Script flipped for Perine, Cornwell

A case of trading places with Samaje Perine and David Cornwell. Perine, originally from Alabama, is going to OU. Cornwell, who lives in Oklahoma, is headed to the Tide.

It's funny how things work out sometimes. If Alabama and Oklahoma were going to meet up, their respective fan bases were certainly hoping it would be for the 2014 BCS championship.

Didn't turn out that way, but the Crimson Tide and Sooners will go head-to-head in the 2014 AllState Sugar Bowl on Thursday night in New Orleans.

It's not often OU and Alabama wage in huge recruiting wars, but the 2014 class does have a special feeling in regards to a couple of top recruits.

Norman (Okla.) North quarterback David Cornwell, a Scout 300 prospect, is committed to Alabama. Pflugerville (Texas) Hendrickson running back Samaje Perine is pledged to the Sooners.

Perine is originally from Alabama before moving to Texas. So it's the Alabama kid heading to OU and the Oklahoma kid heading south to the Tide.

"I was very surprised when I heard that," said Perine about the Sugar Bowl matchup. "I was not expecting that at all. I've always had full confidence in our team, though. This is a special program."

In the end it came down to the Sooners and Crimson Tide, and Perine didn't waste too much time to make his decision. He was busy in March checking out both places. One more trip to Norman sealed the deal. He has been a firm commitment since that time.

Cornwell was an unknown heading into his junior season at Jones (Okla.) High. Following a huge season there, he transferred to Norman North. But not being a native Oklahoman, it was never Cornwell's dream to play for the Sooners.

The dream, though, was to play for a top program, and no program showed more consistent interest than Alabama.

It came down to Virginia Tech and Alabama for Cornwell, but once he chose the Tide in June, he has been as solid as they come and been an active recruiter for the rest of the class.

"I feel like it's our second home," said Ron Cornwell, David's father. "We've made so many trips there, and we're so comfortable with everything."

Cornwell made his official visit to Alabama earlier this month and everything is good to go for Cornwell. Despite tearing his ACL earlier this season, everything is on task for Cornwell to enroll early at Alabama and be ready to throw and compete during spring practice.

Perine knows a thing or two about coming back from injury, too. Following a sensational sophomore season, he tore his ACL in a playoff loss. But his junior season wasn't destroyed. Instead he was able to work his way back and rush for more than 2,000 yards.

He caught the eye of OU running backs coach Cale Gundy, and the quick bond they developed went a long way toward him choosing the Sooners.

The depth chart didn't hurt, either.

"OU seemed like the right spot for me," Perine said. "It's closer to home but far enough away where I can still feel independent. At OU I felt like I had a chance of playing my freshman year."

That final statement has been scrutinized and criticized often as Perine backing down from a challenge. He said that's absolutely not the case, and it's tough to dispute his logic.

The Sooners are losing three senior running backs and a senior fullback from this year's team after Thursday night. OU's leading rusher after the primary backs is redshirt freshman quarterback Trevor Knight and the next running back is freshman Keith Ford who only had 20 carries this season.

"I felt like it was my chance," Perine said. "Once I make a decision, I tend to stick with it. It was great to catch up with Coach Gundy again."

Perine is locked with OU and discussions are already underway about what packages OU can implement to use him. And the same can be said for Cornwell with the Tide. He'll never forget the first time he got to talk to Alabama coach Nick Saban on the phone and now he's ready to call Tuscaloosa home.

With Cornwell, when discussing his commitment in June, it was all about a feeling.

"It felt like something I should do right there," said Cornwell in June. "It felt right. I had a lot of contemplation and the meeting with Coach Saban went 10 times better than I thought it would."

Perine has made several unofficial visits to OU and will make his official visit in a couple of weeks. Cornwell has visited Alabama eight times in the last two years. But before Cornwell heads to Alabama and Perine to Norman, they'll watch the Sooners and Tide battle it out.

"Funny how that worked out?" Perine said. "I'm excited and ready for a great game."

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