Baron's Surprise Visit
When news came out last week that Oklahoma was set to host the nation's No. 6 strongside defensive end Tyler Baron many were surprised. The Knoxville (Tenn.) Catholic Rivals100 defensive end has long been thought to be a heavy lean toward the hometown Volunteers, where his father is also a staff member.
And even those who could envision him elsewhere, the Sooners haven't often come up in conversation. But since Oklahoma offered him on Sept. 24, 2018 Baron has been in contact with Calvin Thibodeaux frequently and the two connected enough for Baron to make the Sooners his first official visit.
"I have a great relationship with coach Thib. Really he always shot straight with me and always has been in my ear a lot, that’s definitely something I appreciate," Baron said. "He has a great selling point and he has done a great job of showing that to me.
That relationship, as well as his feelings about the potential of Oklahoma's program
"Really just the tradition that they are building and the tradition they have. It’s just a great place and I felt like it was a place I could come in and have an early impact. I felt like I could come in and play in some big games and hopefully even potentially win a national championship there," he said.
And the staff, while Baron was on campus went one step further than 'hoping' for a title with his help.
"They were preaching to me, because they graduate five seniors up front, just telling me how big of an impact I can have and if that I come we’ll be playing for national championships within a year," he said.
That expectation for the future is undoubtedly connected to the hiring of new defensive coordinator Alex Grinch. The first year Sooner assistant laid out where he saw Baron fitting into their defensive plans as well as why the fit would be ideal for both parties.
"They showed me, just based off their new scheme they have with coach Grinch, how I fit and how successful I would be in that defense," Baron recalled. "They just see me playing defense, whether it’s focused on the run or working against the pass. They see me at that five-technique."
Though Thibodeaux and Grinch had a big role in Baron's weekend he also spent ample time with another Sooner staff member he has become quite familiar with - head coach Lincoln Riley.
"Really one of the big things I actually liked about it was when I got up here everyone is on the same page. Coach Grinch, coach Thibs, coach Riley. They were all saying I’m a priority and they could really utilize me," he said. "I text coach Riley weekly, it’s huge to hear from the head coach a lot and hear what a priority I am for him.
"I will be back this fall, I’m not sure for what game, but I talked to coach Riley about it."
With most high school visitors it's easy to guess at their visit hosts, generally younger players they either knew or had some sort of obvious connection to. However, Baron got one of the Sooners most experienced players with a bevy of non-direct lines. Yet, somehow it all worked for the elite pass rusher.
"I got to hang out with a lot of guys like Neville Gallimore and Jalen Hurts. It’s great to see how focused they are and how they take a business approach to things," he said.
"Neville was my host. I thought the pick was right with how we connected in talking to him. How we agreed on so many topics, football and outside of football. I could see why they made that connection just personality wise."
Even with all of this positive news there is a daunting task still remaining to land Baron, the nation's No. 97 overall player, after he released a 'who's who' top 11 just a few weeks ago.
He is sure of a Buckeyes visit this summer but beyond that says he isn't sure where he'll visit.
"I'm not necessarily (sure it will be) an official but I’ll be at Ohio State within the next month," he explained. "It might even be condensed from (the top 11), I’m not necessarily sure what schools I won’t be visiting. But I don’t think I’ll be taking trips to all 11."
And though many hold an idea that his father would prefer him at Tennessee, Baron says his father has never applied any pressure in regard to a future, beyond the present, in Knoxville. And for all three members of the trip, including his mother
"With my dad, he has never pushed Tennessee, or any school, to me really. He has always been respectful of my decision and let me know it’s my decision," he said.
"It was great for all of us [including his mother] actually. Norman it really is a community and it is a family feel. It was a really great first impression."