Claremore Daily Progress

February 7, 2013

Sooners don't go too far for many recruits

JOHN SHINN
CNHI News Services

NORMAN — There’s a lot to like about Oklahoma’s 2013 recruiting class. One of the things local fans will like is the in-state flavor. Five of the 24 recruits are from the Sooner State.



Defensive end D.J. Ward (Southmoore) and linebacker Jordan Evans (Norman North) come from the immediate area. The Sooners secured linebacker Dominique Alexander (Tulsa Washington), cornerback Stanvon Taylor (Tulsa East Central) and wide receiver Jordan Smallwood (Jenks) from the Tulsa area.



It marked the most in-state players in an OU class since inking six from the state in 2007.



“We always want to do a great job in our own state. Fortunately through the years, we have,” Stoops said. “We’re always diligent in that the first players we evaluate and continue to evaluate are always in-state players. Not that we’re always right, but we sure are always doing everything we can to watch them, evaluate them, get to know them and get them around us, invite them to campus, invite them to practices, invite them to scrimmages. It’s been a positive and these are all excellent players and some of them are the top players in our state.”



Ward waiting for clearance: Ward is attending classes at OU, but he won’t be able to participate in spring practice next month unless the NCAA clears him. Ward didn’t play football his senior season at Southmoore after the OSSAA ruled he had to sit out after transferring from Douglass High School to Southmoore late in the summer.



“Hopefully, the NCAA will find time to go through his records and we can get him cleared by the time we’re on the field,” Stoops said. “Hopefully, he can make that up in spring ball with being back on the field. I believe he will. He’s still working out hard and looks great, but he’s missed that time on the field.”



Long wait for Thomas: Quarterback Cody Thomas is expected to arrive at OU in June, but it won’t be until July until OU knows if it has him for sure.



Thomas is also a top baseball recruit and will likely be high-round pick in the Major League Baseball first-year player draft in June. The deadline to sign a contract is July 12.



“Cody is a guy where football is important to him. He isn’t just a baseball player that’s playing football for the heck of it. Football is important to Cody. For those reasons, I know he wants to succeed,” Stoops said. “I don’t know if it’s fair to say since he’s just coming out of high school, but he’s got a great future in football, too, because of the athlete he is and the way he throws the ball.”



Easy sell: The strength of the class is in the skill positions . Co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell said recruiting to those positions has not been difficult.



“I recruited my tail off when I was at Wisconsin and Iowa State. This ain’t Iowa State. We just have an ability to get in on players,” he said. “We have a great offensive product here to sell to skill players, and we try to use that history to sell players on coming here. When Adrian Peterson is MVP and doing what he’s doing in the National Football League, and Sam Bradford and Ryan Broyles, DeMarco Murray ... those guys are great examples for what kids want to be. I think coach Stoops has always given skill players an opportunity to show their skills offensively. That’s what kids want.”



Clear the air: Safety Hatari Byrd recently told a reporter defensive coordinator Mike Stoops told him he would start this season at safety. Stoops said that isn’t a guarantee.



“I think that’s ludicrous that anyone would speculate that I would ever do that. I’ve never done that in all my years of coaching, promised a kid a position. You earn everything you get here at Oklahoma,” he said. “If a kid misspoke or misinterpreted, again, that falls on people preying on young players and kids maybe not knowing how to handle the situation that well. But I think you guys know me well enough that I would never promise anybody a starting position. These guys will all earn their way through the process of coming in this summer and earning their playing time.”



No tight ends?: OU stopped using the tight ends it currently has late in the 2012 season. The group it signed on Wednesday did not include a tight end.



Stoops said it wasn’t a pressing need. He believes redshirt freshmen Tyler McNamara and Sam Grant will develop and senior Brannon Green provides a blocking presence for this season.