The Woodward News

Sports

February 6, 2014

OU class shows strong national appeal

Woodward, Okla. — By John Shinn

CNHI News Service

It certainly isn’t odd for Oklahoma to reach well beyond its borders for recruits. The program went well beyond regional status a couple generations ago.

But the crop the Sooners harvested on National Signing Day, which consisted of 26 players from 10 different states and all four time zones, showed a strong national appeal.

“We are one of those national brands and we always have strong and excellent interest from players around the country,” OU coach Bob Stoops said. “Our coaches did a great job of connecting with these different guys from different states and being able to finish and sign them today.”

Finish is what OU did on Wednesday.

The Sooners inked three players that were not committed at the start of the day — Fresno, Calif., athlete Michiah Quick, West Valley City, Utah offensive tackle Kenyon Frison and the biggest surprise of the day Duluth, Ga., offensive tackle Orlando Brown.

The group gave OU an unanimous top 15 class (No. 15 Rivals.com), (No. 13 ESPN), (No. 13 Scout) and (No. 14 247) and the unanimous top class in the Big 12 Conference.

Topping the list is five-star running back Joe Mixon from Oakley, Calif. The U.S. Army All-American was one of four prep players from California the Sooners landed.

This isn’t the first time OU has pulled players out of California, but the program’s appeal seems to be growing on the West Coast.

“In California, there’s just the Pac-12, and the Pac-12 doesn’t have the fan base, it doesn’t have the excitement around a lot of the programs, the stadiums, just the fervor that our conference does and our state does,” said OU co-offensive coordinator/receivers coach Jay Norvell. “So that attracts kids.”

It helped add 6-foot-5, 210-pound La Mirada, Calif. wide receiver Dallis Todd to go along with Quick for the receiver group and Murrieta, Calif., linebacker Curtis Bolton.

From Arizona, it signed four-star wide receiver Mark Andrews and three-star offensive lineman Natrell Curtis.

The group includes five offensive linemen, which is essential with the Sooners’ current roster including five offensive linemen.

They go with JUCO tight end Isaac Ijalana and Tulsa Union tight end Carson Meier.

Meier is one of four players within the state’s borders to pick OU, joining Edmond Santa Fe quarterback Justice Hansen, Jenks safety Steven Parker and Meier’s Tulsa Union teammate, 6-6, 190-pound wide receiver Jeffery Mead.

The biggest defensive need — the secondary — was addressed with five recruits. Parker, a four-star recruit, tops the list.

“Steven Parker was a big get right here in state, is a difference maker in the back end, especially in the middle of the field,” Stoops said.

He’s joined by DeSoto, Texas, safety Vontre McQuinnie. Cornerbacks Tito Windham (Gulfport, Miss.) and Jordan Thomas (Klein, Texas) entered the fold. Marcus Green, from Cedar Hill, Texas, could wind up at any of the secondary spots.

The Sooners brought in three linebackers with Tay Evans (Allen, Texas) and JUCO transfer Devante Bond joining Bolton. The one who’s most likely to make an immediate impact is Bond, who is already on campus.

“He’s bigger guy,” Stoops said, “an outside ’backer to line up against tight ends. But very athletic and an excellent pass-rusher.”

The Sooners plucked two defensive linemen out of the heart of SEC territory. Courtney Garnett (New Orleans) joined Dwayne Orso (Birmingham, Ala.).

All told, it was one of the most diverse recruiting classes Stoops has brought in because only 11 of the signees are from Oklahoma or Texas. That area has been the program’s recruiting wheelhouse dating for years.

Stoops said that doesn’t mean the Sooners are de-emphasizing Texas as a recruiting area by any means. But it is a sign OU has strong national appeal to high-end recruits.

“When people call you and send you information or we search out the top 10, 15 or 20 players at a certain position, and they have a strong interest, you follow up with it. And we’ve been able to connect with these guys,” Stoops said. “It’s worked out with them coming here. Not just California, but when you look at the success players from California have had here, I think it makes a difference. Players recognize that and recognize the opportunity is a positive one.”

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