RECRUITING: Recruiting Notebook (1/28)

The latest on Lance Mitchell and other recruiting news and notes as Signing Day draws near

Sometimes it is just as important to be lucky as good!

In the case of junior college all-american linebacker Lance Mitchell it was more important to be lucky than good!

During the recruiting process the Sooners put on one of the best recruiting efforts I have ever followed, and yet came up short on Mitchell. OU did everything right. They were creative, they were aggressive, they were caring and yet in the end Mitchell chose the University of Florida. You can't blame Mitchell for choosing Florida, because it is a great football program, and at the time featured one of the top college football coaches in the country in Steve Spurrier.

However, Mitchell did not choose Florida because of Spurrier or because in his opinion they had a better football program than OU, he chose Florida because they played in the Southeast Conference. After all the effort that OU put forth in recruiting Mitchell I was shocked to hear that he chose Florida because he wanted to play in the SEC. Mitchell, at the time, said that he felt the best college football in the country was played in the Southeast Conference and that he would get the best exposure in the SEC.

This was a blow to the Sooners recruiting effort, but not the end of the world. Mitchell is the top rated linebacker in the country, but his teammate, Pasha Jackson, is the third rated JUCO linebacker in the country and he did sign with OU. OU needs two starters at linebacker and in a perfect world Mitchell would have lined up in the middle and Jackson at the SLB spot, but when Mitchell went to Florida plans were being made to try Jackson inside.

Both Mitchell and Jackson are semester signees and soon after signing day Jackson arrived in Norman and Mitchell in Florida. This is where OU gets lucky and it has nothing to do with Spurrier leaving Florida to become the head coach of the Washington Redskins.

Mitchell was into his third week of going to class at Florida when the academic counselor asked to talk to him. Mitchell was told that he had graduated in fine fashion at San Francisco City College and had all the necessary classes to enroll at Florida, but they had discovered that he did not have all the necessary classes to transfer from a junior college to the SEC.

Apparently, Mitchell was one specific English class short. Mitchell had taken an English class that was good enough for San Francisco City College and good enough for the University of Florida, but it wasn't what the Southeast Conference was looking for. At that point Mitchell was ineligible to play in the Southeast Conference for at least one academic year.

Fortunately for Oklahoma, they handled the fact Mitchell went to Florida with total class and this is where ‘Being Good' comes in. If OU had been negative in any way, or if they had acted rude in any way when Mitchell gave them the bad news then Mitchell would have never called them back. However, Sooner co-defensive coordinator Brent Venables doesn't operate that way and for that matter nobody on the Sooner staff operates that way. It's a class staff from the top to the bottom and Venables was the perfect gentleman, wishing Mitchell the best of luck and telling him if he ever needed a friend to talk too that he had his number.

When Mitchell heard that he was ineligible to play in the SEC, he needed a friend to talk too!

It was only then that the Mitchell family got in touch with Oklahoma and not after Spurrier resigned, like many are speculating. If the transfer credit problem had never come up with the SEC, Mitchell would be the starting middle linebacker for Florida this upcoming season.

As it is, Mitchell would have to sit out a year at Florida if he remained with the Gators and Mitchell certainly did not want to do that.

Mitchell's family called Oklahoma to ask if he would be eligible at OU and in the Big 12 Conference. OU's top notch academic people got to work immediately and checked out all possibilities. They discovered that indeed Mitchell was eligible at OU and that the Big 12 Conference accepted all of the courses that Mitchell brought from junior college.

That sealed the deal for Mitchell. He almost signed with OU anyway and now he has another school that he truly wanted to play for willing and able to take him. He asked for his release from Florida and the Gators reluctantly gave it to him. The Gators certainly didn't want to, but it was their mistake that was costing Mitchell his eligibility. Mitchell had graduated from junior college and was told by the University of Florida that all his classes would transfer. Mitchell went to Florida on that word and when it was discovered that one English class wouldn't transfer it was the Gators fault and not Mitchell's. The University of Florida had no choice but to grant Mitchell his release.

However, at this point Mitchell is still not eligible to play at OU this season. Mitchell is a double-transfer and because of the double-transfer rule he is supposed to sit out a year before earning eligibility. However, OU has asked for a waiver in Mitchell's case claming that precedent has been set in previous cases such as this where an athlete was given immediate eligibility.

The key point is that Mitchell did not make any academic mistakes. He graduated from San Francisco City College with the proper credits and grade point average and was told by Florida that everything checked out for him to be a Gator. When it was uncovered that everything did not check out it was Florida that made the mistake not Mitchell. In recent situations like this the NCAA has always ruled with the athlete and granted immediate eligibility.

OU fully expects Mitchell to be eligible this fall, but if he doesn't Mitchell does have a redshirt year available to him. So, even if the waver doesn't come through Mitchell is still going to be a Sooner.

Now the Sooners have met all their recruiting needs at linebacker and have put together one of the top classes in the country. Mitchell is a pure middle linebacker in the Jeff Kelly and Torrance Marshall mode. Coach Venables had pretty good luck with both Kelly and Marshall as both were high drafts and both made it in the National Football League. Jackson is a perfect SLB and is loaded with size and speed. Wayne Chambers is one of the best prep middle linebacker prospects in the Big 12 area, and Rufus Alexander is a super talent, with great speed that is a perfect WLB.

Once again the Sooner coaching staff has proven they are one of the top recruiting staffs in college football. They are putting together one of the top classes in the country and closing with the bang.

The Sooner coaching staff continues to prove over and over again they are good, but they also seem to have Lady Luck on their side as well!

Other notes
Oklahoma received some good news early Saturday morning when they learned one of their commitments in JeJuan Rankins, an outstanding athlete from (Winsdor) Bertie, North Carolina did not make his last scheduled visit to Notre Dame this weekend. Rankins is now totally a Sooner.

The Sooners are also sweating the final visit this weekend of another outstanding prospect from California, who claims the Sooners lead. Aaron Miller, of Fresno, (Edision) California did not leave for his visit to LSU until Saturday, thus will not be home from that visit to late Monday night. So there will be no update on Miller tonight. At last check, Miller says the Sooners hold a slight lead over USC and UCLA heading into the LSU visit.

No news is not good news for the Sooners pursuit of defensive end Kareem Brown of Miami, (Norland) Florida. Brown was avoiding most phone calls Sunday evening, but all indications are from those close to him that he is a strong Miami lean at this point, with Florida and OU still in the hunt. His folks don't rule out LSU either, but without question OU is a long shot and it is getting longer by the hour.

Sooners Illustrated Top Stories