For any school, the spring game represents the last significant on-campus recruiting event until summer camps, and that is certainly the case for the Oklahoma Sooners, who will host a handful of top targets in the 2013 and 2014 classes this weekend.
When we started to gather up the list of names for recruits that are planning on attending this weekend's Spring Game, the list just kept getting longer and longer. And with every name that was added, the level of talent expected to be in Norman got more impressive seemingly with each addition. In talking with SoonerScoop's Josh McCuistion on Twitter, he stated that if everyone expected actually makes the trip it could be the biggest recruiting weekend for the Sooners since 2009. Coming from a guy who does this for a living and in my opinion is the best in the business, that's some pretty high praise.
Unfortunately for the Sooners, the weather may not cooperate. As of Friday afternoon, one prospect, Crete (IL) Monee wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, had already cancelled his trip as a result of the severe weather predicted to be in the area on Saturday and Sunday, which meteorologists believe will include severe thunderstorms and a high risk of tornadoes. More cancellations are hardly out of the question heading into the weekend.
In addition to a group of 2012 signees, Bob Stoops and his staff will welcome top targets like Lawton (OK) defensive end DJ Ward. As Esco points out, Ward is the consensus top player in the state and the Sooners are in a strong position in his recruitment:
The Sooners are believed to be in the lead by a healthy margin even though Ward does not appear to be in a hurry to announce a decision. That said, news of his commitment to OU could really come at any time.
Several visitors from the Lone Star State will make their way across the Red River, including Dallas (TX) Kimball defensive tackle Justin Manning, whose older brother, DeMarcus Granger, played his college football for the Sooners. As a result, many expected Manning to commit to Oklahoma early on, but the Sooners failed to offer him until March, a development that Manning didn't particularly like ($), according to an interview he gave to William Wilkerson of ESPN's HornsNation.
Is the relationship now repaired? Esco believes so, but there's also a chance that Manning won't be able to make the trip.
With the cancellation by Treadwell and another commitment keeping Tulsa (OK) East Central cornerback Stanvon Taylor from making it in, the other top 2013 target in attendance will be Chandler (AZ) Hamilton cornerback Cole Luke, who visited Texas for the Orange-White game, but did not receive an offer. Given the distance he has to travel, he could be a candidate to cancel as well, though he was still scheduled to make the journey as of early Friday afternoon.
The Sooners may have only three commitments in the 2013 class, but with the spring evaluation period approaching, college coaches are starting to balance building relationships with the 2014 prospects with continuing efforts to add to the previous class.
While Stoops and his assistants can't contact the 2014 prospects directly, instead needing to go through their coaches, the ability to get them on campus early and get that face time is the first major event in the 2014 cycle, leading up to the summer camps that will provide the rare opportunity for the coaches to assess the skills of a prospect in person.
The good news for the Sooners is that the early top two prospects in the state will be in attendance -- Edmond (OK) Sante Fe quarterback Justice Hansen, a player Esco believes will be the best prospect to come out of the state in years and a potential five-star prospect, and Broken Arrow (OK) running back Devon Thomas, who already has an offer and could challenge Hansen for that top spot in the Sooner state.
Last-minute cancellations are a serious danger to the quality of talent on-hand at the Oklahoma spring game. Will attendance be the difference between an early commitment and a more extended recruitment for some 2013 prospects? It's nearly impossible to say, but the predicted severe weather isn't doing any favors to a weekend that would have had a historically-significant collection of talent otherwise assembled in Norman otherwise.
For more on OU football, visit Oklahoma blog Crimson And Cream Machine.