ESPN 150 DT Manning still enjoying ride

Nobody would blame ESPN 150 defensive tackle Justin Manning (Dallas/Kimball) if he stopped answering his calls.

Manning, ranked No. 89 in the ESPN 150, has been getting calls on a near daily basis for the last 12 months. But he has come to understand that comes with the territory of being a top recruit. And when you’re in the middle of your senior season, that comes with the territory of being one of the top uncommitted recruits.

“This process really hasn’t been that tough,” Manning said. “The toughest part is still to come. Making the decision won’t be easy.”

But the contenders are starting to become clear. Beginning this weekend, Manning is going to take official visits on four consecutive weekends.

It starts at a place where he is the most familiar and most comfortable: Oklahoma. Manning has been a staple around the Norman, Okla., area since fifth grade when his older brother, DeMarcus Granger, was being recruited by the Sooners.

This weekend’s visit has nothing to do with getting to know the campus. But he is looking to interact with the coaches more.

Manning, who is 6-foot-2 and 275 pounds, has a tight bond with OU defensive tackles coach Jackie Shipp because he has known Shipp for years going back to Granger’s recruitment.

When Manning was in town for OU’s junior day, he spent the majority of the time with Shipp and received his official offer there.

“Coach Shipp is the only coach that I really feel like I know when it comes to OU,” Manning said. “Obviously I’ve talked to coach [Bob] Stoops several times, but I can talk about any and everything with Coach Shipp.”

The coaching relationship means a lot for Manning. He said his No. 1 concern throughout this process has been trying to decipher what is real and what is a coach simply saying what Manning wants to hear.

Because of his bond with Shipp, he doesn’t feel that anxiety nearly as much with OU. And instead of asking his brother, Manning said he has tried to figure it out on his own.

“I want to be my own man. I know my brother would help me if I asked, but I have to figure these things out for myself,” Manning said.

Dallas Kimball has a bye week this weekend, which will allow Manning to fully experience his official visit to OU. He said the start of his senior season has gone well. There is one adjustment he has had to make.

“I’ve been taking on a lot more double teams this season,” Manning. “I’m not seeing any one-on-ones at all. It was kind of hard in Week Zero because it was new. I’m comfortable now and feel fine.”

Manning’s tour will continue with stops at Texas A&M (Sept. 28), TCU (Oct. 5) and LSU (Oct. 12). He hopes to make his decision not too long after the LSU visit.

“That’s what I’ve said so I want to stick to that,” Manning said. “If I need to make that fifth visit, I will. A lot can change.”