Analysis: Harris' decommitment a blow

One day after Oklahoma secondary coach Willie Martinez was rumored to be leaving for a jobs at either Illinois or Kansas, cornerback De’Vante Harris, the Sooners’ top defensive recruit, de-committed.

It’s not difficult to connect the dots.

Harris has not yet given his reasons for disclosing Saturday via Twitter that he is no longer committed to the Sooners. But something dramatic must have occurred to lead Harris to make such a stunning announcement.

Harris had been among the biggest OU cheerleaders from this class, talking up the Sooners to other prospective recruits. At one point, he even had “OU” shaved onto the side of his head. His future teammates were unaware of his decision, his high school coaches had no idea about his change of heart -- nobody knew that Harris was on the outs with OU. He was in Florida all week for the Under Armour All-America game and appeared in good spirits.

But Martinez was Harris’ primary recruiter. And it’s possible Harris was told Martinez would no longer be with the OU staff. That would explain Harris’ sudden change of heart.

Safety Tony Jefferson re-tweeted Harris’ de-commitment, then added “why?” It’s unclear if Harris then contacted Jefferson. But moments later, Jefferson tweeted this: “Idk if there’s coaches changes or not at OU. But I wish they would tell the players. We would like to kno too! Haha”

Jefferson then tweeted, “if he wanna go let EM. Gotta go where is best for him. No hard feelings.” To which Harris thanked Jefferson.

The worst kept secret in Norman is that Mike Stoops wants back on the OU staff. The Sooners want him back, too. Should Martinez depart for Illinois or some other job, it’s probable that Mike Stoops will summarily be named his replacement.

As for Harris, who knows? Maybe Mike Stoops can talk him into giving the Sooners another look, though Harris figures to be a hot commodity as one of the nation’s top five uncommitted cornerbacks.

If the Sooners can’t reel him back in, it will be another major blow in terms of recruiting on the defensive side of the ball. In the last week, the No. 1-ranked prospect in the nation Mario Edwards (Denton, Texas/Ryan) basically eliminated OU from his favorites.

Also this week, former linebacker targets Quanzell Lambert (Sicklerville, N.J./Timber Creek) and Brian Nance (Euless, Texas/Trinity) committed to Rutgers and Baylor, respectively. There are no questions about how stacked the Sooners' offensive class is for 2012, but the defense has been a big concern with less than a month to National Signing Day.

The secondary class appeared to be in good shape, especially after the Sooners made progress with the nation's No. 20 cornerback in Brandon Beaver (Compton, Calif./Dominguez). But one of the reasons Beaver became interested in OU was because of Harris, who has become one of Beaver's close friends. Harris was one of the first people Beaver contacted after talking with defensive coordinator Brent Venables on Monday.

Beaver is still set to visit OU on Jan. 20, and is also friends with OU commits wide receiver Derrick Woods (Inglewood, Calif./Inglewood) and tight end Taylor McNamara (San Diego/Westview). All three competed in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Saturday afternoon, the same time that Harris announced his de-commitment. It's unclear what bearing Harris' decision will have on Beaver's recruitment. Beaver tweeted Saturday that he plans to wait until signing day to announce his college choice.

OU has two cornerbacks for the 2012 class -- Kevin Peterson (Wagoner, Okla./Wagoner) and junior college signee Kass Everett (Philadelphia/Pierce College) -- but Harris was the crown jewel of the class so far in the secondary. Ranked the No. 14 cornerback in the nation, Harris is a four-star prospect.

Even though he would have been a true freshman, Harris would have a chance to get on the field this season. Jamell Fleming's graduation has left a huge void at cornerback, with no clear successors. Gabe Lynn struggled in the two games he saw time this season, Lamar Harris has yet to see the field in four seasons and Joe Powell could be headed back to receiver.

Even before Harris' de-commitment, the Sooners were trying to add a fourth cornerback to their class. Three-star prospect Colin Blake (San Antonio/Brandeis), who is committed to Texas A&M, took an official visit to OU in December. Blake’s teammate, offensive tackle Kyle Marrs, was the first the player to commit to the Sooners for the 2012 class.

The loss of Harris now means the top 11 rated prospects in OU’s class are all on offense. The top-rated defensive prospect is now three-star defensive end Charles Tapper (Baltimore/City College).