Linebacker Chad Whitener from California is going to play a key role this season as a backup at middle linebacker.
Enter two names in the last 24 hours or so in departing UCLA safety Priest Willis and departing Michigan defensive tackle Ondre Pipkins. Willis is even rumored to be in Stillwater visiting this weekend.
There is apparently interest both ways with Willis. He was slated to visit Oklahoma State earlier in June but his academic schedule with the Bruins being on the quarter system held up his visits, so he is still trying to sort out transfer destinations, see them, and make a decision. I would not swear but my sources tell me he is not in Stillwater this weekend (June 27-28).
Willis is a 6-2, 185-pound safety who was an Under Armour All-American coming out of Tempe (Marcos de Niza), Arizona. Hometown Arizona State, LSU, Florida State, Virginia, Nebraska, and Arizona all offered along with UCLA.
As a freshman, he played in nine games and had nine tackles. Last season he played in 12 games and had 22 tackles. The former Scout 4-star recruit is considered a physical hard-nosed player. We're still trying to learn what schools are leading transfer destinations for Willis. We know he had contacted OSU and we know he was very interested in North Carolina where former Cowboys assistant Larry Fedora is head coach and Gene Chizik took over this spring as defensive coordinator.
Now the case of Ondre Pipkins is more clear cut on the surface. Pipkins, a former U.S. Army All-American defensive tackle from Kansas City's Park Hill High School, tore his ACL five games into his sophomore season against Minnesota.
As a result new Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, according to Pipkins, is having medical staff apply pressure for Pipkins to sign a medical release and go off the 85 scholarship roster as a medically retired player. The 6-3, 317-pound Pipkin has decided instead to transfer and has a release from Harbaugh and Michigan to talk to Oklahoma State, Georgia State, TCU, Tennessee, Florida State, and Washington State.
Pipkins would have to sit out a year so he is looking for a school that will put him on scholarship for two years for him to play one season. He lettered as a freshman at Michigan, playing in 13 games as a reserved defensive tackle with seven tackles and two of those unassisted.
His sophomore season he had two tackles in the first five games before the injury against Minnesota. Last season he came back and played in five games with nine tackles and two of those unassisted. Five of his tackles came against Appalachian State.
You would think a school would have to think very hard before making all the concessions needed to take Pipkins, including a strong disagreement with the opinion of the Michigan medical staff on what is best for Pipkins' future.
We know getting the scholarship back also helps Michigan. We also know that in the cases of fullback Kye Staley and recently offensive tackle Devin Davis, head coach Mike Gundy has been very patient and forgiving on allowing those players all the time thy needed to either get back or make a decision to retire from football.