February 3, 2011

Just Joshin': Signing Day Chaos

Just Joshin' is a commentary article written by SoonerScoop.com associate editor Josh McCuistion. It's a lighthearted look at any topic possible relating to Oklahoma athletics.

"Oklahoma Recruiting is done for 2011, the focus is clearly on 2012," - myself for most of the month of January.

Well the recruiting gods didn't deem it enough to simply prove me wrong with four commitments changing in a little more than the final two weeks of Oklahoma recruiting before National Signing Day. First of course was the change of Brandon Carter from Oklahoma to TCU.

The change was understandable and something that had been rumored off and on, to various schools, for several months so the change was something I was ready to handle.

However the final week of Oklahoma's 2011 recruiting proved to be one of the craziest events I've been a part of and the morning of Signing Day nearly caused your favorite Sooner recruiting reporter named McCuistion a near mental break.

Here I'll try and relive some of the chaos that has been the last week.

Last Tuesday, probably moments after telling yet another radio station that I'd be happy to be part of their National Signing Day broadcast but they may as well 'tape it now as my answers will be the same', I got word that something might be going on with Sooner recruiting. Honestly with our scholarship distribution chart in the back of my mind I wrote it off and resumed my focus on last weekend's junior day.

Yes, this should be a lesson to myself and all of you, and it's something I guarantee I'll do again next year - each time I ignore something around National Signing Day it will inevitably come to fruition and those I give sincere effort to pursuing are total garbage.

There is just no way of knowing with these things in the final days before Signing Day, a break in the spacetime continuum when reporters from coast to coast put on their TMZ PJs and treat every stupid rumor as if it's the holy grail.

A few more questions came in about Oklahoma's involvement with Bennett Okotcha through Wednesday and Thursday, but the same rumors had come up a few times since his performance at Oklahoma's camp last summer and each time I looked into them I had nearly been laughed out of the room.

Friday morning before I even woke up I had multiple calls and texts about a visit from a tight end/offensive tackle from Euless (Texas) Trinity. I had seen Nila Kasitati early in the year while watching Carter and the Trojans annihilate Shiloh Christian in Cowboys stadium, I also knew that early on Oklahoma had expressed some interest in him but simply didn't have room to take on the jumbo-tight end.

Even though Trinity is a school traditionally quiet with the media and Kasitati is equally so, it not surprisingly didn't take much time to confirm that a 6-foot-5, 280-pound Polynesian had been in Norman on Thursday. I had a chance to contact him on Friday and about as quickly as I was able to confirm that I was speaking to Nila, I heard my phone notifying me that I had been hung up on.

Oh the life and times of a recruiting reporter.

At any rate, about the same time we were confirming Kasitati's visit we were learning that Okotcha was much more real than I had previously anticipated. Though we still didn't have anything concrete we'd spoken with enough unrelated sources to realize this had the feel of Travis Lewis all over again.

Thankfully amidst my strain of tracking down information on two players who don't speak publicly, unless at gun point, I was able to read some of my aptitude reviews on the Notre Dame board that provided for sunshine on a tumultuous day.

Sunday was relatively quiet other than the reality that Kasitati had not decommitted from Baylor while he was in Waco for his official visit last weekend. Far from a damning piece of information towards Oklahoma's efforts but at least an interesting one, however about the only real news that the day brought about.

On Monday the damns, and warm weather, finally broke.

After spending the better part of 72 hours chasing anything and everything on Okotcha and finding about as much satisfaction as a hapless Blake Griffin defender. I was told by two separate folks that would know that the change of commitment had happened. With so little talk from Okotcha himself it was really impossible to know whether the infamous 'wink' could be trusted. But after talking to a few others it became clear, the wink had to be dropped upon Sooner fans.

Many ask if I know something has happened, why the wink? First of all for those who haven't spent much time in a journalism school consider that rule something comparable to 2+2=4. Those who ignore it are just doomed to fail.

Now the really hard part came, could anything happen to give any word on arguably Oklahoma's most serious Polynesian target since former Sooner C.J. Ah You?

Short of chopping off Kasitati's hand and taking it to a palm reader just about everything imaginable was done to try and find something on Kasitati but little more was provided than talk and beliefs on where things stood. Nothing of a real factual nature came about. Seriously if football doesn't work out the kid has a future in the intelligence industry.

As I went to sleep at roughly 2:30 Wednesday morning, I couldn't have been more confident about Okotcha and with Kasitati…well at least it was something worth talking about on National Signing Day, a far cry from where I was at the beginning of this tale.

Waking up on Wednesday I was ready to cover National Signing Day, stories were loaded, I could simply focus on the Kasitati situation thanks to the help of TheOldCoach.com's David McNabb and our very own Stringer extraordinaire Dr. Pacheco.

I wake up, head to the shower, flip the light switch, head to the sh…

Wait.

'No problem, bulbs must be out.'

Wait.

'The fan wasn't on.'

Then the cruel bulb of a joke brightened on this dim soul.

In a place where no snow had touched the ground, temperatures never dropped below 30-degrees and precipitation readings were at absolute zero, somehow I had lost power.

So I as fly through town in hopes of finding some power I start to realize nearly the entirety of the town is without power. Somewhere on the way of deciding that I must choose the option of the in-laws house and hoping to make a 30-minute drive a 15-minute journey, I get a text message from our guy Aaron Dickens at RedRaiderSports.com. Something in reference to Cooper Washington wavering about his decision.

Washington had been quiet prior to, during, and after his commitment -notice a recurring theme amongst these late changes?- so there was no way I could say it surprised me on that level but the kid had connections to the University of Oklahoma and elected to choose a school he could have chosen at the time of his commitment. The more I follow these high school kids -or is it the older I get?- the less I can make any sense of actions.

At any rate that chaos was quickly proven to be not just rumors as Washington's name showed up on Tech's official site and for whatever reason the long-time Sooner commitment had elected to head elsewhere.

Some have said it was the explanation for Kasitati's scholarship becoming available but listening to Bob Stoops' comments it sounds like Kasitati had an offer with or without Washington because the defensive end failed to notify Oklahoma of a problem until just hours before National Signing Day.

Well after finally setting up shop at the in-laws I shortly got word that Okotcha was happening as planned and that my only focus needed to be on Euless Trinity.

We were told the announcement for Kasitati would happen at 10 a.m. and in the lead-up there was a lot of chatter about what might be happening but the overwhelming theme seemed to be that he would end up at Oklahoma.

So when I got a call from Dr. Pacheco I assumed he had news that the big man had either shown up in gold and green or crimson and cream. But no, instead I got "Coach (Steve) Lineweaver said he remains undecided."

As time passed and word got out about the dramatics that took place at Trinity during Kasitati's first attempt to make a decision one couldn't help but wonder if Oklahoma was going to have their first post-Signing Day adventure.

But to no avail, Kasitati chose to make his announcement the only time all day I was more than a few feet from my computer and was forced to scramble around to get the news out. Hours of work undone by the need for lunch.

So where did things stand at the end of the day? Oklahoma lost one commitment, gained two and I just lost power and a bit of sanity.

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