There are two things Oklahoma has over Alabama and Notre Dame in the recruitment of offensive tackle Jake Taylor.
One is an insider in Norman, once-removed from his big brother.
Another is a memorable first impression — which only one school gets to make.
Taylor, one of the top linemen in the nation in the 2022 class out of Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, named the Sooners alongside the Crimson Tide and Fighting Irish when he revealed his top three this week. Whether those two factors give OU an actual edge remains to be seen. Taylor has nine months until the early signing period in December comes around, but he said he wants to focus on those three schools.
Taylor is 6-foot-5, 275 pounds, moves like a tight end and hits like a truck. 247 Sports rates him as a 4-star prospect and a top 300 player nationally, and this week the network changed its "Crystal Ball" on Taylor from Notre Dame to Oklahoma. Rivals rates Taylor a 4-star also, and projects Taylor to Notre Dame.
He holds 21 offers in all, including Miami, Michigan, Penn State, Stanford and USC.
However it shakes out, Taylor told SI Sooners that each of his three finalists has something that sets it apart. But Oklahoma’s two extra elements do factor in as well.
Start with the latter. Taylor noted there’s a special occasion coming up.
“I have by far the best and longest relationship with them,” Taylor told SI Sooners. “Not trying to sound weird, but it’s almost our one-year anniversary of getting to know each other. We’ve been almost a year on our relationship, and I absolutely adore that.
“They were my first ever college phone call,” he said.
That relationship, of course, has a funny backstory, orchestrated by Gorman coach Brent Browner.
“He pulled me out of class and was like, ‘What did you do?’ ” Taylor said. “I was like, ‘I don’t know, coach. I’m a great student. I didn’t do anything wrong.’ He said, ‘OK well, we’ll see about that.’
At first, Taylor was wracking his brain trying to think about what he might have done.
“Oh. Oh yeah. I was terrified,” he said. “Because I know I’m a good student. I wouldn’t do anything to get myself in trouble. So I was like, ‘All right, I have no idea what you’re talking about.’”
Then, he got really nervous.
“He pulled me into the dean’s office,” Taylor said, “and next thing you know I’m on FaceTime with DeMarco Murray, (Bill Bedenbaugh) and Lincoln Riley.
“It was my first ever phone call. So was stuttering, nervous. Oh. They probably thought I was shy — a shy little dude. I loved that day.”
Murray played at Bishop Gorman and started what has become something of a pipeline of Gorman players to OU.
Riley told Taylor they’d like to offer him but wanted to see him in person first. They invited him to a Junior Day visit on the Norman campus — and then the pandemic happened. The NCAA instituted a recruiting dead period, and everything was off.
The phone call, he said, “was basically a stepping stone for our relationship being built.”
A few weeks later, Taylor said, OU coaches called back and informed him of the shutdown. No Junior Day. No visits. No recruiting.
“So they just offered through the phone,” he said.
Besides being the first program on Taylor’s doorstep, Oklahoma has another advantage: Chris Murray.
Murray transferred from UCLA to play offensive line for OU last year. Taylor’s big brother Beau Taylor is now in his second year at UCLA and is vying for the Bruins’ starting center job.
“Beau reached out to him saying, ‘So my brother’s really interested in that school; let me know about it a little bit,’ “ Taylor said, “and (Murray) was basically just saying, ‘Everyone’s a dog. That’s a great football program and you’ll definitely have some competition for absolutely everything you do there.’ ”
Taylor liked what he heard, so he scheduled an unofficial visit to Norman. He attended the Sooners’ home win over Baylor last November, and came away profoundly impressed.
“It was absolutely beautiful when I went,” Taylor said. “ … It was unfortunately a dead period, so I couldn’t speak to any coaches or go into any facilities. But went basically to see all the surrounding part of it. I did a virtual visit and that was allowed. But I talked to all the coaches through the virtual visit, and I saw all their facilities, the weight room and stuff like that.”
For the moment, that’s another factor Oklahoma has over Alabama and Notre Dame. Taylor has actually been on the OU campus and watched the Sooners play in person. So far, his only visits to South Bend and Tuscaloosa have been the virtual kind.
Still, there’s plenty to like about those two schools.
“With Alabama, I was absolutely blown away by the facilities and basically the intelligence they have with either NFL experience or connections,” he said. “They definitely do know how to win over there.
“For Notre Dame, that is probably the best place for football and overall school anywhere for colleges right now,” Taylor said. “And they also — I’m sorry to say if you’re writing this down — but I’d give them the O-Line U card. They produce the best NFL-ready linemen.”
Taylor grew up a Vegas kid, so there’s one thing in particular he likes about all three.
“One thing all three schools have in common is they’re more of a small-college town,” he said. “And I absolutely love that. I’ve been raised in a city all my life, so I’m trying to venture outward.”