Sooner Intel: OU news and notes

An exclusive to Sooners Illustrated subscribers, the Intel is a sneak peek at what is happening with OU recruiting.

The Sooner Intel is an inside look into Oklahoma football and basketball recruiting and is solely for Sooners Illustrated subscribers. It is a sneak peek into what's happening with OU recruiting and is not to be distributed anywhere else.

Dalton a versatile threat

With OU on its bye week, offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh spent the latter part of the week hitting the road. One of his stops was to Troy, Ohio, to check in with three-star offensive lineman commit Alex Dalton.

Dalton and Bedenbaugh still keep in touch at least once a week, but Dalton said it meant a lot to him for Bedenbaugh to make the trip to school last Friday morning.

As for his position, Dalton said nothing has changed.

"We haven't really talked about it, but they still see me as a center," Dalton said. "I can be a guard, too. It doesn't really matter. I'm going to play where they need me."

And that goes for high school, too. With a younger team than normal, Dalton is playing all three ways. He's still anchoring the offensive line. He's also playing defensive end. But he's added a new wrinkle to his repertoire this year. He's doing the kickoffs.

No, not covering the kicks. He's actually doing the kicking.

"I'm the long snapper and I've been kicking off," Dalton said. "I have a flat-toed shoe that I'll put on when it times to kick. I don't think it's a big deal. My dad did the same thing.

"I can put it through the end zone, but most of the time I'm being asked to kick it high and into the corner to give our coverage team the best possible situation."

Dalton said he was hoping to visit OU this weekend at Notre Dame since it's so close to home. That won't happen, but an unofficial visit has been set up for next week. Dalton, his father and his uncle will return to Norman for TCU weekend.

So far, obviously, Dalton has loved what he has seen from the OU offensive line through the first three games.

"I've caught a couple of games on TV, and it's just so neat to watch knowing I'll be there next year," Dalton said. "I'm going into an open center position so I'm watching the line a lot. I'm watching Gabe (Ikard) and Bronson (Irwin)."

Dalton said it has been good for him to see how physical the line has been, but he said he cannot wait to see it all in person next weekend.

"I want to join the family," Dalton said. "I'm excited."

McNeil still high on OU's board

Things have been pretty solid with Dalton for a while since his May commitment. But OU needs some offensive tackles, and one of the first spots Bedenbaugh looked was in Indiana for Indianapolis Decatur Central tackle Lukayus McNeil.

McNeil was offered by the Sooners in early August in what was a complete surprise to McNeil. Loaded with offers, but most of them stem from the Midwest region. Nothing quite like a school as OU.

Bedenbaugh also visited McNeil last week.

"It means a lot to me," McNeil said. "To know that he came all that way just to see me means a lot. We talk a lot, but I don't get to see him often."

McNeil has made an official visit to North Carolina State, but his other four slots are open. Local schools like Indiana and Purdue are making a strong charge to keep him home.

A couple of months ago that might have appealed to McNeil. He said distance was a concern. But now if he picks the Hoosiers or Boilermakers, it certainly won't be because of how close it is to home.

"Not at all, distance is not a problem," McNeil said. "It was before because I was thinking of my little brother. I want to be close to him, but I've got to find the best school."

McNeil doesn't even know where to start when talking his top schools so he didn't elaborate on any of them. He said he might wait until his senior season is over before dealing with the recruiting side of the equation.

No OU visit has been set, but it's clear the Sooners offer does mean something to McNeil.

"I was pretty shocked," McNeil said. "I never thought I would reach this level at all. I'm not really used to everything. It was a little rocky at the beginning, but I'm enjoying it now."

McNeil credits his high school coaches for seeing that potential in him because he didn't play sports at all until his freshman year. Playing football, he said, is definitely one of the best decisions he has made in his life.

Gates respects OU's tradition

Sticking with offensive tackle, let's go with one more update. This time head out west to Las Vegas Bishop Gorman and Nick Gates.

Gates, a three-star prospect, was offered by the Sooners in the summer and said he, too, remains in consistent contact with Bedenbaugh.

But like McNeil, no visit has been set up or is being discussed just yet.

"I went to Nebraska in the summer," Gates said. "Arizona and Nebraska are the two I know of right now for official visits. I've only talked to Nebraska about a visit, though."

Gates said it was cool to get the offer from OU because he knows what the Sooners have been able to do with Las Vegas Bishop Gorman products. He knows the success linebacker Ryan Reynolds and running back DeMarco Murray had at OU.

"For sure, it definitely means something," Gates said. "Not only did they go to OU, but they played and did really well. It's pretty cool to have that type of tradition."

Gates isn't sure what schools are his favorites, but he knows he's going through a mini-college situation now. No question Las Vegas Bishop Gorman plays one of the most ambitious schedules in the country. Out of state opponents, national TV games – it's all a part of the package.

That can be a good thing.

"All the college coaches I've talked to have said it's a great thing," Gates said. "It's preparing me for college and how it's going to be with the tough schedule."

OU has been involved with Las Vegas Bishop Gorman for a while, mostly because of former running back Nathan Starks. The four-star prospect was dismissed from the school and is spending his senior season in Colorado.

No hard feelings from Gates, though, who said he would love to block for Starks once again if both of them eventually wind up in Norman.

"I like him a lot as a running back," Gates said. "He's a great runner. I would have no problems playing with Nate again."

Barnett off to solid start

One more offensive line update, and we'll move on. This time we're going to the Class of 2015 and the top in-state prospect with Lawton (Okla.) offensive lineman Jalin Barnett.

Barnett, firmly entrenched in the Scout 300 for 2015 and the Ultimate Scout 300 for the 2014-16 classes, is doing fine through the first three games of his junior season.

Any concern that all the added attention to him might be a distraction can go out the window, said Lawton coach Randy Breeze.

"He has really played well," Breeze said. "He's just so down-to-earth. He's about 6-foot-4, 320 now. He's still knocking down people. And he's just got so much mass that people can't get around him."

Barnett made his fourth visit to OU for the Sooners' first home game this season. Sooners Illustrated will see Barnett and Lawton take on Edmond (Okla.) Memorial on Friday night.

Mead, Meier solid as ever

Sooners Illustrated has been able to see a couple of OU commits in back-to-back weeks by watching Tulsa (Okla.) Union three-star prospects wide receiver Jeffery Mead and tight end Carson Meier.

Mead has made that leap that I wasn't sure if he had in him. Watching him last year, the potential was there. He's starting to reach it even if he doesn't realize it.

"I honestly don't notice it," Mead said. "I'm not trying to be cocky, but I don't. I'm doing what I can to help the team win. But I've had coaches telling me I've matured. I'm faster, stronger, smarter."

And tougher. On the first play of the night against Broken Arrow, Class of 2015 cornerback Markale Moses tried to send a statement and took a shot at Mead when both were away from the play.

Mead isn't one to get fired up, but he played with a focus the rest of the night with seven receptions for 102 yards and a touchdown.

"First play he chucked me," Mead said. "OK, that's how it is. I guess I did want to make a statement of my own."

I was on vacation when Mead committed so I never got to address his surprise pledge in June. After his reasoning, it made sense.

"I wanted to secure a spot. I mean there aren't a lot of spots, right?" Mead said. "I wanted to get my spot locked in. I want to major in business or finance."

California was certainly an option. But Mead thought it through. He could go to Cal and not know anybody and try to make connections. Or he could go to OU where there is a lot of connections and then move on from there.

Obviously he picked the latter.

Mead said he talks with OU wide receivers coach Jay Norvell about once or twice a week. And though there's no talk of playing basketball, there might be something else.

"I'm thinking about baseball," Mead said. "I'm thinking about pitching. We'll see, you never know."

As for Meier, things are locked in with him as well. Meier has been able to have some success catching the ball, but he has been taking pride in his blocking as well.

"I'm really enjoying things right now," Meier said. "I thought I played my best game of the season. There were a lot of pancakes. It felt like we were all having a pancake competition."

Meier said he talked to OU tight ends coach Jay Boulware for the first time in a couple of weeks last week. Meier and Mead were both at OU's first game.

If it's Blake Bell or Trevor Knight, really doesn't matter to Meier.

"I love Blake Bell," Meier said. "When I was there, I was able to talk to Trevor Knight. He seems like a great guy. I'm loving OU."

Johnson coming back

Is it possible OU gets its second defensive tackle commitment next weekend? Don't rule it out as Rowlett (Texas) three-star prospect Cedric Johnson is making his way back to Norman.

Johnson visited OU for a spring practice and was waiting for the offer. It didn't come at that time, and it looked like Baylor, Oklahoma State and Kansas State were going to be his final three.

OU defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery made the offer to Johnson late in the summer, and the Sooners were back in business.

Johnson has visited OU, OSU and Baylor and said he would not make a decision until he visits all four schools. That makes next week that much more interesting.

"I talked to him (Montgomery) the other day," Johnson said. "I want to see a good game and see the campus again. I'm talking with OU and Baylor the most right now."

And he's paying attention. Johnson said he admits he wasn't too impressed with the OU defense during the spring. The long touchdown run by West Virginia also scared Johnson into thinking that game would be another shootout.

Of course it wasn't, and Johnson said he has been impressed with the defense so far.

"I thought it would be a long day for the West Virginia game," Johnson said. "But it wasn't. That's always a good thing. I see a lot of improvement from what I saw during the spring."

Johnson said the biggest difference with his game this season is he is smarter. He is starting to understand everything better.

His mother will be joining him at OU next weekend. Could a commitment happen?

"I don't know. I'm just going with the flow," Johnson said.

Lohr open to Sooners

Sometimes all you have to do is throw your hat in the ring. For the last few months it has looked like Midwest City (Okla.) Carl Albert cornerback Dillon Lohr had no interest in the Sooners.

Lohr, who will be among the state's best 2015 prospects, simply had never been pursued by OU. Once OU showed some interest, so did Lohr. He attended his first OU game as a recruit two weeks ago.

"It was really cool getting to see what goes on," Lohr said. "There hasn't really been a lot of contact with me and the OU coaches. A letter got sent to my house asking if I wanted to come, so I did."

Lohr left early so he didn't get a chance to talk to Mike Stoops, but he did talk with offensive coordinator Josh Heupel, who does a lot of the Oklahoma City area recruiting.

What might have surprised Lohr even more was seeing Stanvon Taylor starting for the Sooners at cornerback. Lohr was matched one-on-one with Taylor throughout the state championship game last year that was won by Midwest City Carl Albert.

Lohr said that game was a blur because not only was he going against Taylor, but he was doing with a bad fever. He said he actually doesn't remember a lot from the game. But he remembers seeing Taylor making an impact against Tulsa.

"It was a shock to see Stanvon starting, but it was cool to see," Lohr said. "I really want playing time as a freshman. That's important to me."

It's very unusual for Midwest City Carl Albert coach Gary Rose to show such faith in a sophomore, and Lohr admitted at times he was nervous. Not anymore.

"I'm focused and things are going really well," said Lohr, who has a 99-yard touchdown reception this season.

Lohr camped at Oklahoma State and his brother played at Tulsa. He always thought he would follow in his footsteps.

"That's what I thought. But now I'm open-minded to anything," Lohr said.

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