Jalil Farooq says he’s not really a virtual learner. He prefers hands-on experiences to computer screens.
And yet, there was Oklahoma wide receivers coach Dennis Simmons, showing Farooq something he’d not seen before — on a Zoom video session.
“He’s so good of a coach, he’s been able to teach me some, like get-off routes and stuff like that — through Zoom,” Farooq told SI Sooners last week during a break in Sooner Summit. “He actually demonstrated it through Zoom, showed it, how other kids do it in practice and everything.”
That must be effective teaching, Farooq said, because he’s still trying to get the hang of communication through this pandemic thing.
Farooq is one of the nation’s top high school wide receivers in the 2021 recruiting class. At Henry Wise High School in Upper Marlboro, MD, the 6-foot-1, 190-pound, Farooq has shown multifaceted skills — good speed, shiftiness, deceptive power, strong hands and a head for the game.
But he hasn’t been able to visit any college campuses since last fall.
Until Sooner Summit, that is.
Prospects assembled in Norman last week under the invitation of 2021 quarterback commit Caleb Williams. It was unprecedented — they paid for their own travel, hotel and meals — an unofficial unofficial visit.
And of course, they made time to walk around the OU campus. That left an impression on Farooq.
“This is my first time down here, so I was definitely excited to see the campus and everything,” he said. “I know I don’t get all the way the full experience, but this is good enough.
“Because the COVID was messing me up a lot. It was making me a Zoom watcher, and I’m not really a virtual learner. I like to be there in person. So this has definitely been a good experience.”
Farooq remains uncommitted in his college choice. His top seven consists of Oklahoma, Alabama, Boston College, Clemson, LSU, Maryland and West Virginia, among others. Many analysts predict he’ll be a Sooner, and decked out Friday in OU gear from head to toe, it’s hard to argue.
“Oklahoma looks good. But I’m still open,” he said.
And the gear?
“I’m, like, on a tour,” he said. “So I’m showing love.
“I definitely love the history about OU. They have a great program, quarterback situation and also the receiver situation, where I want to play. So it’s a good fit.”
He acknowledged that his bond with Simmons and Lincoln Riley so far is “great” and that “everything is going good with Oklahoma.”
Farooq said there actually have been pros and cons to the pandemic shutdown — or, at least people are making the best of a bad situation.
“COVID is definitely affecting me personally — and a lot of other people,” he said. “Because I know a lot of people don’t have the chance to have the film for college exposure. But it’s affecting me because I feel as though football is my space to clear my mind and everything.”
There’s a flipside to living in a virtual world, staying at home all the time and having constant access to other people who are staying home.
“It’s affecting me, but it’s also like more coaches are reaching out,” Farooq said. “I’m not really an every day talker. I don’t have to talk to you every day. But I’m building a lot of good bonds with a lot of colleges because of this COVID. They reach out more than usual.
“It’s not like you can actually see them in person. But other than that, I will say they have a lot of time on their hands, because everything is affecting the season. We have a lot of time on our hands also. So there’s more communicating going on and more to get to know about them and also about our personal lives. So yeah, I would say that’s a good thing.”
It feels like a long time until Sept. 27 — the day he’s picked to reveal his verbal commitment (that’s his mother’s birthday), and until then, Farooq says he’ll try to get better at the whole virtual learning thing.
It won’t be easy. Maryland’s fall football season has been moved to spring, he said, and classes this semester will be online only.
“I gotta adjust to it as best I can. There’s nothing I can do,” he said. “It’s definitely a struggle.”
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