With no tight end on Oklahoma's current roster having a career NCAA catch, it's hard to overstate the needs for the class of 2013 and one player the Sooners have made major in-roads with is Woodland Hills (Calif.) Pierce C.C. tight end Beau Sandland. The 6-foot-6, 250-pound four-star will be visiting Oklahoma on August 24, his second official visit to date.
With offers from coast to coast many were unsure of just who Sandland would take real interest in, however he says the Sooners were an obvious choice for him to take a closer look.
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"Well you know, having an offer from Oklahoma, when I got it, I was obviously really excited, they've been recruiting me pretty hard for a long time and just being who they are and having the reputation they have," Sandland said. "Having a reputation of great tight ends and utilizing them, it was kind of a no-brainer. If you get an offer from Oklahoma, there are only a handful of schools that utilize their tight ends the way I'd like to be used and Oklahoma has traditionally been one of them.
"I'd be stupid to ignore that, and it's one of the reasons I'm really excited about my (Aug. 24) visit."
Sooner tight ends and offensive tackles coach Bruce Kittle has been the man leading the charge for Oklahoma to set up the trip, but it's not just been the second-year Sooner assistant that has put in the time with arguably the country's No. 1 junior college tight end.
"He is the one I've talked to the most, but I've talked to coach (Bob) Stoops quite a bit too," he explained.
"Getting to know coach Kittle, it's been good, I know he played offensive tackle at Iowa and I know he coaches the tight ends and tackles. A lot of the schools have a former tight end coaching the tight ends, we've had a really good line of communication, facebook messages, the mail. He came out here this spring and now I'm going to see him in person."
As mentioned Sandland has already taken one official visit, to Nebraska on June 15, and says that having one trip under his belt offers him some perspective as to what he'd like to see when he arrives to a college campus. And though it's not exactly among his priorities he says comparisons are something of an inevitable reality.
"You know, I guess you do kind of compare places. Nebraska is the only place I've been to, I mean I took an unofficial to Arizona State, and you do kind of compare. I feel like a lot of those schools fall in the realm of the USC, the Oklahomas, the Nebraskas, they are pretty hard to live up to as far as facilities, strength staff and those schools, the upper echelon and you won't find a whole heck of a lot of the things better than what I saw at Nebraska as far as those things go," he said. "It definitely helps you, the further I get into the recruiting process, the more clear everything will become, I'll know what to ask, what to look for, the more you see, the more you figure out about them, and you compare this and compare that and I think that's what will help dwindle the list," he explained.
In this era of 'top 20 lists' and other various bloated top lists for recruits Sandland says he expects to release a top group at some point but is nowhere near ready to do so. Interestingly he says that cutting the list isn't simply a matter of him deciding who he likes but that schools are also getting a feel for him and seeing if he is the right fit for them as he searches to see if they are for him.
"From day one the plan has been to take it to Signing Day in December, I knew I was never going to rush this process. I never wanted to rush this. It's going to be the biggest decision thus far in my life," Sandland explained.
"Wherever I end up going, it'll set me on my path for the rest of my life. It's obviously a big decision. I want to do as much research as possible about each program I'm really serious about. Look at the coaching staff, the offense they run and the academic side of things.
"The plan is still to not rush anything and the decision will probably come some time after season, that's always been the plan. As we get further and further it will become more and more clear. Right now I'm at 19 offers, so by the time the season starts I'll probably have a top 10 and then hopefully by the season ends I'll have a top five. It's nothing set in stone, but it's what I'm thinking in my head. And then on signing day maybe pick from a top three.
"I'm sure you don't hear that too much from kids (about schools also moving on), it's not any hurt feelings or any love lost. I don't have any insecurities, I'm not going to lose any sleep over one school moving on when I have 20 others to choose from," he said without any bitterness. "My list is kind of naturally taking shape, you thought might have been in the long run that really aren't. Off the top of my head, there are a couple that come to mind, early on I was kind of excited about.
"As for why it didn't work out, it could be any number of reasons. But I get it, I'e asked coaches how do you kind of stop recruiting a kid, how do you let them know you aren't interested anymore, you stop calling him, stop sending him mail, it definitely makes it easier when you kind of know what the signs mean."
So with all the great facilities, great traditions, and other perks of major college football available to him at some of the Meccas of the sport how does he try and figure out which possibility is the best for him? And how exactly do the Sooners fit into that possibility?
"There are a ton of factors. It's funny you ask, I was just talking to my old high school coach, we were talking about this. If I listed out all the factors, it would be about three feet long, there is just a whole lot of stuff I'll be looking for. Obviously the typical stuff, facilities, weight room, locker room, meeting rooms, where you could potentially be living. I'm sure we'll sit down and watch some game film with coach Kittle and the offensive coordinators. That's what I've done at the other two schools that I've visited.
"I think it will be cool to get to watch (Oklahoma) practice, all of the different styles in particular, and get around the players. Also, I want to get a perspective, get a player's perspective on what they think. And obviously check out the town of Norman, I'd be living there for two years.
"Then to see their roster and their depth at the tight end position and what my chances would be to come in there and be that guy. I don't want to go somewhere where they already have three or four guys that can really play. I'm not like a high school guy, I've only got two years so I need to go somewhere that I can pretty much step in and be the guy at tight end. It'd be very different if I was a high school kid, but I'm going in with two years, so I've got to look at how many they'll have coming back."
Obviously it's a help for the Sooners and Huskers to get on the board early on with Sandland. For the two old rivals, the downside to the early trips is that not only do schools have the chance to make the final impression on the star tight end but also they can provide him the chance to see a home game weekend - something neither the Huskers or Sooners could do in the middle of the summer.
"That's a good point, and obviously that's something I've thought about," he admitted.
"One of the things that goes into that. We play our games on Saturdays as well, so I'm not going to be able to go to any games, (teams I am considering) will play the same times I'm playing. Maybe one day when they come across that technology where I can be two places at once (laughing), but it has it's pros and it's cons.
"We have one bye week and I'll be taking advantage of that, I'll go to Ole Miss for the Texas game, that should be fun. Obviously I'd like to see gamedays at Nebraska, Oklahoma, and all of that. Even though that's not a huge factor, just being around a division one BCS gameday experience would be cool."
"Really though it's kind of a material thing, having a good gameday experience, isn't going to make you any better as a tight end. It's something I'd love to see but it's really not a possibility. If I was a high school kid, I could catch a redeye but that's really not a possibility. We play 10 games and they'll play 12, so they'll have two additional weeks so maybe I could fit something in at the end."
Also when you go out of season, there are less people and you don't get that gameday feel but you do get more time with the coaches, and I haven't done it yet but I'd imagine the coaches are pretty focused on that."
The talk of the trip to Oxford, Miss. is new, but he is starting to lay the ground work for some other trips as well and another SEC school is certain to get a visit at this point.
"We play Friday one week, and Cal plays Stanford that week so I'm thinking I'll go up there for an unofficial. Then we've got a couple of Thursday games, so I might try and make it to some schools," Sandland said.
"Florida will get one of (my officials) and I don't know where that fifth one is going to go. I'm hesitant to use an official on a place like Arizona State or Cal, it's a lot closer than LSU, for instance. But if it boils down to those schools aren't really that serious, I'll use an official. It makes more sense to use them when you don't have to pay for the travel."