When the highest ranked member of Oklahoma's class of 2012, St. Louis (Mo.) DeSmet Jesuit wide receiver Durron Neal, came to Oklahoma last summer he fell in love with the campus, the coaches, and the bare bones of Sooner football. When he returned for his official visit this weekend it was clear the adoration had been rekindled though this time the 6-foot-1, 195-pound prospect couldn't help but notice the bells and whistles of Norman.
In fact it was some time around a boisterous group of Sooners along with hours around Oklahoma's packed crowd in Nomrna.
"Kenny Stills was my host. He showed me a real good time, I really got to see a live game, a big game. It was nationally televised, and to see how the fans were and how they were after the game. Just how much joy and support they show the Sooners, even if it's off the field - they bleed Sooner pride, the streets are just full of people talking Oklahoma football.
"I got in Saturday morning around 10 a.m. That was the first time I got the real game experience at Oklahoma. It was a lot more enthusiasm, like I said, Oklahoma that's the biggest thing in the state, that's a big deal to them, they put so much heart and support into it. Some people just go to be going but they know the game and what's going on and everything.
"You've got ladies, talking about that being a bad call, and seeing stuff you would hear a typical male fan to say, it's real serious up there - everyone is involved. I really wanted to come to a place and takes it serious like I do. That just really enjoys the feeling of winning."
Though Neal was hosted by Stills it comes as no surprise to anyone familiar with the 'Cali trio' that he spent a lot of time around Tony Jefferson and Brennan Clay as well. Interestingly as the group took in the LSU-Alabama game Neal had to lean on the Earthquake experience of his West Coast hosts as Oklahoma was hit by a 5.6 'quake late Saturday night.
"Actually, I was at Kenny's house and we were all just sitting around, it was me, him, Tony, Brennan Clay, we were all sitting right there toward the end of the 'Bama game and the next second, we were just laughing," he recalled. "It was like oh my god. We were taking it as a joke, and saw the furniture moving and stuff. It was wild.
"(Clay, Jefferson, and Stills) were saying that was the biggest one at Oklahoma, they were telling me that we get this all the time (in California) but they didn't know what it was at first - we weren't sure what it was for a minute."
The nation's No. 43 overall prospect may have spent some time with the team's most famous trio, but he could be part of the next group of three in Norman.
"Oh yeah, it was me, DeVante Harris, and Sterling Shepard, me and Sterling are talking about being roommates. Also we were talking about getting off campus sophomore year and getting a place with DeVante. We all bonded real well and we are looking forward to next fall- just getting at it and showing our skills," Neal explained.
"Devante, he was hanging out with Tony and Demontre (Hurst). They were saying they got a new shark boy so he's been throwing that at me. We'll see, it was just fun and kept things positive and live on campus."
Of course for all of the fun that was being had over the weekend there was no denying that a certain sadness lingered over the end of Ryan Broyles' career as a Sooner due to a torn ACL suffered in the third quarter during Oklahoma's 41-25 win over the Aggies.
Neal, who admits to already starting to look at Stills much the way Stills has looked to Broyles in his first two years on campus, says the team tried to find a positive from the situation.
"The team really tried to turn it into a positive, they were saying it was time for Kenny and other guys to step up. It's a thing where (Broyles) was going to be gone next year. They were trying to make it a positive and coach was saying he'll be fine and be playing in the NFL next year," Neal said
"I'm just glad that no one was saying 'oh our season is over'. Instead it was like 'we're going to dedicate this season to him' they know how bad he wants it. Just dedicating it to him and honoring him.
"I was telling (Stills), it's reversed now, Ryan was two years ahead of you going in, so life is funny like that sometimes. I'm going to be asking him questions, and he was saying 'I need guys like that around that want to work and want to get better'.
"I spent some time talking to him and he liked my attitude toward everything. He liked my situation like I have an attitude and was talking to me like he had known me for a long time. We just want to keep trying to build things down there."
Neal, like the rest of his future teammates, was saddened by Broyles' injury but admits that the lack of depth behind him is a reality not lost on himself and Shepard.
"I wasn't happy that he got hurt but if I come in and do what I'm supposed to do, I can help the. You know, nothing is promised, you've got to work for whatever you want and that's what I want to do I want to show off my skills and make an impact early," he said.
"It lets you know that you've got to keep working unless you want to be on the sidelines. The guys were all telling me 'come in playing, don't come in wanting to take days off, come in wanting to play'. Some guys were like 'I came in and thought I was good but I got a wake up call and now it's going to be too late and I was doing the catch-up game'. I was thankful for that advice, and I only know one way to do things, and that's to work hard for them."
Neal also noted the team's excitement over the performance of Blake Bell but it wasn't just players that stood out to him he spent plenty of time around Sooner receivers coach, and co-offensive coordinator, Jay Norvell. The fourth-year Sooner assistant took Neal in this weekend and talked to him about how Oklahoma grades performances and even broke down Neal's amazing seven-catch, 196-yard and three touchdown performance in DeSmet's playoff opening 35-28 win over Eureka.
"Before I left today, he was showing me how they break it down and telling them what they need to do. They have a test before the end of the week to figure out who is ready to play," Neal said. "He was also looking at some video from my game Friday, he was real excited about the big game I had. I told him what I did but he was saying, I'm going to take your talent to the next level.
"I'm ready to get out there and show them what I can do."
Like every recruit on an official visit Neal met with Bob Stoops before he left campus and it seems that some of the ire that the Show-Me Star has received hasn't been lost on Oklahoma's head man.
"He was just saying how excited he is to have me coming and just really that he is looking forward to finding new ways to get me the ball, he was just saying, he was looking for me to make an impact early. Wanted me to come in and be hungry and ready to work," Neal explained.
"Also, he was saying not to worry about outside, that he knows that I take a lot of stuff about Missouri.
"He told me that 'later on down the road you can show them all the rings' (laughing). That's one of the reasons guys want to come to Oklahoma, we want to win rings."
Neal's time was focused on taking in all that Oklahoma had to offer but that doesn't mean he wasn't trying to help the class of 2012 grow in talent and numbers. In fact he says the Sooners have landed Fort Scott (Kan.) C.C. tight end Terrell Mitchell.
"We got one of the JUCOs, the tight end, to commit."
NOTE: Scoop believes there are a few medical hurdles to clear before Mitchell can be officially added to the Sooner commitment list, check the Crimson Corner for more.
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