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.
Ijalana knows OU is home
Most commitments on visits happen toward the end when the recruit meets with the head coach one final time. Los Angeles Pierce College tight end Isaac Ijalana was hoping to be in the mix.
After his visit to Oklahoma, he knew he wanted to commit to the Sooners. But OU tight ends coach Jay Boulware wanted him to think it over. Ijalana did on his flight from Oklahoma City to Los Angeles and made it official.
The second tight end is in the books. Some have disagreed with OU's method of having Ijalana think about his pledge, but the key thing to this one is getting him as a mid-year enrollee.
"I was sure at the end of the visit about the commitment," Ijalana said. "I had a feeling this was going to happen. But it sure does feel good to have it over with."
Ijalana first started receiving interest from the Sooners a few weeks ago once it became apparent El Camino (Calif.) College tight end Jean Sifrin wasn't going to be able to be that mid-year enrollee.
The Sooners were set to take Sifrin, but with his academic questions, there is a strong chance Sifrin is no longer in the picture as it is hard to picture the Sooners taking three tight ends for the class.
Add in the fact both Ijalana and Sifrin are both primarily receiving tight ends in the same build as players, and again, it's unlikely to see both on campus.
And don't get it wrong. Boulware wasn't upset Ijalana wanted to commit.
"He was so excited when I told him," Ijalana said. "He kept saying they need a decent tight end to come in play right away."
Ijalana said he enjoyed getting to know OU coach Bob Stoops and visiting Stoops' house and meeting his family. He said he was a lot more down to earth than he anticipated.
Ijalana was hosted by defensive end Michael Onuoha and defensive back Kass Everett. The Everett pairing made a lot of sense considering Everett is also from Pierce College.
"He showed me around the school, and it helped a lot to spend a lot of time with him," Ijalana said. "He told me he has already graduated. That was a big moment, that opened my eyes."
Ijalana is ready to roll. No more visits necessary. He will be done in December and ready to step foot on campus in January and learn the offense.
"I can't wait," Ijalana said. "I've got the stress off. Three years to play two and get to learn the system. It's exciting."
Boulware gets job done
Did anybody have a harder way to start a job than Boulware? He was asked to come in and recruit tight ends knowing full well OU hadn't really used a tight end in the previous season and most likely wasn't going to this season.
Boulware was able to get the job done, though, with commitments from Ijalana and Tulsa (Okla.) Union three-star tight end Carson Meier.
Assuming both stick, it's tough to accurately say what a great job was done by Boulware in trying to revive the tradition. I asked Boulware about the challenges this week.
"I think anytime where you're in the position we're in, where you've had great tight ends here before and you're looking to get back to that position – this football team I think that it's a process," Boulware said. "It'd be easier if we had an All-American like Jermaine Gresham still here about to leave.
"Now you see those five-star tight ends see a guy they can try and imitate so you know that's what they look for. What we're doing is try to convince them, hey look, here's a guy that was here in the past in the same style of offense and they were very productive."
Not the easiest thing for a high school recruit to keep in mind, though. Most want to be the star now and don't have the patience. Boulware is aware of that, too.
"When you get kids who are really smart, they see that," Boulware said. "They see the productivity. They know our head coach loves tight ends and it's an upgrade.
"A lot of kids now, unfortunately, it's what have you done for me lately? They end up going where this is the new thing. We believe tradition and consistency win over the long haul."
Boulware said Aaron Ripkowski has been the starting tight end all season even if he doesn't have the traditional size and stature of a tight end.
OU welcoming spirit wins over Orso
Isn't a huge part of an official visit seeing a game in person? That's one check mark Homewood (Ala.) defensive end Dwayne Orso cannot check about his visit to OU.
Because of high school playoffs and flight schedules, Orso said he didn't arrive to OU until like 3:30 p.m. Saturday, a good hour after OU had disposed of Iowa State.
Orso knows it wasn't an ideal scenario for a visit, but he said so much was done to make the visit happen that he wasn't about to cancel it.
Good thing for OU, too. He arrived in Norman committed to Western Kentucky and left pledged to the Sooners.
He was hosted by defensive lineman Chuka Ndulue, and there was something that definitely surprised Orso about the players.
"They were so welcoming," Orso said. "You know sometimes you meet a person, and they're so warm, that's what it felt like with everybody. You see them on TV and expect them to be hoopin' and hollerin', and they were nothing like that. It was great."
Orso couldn't comment on the game atmosphere obviously, but he said he loved the atmosphere of the campus and a Sunday tour sealed the deal for him.
Orso committed to Bob Stoops in his office, saying he wanted Stoops to hear it from him. Not from the media, not from his high school coach or an OU assistant. He wanted to tell him.
"He told me he was electrified," Orso said. "He was so happy I accepted the offer and want to come to OU."
It sure didn't look like that was his destination after the way he started his senior season. As talked about earlier this week, Orso had three overall tackles in Weeks 2-4 of the high school season as he constantly put too much pressure on himself.
The last six weeks, however, have shown what Orso can do. Once he put the pressure off himself, he started making the plays he knew he could.
Orso was immediately feeling OU, but his mother was another story. The distance was a huge concern for her. But after taking the visit, talking to the coaches and academic counselors, she's right there with Orso, too.
"My mom loves it," Orso said. "She was a little hesitant before we got here because of how far away it is from home. But every question we had was answered. Everybody told the truth. About everything."
Orso said it feels great to have the process done with, but he didn't rule out looking around. It's tough to find fault with that as a kid that had no recruitment attention until the last month. Schools like Auburn, Mississippi State and Clemson are starting to knock on the door.
"I'd say I'm pretty set," Orso said. "I don't want to close out all options, but it's OU so there's not a lot more you can want."
Hayes gets advice from somebody who has been there
There wasn't anybody better for Lackawanna (Pa.) junior college running back to ask advice from than OU senior running back Damien Williams. Williams has had some off the field issues for the Sooners but was in the same position as Hayes was two years ago.
A juco running back, not signing early, and trying to pick the school that is going to be the best fit and help him accomplish his goals. Williams chose OU over Texas Tech and Arizona State. He told Hayes that decision has worked out pretty well for him.
"I talked to him after the game," Hayes said. "He said Coach Stoops came and got him. OU will help you get bigger and faster."
He said it definitely helped to have Williams talk to him because of the familiarity of it all. Even though Hayes enjoyed talking with Brennan Clay and Roy Finch, they couldn't 100 percent relate to Hayes' situation.
"He knows. Damien knows what it takes and what this is all about," Hayes said. "It was a real interesting talk."
Hayes loved his visit at OU, and the Sooners could use him at either running back or in the slot but nothing is settled yet. He will take at least one more visit to Arizona State and then it could be a waiting game as Hayes will not sign until February.