As Oklahoma was focusing on finishing strong for the 2016 class, the Sooners also turned their attention toward the 2017 crop with their first junior day last weekend.
This wasn’t the usual junior day, however. The smallest junior day in recent memory with around like 10-12 total prospects.
And all four commits. The Sooners were looking to attack this day by bringing the four commits to campus at once, including Southlake (Texas) Carroll safety Robert Barnes.
Barnes, ranked No. 170 in the Scout 300, is the son of former OU linebacker and captain Reggie Barnes and has been locked in with his commitment since September.
A trip to Norman doesn’t mean much anymore because it’s always home.
“It was great, the same as usual,” Barnes said. “We had a nice little session with Coach Cooks. It just always feels like home here.”
Barnes were key to this visit because coming along for the ride with him was South Grand Prairie (Texas) High safety Jeffery Okudah, a five-star prospect by Scout.
It was the second year in a row Okudah has been at OU’s junior day as it was last year when he received the Sooners offer. It was important once again for defensive backs coach Kerry Cooks to start building that bond once again.
Barnes isn’t shy about saying what his mission is. He’s not done. He’s got a lot of guys he wants to join the OU defense, not just Okudah.
“I’m looking at Anthony Hines, Baron Browning,” Barnes said. “It doesn’t matter to me. I’m trying to build this defense.”
Hines is also a five-star prospect by Scout and has made multiple trips to Norman and Browning is one of the top linebackers for 2017 and is committed to Baylor.
The small junior day, Barnes said, allowed for the recruits to really spend a lot of quality one-on-one time with the coaches and the players as quarterback Baker Mayfield took front-and-center all Saturday with the young recruits.
A lot has been expected of Barnes because of his pedigree. His junior season was a year where he started to put it all together.
“I was just more comfortable with the game,” Barnes said. “I knew I had to go out there and lead. I know that depending on how I do things, I can lead and have others follow my example.”
Recruiting hasn’t stopped at all for Barnes. It can’t, not when schools like Notre Dame and Ohio State are entering the race.
Barnes said he respects those coaches and does look into the programs. But playing for OU, playing for Cooks, it’s going to be tough to beat that.
“I’m extremely excited,” Barnes said. “To see what Coach Cooks did with that defense and secondary was crazy. Coach Cooks, in my opinion, is the best defensive backs coach you can play for. I can’t wait to be there in the secondary.”
The secondary part is the thing to watch. As Barnes’ body continues to fill out, the question becomes whether or not he’ll be a safety or grow into a linebacker like his father. It’s something he can’t control, obviously, but Barnes is hopeful he can stay around 210 pounds and be a force for the Sooners in the secondary.