EDMOND — The way Heath Newland sees it, there are two ways he could've reacted to Oklahoma's offer to make him a “preferred walk-on” in its 2013 recruiting class.
“You can take it as the school didn't want you, because they didn't respect you enough to give you a scholarship,” said Newland, a four-year starter on Edmond North's offensive line.
“Or, you can look at it like you're borderline. They wanted you, they just couldn't give you a scholarship right now, so just go show them. Work hard every day.”
Newland chose the latter, accepting the “preferred walk-on” offer that Sooners co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel presented to him at school on Friday.
Heupel told the 6-foot-2, 285-pound Newland that the Sooners are OK when it comes to interior offensive linemen on scholarship, and that coaches' more pressing need is at offensive tackle.
Oklahoma loses senior tackle Lane Johnson next season; current sophomores Tyrus Thompson and Daryl Williams both have starting experience, but after that, the Sooners are extremely thin at tackle.
Redshirt freshman Derek Farniok has impressive size at 6-foot-9, 315 pounds, but is still raw and working to develop his skills. True freshman Kyle Marrs (6-5, 320) is redshirting this season, and Nathan Hughes (6-6, 248) switched from defensive end during fall camp.
Dylan Dismuke, a Duncan native and true freshman last year, took a medical hardship that prematurely ended his career because of a lingering knee injury. Will Latu, a junior-college transfer in last year's class, moved on before even enrolling at OU because of academic problems.
Then last week, OU's lone 2013 offensive tackle commit, Tulsa Union's Dalton Rodriguez, switched his commitment to Tulsa because he wants to play defense in college.
This weekend, though, Oklahoma is hosting 6-4, 267-pound tackle Nico Falah (Bellflower, Calif.), who has been committed to USC since July.
Three-star junior-college offensive tackle Matt Finnin (6-8, 330), from College of DuPage in Illinois, is set to visit Oklahoma Jan. 11.
As for Newland, though, he'll do everything the regular 2013 recruits do, but without the scholarship — yet.
“I'm exactly the same,” Newland said. “I go on my official visit next month. I get the same packet that everybody gets. I'm on scout team just like the freshmen. I get a locker. I get a number. I'm on the team. I don't have to do tryouts. I'm on the same schedule. ... The whole shebang.”
Oologah senior lineman Sam Noble (6-5, 285) is considering a similar offer from Oklahoma.
Newland is currently No. 15 on The Oklahoman's Super 30 list of the state's top prospects. He played center for most of his career at Edmond North; injuries forced him to play some at guard and tackle during his senior season, though, when the Huskies finished 10-2 and reached the Class 6A quarterfinals.
“Apparently I was one of those borderline guys,” Newland said. “It's just the way the cards fell. It didn't go my way, but I'm still excited.”