NORMAN — Brian Odom understands the importance of keeping local prospects in Oklahoma better than most.
Odom, who grew up in Ada, attended OU home football games as a kid, played for OU’s 2000 and 2001 teams and is entering his first season as the Sooners’ inside linebackers coach.
The Sooners recruit on a national scale but keeping relationships with talent in their own backyard is a point of emphasis for the OU coaching staff.
“You’d be a fool not to make sure you handle the in-state stuff the right way,” Odom said, “and evaluate every prospect that’s out there and make real decisions on them because there’s an element to it that’s not measurable to a point of there are people, kids that care about the games probably maybe a little bit more than guys across the country might care about the games. They grew up watching it. It’s a big deal to them, and that’s what we want.”
OU’s 2019 roster includes 26 players from Oklahoma, including junior center Creed Humphrey, senior receiver Nick Basquine (Norman) and sophomore safety Justin Broiles (Oklahoma City).
Odom says having Oklahoma natives makes it easier for the players to buy in to the program.
OU currently has two commitments from Oklahoma-based 2020 prospects. The state's No. 2-ranked prospect in the 2020 class — Broken Arrow offensive lineman Andrew Raym — committed to the Sooners on July 10. Bishop McGuinness linebacker Brynden Walker is also on board with the Sooners after originally committing to Oklahoma State.
• Patience is key: Lincoln Riley can turn to the 2018 and 2019 NFL drafts as easy recruiting pitches to prospective players.
The Sooners have produced back-to-back No. 1 picks and put myriad other players in the league.
Some OU-turned-NFL players naturally saw the field early in their careers but immediate playing time isn’t always a prerequisite to making it to the next level.
Riley says his staff tries to help their players understand they don’t have to make a huge splash as freshmen.
He pointed out Friday former OU receiver Marquise Brown’s rise from the low end of the Sooners’ depth chart to landing with the Baltimore Ravens in 2019’s first round.
“People easily forget that first half of Marquise's first season, he didn't hardly play at all,” Riley said. “I mean, he was a strictly a role guy and a backup, if not a [third string]. We go play at Ohio State [in 2017] and he didn't play one snap the entire game, the second game of the year.
“A year and a half later, he's the first receiver taken.”
• Hard to replace: OU’s offensive line has four starting jobs open this fall with the departure of four now-NFL linemen.
OU must replace Cody Ford (Buffalo Bills), Dru Samia (Minnesota Vikings) and Bobby Evans (Los Angeles Rams), who were all four-star prospects in OU’s 2015 class, and Ben Powers (Baltimore Ravens), who signed as a three-star prospect in 2016.
Offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh has plenty of work ahead of him but proudly spoke of the group he brought to Norman from the 2019 class. Those players — Marcus Alexander, E.J. Ndoma-Ogar and Stacey Wilkins — are fighting to get into an eight- or nine-man rotation.
"I like the young freshmen," Bedenbaugh said. "They’re freshmen but they have all the tools. They’ve got to learn. That’s the hard thing about playing offensive line as a freshman, is even if you have the physical skills, the mental skills are the challenge. And even if you’er really smart, sometimes you don’t have the physical skills. I mean, that’s tough. But I really like those freshmen that are here. ... I mean, we just don’t have a lot of depth, so those guys are getting their opportunity. They’re getting better every day."
OU football 2020 recruiting class
National ranking: No. 18 (Rivals.com), No. 16 (247Sports.com)
Big 12 ranking: No. 1 (Rivals.com), No. 2 (247Sports.com)
Offers made: 182
Commitments (Ratings via. Rivals.com)
3-star ATH Brian Darby, College Station (Texas)
4-star WR Davon Graham II, Keller (Texas)
3-star LB Edgerrin Cooper, Covington (Louisiana)
4-star RB Jase McClellan, Aledo (Texas)
3-star ATH Michael Henderson, Irving (Texas)
4-star OL Nate Anderson, Frisco (Texas)
4-star OL Noah Nelson, Gilbert (Arizona)
4-star DT Perrion Winfrey, Iowa Western C.C.
3-star LB Brynden Walker, Oklahoma City
4-star DB Ryan Watts, Little Elm (Texas)
4-star DB Bryson Washington, Houston
4-star RB Seth McGowan, Mesquite (Texas)
3-star WR Trevon West, Arlington (Texas)
4-star OL Andrew Raym, Broken Arrow
4-star TE Jalin Conyers, Gruver (Texas)