The Oklahoma Sooners have gotten off to a faster start in 2014 with two commitments by the middle of February after failing to land their first 2013 pledge until early in May.
After moving away from heavily recruiting in the state of Texas, Oklahoma suffered through numerous high-profile national misses in the 2013 class, which appears to be having a profound impact on how the staff approaches regional recruiting -- both of the commitments in the 2014 class are from the state of Texas, and head coach Bob Stoops spent quite a bit of time during his Signing Day press conference talking about recruiting in the state of Oklahoma.
Back in early October, the Sooners received their first pledge from Texas City wide receiver Armanti Foreman, a consensus four-star prospect and top-20 receiver nationally in the 247Sports composite rankings. The 5-11, 175-pounder did not have any offers at the time of his pledge, but it would not be surprising to see other programs extend offers at some point in the process.
Here's the word on Foreman from the time of his commitment:
As a sophomore, Foreman teamed with his twin brother, D'onta, a 6-0, 200-pound running back prospect with a little more sturdy build than Armanti, to form a tandem defenses found difficult to stop, with the newest Sooner consistently creating separation downfield on vertical routes and picking up yards after the catch on screen, flashing some serious first-step explosiveness and lateral quickness in the process, as well as the stop-start ability to make defenders look foolish.
In other words, Foreman is a pretty ideal slot prospect and a threat to take jet sweeps, screens, go routes, post routes, and everything in between the distance every time.
The other current pledge, Lancaster safety/outside linebacker Vontre McQuinnie, is a bit more of a mystery -- he's not ranked by 247Sports (he is, however, a consensus three-star prospect), didn't have any offers heading into the Oklahoma Junior Day at which he was offered and ended his recruitment, and he doesn't have any publicly-available film.
After several years of not landing the top prospect in the state of Oklahoma, the Sooners have also turned their focus back towards their home state, which can produce some excellent football players, if not nearly as many as neighboring Texas, Stoops said on Signing Day:
There are great players in the state of Oklahoma. Our population doesn't lend itself for there to be 20, 30, 40 (recruits) in that situation. Whether it's Norman to Tulsa or wherever, we're always looking and trying to evaluate the local players, and through the years we have a lot of stand-out, national award-winning Oklahoma players.
Players like Heisman trophy winner Sam Bradford, who grew up in nearby Oklahoma City.
The Oklahoma head coach went on to further emphasize the importance of those players:
We always want to do a great job in our home state and fortunately through the years we have. We are always diligent in that the first players we evaluate and continue to evaluate are always in state players. Not that we are always right, but we are doing everything we can to watch them, evaluate them, get to know them, get them around us, invite them to campus, invite them to practices, invite them to scrimmages, and it has been a positive.
Stoops was also asked specifically about the strong 2014 class in Oklahoma and had to play it rather coy not to incur a recruiting violation by mentioned any specific players by name:
We definitely see a lot of great players around.
The statement was hardly pandering to Oklahoma fans or the recruits in the state, either -- there are a handful of excellent prospects in the 2014 class who will be nationally recruited. Some of them already have national offers lists.
One of the prospects who will likely not be among those heavily pursued by the Sooners going forward is Broken Arrow star running back Devon Thomas, currently an Oklahoma State pledge. The top-10 national running back prospect committed to Oklahoma back in November of 2012, but lasted less than a month before decommitting and tentatively deciding to head to Stillwater for college, though his recruitment is probably far from over.
Thomas isn't the only significant prospect on the Broken Arrow roster, however -- it also features four-star outside linebacker Gyasi Akem, who holds an Oklahoma offer to go along with invitations to play at Arkansas State, Clemson, Missouri, and Oklahoma State, and quarterback Coleman Key, a pro-style quarterback who is not yet rated by the services, but does hold an Arkansas State offer.
The bigger target at quarterback is Edmond Santa Fe's Justice Hansen, a consensus four-star prospect considered one of the top-10 pro-style quarterbacks in the country. He holds offers from Oklahoma, Arizona State, Arkansas, Missouri, and Texas A&M and has already had the opportunity to visit most of those schools. Though he's listed as a pro-style quarterback, Hansen also has plenty of athleticism to go along with his arm talent, having gained 773 yards rushing as a junior to go along with his 2,713 yards passing, 34 touchdowns, and only six interceptions.
Hansen just received his offer at the recent Oklahoma Junior Day and doesn't plan on ending the process immediately, but he did grow up a fan of the Sooners, the only school listed as "warm" on his 247Sports profile page.
Another top local target who didn't have to travel far for that Junior Day in early February is Oklahoma City Douglass defensive end Deondre Clark, an absolute beast off the edge who racked up 99 tackles, 30 tackles for loss, and 22 sacks as a junior. He recently added an offer from USC to a list that includes Clemson, LSU, Missouri, Notre Dame, and strong interest from Texas that could result in an offer if he visits. The consensus four-star prospect ranked as the no. 6 strongside defensive end in the 247Sports composite will be one of the top overall targets for the Sooners in the 2014 class.
Then there is Jenks safety Steven Parker, who already holds an offer from Alabama, in addition to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. The 6-2, 190-pound safety was the SoonerScoop.com Junior Player of the Year in the state and is considered the top prospect by the Oklahoma Rivals site.
To a large extent, then, the success of the 2014 Oklahoma recruiting class may be much more about getting as many of the top prospects in the state at home as possible, and then continuing to make a push to re-establish a foothold in Texas, which the coaches will have a chance to do with the summer satellite camps they are now holding in the state.
Obviously, the Sooners have gotten off to a solid start in that regard having landed two Texas prospects already.
Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops added his own voice to the equation by saying that Oklahoma now wants to focus on a "three- or four-hour radius" of Norman to mitigate concerns about straying far from home and family, a factor that could well have impacted all of those 2013 misses.
And a factor that should play in Oklahoma's favor in 2014.
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