Sooner Intel, Pt. II: OU news and nuggets

News and notes with some of OU's top targets heading into a crazy recruiting weekend for the Sooners.

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.

Jones ready for OU trip

No matter how you slice it, social media plays a role in recruiting. It was the first sign for Saraland (Ala.) High wide receiver Velus Jones to know the Sooners were interested.

He noticed around a month or so ago the OU coaches started to follow him on Twitter. Nothing was being said just yet, but he knew something could be close to happening.

Sure enough it did. The Sooners were back on the offer trail in full force, making three offers at wide receiver in one day. Two of them, Jones and juco prospect Dre Massey, will be in Norman this weekend.

“It blew up really fast,” Jones said. “I really like their offense, and it’s blessing to have them offer me. I’ll be happy to get there and see what’s going on.”

Jones, a three-star prospect, is still technically committed to USC at this point. He said his relationship with Tee Martin is the one thing that is keeping him pledged to the Trojans. But with so much uncertainty surrounding that situation, he said he was open toward seeing what else was out there.

He said his primary contact has been outside receivers coach Dennis Simmons, but he’s hoping to get to know a lot more of them this weekend.

“I’m hoping to get a better relationship with the coaches and a get a better of things would be if I go to Oklahoma,” Jones said. “I just want to experience everything. And going to a game for that atmosphere should be great.”

Jones will be coming with his coach, but then he also has a great aunt and uncle that he said lives about 15 minutes away from campus. He wasn’t sure what direction or the town, but he said it’s not like it’s distant family.

What happens is his relatives always make the trek to Alabama, but he is close to them. And it’s definitely something that can play a positive factor for OU going forward.

“It does help a lot because if I ever need anything, I know I have family there,” Jones said. “I’m never alone.”

Jones is busy right now, seeing one major school after the next. Michigan is on tap for next week, followed by a trip to Tennessee in two weeks.

It’s pretty clear who OU see Jones as in the future. The Sooners tried so hard to land Ryan Newsome for the 2015 class as the next Sterling Shepard. Newsome went to Texas so that didn’t pan out but now Jones could be the next guy looking to walk in Shepard’s shoes.

“Shepard is a great wide receiver,” Jones said. “He’s somebody I look up to a lot. OU has a great chance. They’re really on my list, but I just got to see how everything plays out.”

Jones said he wants to feel at home but that he’s also looking for that early playing time. He believes he’ll be good enough to get on the field and earn that spot.

OU might be the place to make that happen. With Shepard and Durron guaranteed to be gone next year, the position is open to anybody who is willing to separate himself from the rest of the pack even if it is a true freshman.

Hearing Jones describe his game, it does sound a lot like Shepard.

“I would say my biggest strength is my ability to get the ball when it’s in the air,” Jones said. “I have good speed and good route running. I look at it this way. Put me in a position where I can make plays, and I will.”

Jones said right now he is 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds and doesn’t care whether he plays as a slot receiver or on the outside.

OU making run at Castillo

Believe it or not, there could have been one more official visitor in the house as Webb City (Mo.) High offensive lineman Trystan Castillo was all set to visit OU for the full 48 hours.

Until state playoffs got in the way. Webb City, a five-time defending state champion, isn’t playing Friday. No, it’s playing Saturday afternoon, giving Castillo no shot whatsoever of being able to be in Norman for the game itself.

That’s OK. Castillo, a three-star offensive guard, could return in December for an official visit and figure things out. At least that was the logic before Castillo threw a curveball and suggested, if it was OK with the OU coaches, coming down to Norman for an unofficial visit Sunday.

Offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh had absolutely no issues with this scenario, and there you go, the Missouri commit will be in Norman on Sunday.

“He started to follow me on Twitter, and we started talking,” Castillo said. “He wanted to see how interested I was in OU. He sees me as an offer player, but he wants to see me in person.”

The one hiccup in this plan for Castillo is that it seems like a given that he’ll have to return to Norman if things go well. Because of the limited amount of time on an unofficial like he’s taking, he said he understands he’ll have to come back to get a feel about the academic side of things.

What would an offer from OU mean to Castillo?

“It would be a game-changer,” Castillo said. “With all the tradition and stuff and how great of a winning program, it’s definitely up there.”

Castillo, for now, remains committed to the Tigers. But between the racial tension and administration’s reaction toward everything and the departure of Gary Pinkel as head coach, it’s clear he’s almost as officially as you can be in terms of being on the open market.

Minnesota has jumped in first and Castillo is absolutely interested. But OU has a place, too, especially since his brother was a huge OU fan in the last decade as Castillo rattled off a list of who’s who in OU in the last decade.

“We watched guys like Adrian Peterson, Sam Bradford, Landry Jones, Kenny Stills, Jermaine Gresham, Frank Alexander, Gerald McCoy,” Castillo said.

The last OU game he attended was back when Peterson was still with the Sooners. Unfortunately, that won’t change this year since Saturday is senior night, but he can get a look at the facilities.

Castillo is a tackle in high school, but it’s pretty clear to him that he’ll be an interior guy in college. He has no problems with that with his 6-foot-4, 280-pound size.

You know Bedenbaugh likes his guys nasty, and Castillo seems to fit that to a T.

“I love run blocking,” Castillo said. “I like putting people on their backs and pancaking people as much as I can. I want to open up those big holes.”

With running backs like Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon back for at least one more season, Castillo believes he’d be a natural fit in Norman.

Tapper talks cousin

One of the more intriguing 2017 visitors is South Charleston (W.V.) High safety Derrek Pitts. Not exactly the strongest ties to the area, OU has one enormous ace in the hole in senior defensive end Charles Tapper.

Tapper is Pitts’ cousin. The safety was ready to divulge a top five last month before deciding to pull it back, at least for now. The Sooners are expected to make that top five, and Pitts is returning to Norman for the second time this season.

Tapper would love to see his family continue that OU pipeline, but he knows full well it’s about what’s right for Pitts.

“I want him to do his own thing,” Tapper said. “I want him to fall in love with OU like I fell in love with OU. I tell him all the great things about OU and some of things I didn’t like about OU.”

The biggest thing Tapper has stressed is to simply enjoy the process. Tapper, who was a major unknown in high school, didn’t exactly do just that. One visit to OU, boom, he was hooked. He was a Sooner. If it happens that way with Pitts as well, Tapper will be pleased. If not, hey, no problem there, either.

“I only took one visit, and it was to OU,” Tapper said. “I loved it. I don’t want to force him into anything. Because whatever you do, you got to make sure you love Norman. You got to make sure you love the people in Norman because they’re the ones you’re going to be around.”

Tapper won’t push, but it’s clear when Tapper says something, Pitts can take it to heart. This isn’t some other player on the team trying to hype things up. This isn’t a coach trying to sell a recruit on a program. This is family, which obviously is going to run a lot deeper than some college choice.

“The coaches here are great,” Tapper said. “I don’t think you’re going to get a better of coaches in the nation. I’m his cousin so he knows he can believe what I’m saying. It’s not like with the other recruits I talk with on visits, he’s always going to be family.”

West Virginia, Maryland, Notre Dame and Ohio State are some of the other schools that definitely appear to be among Pitts’ favorites. The Irish and Buckeyes have yet to officially make the offer.

No other choice, Stoops embraces double duty

At least 14 confirmed official visitors. At least another 40-50 unofficial visitors. It’s one heck of a crazy weekend in recruiting.

But how does it feel to be Bob Stoops? How does it feel to have to coach all weekend and then have to stay motivated for all the recruits?

Stoops gave some insight into just that.

“I would prefer to have it spread out,” said Stoops about not having so many recruits. “I would prefer to not ever have someone come for a game. Then all I have to do is deal with the game. But that ain’t gonna work. I’ve embraced it. You work it and you do double duty and Sunday you crash. It’s just how it is.”

The question was about his philosophy for the event. Some schools prefer to never have more than a certain number of recruits so that all get that required one-on-one attention. Others try to sway recruits toward visiting on “lesser” games so the coaches can still do what they need to do with the team and the recruiting side of things.

OU, though, well, it’s understandable. The atmosphere for an OU home game, especially one like TCU this weekend, is tough to duplicate. No other choice. You got to roll with it.

“Around here, games work well for recruiting,” Stoops said. “It’s very taxing, but very important. We all invest all we have in it. Through the years, it’s been a positive for us. Our game environment and everything around has been a real plus.”

Stoops and OU will hope for one more positive weekend this time around when the 18th-ranked Horned Frogs come to Norman.


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