Sooner Intel: OU news and nuggets

Recruiting news and notes from the Sooners in another busy week.

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.

Valentin: ‘Only the best play for him’

It wasn’t a huge weekend for visitors for OU last week with Akron in town, but the Sooners made the most out of the time they had with the guys there.

The one to circle going forward is Philadelphia Imhotep Charter offensive lineman JohnCarlo Valentin. A relationship forged by his friendship with a former OU player is now 100 percent solidified by his relationship with the OU coaches.

Valentin got to know Trent Williams at The Opening in July, and Williams got the ball rolling for the Sooners to look in Valentin’s direction.

Few days later came the offer, and offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh has been in his ear ever since, especially last weekend.

“He’s a great coach,” Valentin said. “Only the best play for him so it would be a great opportunity if it happens.”

Valentin said he was hosted by Orlando Brown, and Brown said what most guys say in their position – to work hard and that nothing is given at a place like OU.

Surprisingly, Valentin said he didn’t have any questions for the OU players or coaches, opting instead to simply enjoy his time in Norman and not worry about things like that.

He went into his official visit with no opinion about the school, but when he left, things had certainly changed.

“It was definitely better than I thought it would be,” Valentin said. “I didn’t have much of an opinion, but I know this would be a great place for me.”

No guarantee whatsoever OU is the school for Valentin, but the Sooners definitely put their best foot forward with him. Valentin was on the visit by himself, and he reiterated the thought of committing never entered into his head.

Up next is the one visit for OU fans to really watch right now as Valentin will be one of three Imhotep players making the trek to Arizona State. No matter how well OU did last weekend, there are some that believe ASU just has to not be a disaster for Valentin to end up in Tempe.

During this period where new schools start to enter the mix, Valentin isn’t really paying too much attention to it.

“I’ll commit when I’m ready for it,” Valentin said. “Schools that have waited too long, sorry, I’m not worried about that.”

OU should continue to pursue Valentin and probably know where it stands by the end of the month following his ASU visit.

Stephens enters the mix

There’s the first sign of running back recruitment in a long time. OU offered Plano (Texas) High running back Brandon Stephens on Thursday morning.

Stephens, a four-star prospect who committed to Stanford last week, is the first OU running back offer in a long, long time.

The offer came on the heels of a peculiar tweet from running backs coach Jay Boulware about how not everybody is cut out to wear the OU hat with a picture of a bunch of running backs like Joe Mixon and Adrian Peterson putting on the OU hat.

It absolutely did seem like a dig at Beaumont (Texas) Central’s Devwah Whaley. Ever since his trip to Norman in the summer, it has felt like the Sooners have been in the clear driver’s seat.

Whaley made things even more interesting by insinuating he was going to silent commit to his school of choice rather soon. Now in mid-September, and there are no signs anywhere of a silent commitment.

OU still feels like the unquestioned leader for the Scout 300 prospect, but the message was sent Thursday morning – can’t wait forever.

Whaley is scheduled to visit OU for TCU weekend, while so far it has been too early to gauge if this means anything for Stephens’ recruitment.

Aggies one to watch for Daniels

Last week we were getting ready for the top five of Euless (Texas) Trinity Scout 150 defensive lineman Chris Daniels.

This week we know OU has made the cut, and it’s time to start dissecting the other choices. Daniels has two regional schools in OU and Texas A&M and three traditional powers in Michigan, Ohio State and Alabama.

As of now, it feels like a two-horse race between the Aggies and Sooners. Not discrediting the other three, but hard to imagine Daniels heading there when none of the three have been his dream school or any legit connection.

Arkansas would have felt like a real school to contend with, but Hogs never offered for some incredibly strange reason.

OU’s biggest concern is going to be the way the Aggies are performing on defense right now. Everybody saw what they did in taking down Arizona State without any issues last week. If that defense performs, all those on the fence about A&M’s future head right back to Kevin Sumlin.

On the OU side of things, nothing too much new with Daniels. Sooners continue to put in the work, and you imagine he could be an official visitor for TCU weekend like so many others.

Diron Reynolds has worked himself into the conversation. Now he’ll have to finish the job.

All in the Barnes family

The week got started with a bang in the commitment of Southlake Carroll (Texas) High safety Robert Barnes for the 2017 class.

Barnes, ranked No. 170 in the Scout 300, is OU’s second Scout 300 commitment for the 2017 class in the Dallas Metroplex area.

OU coaches Bob Stoops and Mike Stoops were in attendance last weekend as Barnes put on a show in Carroll’s 34-30 thrilling win against Tulsa (Okla.) Union. It wasn’t the catalyst to his commitment, but it sure didn’t hurt.

“Honestly, I just woke up and knew Oklahoma is the place for me,” Barnes said. “It has always felt like home. I like all the coaches. It meant a lot to me they were there last week, it was a sign of how loyal they are.”

Barnes said his best relationship is with defensive backs coach Kerry Cooks. The joke going around right now is Cooks doesn’t want Barnes to continue eating because he wants Barnes in his room and not grow up to be a linebacker.

For his part, Barnes was honest in saying he would prefer to be a safety at the next level. Against Union he was forced to drop down into more of a traditional linebacker role because of Union’s offensive setup.

Barnes had at least 15 tackles and is off to a great start to his junior season. Of course Barnes is the son of former OU linebacker and team captain Reggie Barnes, who couldn’t be happier his son is following in his footsteps.

Couldn’t be happier, but it’s clear he also never pressured him, either.

“No, not at all,” Robert Barnes said. “He wasn’t going to pressure me to OU or any other school. He was going to let me make my decision and decide what’s best for me.”

With that in mind, the Barnes family hit the road this summer to see schools like Bama, A&M, Texas, Baylor and others. Barnes admitted Baylor was right there, too, but the Sooners have always been his first love.

“I look in my room right now, and I see me about 5 years old sitting with an OU football helmet,” Barnes said. “There’s another one when I’m like 3, and I’m in a basketball jersey. It means a lot to me.”

Barnes said OU’s tradition did call out to him as well as how great his relationship is with all of the OU coaches. And yea, he admitted the legacy thing was kind of cool, too.

With his commitment locked up, all his focus is on his junior season and trying to get teammate Obi Eboh to reconsider his commitment to Texas.

“Every day. I talk to him about it every day,” Barnes said. “We’ll see. This year I’m a lot more calm and confident and comfortable, and I think it’s showing when I’m out there.”


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