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.
Stephens no longer under the radar
Dallas area coaches have been in my ear since September about Antoine Stephens, a tall cornerback from Dallas Kimball.
The report was the same – an under the radar kid who is going to blow up once people get a real hard look at him. Turns out they were right. SMU got the ball rolling right before the new year, and an OU offer on Jan. 5 opened the floodgates.
“It has been so rewarding,” Stephens said. “It’s a blessing, you know, never thought it was going to happen. I never thought I would get an offer from a school like Baylor or OU.”
The Baylor interest is rather new, but the Sooners have had Stephens on their radar for a while. This isn’t some random, backup plan option. OU invited Stephens to OU-Texas back in October. The coaches knew about the kid.
It was just about getting to look at the film and knowing everything was squared away academically before going all-in with Stephens.
“It was surprising, but OU had been reaching out to me since the beginning of the season,” Stephens said. “I kept faith in myself and kept working hard and believed it was going to be coming.”
So where did Stephens come from? At 6-foot-2 and around 185 pounds, he obviously has the size of a cornerback. Issue was he had always played wide receiver.
Stephens re-evaluated his situation after last season. He knew it was going to be tough to crack the top receivers in the region, but a switch to cornerback could make him a name to remember. He suggested making the switch, and it obviously paid off.
Stephens had seven interceptions this season and said the transition wasn’t as difficult as he thought it was going to be.
“I knew with my body and ball skills, I could play corner, and I’d be a big corner,” Stephens said. “I knew I had strong instincts and good technique so I was excited to make the switch.”
Stephens originally said he wanted to commit Thursday, and if he did, there’s no question OU was going to be the school. He backed off that statement and said he needed more time. He’ll get all the time he needs with OU this weekend on his official visit.
If he survives the weekend without committing, he’ll be looking at visiting Tech next weekend and Baylor the final weekend before signing day. But Stephens made it clear that if he does indeed commit, no more visits. He said it wouldn’t be fair to do that.
“It’s kind of hard, you know,” Stephens said. “All of them are really good schools. It will be a lot of fun after I pick, but right now it’s not all fun.”
Stephens said he grew up with his two dream schools being OU and Texas so his experience in October to watch OU’s 31-26 victory is one he is never ever going to forget. And he has quickly developed a relationship with co-defensive coordinator Jerry Montgomery.
Things are no doubt looking good for OU.
“All I’m going to do is see where I fit and what would be the best for me,” Stephens said. “I’m excited to take this visit.”
Wright reflects on recruiting
There is nobody better to talk about recruiting and how it was in 1999 compared to how it is today than former OU assistant coach Bobby Jack Wright.
Wright, who announced his retirement from coaching after 42 years earlier this week, spent the last 16 seasons at OU and was always a dynamite recruiter.
“He’s professional,” OU coach Bob Stoops said. “He’s got a great personality, and he cares. He works at it hard and relates to the players. And honesty, I think, as much as anything. He just does a great job with getting to know people, and why this would be a great place and a great fit for them.”
Been doing story time with Wright all this week on the site. Here’s another one as Wright reflects on his time on the trail.
“Oh my gosh, Lord have mercy, the biggest deal as all of you know, the biggest change is all the social media that goes on. The Twitter, the Facebook, the Instagram, all those things – the cell phones. When I started, there weren’t cell phones. You drove around in a car, and I see all the young people here laughing and smiling – that’s right, there was a dang time when there weren’t cell phones.
“Literally you would drive in a car, go 50, 60 miles down the road and it’d hit you and go ‘man I need to call Johnny.’ You’d pull in at a 7-11 or whatever and go up to a pay phone and start pouring your quarters in there, you know, to call Johnny to let him know where you were or when you were going to get to his house or whatever. Might just be a recruiting call to shoot the breeze with him. Then you’d drive another 50 miles and then pull into another 7-11 and make more phone calls. You’d have to go in and get some change from the cashier so you could go out and put your quarters in the phone.
“Then they finally came up with phone cards they'd give you. Y'all don't even remember those. It's changed quite a bit, no doubt. But the biggest change is probably the social media and, you guys don't remember this, and ladies, you don't remember back in the day when I started, there weren't any limitations on the number of days you could go out on the road. Now, you've got all the NCAA regulations and number of times you can see kids. We could go to the same high school every day of the week.
“Back in the old days, you might spend five days a week at one guy's high school. I can remember when I first got started recruiting in San Antonio, I was recruiting some kids at San Antonio Holmes High School and their coaching staff were big domino players. I didn't know anything about dominoes but after that recruiting season, I was a pretty good domino player because I was there every day at lunch sitting down and playing dominoes because I was going to play dominoes until the kids came out for the athletic period and then I was going to visit with them. So those are some of the biggest changes obviously.”