the school has to offer. The question will be when will everything come together for Morris and the Sooners for a potential official visit.

Kish not giving up on Davis

Linebacker recruiting is always a hot topic right now. As Sept. 1 has come and gone, the expectation is there should be a slew of new offers at the position.

Well, unless you feel you might have a shot with a couple of committed recruits. One recruit OU linebackers coach Tim Kish is not souring on is Raaquan Davis (Heath, Texas/Rockwall-Heath).


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Bob Przybylo answers readers' questions about Oklahoma football and basketball recruiting in his mailbag every week. Got a question for Bob? Send it to his mailbag at bprzybyloespn@gmail.com.

Jack in Oklahoma City asks: It’s not really a question, but I just want to get your thoughts about linebacker recruiting as a whole.


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Bob Przybylo answers readers' questions about Oklahoma football and basketball recruiting in his mailbag every week. Got a question for Bob? Send it to his mailbag at bprzybyloespn@gmail.com.

Bill in Tulsa, Okla., asks: We got Cody Thomas! Yes! Is he going to stay with football, or do you see him playing baseball?

Bob Przybylo: You ran through the gamut of emotions there, Bill. It remains to be seen if Thomas is going to up in a crimson and cream uniform, but it is worth the risk.

Thomas is a quality MLB prospect, but according to Jason A. Churchill, Thomas is not a slam dunk talent on the baseball diamond. Churchill is the executive editor of Prospect Insider and helps cover the MLB Draft for ESPN HS and ESPN Insider.


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Linebacker Raaquan Davis (Heath, Texas/Rockwall-Heath) has been adamant about not having a list of favorites. He wants to let the recruiting process play itself out before starting to dwindle down his list of schools.

Following a positive experience at Oklahoma’s junior day Saturday, however, Davis admitted the Sooners will definitely be on that short list.

One of the biggest things Davis wondered about was where he would fit in on the Sooners defense. He’s not worried about that anymore.

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It hould be an eventful weekend for Oklahoma on the recruiting trail. With OU having its second junior day on Saturday, here's a look at the confirmed visitors who are planning to be on campus this weekend:

For more on the recruits most likely to commit to the Sooners, check out our forum.

DE Jay Arnold (Heath, Texas/Rockwall-Heath): Offers – Baylor, Ole Miss, Northwestern, Purdue, SMU, Texas A&M, Tulsa. Arnold is one of several defensive ends expected on campus and has the connection with his sister already a student at OU.

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Davis won’t miss this OU junior day 

March, 1, 2012
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Second chances don’t always come around so linebacker Raaquan Davis (Heath, Texas/Rockwall-Heath) is going to make sure he takes advantage of his opportunity.

Davis was originally supposed to be at Oklahoma’s first junior day on Feb. 4. At the last minute, however, something came up that didn’t allow him to make the trip. He is making sure nothing comes up this weekend and plans to be in Norman, Okla., on Saturday.

“Playing at a place like OU would be a tremendous opportunity,” Davis said. “It would definitely give me a good test of my abilities.”


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DE Jay Arnold has OU in early favorites 

February, 28, 2012
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Defensive end Jay Arnold (Heath, Texas/Rockwall-Heath) isn’t sure if he was patient or frustrated with the recruiting process a couple of months ago.

Whatever it was, he doesn’t have to worry about it anymore because he is no longer waiting for his first offer. He is now rolling in offers and is hopeful that one more might come his way this weekend at Oklahoma’s junior day.

“I want to learn more about the defensive schemes. I really just want a more in-depth look at the overall program and how everything works,” Arnold said.


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