SoonerScoop - Dontae ‘Manning’ the charge
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Dontae ‘Manning’ the charge

As Oklahoma continues to wait for more good news from the spring game recruiting weekend more than two weeks ago, you can’t argue about the boost it gave with the secondary.

The Sooners entered the month with zero commits and now have two big-time cornerback pledges to anchor the class.

It started with Raytown (Mo.) High’s Dontae Manning, who announced his commitment to OU during his official visit to the Sooners.

The finishing touches were put on that weekend, but it was an initial trip to Norman two weeks prior that put OU in the driver’s seat the rest of the way.

“That trip made a huge difference,” Manning said. “I got to see what a natty (national) championship environment was like at practice. I got a taste of that.”

Manning was among the initial offers by first-year cornerbacks coach Roy Manning (no relation), but it took a while to get Dontae Manning to campus.

A couple of planned trips fell through, but once Dontae Manning was able to make the trip the last weekend of March, the Sooners started to show him exactly what they’re about.

“It was during that time when the coaches really started to get to know who I am and who my family is,” Manning said. “It’s when I could see when they were onto something.”

Manning said he didn’t grow up with a favorite team. He obviously knew about OU’s winning tradition. Knowing about it and experiencing it are two different things.

As it became more apparent that Manning fit the mold of what exactly first-year defensive coordinator Alex Grinch is searching for in the secondary, there was a chance for the Sooners to strike it big for spring game weekend.

Even if it wasn’t initially in Manning’s plans.

“That weekend was kind of crazy,” Manning said. “It meant a lot to me meeting the same athletes in the same shoes because that’s not something I see all the time.

“At first? I didn’t know. I didn’t come to OU for that visit thinking I was going to commit. After a long talk with Coach Riley, I was like why not? He didn’t pressure me to commit, but I couldn’t think of a reason to why I wouldn’t commit.”

One thing that stood out to Manning was the family vibe throughout the visit. He could tell the OU staff had his best interests at heart. That notion was only reinforced when his host, fellow Missouri native Ronnie Perkins, had a chance to talk with Manning throughout the weekend.

“It was cool hanging out and talking with him about how it was coming out of Missouri,” Manning said. “He mentioned how it’s a family thing here. The way the coaches are coming at us on the official visit, that’s not a show. That’s who they are.”

Manning was the first to jump. A week later, Little Elm (Texas) High cornerback Ryan Watts became the second defensive back to join the class.

Manning said he enjoyed getting to know Watts because he felt they were like in identical situations. They had the same offers, same top schools, and he’s excited that they’re both committed to OU’s #20Deep class.

“We’re putting pressure on the 2020 class,” Manning said. “Get it now, or it’s going to be gone.”

Manning and Watts are currently the commitments from that weekend. The belief and expectation remain the Sooners will see that weekend pay off in a huge way. Until recruits go public, though, it still is a waiting game.

OU’s defense has been much-maligned the last couple of seasons, but Manning isn’t worried about that.

“My mentality is I’m going to come and going to ball,” Manning said. “We can really be the class that changes what’s been going on.”