It is said in recruiting to never close the door 100 percent. Always leave at least a little crack because you never know what can happen.
There were a lot of names Oklahoma fans had gotten to know for the 2016 class. There were a lot of wide receiver names OU fans had latched on with only to be disappointed in the end.
Patterson (La.) High receiver Mykel Jones wasn’t one of them. Wasn’t on the radar at all. Spring? Nope. Summer? No shot. Fall? He’s sticking in the SEC. Winter? It’s Alabama or Ole Miss. Week before signing day? Not sure, but it’s not OU.
It wasn’t. Not a chance. Jones remembers his OU offer from way back when, and he has no problem admitting it didn’t do much for him. He wasn’t mad or anything, but there was no excitement, either.
So how did a consensus four-star receiver sort of fall into the lap of the Sooners on signing day? You can give a big thanks to offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley.
“I talked to Coach Riley, and when I found he was really serious about an official visit, I was willing to go,” Jones said. “When I went up there, it was one of the best decisions I had ever made.”
It took a while for Jones to come around. Like anyone who had followed his recruitment, Jones thought he was destined for the SEC. The final weekend before signing day he was scheduled to visit Ole Miss.
Jones was ready to roll until he heard some unsettling news.
“They told me they didn’t know if everything was guaranteed,” Jones said. “My thought process was I’m not going to come up there and waste my time if I don’t know for sure.”
Schools like Ole Miss and Alabama put themselves in a situation where sometimes they cannot sign everybody they initially thought were possible.
It’s a different recruiting strategy for schools like that compared to OU. With Bob Stoops, the mantra has always been about patience and not pressuring any recruit for a commitment.
Analysts can debate whether it’s successful until blue in the face, but it’s obvious that’s what Stoops has done, does and will do going forward. What it means is there’s always a chance for some last-minute additions you never saw coming.
The Sooners are rarely in a spot where they’re filled up heading into signing day. The door was open for Jones, and the door was opened wide following a call by Riley to Jones on Jan. 30, the Saturday of the final weekend before signing day.
All of the other official visitors had already made it to town and one more was coming with Jones, who would take as in-depth a visit as he could in such a limited amount of time.
“Coach Riley called, and I was up for it,” Jones said. “The rest is history. I knew things were going good Sunday when me and Coach Stoops and everybody were having a meeting. I got a chance to see everything within 24 hours. They were on it, on top of it and really into me coming into the program.
“I felt like I was wanted. That’s what made me think it could be the place. All that was left was to tell my mom.”
Jones did just that when he got home Sunday. He told his mother, and like everybody else, she was incredibly surprised. She thought SEC all along as well. But Jones said when she heard, she was also comfortable with it.
On his visit, Jones was hosted by Jarvis Baxter and Dede Westbrook. Their message was clear – we need a guy like you to help us get to where we need to be.
“It’s what I thought it would be,” Jones said. “It’s a great traditional program with a lot of history. It’s big time. You know Oklahoma in football. I really liked the campus and everything it had to offer.”
Jones went home Sunday evening and reflected on the process, reflected on how he had gotten to where he was. He felt there was a reason he went to OU.
He called Riley on Sunday evening and said he was heading to the Sooners. He wasn’t going to announce his decision until signing day, but he knew he would be with OU.
Of course things can change so much in recruiting and OU had already seen that once with wide receiver target Velus Jones and flip-flopping between OU and USC in the span of 24 hours. So Jones called again Monday and let the coaches know one more time – “I’m going to be a Sooner.”
“Myke (Mykel) was a little bit different,” said Riley on signing day. “He and I had stayed in touch kind of sporadically throughout the process. We offered him early in his—I think last spring, we offered him, I believe. Stayed in touch back and forth but just never really got serious.
“Then in the end, conversations got a little more serious. We got him up here last-minute on a visit and, like a lot of kids, when he got here, he just couldn’t stop talking about how impressed he was with this place and how maybe what he saw in OU was different than what his perception was on the outside. Once we got him on campus and around our guys, we felt pretty good about it.”
It took some misfortune for Jones for OU to even be in the picture. Jones was regarded as one of the top receivers in the country following his junior season. Everything came to a halt, though, when he tore his ACL playing basketball.
The offers were still there. But Jones couldn’t go to any spring or summer camps to show what he could do. The interest was there but not nearly as much as it was before.
It was a process for Jones, but he knew he’d make it back. The only time he doubted it all was the night he was injured as he said he saw everything flash before his eyes.
He’s made a full recovery from the torn ACL and even played in the final five games of his senior season, racking up more than 600 receiving yards. But he is a different player, a better one in his opinion.
“It was something that needed to happen because I needed to be humbled,” Jones said. “I needed to realize what was really important. It put a lot of things in perspective.
“I really do have a passion for the game. It made me tougher. It made me work harder and not take anything for granted from now on.”
Jones said he’s stronger and faster than he used to be. Mentally, however, might be even more important as he has been through the pain and struggle. The first game back, and he knew. He knew he could still go.
All that was left was signing day. Knowing full well he was going to pick the Sooners, he didn’t let any of his friends and teammates in on the secret.
“Everybody was like stunned,” Jones said. “Everybody was guessing, and they all guessed wrong.”
Jones said he’s excited to arrive in Norman and help out the program. He realizes his star rating means absolutely nothing going forward. He likes the chance for a fresh start.
“I’m ready for the hard work,” Jones said. “I’m ready to pick up where we left off and help the team get over that hump.”
After all the near-misses with guys like Devin Duvernay (Baylor), Tren’Davian Dickson (Baylor), Tyrie Cleveland (Florida), Velus Jones (USC), OU finally hit the jackpot at receiver with Mykel Jones.
The door was never closed, and the Sooners and Jones seized the opportunity with another example of how fast things can change in recruiting.