Last summer Austin Haywood didn't have any Division I scholarship offers. A year later, he might play a key role with the Sooners as a true freshman.
When players report early next month one of the intriguing story lines: How quickly can Haywood work his way into the tight end competition?
"He has tremendous ability," said Southmoore coach Chris Jensen. "He's a very tenacious blocker and has great hands. If he buys in to what Schmitty (OU strength coach Jerry Schmidt) preaches he could play right away. And I think he will. He practices hard."
In modern day recruiting, Haywood is a rare exception, a potential All-Big 12 player that that didn't garner much interest until his senior season of high school.
Academics were an issue. But the primary reason Haywood flew under the radar is he never showcased his football skills until after he moved from Anadarko to Southmoore in his junior year.
Haywood, 6-foot-4, 250 pounds, arrived too late to play football as a junior but began drawing interest from D-I coaches before playing a down for the SaberCats. Opting to not play baseball for the first time, Haywood dedicated himself to Southmoore's spring football program.
"A lot of Division I coaches came through and noticed his size and stature," Jensen said. "You can tell a lot by watching a kid in practice, how he approaches the game during the drudgery of practice. Austin shows up. He goes hard all the time."
Despite being one of the stars at the Edmond Shootout, a 7-on-7 competition held in July, Haywood still had no D-I offers when the 2009 season started. It wasn't until October, late in the season, that offers flooded in.
"That's the thing about recruiting," Jensen said. "If a kid doesn't have offers as a junior they want to see him on film. I'm not knocking Anadarko, but 6A is a different level competition, gives (college) coaches a better idea what a player might do at the next level."
Haywood dominated on both sides of the ball. He recorded 34 catches for 578 yards and 20 touchdowns, including eight rushing touchdowns. He also compiled 73 tackles and nine sacks at defensive end.
When Haywood also showed improvement in the classroom, Baylor was the first to extend an offer. Other schools, including Arizona, quickly followed.
OU offered Haywood and Southmoore teammate Kendal Thompson following an Oct. 30 game against Moore in Week 9, a game OU coach Bob Stoops and assistants Kevin Wilson, Josh Heupel and Bobby Jack Wright attended.
Haywood scored four touchdowns. Thompson threw for four touchdowns.
"They both had outstanding games," Jensen said. "If you were going to show nerves it would be with the OU head coach standing there watching. But they didn't. They put on a show."
Haywood's goal is to play as a true freshman. But his primary focus this summer has been getting stronger and getting acclimated to the program.
"I played football my whole life but I just concentrated more on basketball," Haywood said. "I really didn't do many football drills growing up. After getting to Southmoore I realized I had a better chance to go Division I in football.
"I'm a little nervous. It's all new, a big campus, a big-time football program. But I feel I'm a playmaker who can make plays. I'm just going to work hard every day and see what happens."
Jensen coached four Division I tight ends during his years at Moore, including three who played at OU — Josh Tucker, Matt Anderson and Frank Romero.
"I thought a lot of all those kids, but Austin is 10 times the athlete any of those guys were," Jensen said. "He has so much upside. We still don't know what Austin can fully do. I really think he has a chance to win national awards just like (Jermaine) Gresham."
Quite an endorsement for a player who didn't have a Division I offer at this time last season.
Austin Haywood School: Southmoore Position: Tight end Height: 6-foot-5 Weight: 250 pounds Senior stats 34 receptions, 578 yards, 12 TDs 33 carries, 134 yards, 8 TDs 73 tackles, 9 sacks, 2 Int.