Lincoln Riley is renowned for thinking outside the box when it comes to keeping recruits happy and making them feel important.
But would he give up the grill?
Oklahoma’s head coach and chief grillmaster might have some competition at this weekend’s Champ U BBQ — if Jayden Rowe’s parents have anything to say about it. Jayden said his dad, Clemmont Rowe, might even try to take over for the head chef at some point, and would probably get help from his stepmom, Charris.
“He can really cook,” Rowe said of his dad. “He likes to cook steaks, mostly ribs, chicken. Brisket, too. But he’s really good at steaks and chicken. My stepmom can really cook, too. She’s been teaching him. So, it’s really from my stepmom.”
It’s all in good fun, of course — probably — but what’s certain is that this weekend’s cookout at Riley’s house is the centerpiece of his recruiting efforts for the 2022 class, and Riley takes it as seriously as he does any ribeye or brisket. After 15 months behind a virtual recruiting wall, Rowe is eager to tour the OU campus and finally meet everyone.
“It’s gonna be cool,” Rowe said.
Coolest of all, Rowe will finally get to introduce himself his future college coaches face to face. Rowe told SI Sooners he still hasn’t shaken hands with Riley or cornerbacks coach Roy Manning.
“That’s who I really want to talk to a lot,” Rowe said. “And coach Riley.”
Rowe is a something of a unicorn: a big, strong cornerback with tight coverage skills and shockingly good reflexes. He’s 6-foot-3, 210 pounds and as a sprinter on the Union High School track team in Tulsa, has elite speed.
“One of the biggest words in trying to put a finger on it — he’s very perplexing,” Union coach Kirk Fridrich told SI Sooners. “… Since the ninth grade, we’ve tried to figure out where we’re gonna play him. Our corners coach, coach (Luther) Carr, just said, ‘Hey, let me take him.’ Because he’s such a big athlete and just so fast. So we figured we’d start him at corner and start training him there and then maybe move him to outside ‘backer or something like that, or maybe safety if that didn’t work out. And he’s never left that spot.
“He definitely has a good skill set as a cover corner, his speed, his size, able to force the run in the box. So I think colleges looking at him, it’s just hard to believe a guy that’s that big, that weighs that much, can run that fast.”
Watching former Union stars like Tre Brown and Pat Fields — the the former a Seattle Seahawks rookie, the latter now a senior at OU — succeed in the Sooner secondary has inspired Rowe. Fields, Rowe said, “is so smart” and told him about all the championships he could win at Oklahoma.
“We’ve had some good ones here, some fast ones,” Fridrich said, “and all of those guys were defensive backs. I think Jayden could play a multitude of positions.”
Rowe’s most recent offer came last week from LSU. He wasn’t getting much traction after last season, but then Kansas offered in December. Kansas State followed within a few days, and offers then came pouring in from Arkansas, Oregon State, Baylor and Texas Tech. Oklahoma offered in January, and on April 30, Rowe committed to the Sooners.
“Even though I’m committed, my recruiting is still open,” Rowe said. “LSU, they’re good, too.”
He said that moment when schools finally started noticing and offering scholarships was something he won’t forget.
“That just made me want to go even harder, go hard on the field, go hard on the track,” Rowe said. “It motivated me.”
His recruiting might be “still open,” but this weekend, Rowe will embrace to getting to know his future teammates at Oklahoma. And whether he’s on the grill or not, his dad, for one, will keep his fingers crossed.
“I can’t wait,” Rowe said. “My dad is like, really an OU fan. He loves coach Riley. Like, he really loves him. I think he’s gonna talk to him the whole time. Or most of the time.