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Thursday CFB Recruiting Notebook: OU Heating Up, SI99 Decommits

Checking in on the latest in college football recruiting ahead of signing day

Six more days. 

It's been Tweeted and hinted at by college football coaches and recruits alike all day Thursday, serving as a celebratory birthday party-like countdown for those settled but more like a shot clock with the game on the line for the parties looking to make a big decision. 

Official visits are being set for the final in-person recruiting weekend of the year while the last in-home visits are going down simultaneously until the recruiting worlds takes a theoretical pause when the dead period (no in-person contact) kicks back in on Monday. Don't expect a true pause, though, as the phones, FaceTimes and DMs will continue to challenge battery life across the senior landscape. 

From an organizational standpoint, even Thursday's biggest headlines paint a picture of transition, timing and the ever-so coveted tangible recruiting win for the droves of college football staffs looking to close well on the trail. Many are attempting to do it with far from complete coaching staffs, too, though the messaging on Wednesday will be politically-optimistic all the same. 

Oklahoma to Bounce Back on Recruiting Trail

The Sooners have been gutted on the 2022 commitment list, especially at the top, losing out on each of the SI99 commitments it long had on board like running back Raleek Brown (flipped to USC) and defensive lineman Gabriel Brownlow-Dindy (flipped to Texas A&M). Three other Sooners in the senior class backed off of pledges within days of Lincoln Riley's departure to USC. Several juniors did the same. But the bounce back, at least in recruiting, is on the way. 

It's been no secret Jeff Lebby has been recruiting offensive targets for the Sooners since moving over his offensive coordinator duties from Ole Miss, and two of the top new targets on that side of the ball will visit Norman this weekend with one thing in common. Both Flower Mound (Texas) quarterback Nick Evers and Winter Garden (Fla.) wide receiver Jayden Gibson were almost certain to stick with Florida despite the coaching transition, but things change fast late in the cycle (and after in-home visits). Each has since re-opened the recruiting process and OU won out for an official visit over multiple programs attempting to court each during the final week of the cycle. 

The Sooners have already made an early impression under new coach Brent Venables and Lebby, and it will be continued over 48 hours on the program's dime over the weekend. When each departing some four days before signing a National Letter of Intent on Wednesday, it's tough not to like OU's chances of picking up their first big recruits under the new regime. Bob Stoops, Venables and others have tried to warn us about the brand's survival, even though the lingering effect of Riley's sudden departure won't soon heal

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Cristobal Creating Late Momentum at Miami

Miami hasn't added a public verbal commitment since Mario Cristobal officially took over this week, but it is coming. How soon? That's to be determined but the veteran head coach and star south Florida recruiter has already tangibly made moves with the most important recruiting footprint to the program -- the local one. UM has just one commitment from the old 'State of Miami' blueprint Howard Schnellenberger made famous in the 1980's, keeping talent from Dade, Broward and Palm Beach County at Miami. To say that fact would need to change for reality to match the optimistic perception in Miami would be quite the understatement.

When Cristobal got the nod, that sole pledge from Miami (Fla.) Central linebacker Wesley Bissainthe looked like it could be the best local talent the 'Canes would bring in during the 2022 cycle despite scores of area elites still undecided in the recruiting game. Since, those prospects Miami was theoretically out of the running for have reversed course on considering the program along with the blue bloods that have recently raided the fertile territory like Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State, Clemson, etc. 

Earl Little, Jr., SI99 cornerback out of Plantation (Fla.) American Heritage, has hinted at Miami's inclusion among his top schools down the stretch along with UA and Florida State. Miami was previously on the outside looking in, with LSU and Oregon in much better shape than the local option. His teammate and elite pass rusher Marvin Jones is feeling similarly while the top pass rusher in south Florida, Shemar Stewart, has continued to push Miami up his list (though he'll be at Texas A&M this weekend). Perhaps the most tangible perception flip lies with Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) Dillard pass rusher Nyjalik Kelly, a one-time Florida State commitment who was intrigued by Oregon and made a visit in June. Cristobal will host him for a second official visit, this weekend, just days before the Early Signing Period opens. 

Two More SI99 Recruits Open it Up

On the flip side of potential commitment momentum is the decommitment, a term most all college football fans have become especially familiar with over the last two weeks. Four dozen FBS prospects have backed off of verbal commitments in December, alone, as the coaching carousel continues to spin with the pace faster -- and somehow longer -- than most can compare to. 

On Thursday, two more big names opened things back up in Jihaad Campbell and Jaron Willis. Campbell, who had been committed to Clemson, is a New Jersey native who showcased elite burst off the edge as a pass rusher at IMG Academy in 2021. Willis is a south Georgia hybrid off-ball linebacker long on board with in-state Georgia Tech, representing their sole SI99 commitment, while taking trips elsewhere throughout the fall. 

Campbell could be looking at a national slate of programs, the same group courting him before he picked CU and its now-departed defensive coordinator in Venables. Texas A&M, Georgia, Ohio State and Florida rounded out his top five before he made the pick this summer. Willis has frequented Florida State, taken an official visit to Ole Miss and seen Arkansas on a summer official visit as well. 

28 SI99 prospects remain on the market as of Thursday afternoon.