The spring has seen big changes in recruiting strategy by Oklahoma. The Sooners are moving towards a new strategy that I call “Total Recruiting.” The key changes include:
*Instead of hosting big recruiting weekends for juniors, OU seems to be focusing on events throughout spring practice whenever prospects can visit. The prospects are being told that OU has an open door policy for spring visits – come when you can come up. It requires greater effort on OU’s part, but it also allows for more focused attention for the recruits and greatly extends the chances that OU will get more 2014 kids on campus.
*OU is handing out more early offers to both Texas and national prospects. OU is aggressively pursuing the top prospects around the nation and regionally.
*There have been more early offers to 2015 kids. OU has offered more rising juniors than any time previously. In fact, the numbers are not even close.
*OU is offering JUCO targets far earlier than in any year previously. The staff is identifying targets way before the usual JUCO frenzy in November.
*In any number of recent media recruiting updates, OU is being called the most aggressive recruiting school by prospects when asked the trite “who is recruiting you the hardest?” question. That rarely happened before. It certainly never happened at offensive line or defensive line.
*While I cannot confirm it, it certainly appears that Bob Stoops is letting Jay Norvell, Mike Stoops, Bill Bedenbaugh, Bobby Jack Wright and Jerry Montgomery make in-person offers. The typical bottleneck formed by the requirement to get Bob’s sign-off does not appear to be there given the breakneck pace of offers going out. Bedenbaugh and Montgomery’s offer pace would certainly seem to indicate some change is happening.
Verbal Update: An unexpected running back commitment
OU received an early RB commitment, but not from the guy everyone expected (Nathan Starks). Instead, OU got a verbal from Samaje Perine right after he visited during spring practice.
Perine is more of a power back, but he does show excellent speed and moves. Comparisons go back to OU’s best power runner of the 1990s, Jerald Moore. He's also reminiscent of current NFL tailback Frank Gore.
Perine was recovering from an injury last fall and still posted great stats. He could have a massive senior year and blow up in the rankings in a similar manner to Keith Ford.
2014 Verbal Commitments: 3
(Class size: 22-24)
Armanti Foreman, WR
(5-11, 180, 4.45)
Vontre McQuinnie, DB
(6-1, 200, 4.6)
Samaje Perine, RB
(5-11, 225. 4.45)
Recruiting Baker’s Dozen
1. Justice Hansen – Top QB target
2. Nathan Starks – Top RB target
3. Solomon Thomas – Top DL target
4. Michiah Quick – Best cornerback target for OU
5. Tyler Whiley – Mike's top big CB target
6. Ty Barrett – Big offensive tackle whose rankings are about to explode
7. Jovan Pruitt – Other big Dallas-area OT
8. Orlando Brown – Is the Atlanta native Bedenbaugh’s top national target at OT?
9. Trey Lealaimatafao – Best DT in Texas?
10. Mark Andrews – Either a big wide receiver or an elite tight end in the future, OU doesn’t care
11. Dwight Williams – Arguably the best LB on the board for OU
12. Natrell Curtis – Might be a top five national guard, and OU needs OLs in the worst way
13. Jamal Adams – Best safety on the board for OU
(*If Cody Thomas goes pro in baseball, OU might think about signing two QBs.)
Hansen still holds the only offer at QB. He’s very interested in Texas A&M, too. QB verbals always happen early as the top kids never choose the same place. Hansen probably has the only OU QB offer until May. If he has not decided by then, look for Heupel to extend additional offers.
Justice Hansen (6-3, 195, 4.6) – This name has been out there in Sooner recruiting circles for nearly two years. Hansen has been a factor at Sooner summer camps for the last two years and had a fantastic junior year, showing improvement over his excellent sophomore season Hansen has an OU offer, and his dad played baseball for OU in the 1990s.
David Cornwell (6-4, 205, 4.7) – Small-school QB has moved to Norman for his senior year. His film is excellent. It is just a shame that there are two great in-state QBs in the same year. He’s probably right behind Hansen in terms of an OU offer.
Running Back: 2
OU has one RB in the fold and will likely take the next big-time RB and call it a day. Starks or Mixon in addition to Perine would give OU probably the top RB class in the country.
Nathan Starks (6-0, 210, 4.45) – It’s about time that OU signed a great RB from Bishop Gorman again. Starks is that RB. He has been very clear that OU is one of his favorites and that Murray is one of his favorite RBs. A very possible five-star RB.
Joe Mixon (6-1, 190, 4.45) – Any RB who wears 28 and wants folks to call him "the next Adrian Peterson" is probably interested in hearing from OU. Mixon has an OU offer and is excellent RB with home run speed. Like Starks, he has a number of big-time offers.
Wide Receiver: 3?
Armanti Foreman has been visiting a bunch of schools this spring. That puts the durability of his commitment in doubt.
I’ve long maintained that OU will take Foreman or K.D. Cannon, but won’t take both. They are way too similar in stature and receiving game.
The biggest new names at WR are national prospects from Florida and California. OU surprisingly took four WRs in 2013, so it’s hard to know what the number will be for 2014. Bester and Saunders graduate, so OU is looking for at least two.
Jeffrey Mead (6-7, 170, 4.6) – Is Mead a basketball player or a football player? His junior year showed a tall WR with great hands and excellent speed who was a consistent mismatch against smaller DBs. Seems like Mead is more interested in basketball, but offers from OU and OSU for football might make this more of a choice.
Nick Alexander (6-3, 195, 4.5) – A superstar at the OU summer camp of 2012, Alexander had an uneven junior year from all reports.
K.D. Cannon (6-0, 170, 4.4) – Best WR in Texas? Cannon is a legit contender for that crown. Extremely fast and elusive, Cannon would make an awesome slot WR for the Sooners. Can OU sign both Armanti and KD with such similar receiving games?
Dorian Leonard (6-5, 190, 4.5) – Malcolm Kelly redux? Leonard looks great on film. He's a big, fluid athlete making those big down field catches that Kelly did so well in 2006/2007. Has an OU offer.
Mark Andrews (6-7, 226, 4.6) – Huge WR/TE who has been very public about his interest in OU. Andrews on film looks like an excellent big WR, but you have to wonder if a natural move to TE is in his future.
Dallis Todd (6-5, 204, 4.5) – Great looking big WR with excellent speed. He’s very interested in OU after getting his offer. Norvell has had success in California before.
Corey Holmes (6-3, 180, 4.4) – This Florida receiver just received his OU offer and again seems very interested in OU. Montgomery looks like the coach who pushed the OU offer to Holmes. Holmes has a nice blend of agility, top-end speed and height.
Offensive Line: 5 (at least)
Bedenbaugh is hitting the ground running big time, including scholarship offers in Texas and nationally. Offers have gone out to top JUCO OTs indicating how high a priority OU is making OL this year. JUCO offers in February provide yet another example of “Total Recruiting.”
Bedenbaugh is aggressively recruiting OL at a pace not seen in Norman in a long time.
Ty Barrett (6-5, 295, 5.2) – Athletic tackle prospect from Dallas Skyline. OU has numerous players from Skyline. Just visited for junior day and has an OU offer. His profile is on the rise and Bedenbaugh has made him a priority.
Braden Smith (6-6, 275, 5.0) – Nationally ranked OL prospect who starred last summer at the OU summer camp where he was probably the top prospect. OU will be in the hunt, but all the big powers have offered Smith. His recruiting is dead quiet.
Jovan Pruitt (6-6, 290, 5.2) – Recently offered by OU and Notre Dame. Huge-framed kid looks a little stiff in his stance, but he shows some power on film.
Blake Blackmar (6-5, 300) – Blackmar has some flexibility by playing center in HS, so he could play anywhere on the OL. Blake has expressed interest in OU previously.
Jacob Bragg (6-3, 290,5.2) – If OU wants to recruit a pure center, Bragg would be a great target. Bragg has previously expressed interest in OU and looks like an excellent center prospect.
Orlando Brown (6-7, 340, 5.4) – Might be a top five national OT after his camp performances. Huge frame and now that he has lost some bad weight his mobility is impressive. Bedenbaugh has OU in the top seven, and a visit is very likely.
Denzel Ward (6-9, 290, 5.2) – Has already committed to visiting Norman this fall. Huge frame with incredible agility. Has a sky high ceiiing.
Natrell Curtis (6-3, 285) – Teammate of UCLA signee Kenny Lacy. OU has offered along with host of Pac 12 schools. Just excelled at a recent all star camp. Might be the best OG prospect on the board.
Roderick Johnson (6-7, 300, 5.2) – If not for Andy Bauer (Ole Miss commit), Johnson would be getting more publicity as the best OL in Missouri.
Dontavius Blair (6-8, 300, 5.2) – Kansas JUCO already visited OU during a spring tour of schools. OU has already offered, and he looks like he will graduate by December.
Jermaine Eluemenor (6-5, 300, 5.1) – Penn JUCO might be the best JUCO OT prospect for 2014. Very athletic and powerful frame. Originally from England and is still learning football. OU has offered along with Ohio State and Florida State.
Tight End: 2
OU struck out at TE in 2013, so two tight ends would make a lot of sense for 2014. OU really needs to use the TE more in their offense. Hopefully, Taylor McNamara and Sam Grant return the TE position to relevance this fall. New TE coach Jay Boulware is just getting up to speed in terms of recruiting, so expect this list to change considerably over the next 30 days.
Koda Martin (6-6, 250, 4.8) – Looking for a big prototype blocking TE? Martin is it. Last year he started showing some receiving skills as well. The only question is: Like Eric Winston, does he grow into an elite mobile OT or stay at TE?
Dalton Schultz (6-5, 220, 4.7) – Top-ranked national TE who has received an OU offer. Not sure at this point where OU stands.
Nic Weishar (6-5, 220, 4.6) – Excellent pass-receiving TE from the Chicago area. Shows excellent speed with the ability to stretch the field down the seams.
Mike’Quan Deane (6-4,220, 4.6) – A possible Sooner from Tulsa Memorial! (Go Chargers.) Big WR/TE target. Shows excellent receiving skills and speed, but not much in the way of blocking footage/skills. No offer yet, but he was just at the OU junior day.
Defensive Tackle: 2
The Sooners are not quite in the desperate place for DTs that they were in with the 2013 class. Still, you’d like to see OU sign a top DT every year. No prospects in Oklahoma right now, and Texas does not look to have a deep pool of candidates.
OU lost out on Jaycoven Henderson to TCU with the DT coaching position change. Montgomery is working DT prospects already, but it’s not a great year overall in Texas or nationally. But some new names have appeared on the radar.
Trey Lealaimatafao (6-2, 290. 5.0) – OU has made him a priority after losing out on Henderson. He’s visited Norman this spring already.
Courtney Garnett (6-2, 285, 5.0) – A Louisiana prospect not locked into an SEC school. Garnett is set to visit OU and UT at some point this spring.
Peyton Newell (6-3, 275, 4.7) – Like Solomon Thomas, another big body that could be a 3-4 DE or bulk up to be a 4-3 DT. He’s received his OU offer, and OU visit is very likely.
Khairi Clark (6-3, 310, 5.0) – The entire world is recruiting Clark. His film is elite – massive frame, explosive burst, playmaking ability on the other side of the line of scrimmage.
Travonte Valentine (6-3, 285, 4.9) – Valentine has verbaled to Louisville and now Florida, but he has an OU offer as well.
Defensive End: 2
OU signed an excellent three-player DE class in 2013, but I’m guessing Bobby Jack Wright still has the green light to add two top-flight DEs if he can find them. OU has offers out to national targets like DaShawn Hand, but I don’t see it going anywhere.
Solomon Thomas (6-3, 260, 4.8) – Probably the top overall DL prospect in Texas. Thomas could be a 3-4 DE or possibly grow into a DT. OU has offered, and he just visited for junior day. Very impressive film.
Myles Garrett (6-4, 230, 4.7) – After Thomas, Garrett is getting a lot of attention as the next best DE.
Deondre Clark (6-4, 240, 4.8) – After Justice Hansen, Clark is probably the top prospect in OK. Unfortunately, he has a brother at OSU playing basketball and seems very interested in LSU. OU is recruiting him and has offered, but he seems focused elsewhere.
Andrew Williams (6-4, 245, 4.6) – Your usual elite SEC type DE prospect. Williams has made a real connection with Montgomery. OU looks likely to receive a visit.
Last year it was DTs, this year’s desperate recruiting position that has the message boards worried a year before signing day is LB. Tim Kish has already been labeled by some as a disaster.
Fortunately, it’s a great year for LBs from Texas (unlike last year), and Kish appears to have made some excellent connections with these prospects. In addition, two excellent LBs from Illinois have expressed serious interest in OU.
Kish could very quickly dismiss the "problem coach" label with some early verbals at LB.
Otaro Alaka (6-3, 210, 4.5) – Wow. I love this film as an OLB to help OU deal with spread attacks. Alaka does a great job attacking the perimeter and also in coverage. Great range, power. OU is fading, however.
James David (6-3, 226, 4.6) – Might be the best MLB in Texas. David tore his ACL last year, so there’s some question about when he will be back on the field. His junior year film is great. James is the younger brother of Derek David, whose career has been derailed by off-the-field legal issues.
Gyasi Akem (6-2, 215, 4.6) – Best-looking OLB prospect in state of OK. Very physical and excellent speed. Probably is leaning to OSU and will join his Broken Arrow teammate Devon Thomas.
Cameron Hampton (6-2, 210, 4.6) – Another great-looking OLB prospect.
Josh Mabin (6-2, 225) – With David hurt, Mabin might be the best MLB prospect in Texas. Very physical, does a great job in coverage and stopping the run with some power inside.
Niles Morgan (6-2, 215 4.5) – OU has already offered this speedy physical OLB. OU has a connection back to David Smith, so a visit is not out of the question. Has a lot of big-time offers.
Zach Whitley (6-2, 215, 4.6) – Have not heard a great deal about Whitley. He might be leaning to Texas.
Christian Sam (6-2, 205, 4.5) – Just visited for OU’s first junior day. No offer yet, but his film is excellent.
Clifton Garrett (6-2, 225, 4.6) – If Morgan is the speed LB from Illinois, then Garrett is the power LB. The entire Big Ten has offered him. OU has offered, and a visit would not be a surprise.
Dwight Williams (6-3, 215, 4.55) – Might be the best OLB in California. Shows excellent power, burst, and pursuit. Seems interested in his OU offer.
Tay Evans (6-3, 210, 4.55) – Teammate of Sam and son of former OU hoops player Bobby Joe Evans. Evans is recovering from an shoulder injury but on film with his frame might have a higher upside than Sam.
Defensive Back: 3-4
This might be the best and deepest talent pool of DBs from Texas in forever. There’s legitimately 15 to 16 four-star-type DBs in the state. It’s going to be nearly impossible to really rank the guys – the talent level is that high. The top 50 in Texas could easily be populated with 20 DBs.
OU has to take advantage of this group and sign three or four kids.
Darrion Johnson (5-10, 185, 4.5) – OU offer. Visited for the junior day. Very physical CB with excellent cover and open-field tackling skills.
Arrion Spring (5-11, 190, 4.5) – OU offer. Visited for junior day. Safety prospect who is excellent in coverage and very physical in run support. Excellent tackler.
Edwin Freeman (6-2, 190, 4.5) – OU offer at safety. Huge frame with excellent speed and range.
Dylan Sumner-Gardner (6-2, 190, 4.5) – OU offer at safety. Visited for first junior day. Was verbaled to Clemson.
Nick Watkins (6-1, 185, 4.5) – Best big CB in Texas? His offer list (OU included) sure lends credence to that statement.
Nick Harvey (5-11, 180, 4.5) – Might be the best CB in Texas. Verbaled to Texas A&M. OU will try to get him on campus for a junior day.
Tony Brown (6-1, 180, 4.5) – Okay, Brown might be the best DB in Texas. OU offer, but he is rumored to be a lean to LSU.
Steven Parker (6-2, 185, 4.5) – Best DB prospect in Oklahoma. Has an OU offer and was a star at the OU summer camp.
Michiah Quick (6-0, 175, 4.4) – Despite his HS having three big-time DBs just sign LOIs, Quick might be the best one overall. After signing Hatari Byrd and L.J. Moore, OU will be all over this California offer.
Jamal Adams (6-1, 190, 4.5) – Both OU and UT are after this big, talented safety. Might be the best safety in Texas.
John Bonney (6-0, 185, 4.5) – OU offer out of the Houston area. He has not visited yet for a junior day.
Tyler Whiley (6-1, 190, 4.5) – Big CB prospect that seems very interested in OU. Would be a huge pickup for Kish/Mike from their former recruiting territory.
Courtland Sutton (6-3, 200, 4.5) – Looks like he could be an elite center field free safety or bulk up to play OLB. His film is very good.