It’s hard to believe, but not everything is sunshine and rainbows in the Palmetto State.
Sure, the Clemson Tigers just captured their second national title in dramatic last-second fashion over the dynastic Crimson Tide. And yeah, Scott Pagano was a big part of that, if not the starter he probably wanted to be.
But the redshirt senior and native Hawaiian announced Friday that he would be leaving Death Valley for his final season of college ball. Pagano graduated with his sociology degree in December and, having finished his coursework, will be immediately eligible wherever he goes.
Pagano drew immediate and understandable interest — 37 schools contacted him according to Ryan Bartow of 247Sports — and by earlier today, he had trimmed his list to a final seven. The Sooners have made the cut along with Cal, Oregon, Notre Dame, Nebraska, Texas and Arkansas.
This is obviously a big, big development for the Sooners. The enthusiasm for their recruiting class was dimmed only slightly by the prospects of a shaky front seven in the years to come. Bartow can bridge that gap for a season. But first he has to come to Norman.
And that is by no means a sure thing, or even a probability. Dabo Swinney himself noted that Pagano is likely to transfer to the west coast in a statement regarding the move, presumably to be closer to home. I can’t imagine what playing in South Carolina with family in Hawaii must have been like. Swinney probably knows Pagano’s mind better than most, having just discussed the transfer with him.
So that makes Cal and Oregon the prohibitive early favorites for Pagano’s services. But I think it’s also notable that most of Pagano’s top seven isn’t west coast at all — it’s not like he jammed the list with Pac-12 programs. Maybe he’s had a change of heart, or a shift of emphasis. Maybe he’s just keeping his options open.
The fact is, there’s only one team in that top seven that can give Pagano a good chance to compete for a title next year, and that’s Oklahoma. Playing at Texas or Notre Dame would be fun and memorable. Cal and Oregon are close(r) to home. But Oklahoma’s Playoff odds are better than almost anyone’s.
So we’ll call OU third most likely for now, but a really good visit could change that quickly. Pagano will indeed be visiting campus on March 31.
He’s a versatile guy who can play inside in whichever defensive front the Sooners ultimately opt for at 6-3, 295 pounds. Here are the relevant (and impressive) passages from Bartow’s 247 piece:
I hope Scott likes his visit. Oklahoma isn’t California, but postseason hardware always feels like home.
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