Not sure any Oklahoma fan knew exactly just how high up P.J. Adebawore was going to shoot up the rankings, but everybody knew he was on the verge of being something special.
The Sooners, under then-first-year head coach Brent Venables and first-year defensive end coach Miguel Chavis, joined the chase for Adebawore on Feb. 11.
A three-star prospect from North Kansas City (Mo.) High, Adebawore slowly began his ascent up the rankings, with each passing update.
That all culminated with Adebawore, now signed with the Sooners and a mid-year enrollee, earning five-star status this week and ranked No. 21 overall for the 2023 class.
“Miguel, that defensive staff, identified P.J. last January as a guy that we really felt could grow into something special,” said Venables last month. “And develop a relationship with him and was pretty lightly recruited until about midway through the summer and then things really started heating up for P.J, but again, knowing his family and the type of people that they are, he’s a very loyal, do what he says he’s going to do.
“And really never had a problem whatsoever with him, although people continued to try to recruit him. He did a great job of managing that along with his family. He’s got a tremendous, tremendous upside. He’s about the work, excellent student, got tremendous humility, incredibly intelligent, great, great talent, natural pass-rush ability.”
The words upside and potential got thrown around a lot with Adebawore, but what he showed during his senior season and during the Under Armour All-America week was that he’s already starting to figure everything out.
It’s a credit to Chavis and Venables that they were able to get Adebawore to make the choice July 10. And just like every other elite recruit in OU’s class, other schools came calling when the Sooners were going through their 2022 struggles.
A very positive pattern for OU, though, was that it never mattered. Adebawore knew what he was looking for, and OU was always the spot.
“He values what we value,” defensive coordinator Ted Roof said. “He values accountability, he values toughness, he values structure, he values connection, he values family, he values education. Regardless of how this landscape of college football changes, those things last forever. The other things that came with it don’t last forever, but those things last forever. He’s a great fit here.”
Adebawore is one of three five-star signees for OU, with the other two being Denton (Texas) Guyer teammates quarterback Jackson Arnold (No. 23) and safety Peyton Bowen (No. 12).
But Arnold and Bowen were pretty well known at this time last year. There’s no question they earned the five-star ranking based on their tremendous senior seasons, but you rarely see someone from as far back in the ranking pool as Adebawore get to that five-star spot.
“P.J. Adebawore is just a fantastic young man,” Venables said. “His brother is getting ready to get drafted high. He’s a defensive lineman at Northwestern. He’s broad, he’s long and he’s all arms and limbs. He can really run with very explosive and natural instincts as a pass rusher. He’s got a great frame, just south of 230 pounds. I really like where he’s at and what his future looks like.”
OU fans were believers of Adebawore for a while, but it truly was that Under Armour week of practices and performances that turned everybody’s heads.
With his frame, his wingspan, it all adds up to what should be something incredibly special for Adebawore and the Sooners.
“Another guy that’s really, really explosive and really, really long,” Roof said. “I don’t know what his wingspan is, but it’s big. You look at him rushing the passer and doing things like that. It’s not only rushing the passer for sacks, it’s getting his hands up to bat balls. That’s a big deal as well. He’s a great fit here. I love his spirit and he has energy – a lot of really good positive energy on top of a lot of ability with a lot of commitment and loyalty to the University of Oklahoma.”
Defensive end is an interesting spot. You have returning starters like Ethan Downs and Reggie Grimes. Incoming portal additions like Rondell Bothroyd (Wake Forest) and Trace Ford (Oklahoma State). How does Adebawore fit in?
Sounds like a crowded room, but Adebawore surpassed the high school expectations. He’s looking to do it again.