Homegrown talent benefitting TU
BY ERIC BAILEY World Sports Writer
Thursday, August 19, 2010
8/19/10 at 1:12 PM
Related story: Practice Report: Tulsa.
TODD GRAHAM continuously blasted one motto shortly after being named Tulsa's football coach.
"We are Tulsa."
Graham talked about not only having pride in the university, but the city. Recruiting, he promised, would take an inside-out approach.
The 2010 roster shows 20 players with ties to area high schools. It's the most since the Golden Hurricane joined Conference USA in 2005.
"That's by design," said Graham, who is entering his fourth season at 11th and Harvard. "With the upgrades that we've made in the program, the facilities, the reputation of this university in this town and our focus of being Tulsa's team, it's worked.
"We are now able to compete for the best players in this city because of all the things that we've done."
The incoming class was a good example. Jenks' Jake Alexander had numerous offers, including a heavy push from Texas A&M, but chose Tulsa. Union's Thomas Roberson could have gone to Oklahoma State but decided to stay close to home.
"Perception is reality and we've changed how kids see our program," Graham said. "They see us as a big-time program now.
"And if all things are equal, we are taking the Tulsa-area kid."
Justin Skillens said he can make it home from campus in just seven minutes. He wouldn't have been able to do that if he'd accepted a scholarship from Air Force, Texas Tech or Iowa State.
"My family is a big support group for me," said Skillens, who played at Booker T. Washington. "When times are hard, I can always go home. Most people don't have that luxury, but it's a good benefit for me and it helps me out a lot."
Proximity can also be a deterrent.
"Sometimes that hurts you because kids like to get away a bit," Graham said. "But the reputation of this school being excellent in academics and we've competed for championships, it has changed a lot of kids' views.
"When you start winning those (recruiting battles), you develop pipelines. Kids start wanting to come here."
One of those pipelines is Union High School, Oklahoma's two-time defending Class 6A state champion.
Redskins coach Kirk Fridrich watched six of his players sign letters of intent to play at TU last February. He has been impressed with the job of the Golden Hurricane staff.
"It's exciting to see that they are in tune with the quality of football in the Tulsa area," Fridrich said.
Jenks coach Allan Trimble agreed.
"It's a great idea recruiting kids to the University of Tulsa that have grown up locally," said Trimble, who has had a number of former players at TU. "They take a lot of pride in that and I think that really goes a long way."
The coaches aren't the only ones doing the recruiting.
Many of the players are close friends and discuss their recruiting plans.
"It doesn't matter what the college is, whether it's UNLV or Oregon State, if they could get one kid, it seems to help," Fridrich said. "Sometimes ... the kids do the recruiting. Players like (former Union star) Brian DeShane want to win and you know he wants to get as many teammates that he knows out of this school."
Freshmen defensive backs Marco Nelson and DeWitt Jennings often called each other during the recruiting process, making sure the other was attending TU.
Now that both are here, things are easier. Jennings said the transition wasn't that difficult because of all the familiar faces sharing the field during fall camp.
"People that I have played with and against are making the same transition that I am making," Jennings said. "We are all stepping it up."
Cory Dorris, a Jenks star, shot down the notion that his Tulsa-area teammates are blazing a path for future recruits.
"I don't think I've opened any doors, but I have walked through them," Dorris said.
Golden Hurricane’s list of Tulsa-area players
Jake Alexander, OL, Freshman, Jenks
Malachi Blankenship, QB, Freshman, NOAH*
Greg Brown, TE, Freshman, Bixby
Brian DeShane, OL, Sophomore, Union
Cory Dorris, DE, Sophomore, Jenks
Nick Gates, OL, Senior, Holland Hall
Marshall Gilbert, K, Freshman, Memorial*
Matt Hulse, K, Junior, Jenks*
Shawn Jackson, LB, Freshman, McLain
DeWitt Jennings, DB, Freshman, Bixby
Brian Mincher, OL, Freshman, Jenks
AZ Moyer, WR, Freshman, Cascia Hall*
Marco Nelson, DB, Freshman, Glenpool
Jacob Rader, OL, Sophomore, Union*
James Roberson, DB, Freshman, Union
Thomas Roberson, WR, Freshman, Union
Stephen Rouse, QB, Freshman, Cascia
Justin Skillens, DB, Sophomore, Booker
Luke Snider, DB, Freshman, Union
Cody Wilson, LB, Freshman, Lincoln
SIX TULSA-AREA PLAYERS TO WATCH FOR TU
Position: Defensive end
Height, weight: 6-4, 275
High school: Jenks
Outlook: How is this for
a sign of respect? Conference
USA coaches voted
him as a preseason firstteam
pick after watching
him for just one season.
Position: Wide receiver
Height, weight: 6-3, 186
High school: Union
Outlook: There are
for the wide receiver,
could make him
Position: Middle linebacker
Height, weight: 6-0, 225
High school: Lincoln
Outlook: Wilson has
been with the program
for 20 months
after joining midsemster
2009. He’s a
Position: Middle linebacker
Height, weight: 6-0, 230
High school: McLain
emerged from spring
drills atop the depth
chart, but is battling
Wilson for the
starting position. He
Height, weight: 6-0, 192
High school: Glenpool
pure athleticism excites
He was recruited to
be a safety, but has
been getting looks
Position: Offensive guard
Height, weight: 6-2, 277
High school: Jenks
to TU piqued
interest for other
expected to have
—BY ERIC BAILEY,
World Sports Writer
At East Carolina
1 p.m. Sept. 5
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Original Print Headline: Homegrown Talent
Eric Bailey 581-8391