Weekend Recruiting Wrapup

An update and wrapup at the week's recruiting news and notes from around the nation. Gaithersburg, Md. linebacker Bani Gbadyu (pictured above) still ranks near the top of the of the Sooners' wish list at linebacker. See inside for more on Gbadyu's interest on Oklahoma and much, much more.

Bradford commit to end QB recruiting?

Yesterday James brought you the news the Putnam City's Sam Bradford, (6-4 / 190 / 4.7), accepted the recent Sooner offer and committed to Bob Stoops and Chuck Long. Branford's commitment might just stop the QB parade before it hits Main Street, as OU coaches were not blown away by too many QB prospects last month, and they literally conducted a nationwide search.

Bradford is tall, fast with good arm strength and excellent QB skills. No matter who starts for OU this fall, Bradford will have two years to mature and refine his skills before he sees playing time on Owen Filed. That has to be a plus, for all parties, for there's nothing worse than to have to play a 'true' freshman who's not ready to be thrown into the stands and trampled into the ground by 300 pound meat-eaters, who can also rum as fast as he can.

OU coaches feel that Bradford is as good as any quarterback anywhere, and is capable of developing into a great quarterback - if not rushed. As a junior, Bradford threw for almost 2,000 yards and 16 touchdowns against seven interceptions.

"I think I can throw all the passes that a passing quarterback needs to throw," said Bradford. "If there is a touch pass that needs to be dropped in there I can do that, but if I need to gun one in there I can do that. I can also throw on the run. Most of our pass plays were play-action with me rolling out. In fact, I would rather throw on the run, or rolling out, than as a straight drop-back passer."

"I am a good three- to five-step passer. That is what we use in our system. Last year we were a balanced offense, but this year I think we will become a little more pass-oriented. We have a good receiving corps and I think we will use them this year."

Bradford can bench 225 pounds (set of five), squats 405 (set of five) and he has a vertical jump of 34-inches. To get an idea of Sam's athleticism, note that he starts on PC North's talented basketball team and averages 15 points and nine rebounds per game. Although he has not been offered by any D1 basketball programs, he is good enough that he has received some mail from basketball coaches.

As we have said before - the QB crop nationally is good, but there have been no real sure fire, can't miss prospects since Rhett Bomar graduated a year ago. After hearing from the seven completed national combines - most SCOUT experts agree that the QB field has yet to produce a clear cut top prospect.

That seems to line up perfectly with the Sooners decision to offer Bradford, who may indeed be as good as any QB nationally. It'll be interesting to watch Branford's senior season this fall, but right now, the OU coaches believe they may have gotten a steal.

Coaches evaluating the evaluations . . .

This week the OU coaching staff was busy collecting and evaluating the reports from a month of in-person evaluations. As we expected, there have been a few surprises, additions and new targets added.

To better explain - let's look back at the end of spring ball when the in person evaluation period first begins. Going into the period, coaches are generally relying on two things in their initial 'star search':

1) Last years results: when these seniors to be were probably first noticed as juniors. Many times, coaches ask for film of player 'A' and notice a dynamite player 'B' - many times a junior, and quickly note the name, position and number.

2) Word of Mouth: from high school coaches, coaching associates, an occasional alumnus or yes, from time to time, even off the internet.

What they hit the road in mid-April is a list of 200 plus prospect names, high schools, positions with approximate heights, weights and size. We say 'approximate,' because until these prospects are officially measured and weighed, most data is 'self reported.' (Think it doesn't get exaggerated? Remember talking to that bind date on the phone the first time? . . . "well, how tall are you?" she asks. "Uhh, I'm about six feet . . . "). With the prospect of a college scholarship hanging in the balance you can bet that most 'self reported' data is somewhat generous in favor of the recruit.

So the assistant coaches hit the road and have to separate fact from fiction. More often than not, a 6'3" recruit is actually 6'1" and about 15 pounds lighter in person, ("I'm running track coach, I've lost a few pounds . . ."). They talk to the kids, try to get a feel for what kind of passion they have for the game. They also try to visit with coaches and family members. What they are trying to find here is not just kids that can play, but the BEST kids that can play, and the differences between the top prospect at any one position and the fifteenth best prospect at the same position is sometimes an inch in height, a tenth of a second in forty times, or a GPA.

All of this information has to be extracted and digested over a five week period, and the clock is always ticking. You can understand why most of the early 'top prospects' are generally from more populated areas. Coaches simply do not have time in the spring to search out a single kid in Dermott, Arkansas, when he can see fifty, or more great players in Houston. Conversely, when a surprise top recruit does surface later in the summer, or early fall, it's usually from a fairly remote locale.

Big Dog still on top

OK, let's assume that there are a few unknown recruits still out there, waiting to be discovered at camp, or in early fall. Aside from those - who are the top recruits for Oklahoma as we get ready to go into the hectic 'camp season?'

Once again, this year's headliner is, and will be until he declares his intentions, is without question, Myron Rolle, (6-2, 210, 4.5), Princeton, N.J. As we said last week, Myron would like to decide by late summer - early fall, but don't rush the process. Myron and family will make the decision when ready. Rolle is expected to graduate early and enroll in his selected school in January.

Beside Rolle, it's still a few weeks too early to try to project who OU's top ten recruiting targets might be, but after this week we know we're at least getting closer.

Linebacker U

Brent Venables has built the Sooner linebacker position into one of the nation's best - consistently turning out Butkus finalists and winners in greater numbers than any school in the country, and the list of top high school talent that OU is considering is always fun to look at.

That list was still somewhat incomplete last week, now it's a bit clearer, as the Sooners have offered the following dozen: Blake Collier, (6-1 / 210 / 4.49); Justin Northwest; Bani Gbadyu, (6-1.5 / 203 /4.6), Gaithersburg, MD; Brandon Spikes, (6-4 / 230 / 4.6), Shelby, NC; Jarrell Miller, (6-3 / 235 / ), Highland Springs, VA; Joshua Tatum, (6-2 / 220 / 4.5), Oakland, CA; Mike Morgan, (6-3.5 / 185 / 4.59); Dallas (Skyline); Sergio Kindle, (6-3 / 220 / 4.6); Dallas Woodrow Wilson; Bo Harris, (6-2 / 210 / 4.65); Conyers, GA; Tory Smith, (6-0 / 241 / 4.8), Rome, GA; Anthony Lewis, (6-2.5 / 220 / 4.6), Haltom City, TX; Akeem Hebron, (6-2 / 198 / 4.5), Wheaton, MD; and Allen Bradford, (6-0 / 222 / 4.55), Colton, CA.

That's probably a consensus list of the nation's elite linebackers. But we can mark one off the list, as Sergio Kindle has already committed to Texas, and that commitment seems to be solid. If Kindle were still available, he'd certainly be on the 'top five' chart.

Obviously, the Sooners would be happy with any three off of this list, but we promised to try to list the favorites. Let's go out on a limb here and speculate just who is at the top of the Sooner's LB wish list.

Primarily due to geography, we'll start by naming the three remaining Texans: Blake Collier, Mike Morgan and Anthony Lewis along with North Carolina's Brandon Spikes and perhaps the nation's top linebacker, Oakland California's Josh Tatum.

Our Top Five (for now) - Up close

One common ingredient on the elite list is speed, and perhaps one of the fastest anywhere could be Blake Collier, who the Sooners offered this week. Collier has become one of the top linebackers in the state of Texas, and he is one of those linebackers that have caught the eye of a number of national programs as well.

"I played defensive end my whole football career, but last year my football coaches noticed I had a lot of speed and changed me to linebacker," said Collier. "I like playing linebacker a lot and I have a lot of fun playing the position. It is definitely a more complicated position than defensive end, but I didn't do too bad. I can play a whole lot better than I played last year."

In his first year at linebacker, Collier finished with 88 tackles, two sacks, two interceptions and a blocked punt. "Last year was OK for me, but I know that I am going to do a whole lot better this year," said Collier. "My linebacker coach (Coach Perez) is a great coach and he says that I am going to have a great year this year." Collier can bench 300 pounds and posted a 31-inch vertical jump at the Scout Combine last weekend. Along with OU, Texas A&M and Texas Tech seem to be the most mentioned schools on Collier's list at the moment.

Michael Morgan is not your prototype linebacker that weighs 230 pounds in high school, but with his speed and height he has college recruiters all over the country talking about his abilities. Those college coaches know that Morgan will grow into a 230-pound outside linebacker, and they know he will still be able to run with 4.5 speed.

"I have always been able to run," said Morgan. "I can't let my blocker get a good shot on me and I can't let the ball carrier get in front of me. When I am chasing him from the backside, it is my responsibility to catch him, and most of the time I can."

Morgan goes into his senior year as a three-year starter at defensive end. Last season, Morgan made 98 tackles, 18 sacks, seven caused fumbles and 11 tackles for loss. Morgan can bench 280 pounds, squats 350 and he runs the anchor leg in the relays in track. He does not plan on making his choice until after his season, but right now has OU, Texas and Nebraska at the top of his list with LSU and A&M in striking distance.

Anthony Lewis may have just finished his first year playing defense, but was first team all-district selection with 137 tackles, 5 sacks, 5 forced fumbles, 2 interceptions in his junior season. "I've got great power and I'm and impact player on defense. I make my way to the ball well. I just want to work on my strength and get faster." Haltom head coach Kenny Perry says: "He's the most intense football player I've ever been around...He looks to really hit someone every time the ball is snapped. He's a great football player who plays full speed on every play -- on special teams, everything."

The Haltom star is being courted by schools coast to coast and currently has 26 offers. Oklahoma is one of his leaders at this time, and that suits OU coaches just fine. Lewis is fully academically qualified.

North Carolina's Brandon Spikes is a 6-foot-4 230-pound monster who just roams from sideline-to-sideline wreaking havoc on opposing offenses. Incredibly gifted, Spikes has all the intangibles that you look for in a linebacker. "I play outside linebacker in high school, but I will probably play inside in college," said Spikes. "I will play either inside or outside, just as long as I play LB. Some recruiting sites have me at defensive end. I am not a defensive end."

Spikes is a rare four-year starter splitting time between defensive end and linebacker his freshman year, as he reported to camp at 255. After losing the 'baby fat' - thanks to a great running program, Spikes got his weight down to 230 and he has been one of the key players in Crest High's back-to-back state championships.

"I plan to take all my visits during the season because I want to see the games and see the game atmosphere," said Spikes. "I have been offered by Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Louisville, LSU, Maryland, Michigan, N.C. State, Oklahoma, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Wake Forrest. After the camp in Georgia, I want to get my list down to five. I think they are going to be Oklahoma, Michigan, N.C. State, LSU and Florida."

We mentioned that the nation's top linebacker could be Oakland's Joshua Tatum, (6-2, 220, 4.5). As a junior, he had an injured shoulder and did not play at St. Mary's High in Berkeley, but that did not erase the memories of his outstanding sophomore year at St. Mary's, when he had 125 tackles (85 solo), 10 sacks, seven forced fumbles, and four interceptions. He was named first team all-league and the defensive MVP of league.

Tatum has transferred to McClymonds High in Oakland for his senior year, and has the top schools in the country after him. Tatum has a bench of 335; squat: 515 and a vertical jump of 37". He is fully qualified with a 3.6 GPA and a fantastic SAT score of 1350.

When asked if Josh looks at depth charts and about his thoughts about the linebacker depth at the schools he's looking at, he replied; "I take a look at all teams depth charts," Tatum said. I've never backed down from a challenge and the depth at linebacker won't matter to me. I'm going to take a look at all of the schools I'm interested in and find the best fit."

Tatum said USC, Miami and Tennessee are three schools he is certain he'll officially visit. Ole Miss and Cal round out his top-5, but that may change because of recent scholarship offers from two of the top schools in the country. "Add Michigan and Oklahoma to the list of schools I'm interested in," Tatum said. "They both have just offered me scholarships." How quick will a decision come? " It would be a true dream to commit at the Army All-American game - but if I feel ready and comfortable with a school - then I won't hesitate on committing earlier."

The Rest of the Best

Geography played a role in our top five prospect list - but if it had not been a factor, any of these players could have made the list, and will, if they continue to have an interest in Oklahoma.

Among the other top national linebackers getting an OU offer is Bani Gbadyu. With close to 20 offers Gbadyu doesn't have to worry about his popularity. What he might have to worry about, though, is narrowing a list down that seems to be growing by the week. After stellar performances at the Scout All-American Combine and the Elite College Combine, Quince Orchard linebacker Bani Gbadyu has watched his stock rise dramatically.

Quince Orchard Head Coach Dave Mencarini gave an update on his protégé's latest offers. "Since the combines, Oklahoma, Penn State, Clemson, Duke, Syracuse, Marshall, and Indiana have all called and said scholarships are on the way," Mencarini said. "And offers from Tennessee and Virginia Tech should be on the way."

In 2004, Gbadyu was named honorable Mention All-State, first team All-League, and first team All-County. He recorded 78 tackles, 15 sacks, and three fumble recoveries. As Quince Orchards back-up tailback he ran for 387 yards and scored five touchdowns. Gbadyu can bench 275 pounds, squats 405 and he has a 41-inch vertical jump. He also runs the 100M (11.4), 200M (23.7), 4X100 (second and third leg) and 4X400 (second and third leg).

Allen Bradford is not a well known name in Oklahoma, yet - but folks are finding out pretty quickly about his talent and skills. The Colton, California star is one of the most sought after recruits in southern California and was recently named the MVP of the Nike Camp held at USC.

Colton head coach Harold Strauss says of Bradford, "Allen is just one of those kids who is special. He's just a man out there on the football field and he's a great person off the field. Allen is one of our leaders. He's truly a great kid. I would give him the keys to my house, that's how much I think of him as a person."

"He's been a four year starter for us on defense and I can't remember another four year starter in the 26 years that I've been associated with the school. I would describe Allen as a hitter. He hits you on both sides of the ball. He's explosive on defense but on offense he will just run right through you. On defense, he's fast enough to play safety but big enough to be an outside linebacker. He was timed at 4.57 last year in the 40 - so he's got the speed. He also plays with a lot of intensity, he's got no problem speaking up at a key time or asking for the ball in a big situation."

As a junior, he was named all-CIF on both sides of the ball and was named to the all-state underclass team. As for is junior stats, Bradford had 129 tackles and eight sacks, four fumbles caused, six fumbles recovered and one interception; plus 1,297 yards rushing and 15 TDs; 25 receptions for 275 yds and three TDs As a sophomore, he also started on both sides of the ball and was named all-CIF and all-state underclass.

"I play with passion and heart, and I'm a vocal leader. I'm always the guy talking in the tunnel before the game or in the weight room. I like to get everybody ready to play. I lead by example. I just want to relax a bit more and hit harder on the field as a senior. I want to do everything better than I did last year."

He benches 315 pounds, squats 505 pounds and cleans 265 pounds. Bradford's hard work and ability have earned him countless scholarship offers, and he lists USC, UCLA, Washington, Ole Miss and Oklahoma as his favorites. He plans to make official visits to all five schools.

Jarrell Miller has all the skill and all the all physical abilities that you look for in an inside linebacker. He is big, strong and fast and loves to deliver a blow.

Miller jumped into the starting lineup at Highland Springs his freshman year when he started two games at defensive end. His sophomore year, he moved to inside linebacker and has been a terror for opposing offense's ever since. Last season, Miller finished with 80 total tackles, four sacks, two fumble recoveries and two fumbles caused. Miller can bench 275 pounds, squats 350 and he is a part-time starter in hoops. Miller also throws the shot and discus in track, and he has already qualified for regionals in both events.

Miller has been offered by at least 15 schools at this point and right now everybody is still in the hunt. "I am very open and I like all the schools that are interested in me," said Miller. "I don't want to narrow anything down because I don't know very much about some of these schools. I am going on school websites trying to get information on several of these schools."

"I have been offered by Miami, Florida, LSU, Tennessee, Wake Forrest, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Michigan State, Virginia Tech, Virginia, Maryland, Duke and Penn State."

Rome, Georgia linebacker prospect Toryan Smith, ('Tory), is a huge middle linebacker that could also play fullback on the college level. Smith had 112 tackles with 19 for loss, eight sacks, and three interceptions as a junior.

Tory has seen plenty of coaches come and go through the doors of his high school this month. "I have 23 offers right now," said Smith when asked how recruiting has been going. "I've got offers from schools all over. Those include offers from Oklahoma, Florida, Texas, UCLA, Auburn, Notre Dame and Michigan."

Smith was asked to elaborate on the Sooner details. "It was really surprising to get that OU offer when it came. I had actually spoken with the coaches there a couple of days before they offered, and after I got off the phone with them, my dad and I decided to send them my highlight tape.

"Two days later, the offer came," he said.

"They actually called my high school coach and told him that they wanted to offer me a scholarship. I was a little star struck at first, but I'm a hard worker on the field so I think that it was deserved."

"When I unofficially visited Oklahoma, I became really attached to linebacker coach (Brent) Venables," said Smith. "There's just something about him that I like more than some of the other linebacker coaches I've spoken with. He's young, intense and just cool. He's really my style of a coach. I'm definitely feeling him."

Smith is a three sport athlete, and also plays basketball and baseball. He has already qualified with a 3.1 GPA and a first time score of 19 on the ACT.

Akeem Hebron, (6-2 / 198 / 4.5), Wheaton, MD is another linebacker with speed. He will have to put on some weight to play at the college level, but his speed is his main weapon, and he likes the weight room. "I use my speed because most linemen can't get their hands on me," said Hebron. "I am very fast getting to the ball. I am so quick usually the blockers can't get to me before I get to the ball. Once I get to college and get into a good weight program, I will put on the weight I need to play at the college level."

Hebron will be a three-year starter at outside linebacker, and a year ago he finished with 110 tackles, 11 sacks and two interceptions. As a sophomore, Hebron had 102 tackles and six tackles for loss. Hebron can bench 275 pounds, squats 460 and he posted a 37 ½ inch vertical jump.

Hebron went to the Maryland summer camp last year. He also went to a camp put on by NFL players in his area last year. Akeem has already taken unofficial visits to Penn State and North Carolina and he hopes to visit Georgia, Virginia Tech, LSU and Oklahoma in the summer.

Hebron has been offered by 26 schools at this point and he is still trying to sort through all the information.

"Right now my top four schools are Georgia, Virginia Tech, LSU and Oklahoma," said Hebron. "Those are the schools I want to visit in the summer. I don't have a leader among those four, but I look forward to finding out more about them. I am looking to play early wherever I go."

"I want to sign somewhere that I can play early, plus I want to go to a school where I best fit on defense. I want to play in a defense that blitzes a lot and I want to be coming off the edge." He has qualified academically.

A great example of geography effecting OU's top five linebacker wish list is exemplified by Bo Harris. Harris might be the best player in the state of Georgia. He first opened eyes at an early January combine in Georgia when he ran a blistering 4.65 forty at 6-2 210 pounds.

Harris stars at running back and defensive end for Heritage, and he runs with grace, power, and speed. He is a demon off the edge from his defensive end position, and he is a weapon on special teams returning kicks and punts. He has incredible feet and terrific natural strength. At 6-2 and 210 pounds, Bo has the ideal size of a linebacker, but he's a good enough athlete to end up at any one of several positions on the college level including running back, linebacker, or even receiver.

OU has offered, but right now schools closer to home seem to have an edge. Auburn, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Florida and Ohio State might be considered his current leaders. According to Bo, which schools is he looking to most early on? "I've got so many, I really don't know right now - pretty much the whole SEC."

If OU can just get Bo on an airplane, the chemistry might take off as well.

OL Positions gather two new offers

Last week we said that OU had offered 25 scholarships for the 5 or 6 available. Add a couple to the list:

Bruce Campbell, (6-7 / 270 / 4.7), Hamden, CT. is one of the most athletic offensive tackles that you will find in the high school ranks. His athletic ability makes him an outstanding pass blocker, and he is not bad exploding off the blocks either. Campbell will be a three-year starter this year at right offensive tackle and defensive end, and he loves the fact that right now he gets to go both ways.

"I enjoying hitting on every play. That is why I love going both ways" said Campbell. "I know in college I need to get bigger, faster and stronger and concentrate on one position, but right now going both ways is fun for me."

Again, distance looks like a factor to this prospect, "It is too early in recruiting to have favorites unless you just like one school, and I don't at this point," said Campbell.

"I am looking at a lot of schools like Florida, Virginia, and I have been offered by OU as well. Oklahoma is kind of far, but they are a great program. Right now I am looking to play close to home, but Oklahoma is a school that I still might consider."

Perhaps a more promising response to an OU offer came from one of the top linemen in the South, Maurice Hurt, (6'3 ½ / 340 / 5.7), Baldwin, Georgia.

"I really don't have any favorites right now," said Hurt. "I plan on taking a couple more unofficial visits and then try to get my decision down to a top five. I am not going to be able to visit all the schools that have offered me right now, so I am going to have to come up with information some other way. I am trying to give everybody a chance right now and then try to get my choices down to five. I have been offered by LSU, Oklahoma, Baylor, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Alabama, Mississippi State, Auburn, South Carolina and Florida."

What are his thoughts on Oklahoma? "What can I say? They are Oklahoma," said Hurt. "They are one of the top programs in the country and I am going to try to get out and take an unofficial visit at Oklahoma. If I can, then I am going to take an official visit there for sure. If I can't get out on the unofficial, I might take an official visit there anyway because they are that good of a program."

Hurt has qualified and he hopes to graduate in January so that he can go through spring football where ever he signs.

Show-Me Receiver to get OU Offer?

The Sooners may also grant another receiver offer, and if they do it's most likely to be going to Jeremy Maclin, (6'0 / 180 / 4.4), of Kirkwood, Missouri. Without question Maclin is one of the quickest, most explosive wide receivers in the country who can fit into any offense either as a slot receiver or as a wide out.

Maclin broke onto the prep scene in Missouri as a freshman at cornerback, and since then has gone both ways at wide receiver and cornerback. "I like offense the best. That is where I want to play in college," said Maclin. "I love offense because it is a lot more exciting for me to get the ball in my hands."

Last season Maclin caught 55 catches for 1,200 yards and 18 touchdowns. Plus, he rushed for 21 yards, and two touchdowns on 22. Maclin also had one kick-off return for a touchdown of 92-yards and returned punts averaging 20 yards per return. On defense, Maclin finished with 59 tackles and six interceptions as a free safety.

Maclin can bench 235 pounds, squats 400 and he can dunk a basketball. On the basketball team, he is the starting point guard where he averages 16 points, 5.5 assist and three steals per game.

At this point, Maclin has been offered by Missouri, Illinois, Michigan State, Iowa, Indiana and Mississippi. "I am still keeping everybody in mind and I am not playing any kind of game with anybody," said Maclin. "I grew up liking Notre Dame, but they have faded and are not as strong as they used to be."

"There are a couple of teams that stand out for me like Oklahoma, Iowa, Michigan State, Illinois and Miami. Oklahoma has not offered me yet, but I hope that they will. If they do they will be right in the mix, but they already are at this point. OU has a great program and I would think they are on top of everybody's list. They have a great coaching staff and they have told me that I would fit perfectly into their offense."

Although he is emphatic about offense, the fact that Maclin can go both ways enhances his stock to top schools, who can not always afford the luxury of avoiding key injuries and defections.

Top Corner?

You might as well go ahead and move Jonathan Nelson up the list of coveted DB's along with one Myron Rolle. The Sooners are going to be extremely selective in the secondary this year, so you know that if a DB gets an offer, he must be a great one. The newest offer goes to a great one in Arlington (Mansfield), CB Jonathan Nelson, (6'0, 175, 4.32).

To play corner in college football you have to be able to run, and without question Jonathan Nelson can really run and Nelson says he has never been timed higher than 4.4. "My sophomore year I ran a 4.4 flat and then a 4.38," said Nelson. "Then in my junior year, my coaches timed me at 4.25, 4.28 and a 4.3 flat. My fastest time in the hundred meters is 10.53. I run second leg on our 4X100 meter relay team and I have run a 9.9 split on that relay."

What are his thoughts on Oklahoma? "I like them a whole lot," said Nelson. "I like how Bob Stoops coaches and I like how he brings out the best in all of his players. I think I would do well at OU because Coach Bob Stoops looks like the kind of coach that likes a player that is aggressive and wants to jump into the defensive scheme or on special teams. I am that kind of player. I am supposed to go to OU in two weeks for an unofficial visit, and I am sure I will take an official visit to OU."

Nelson can bench 325 pounds, squats 455 and he posted a 42-inch vertical jump and at the U.S. Army Combine.


Sooners Illustrated Top Stories