SIGNING DAY: For TU, an unprecedented level of local representation
BY BILL HAISTEN World Sports Writer
Wednesday, February 06, 2013
2/06/13 at 7:00 PM
Signing Day 2013: Stay up to date with the latest news on recruiting day with videos, bios and stories on Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Tulsa.
Read the bios: See all the commitments.
Google maps: Where did this class come from?
If you define the immediate Tulsa area as Tulsa County plus those communities and school districts on the edge of Tulsa County, the University of Tulsa has an unprecedented level of Tulsa-area representation in its football program.
During the 2003 season, 13 Tulsa-area high schools were represented by players on the Golden Hurricane roster. That total was matched on the 2012 roster.
In 2013, however, the local connection becomes stronger than ever as 19 area high schools are represented in the Hurricane program.
“That’s the neat thing about our program,” TU coach Bill Blankenship said.
The total was pushed to 19 by Wednesday’s signing of prospects from Owasso (quarterback Jaylen Lowe), Broken Arrow (defensive end Frankie Davis), Metro Christian (defensive tackle Zach Webb) and Wagoner (cornerback Kerwin Thomas), along with the presence of transfers like offensive tackle Davis Walton (Bishop Kelley graduate) and defensive end Trevor Toliver (Sapulpa).
The current Hurricane roster – including prospects signed on Wednesday – includes 32 players who attended high school in the immediate Tulsa area.
“We have a profile for what we think we want to do with this program,” Blankenship said. “We don’t want to let (viable prospects) leave this area. We think building with area kids is the way to go. They’ve still got to be able to play at the highest level.”
There was one setback for TU on Wednesday – the first day on which recruits could sign national letters of intent. Jonathan Parker, a running back from Christian Brothers College High School in St. Louis, had been committed to Tulsa since September, but he signed with Iowa.
Instead of conducting a frantic search for a Plan B running back, Blankenship turned his focus to the Wagoner program and offered a scholarship to Thomas.
“We felt the best available opportunity was a great athlete and a great young man from Wagoner – Kerwin Thomas, a guy that has been on our list for a long time,” Blankenship explained. “I think it’s a great get for us.”
Before signing with the Hurricane, Thomas was committed to Wyoming.
Ray Crockett II, a cornerback from the nationally renowned Southlake Carroll High School program in the Dallas area, had the distinction of being the first member of TU’s Class of 2013 to submit his signed national letter of intent. Golden Hurricane coaches received Crockett II’s letter at 7:02 a.m. He is the son of Ray Crockett Sr., a former NFL cornerback who won two Super Bowl rings with the Denver Broncos.
After Crockett II’s letter arrived, there was a flurry of activity at TU’s Case Athletic Complex. Coaches received signed letters from Kolton Shindelar, a 6-6, 250-pound tight end and track star from Liberty, Mo.; from Rob Boyd, a guard from Vian and the highest-rated member of the Hurricane recruiting class; and from two quarterbacks – Lowe and Ryan Rubley, a Mountain Vista, Colo., quarterback and the son of former Hurricane QB T.J. Rubley.
At Mountain Vista, T.J. Rubley was Ryan’s offensive coordinator. Rated among the fastest sprinters in Colorado track, Ryan Rubley combines a polished passing game with high-end athleticism.
Three Union players – defensive end Dalton Rodriguez, guard Blake Mejia and 240-pound H-back Chris Hall – also signed with Tulsa. Until switching to the Hurricane in December, Rodriguez was committed to Oklahoma.
By 9:15 a.m. – when TU received a signed letter from Sallisaw’s Ben Oberste – all of the Hurricane’s recruiting paperwork had been processed.
The Hurricane signed 21 players (13 on defense, eight on offense). TU signed 12 prospects from Oklahoma. Oberste was an outstanding quarterback in high school, but at TU he is expected to be used as a safety or outside linebacker.
“Nine of (TU’s signees) had Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 or SEC offers,” Blankenship said. “I think that speaks very highly for how Oklahoma kids see us. We were able to get a little bigger (and) a little faster. We were able to build some depth in the defensive line, which we desperately needed.”
After leading Owasso to a regular-season victory over Union, to its first district title in 26 years and to a semifinal berth in the Class 6A playoffs, Lowe was named the Tulsa World’s All-Metro quarterback.
With the addition of Lowe and Rubley, TU has six scholarship quarterbacks on the 2013 roster.
“He’s a tremendously gifted athlete,” Blankenship said of Lowe. “We promised him an opportunity to compete for the quarterback spot, and I’d be crazy not to allow him to do that.
“The discussion we had very clearly was . . . would you be willing to play (at another position) this year? He said, ‘I want to play. I want to make sure I have an opportunity at some point to compete (at quarterback).’ ”
Including recruits signed on Wednesday, there are 61 Oklahomans on the TU football roster.
“Oklahoma is an area in which you can find a lot of good players, but you have to work harder in Oklahoma,” Blankenship said. “You actually have to get off of the interstate and work to find some of these guys. We have some relationships developed with coaches across the state.”
Bill Blankenship (right) and assistant head coach and offensive line coach Denver Johnson review information about their newly signed players in a meeting with all the coaches Wednesday morning. JOHN CLANTON/Tulsa World