By JOHN SHINN
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.”
OU signing day notebook
Hansen enters as OU's 3rd quarterback
Edmond Santa Fe quarterback Justice Hansen will enter spring practice as the No. 3 quarterback and will get plenty of work.
OU coach Bob Stoops and offensive coordinator Josh Heupel both confirmed senior Blake Bell will move to tight end.
“We’re excited that even though Blake can graduate and go somewhere else wants to stay here and finish out and wants to try tight end. I think it’s a great fit,” Stoops said.
Stoops has also given Cody Thomas, who redshirted this past season and will enter the spring as the No. 2 quarterback, permission to play baseball in the spring.
How Thomas is able to handle the rigors of spring practice, which begins March 8, and baseball is something the football staff, the baseball staff and Thomas are trying to work out.
“He’s going to work out. He’s going to push himself to be the starting quarterback here. If he’s not the starter, he’ll be ready to play,” Heupel said. “He’s different because of the baseball skill set that he has. He’s over there working and taking his cuts. I think, given the opportunity, he’ll play extremely well.”
Mayfield is with the program: Former Texas Tech starting quarterback Baker Mayfield is officially a walk-on quarterback at OU. Stoops said he met with Mayfield for the first time Tuesday and he will go through spring practice.
“He said he always wanted to be here. So we’ll give him that opportunity,” Stoops said.
Mayfield threw for 2,315 yards and 12 touchdowns in eight starts for the Red Raiders last season as a walk-on freshman. He elected to leave Texas Tech in December.
Texas Tech blocked his transfer to OU. Mayfield is free to attend school, but he must sit out the 2014 season and cannot redshirt. So, when he becomes eligible in 2015, he’ll be a junior.
Changing with the times: Two years ago, OU’s coaching staff did only a minuscule amount of contact with recruits through social media. That has been the biggest change over the last two years.
Recruiting coordinator/running backs coach Cale Gundy said the change was one of the reasons for OU’s success in recruiting this year.
“We’ve adapted even more so to the Twitter and to the Facebook and to the social media,” he said. “Coach Stoops made some changes with some guys. What the new guys have done for us is they’ve done a tremendous job. But we’ve all kind of jumped in and went full speed with social media. You just have to do it to be able to communicate. It’s unfortunate, but you can get a hold of any elementary, junior high and high school kid at 9, 10, 11 o’clock during school days just by Tweeting them or Facebooking them.”
A.D. effect: Gundy said one of OU’s best selling points is former running back Adrian Peterson. The All-American at OU and all-pro with the Minnesota Vikings the last six years, makes recruiting running backs much easier. It was a huge draw for five-star running back Joe Mixon.
“The best running back in the game today is Adrian Peterson. Everyone knows that, everyone talks about that. That helps me tremendously in recruiting,” Gundy said.
“He was smart to look at a place like Oklahoma and what we’ve done and the guys we’ve put out. We’ve got two guys starting in the NFL and one guy is the best. Not all 17 year olds look at that, but obviously Joe did,” Gundy added. “But having an Adrian Peterson is priceless.”
Closing time: Of the 26 recruits OU landed Wednesday, nine committed after the Sooners’ Jan. 2 victory over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.
It was a strange year in that the Sooners have typically had all but a few stragglers committed by the end of the regular season.
Stoops didn’t deny the Sugar Bowl win had a big impact in the final month of recruiting.
“We were on a lot of great players. We had some great commitments already. Definitley in the month after that, that momentum had a strong positive impact on us finishing out and getting these guys in the last few weeks,” he said. “It isn’t just the game, the assistant coaches did an excellent job. Hopefully I had a little bit to do with it, how we were all working with them, and finished in a really strong way.”
Clark picks LSU?: The Sooners’ last remaining target is Oklahoma City Douglass defensive end Deondre Clark. But most signs point toward Clark signing with LSU on Wednesday. The biggest indication — and the only one that really matters — was the letter of intent LSU confirmed it received from Clark.
Oklahoma City Public Schools announced Wednesday that Clark will sign today at Douglass High School and Clark’s mother, Dorshell, and Douglass coach Willis Alexander both said Clark hasn’t signed anywhere yet.
Nonetheless, if LSU already has his letter of intent, OU is out of the picture.
OU signing day list
Jonathan Alvarez, ol, 6-3, 301, Horn HS, Mesquite, Texas
Mark Andrews, wr, 6-6, 220, Desert Mountain HS, Scottsdale, Ariz.
Curtis Bolton, lb, 6-1, 215, Vista Murrieta HS, Murrieta, Calif.
Devante Bond, lb, 6-3, 240, Sierra College (Calif.)
Orlando Brown, ol, 6-8, 340, Peachtree Ridge HS, Duluth, Ga.
Natrell Curtis, ol, 6-3, 325, Mountain Pointe HS, Phoenix
Alex Dalton, ol, 6-4, 280, Troy (Ohio) HS
Tay Evans, lb, 6-2, 200, Allen (Texas) HS
Dimitri Flowers, fb, 6-2, 219, Churchill HS, San Antonio
Kenyon Frison, ol, 6-6, 285, Granger HS, Salt Lake City, Utah
Courtney Garrett, dl, 6-2, 280, Saint Augustine HS, New Orleans
Marcus Green, db, 6-1, 180, Cedar Hill (Texas) HS
Justice Hansen, qb, 6-4, 215, Santa Fe HS, Edmond, Okla.
Isaac Ijalana, te, 6-5, 250, Pierce College (N.J.)
Vontre McQuinnie, db, 6-1, 204, DeSoto (Texas) HS
Jeffery Mead, wr, 6-6, 190, Union HS, Tulsa, Okla.
Carson Meier, te, 6-6, 235, Union HS, Tulsa, Okla.
Joe Mixon, rb, 6-2, 216, Freedom HS, Oakley, Calif.
Dwayne Orso, Jr., dl, 6-6, 275, Homewood HS, Birmingham, Ala.
Steven Parker, db, 6-2, 185, Jenks (Okla.) HS
Joseph Paul, ot, 6-4, 325, Saint Augustine HS, New Orleans
Samaje Perine, rb, 5-11, 238, Hendrickson HS, Pflugerville, Texas
Michiah Quick, wr, 6-0, 170, Central East HS, Fresno, Calif.
Jordan Thomas, cb, 6-1, 180, Collins HS, Klein, Texas
Dallis Todd, wr, 6-5, 210, La Mirada (Calif.) HS
Tito Windham, cb, 5-9, 174, Harrison Central HS, Gulfport, Miss.