There are a couple of positions that are always mentioned when talking about Oklahoma’s strong recruiting class for 2017.
Ranked No. 2 by Scout, a lot of that is based off the quality start at wide receiver and defensive back. A trio of receivers and a quartet in the secondary with all seven in the Scout 300.
But for OU to truly compete with the big boys like Clemson and Alabama, the Sooners need to get tougher and stronger. That happens at a position like linebacker where somebody like a Hendersonville (Tenn.) Beech inside linebacker Jacob Phillips could be the answer.
“They offered after my sophomore season,” Phillips said. “We were still in school and they came by. We started talking on the phone and was offered later.”
Growing up smack dab in SEC country, Phillips was honest in saying he didn’t know too much about the Sooners or about their recruiting philosophy.
“I didn’t think too much about it,” Phillips said. “I really thought OU just recruited kids from Oklahoma and Texas and that’s it. It made me want to learn more.”
Learning more about the school culminated last week with the rare two-day unofficial visit to Norman to check things out.
In a two-day trip, you can feel like you saw everything you needed to see. Nothing was rushed and crammed into one day where you feel you got a glimpse of it but not the total package.
Phillips has been on a whirlwind of a tour so far and OU wasn’t his last stop. He understands all these schools have great facilities. They all preach certain things. So what matters to him are the people on the visits. Getting to know the coaches and players and making a genuine connection.
He felt he did just that in Norman.
“What stood out the most to me was the quality of the people in Norman,” Phillips said. “I was there for two days so I got to meet a lot of people. I met future draft picks like Sterling Shepard and Eric Striker and was able to get a real feel of the environment.”
Phillips knew going on all these visits would mean his spring break would be null and void. No time to spend with friends as he would be visiting one school after another.
It will be worth it in the end, and you could make the argument it’s already worth it now for Phillips because he can legitimately start to narrow things down based on his visits and realize what schools aren’t for him.
“It’s a huge blessing to get this chance,” Phillips said. “There are people who can’t do what I’m doing and have to wait until the official visits. It has been really nice to travel around and see everything. I think the only schools I haven’t seen are Oregon, Texas A&M and Washington State in terms of schools who have offered me.”
There’s always that concern that when you see so many schools, no visit stands out. They all start to run together and have the same vibe and feeling.
Phillips said this can indeed happen, but it wasn’t with OU.
“OU was a school I had very high interest in going into the visit,” Phillips said. “After? I had a great time and nothing has changed.”
One major reason he had a great time was the approach taken by the Sooners. Yes, linebackers coach Tim Kish spent a lot of time with Phillips and explained where OU sees him fitting in going forward.
He’s a natural inside linebacker, and OU sees no reason to change that. Phillips likes being a leader of the defense making calls.
No, what made this unique was Jordan Evans. About to enter his senior season, Evans will be one of the leaders for the Sooners in 2016. Still recovering from a partially torn pectoral muscle, Evans didn’t practice with Phillips in town but Phillips spent a lot of time with Evans.
“I got to sit down and watch him on the sideline and have a real conversation,” Phillips said. “He told me about the environment and the coaching staff. You could tell he was saying the actual scoop of how it is.
“Then there was a time when Coach Kish was with us and Kish left the room and let me and my parents ask Evans any questions we wanted. It really let us know how things are at OU.”
Phillips is no stranger to social media, and he understands the #SoonerSquad17 movement and the #WeWant hashtag. Phillips was that guy for a day last week.
Even though a decision isn’t around the corner, the Sooners have done everything to put themselves in the mix going forward.
“I like it a lot,” said Phillips about SoonerSquad17. “I mean you only get one recruiting process so why not make it as fun as possible. OU is a school I’m very, very interested in. I was before and still am now.”