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Enid standout and stateâ€™s top recruit anxious to live his dream of playing for Oklahoma
Oklahoma will be playing with a limited number of scholarships during the upcoming recruiting season. As things stand now, the Sooners figure to narrow their want-list down to only 15 prospects to complete their 2007 recruiting class.
Those numbers could potentially go up depending on defections and/or possible academic casualties. But itâ€™s clear the Sooners had to be much more selective in their approach to scholarship offers when the spring evaluation period began April 15.
One player the Sooners had no hesitations in offering was Austin Box, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound linebacker prospect from Enid, Okla. Likely to be tabbed the No. 1 player in the state heading into his senior season this fall, Box recently became Oklahomaâ€™s second verbal commitment of the spring.
â€śIâ€™ve been a huge Sooner fan my whole life and itâ€™s been my dream to play there ever since I can remember,â€ť said Box. â€śI just think theyâ€™re the best fit for me, being my position coach is Coach (Brent) Venables.â€ť
Venables appears to be finished with his next linebacking class. Previously, OU had received a verbal from Mike Reed, a 6-foot-4, 245-pound linebacker from Yuma Community College in Marysville, Calif.
â€śCoach Venables has gotten his two linebackers out of the way for this class so heâ€™s very excited about it,â€ť added Box.
A dual threat athlete and one of the top baseball players in the state, Box helped lead his team to an American Legion World Series Championship last summer. So far this spring, he is sporting a .500 batting average.
When it comes to his future, however, Box has left little doubt about the fact he wants to be on a college football field next year.
â€śIâ€™d just like to concentrate on football in college,â€ť said Box. â€śThereâ€™s still always the option (of doing both in college), but I donâ€™t think so.â€ť
Box attended camp at Oklahoma last summer and was one of the more noticeable participants due to his size and athleticism. The relationships he built during his time in Norman have continued to grow, particularly with Venables.
â€śIâ€™ve gotten to know Coach Venables really well. I talk to him most of the time and Iâ€™ve talked to Coach Stoops a few times, so thatâ€™s gone real well,â€ť said Box, whose name has been making the rounds on college campuses across the country.
In fact, Box had scholarship offers from most of the top Big 12 programs and he has received major interest from national powers such as USC, Miami, Tennessee and Michigan.
â€śI got a lot of interest,â€ť said Box, prior to his commitment. â€śThereâ€™s probably about 10 or 11 top schools that are recruiting right now that Iâ€™m hearing from. Right now, itâ€™s going really well. It just kind of blew up all of a sudden. I had no idea it would be like this four or five months ago.â€ť
But after the interest heated up, Box was ready to shut everything down. He knew he wanted to be a Sooner, and he didnâ€™t want to waste anyone elseâ€™s time, especially his own.
â€śI thought the recruiting process was fun for a little while, but I just got tired of it. I knew in the back of my mind that OU was where I wanted to be,â€ť said Box.
â€śA lot of people said I made the right decision by getting it out of the way. I just donâ€™t have to worry about it and I wonâ€™t have to talk to a whole bunch of other coaches and reporters from different websites.â€ť
One of the interesting things about Box is his position, or his eventual position in college. He is Enidâ€™s starting quarterback and also starts at free safety on defense â€” but with his size, most colleges see him as a natural linebacker at the next level.
â€śIâ€™ve kind of come to terms with it because thatâ€™s kind of how I saw myself as a college athlete,â€ť said Box of playing linebacker at for the Sooners.
Sooner coaches have discussed what role Box could play in the OU defense and it appears heâ€™s been recruited to take over a spot at the weakside linebacker position. Thatâ€™s the same position played by Rufus Alexander this year.
Prior to making OU his choice, Box said Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Nebraska, Texas Tech, Kansas and Michigan State were among his favorites. With national interest increasing from Miami, USC, LSU and Michigan, the Sooners are more than happy to have the talented linebacker committed.
Soon, Box will turn his focus to watching the current Oklahoma team and finding out where he might fit in before the start of the 2007 season. With so many talented youngsters at linebacker, Box wonâ€™t shy away from competition.
â€śIt didnâ€™t scare me off at all. Iâ€™ve always wanted to play there and itâ€™s a dream to do that. Iâ€™ll be able to work hard and Iâ€™ll try to get a starting position as soon as I can,â€ť said Box. â€ś(Redshirting) doesnâ€™t scare me, but I really want to work to play a big role my freshman year â€” maybe not a starting job, but Iâ€™d like to play a role in some way.â€ť
As for now, Box will continue distinguishing curveballs from sliders. And heâ€™ll keep up with the latest recruiting rumors and talk on the Internet along with his dad, even though he has made his choice known to the college football world.
Life for Austin Box, it seems, is seen through crimson-tinted glasses. Thatâ€™s great news for Oklahoma football fans, and not so much for everyone else.
THE EARLY OFFERS
Oklahoma isnâ€™t blanketing the nation with offers. So far itâ€™s the cream of the crop and the biggest needs that are receiving major attention from Oklahoma recruiters.
The Sooners look to sign a top quarterback every year, but with a young starter in Rhett Bomar, that may be a difficult proposition in 2007. The top name to know for any college recruiter right now is Jimmy Clausen, a 6-foot-3, 200-pounder from Oaks Christian High School in West Village, Calif.
Closer to home, the Sooners are looking at highly touted Ryan Mallett, a 6-foot-7, 235-pounder from Texas High School in Texarkana, Texas, and G.J. Kinne, a 6-foot-3, 207-pounder from Canton (Texas) High School.
At wide receiver, the Sooners have a lot of options close to home as Texas will produce several top-flight receivers in the 2007 class. One of the biggest targets available is Terrance Toliver, a 6-foot-5, 180-pounder from Hempstead (Texas) High School. The Sooners are also targeting Dez Bryant, a 6-foot-1, 195-pounder from Lufkin (Texas) High School.
The offensive tackle position will also be considered an area of need. One of the biggest names to know is Tray Allen, a 6-foot-4, 305-pounder who is one of the nationâ€™s top high school offensive lineman prospects. Dallas Skylineâ€™s Terrael Williams, who measures in at a whopping 6-foot-7 and 407 pounds is another possibility, while locally, the Sooners have already offered what appears to be the stateâ€™s top offensive tackle prospect in Matt Romine, a 6-foot-6, 275-pounder from Tulsa Union High School.
The Sooners may be deep at defensive end heading into this fall, but those bodies will disappear quickly. Thatâ€™s why it will be important for Chris Wilson to restock with players like Richetti Jones, a 6-foot-3, 234-pounder from Dallas Lincoln High School. Jones is already considered a preseason top-100 player in the country, according to Rivals.com. Another Rivals.com preseason national 100 player with an offer from Oklahoma is Sidell Corley, a 6-foot-4, 250-pounder from McGill-Toolen High School in Mobile, Ala.
It is not clear whether the Sooners will recruit the defensive back position too heavily after a banner signing class at that position in 2006, but if Bob Stoopsâ€™ staff does start handing out more scholarships to defensive backs, keep an eye out for Ryan Broyles, a 5-foot-11, 160-pound cornerback prospect from Norman High School. Broyles is already listed as a Rivals.com preseason national top 100 recruit, and heâ€™s the second best prospect in the state behind Enidâ€™s Box.
(Editor's Note: This story appears in the Spring Issue of Sooner Spectator, on sell now at statewide newsstands.)