NORMAN — There was a time when Oklahoma could fish from a small pond and expect to haul in enough talent to maintain the program’s elite status.
For 50 years, it heavily relied on its home state and the bountiful amount of quality players south of the Red River to fill its recruiting haul.
But as the National Letter of Intents begin arriving early today at the Switzer Center s bit of a change in the Sooners’ recruiting philosophy will be on display.
Winning national championships requires recruiting nationally. The Sooners’ 2014 class will bring in players from all four time zones and at least eight different states, of which only one — Texas — borders the Sooner state.
“They’ve cast a wide net,” ESPN national recruiting analyst Tom Luginbill said.
The net spreads west to California, where it enters today with verbal commitments from five players, including five-star running back Joe Mixon from Oakley, Calif. The numbers could grow to six if four-star athlete Michiah Quick picks OU over USC, UCLA and Notre Dame.
It goes to the upper Midwest to Troy, Ohio, for four-star offensive tackle Alex Dalton. It goes into the heart of the SEC where OU has commitments from one Alabaman, two Mississippians and has secured two more linemen from New Orleans.
The Sooners have four of the best players in Oklahoma — Edmond Santa Fe quarterback Justice Hansen, Jenks defensive back Steven Parker, who committed Tuesday, and Tulsa Union teammates wide receiver Jeffery Mead and tight end Carson Meier.
Then there’s the crop of six it has coming from Texas, including four-star running back Samaje Perine from Pflugerville.
If this class seems light on Texans, it is compared to past years. But it also represents a change in OU’s recruiting philosophy along with the dynamics of recruiting in Texas.
There was a time when a time when any high school senior firmly believed if he wanted to stay close to home and compete for national championships there was only one decision to make — Oklahoma or Texas.
“I would argue in the state of Texas over the last three or four years the recruiting landscape has become so competitive because of the resurgence of Baylor. Texas Tech is becoming more and more of a player now. The SEC has helped elevate Texas A&M,” Luginbill said. “It’s not as easy as it just being Oklahoma and Texas for Texas’ best players. That’s why Oklahoma has taken that approach and gone into some other areas and I think it’s been fruitful for them.”
Recruiting in California is nothing new. In 2010, OU landed running back Brennan Clay, safety Tony Jefferson and wide receiver Kenny Stills out of San Diego and all three were highly productive from their freshman season on. It currently has six Californians on the returning roster for next season.
But its the ability to venture into all parts of the country and find recruits susceptive to the Sooners’ message that separates OU from the rest of the Big 12 Conference and most programs in college football.
Charles Tapper was an All-Big 12 defensive end last season. It was three years ago he decided to come to Norman from his native Baltimore. On the ride out, he passed many schools to home and went right by some traditional powers to get here.
“It’s the winning mentality. Winning brings everybody here.,” said Tapper when asked what ultimately sold him on OU. “Then there’s the brotherhood we have with each other. I feel like we’re probably one of the closest teams in the country. We’re all like brothers. We love being together and we’ve accepted each other.”
The melting pot approach of bringing in players from sea to shining sea is working for the Sooners. It’s a consensus top 15 group coming into today.
If Quick and West Valley City, Utah, offensive lineman Kenyon Frison chose OU today, adding four-star recruits on signing day could easily vault the class into the top 10 with all the recruiting services. Getting Oklahoma City Douglass defensive Deondre Clark later this week could have the same effect.
Expect the Sooners to continue beating the recruiting nationally as long as it remains beneficial for them to do so.
The days of simply going head-to-head against Texas for the best players in the Lone Star State seem to be over — for both schools.
Winning national titles requires landing national recruits. OU seems to be well ahead of the curve.
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