Whaley, ranked No. 159 in the Scout 300 and No. 9 running back overall, was scheduled to meet with OU coaches a couple of times.
Last summer was when things were supposed to get rolling as Whaley was expected to be at OU’s satellite camp in the Houston area. That didn’t pan out.
Whaley wanted to come to Norman three weeks ago for junior day, but a track meet forced him to stay home.
He made it to OU last weekend. Nothing stopped him from having essentially a two-day visit with the coaches, and the Sooners are squarely in the mix for Whaley.
“It was a beautiful campus,” Whaley said. “I really enjoyed the coaching staff. Everything was really nice, and they’re about to redo a lot of things. For me, it felt like I was at home.”
Whaley spent most of last Friday traveling to get to OU before arriving late that night. He spent some time with running backs coach Jay Boulware on Friday night before getting the full court press from all of OU’s offensive coaches Saturday.
Some players, too. Despite the weekend still technically being spring break, some of the players were back. One, in particular, meant a lot to Whaley that running back Samaje Perine was back on campus.
“I wanted to get a feel and perspective from some of the players,” Whaley said. “I asked him a lot of questions about what made him choose OU and what he thinks of the coaches. His answers really stood out. It was a lot of good things to think about.”
Whaley was first being recruited by Cale Gundy, starting a couple of years ago when Gundy was OU’s running backs coach. Jay Boulware is the man in charge there, but it doesn’t make a difference to Whaley. He said he talks to Gundy, Boulware, Lincoln Riley or even Bob Stoops in some way every single day.
The relationship with the coaches is so important, and Whaley said the sincerity of the OU coaching staff has really made an impact.
“It’s just great to see,” Whaley said. “They’re putting in the time day-in and day-out and building that relationship. You can tell how genuine they are, all of them. They don’t just care about football. It means a lot.”
Whaley said the thought of committing briefly crossed his mind Saturday, but he knew going into the visit that it wasn’t going to happen. He has other schools he wants to visit, including Georgia and Arkansas. He would also love to make a return visit to Alabama.
For OU, it’s going to be key to get that return visit. Whaley made it crystal clear one visit won’t be enough for him. He needs to see and will see his top schools multiple times before making his decision.
“I always knew OU had a great campus and knew I would enjoy the trip,” Whaley said. “I loved the coaches, and it was a great time. I’ll definitely try to come back in the summer.”
In-state schools like Texas and Texas A&M are also in the hunt, but there’s one thing OU has said that could set itself apart. There’s not beating around the bush here. Whaley said the Sooners have made it clear they’re only taking one running back for the 2016 class.
With OU’s embarrassment of riches at running back, it makes sense. The Sooners are still going to be stocked at the position going forward, which will give Whaley something to think about.
“There’s some positive and some negative,” Whaley said. “I have thought about it a lot because they will be loaded. It’s a process you have to go through.”
Whaley just happened to be the first major recruit hosted by OU since the racial chant video went viral nearly three weeks ago by a former OU fraternity.
Whaley said that won’t factor at all into his decision and said OU fans have nothing to worry about in that regard.
“When you look at it and think about it, it’s going to be there everywhere,” Whaley said. “Alabama, Georgia, everywhere, you never know when you’re going to run into it.
“Everybody is still in it. I don’t have any favorites right now. OU is probably ahead of everybody slightly. That could change or it could not. OU could be slightly ahead the entire time. I don’t know how it’s going to play out.
Whaley said his best trait is his aggressiveness, saying he runs with a chip on his shoulder. He’s a power running back, who just happens to have speed.
He initially thought he knew when he would commit. But after accepting an invite to play in the Under Armour All-America Game, Whaley said he’s not sure what he’s going to do. He could wait until that game, nothing is set in stone.