John Klein: Schools play numbers game by recruiting out-of-state
BY JOHN KLEIN Senior Sports Columnist
Friday, February 08, 2013
2/08/13 at 7:42 AM
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OKLAHOMA MAJOR COLLEGE football programs would love to take more Oklahomans.
Actually, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Tulsa would be better served if all of their football players came from within the state.
That just isn't possible if the Sooners, Cowboys and Golden Hurricane want to be nationally significant.
It is a simple numbers game.
There are more people, and by extension more good college football prospects, in the Houston metropolitan area than in the entire state of Oklahoma.
It is an issue for OU coach Bob Stoops, who explains the emphasis on recruiting in Texas and across the country is a matter of population.
OSU coach Mike Gundy and TU coach Bill Blankenship are both native Oklahomans who played high school and college football in this state. They have spent virtually their entire coaching careers in Oklahoma.
Gundy and Blankenship understand the advantages of getting Oklahomans to play for Oklahoma schools.
Yet, there is a limit.
Because of population, there are usually between a dozen and two dozen legitimate FBS prospects in the state.
This year, the three state schools signed 18, led by TU's 12.
By contrast, OSU recruited a handful of Oklahomans but got just one in-state recruit. OU signed five.
You never know when you might find a Lee Roy Selmon in Eufaula or Steve Largent in Oklahoma City.
"It is really an inexact science," said Stoops.
What is important is how those players project in those programs and if there are needs. The Sooners, Cowboys and Golden Hurricane were looking for players who fit into needs, fit into the program and fit into the community.
Sometimes those guys become superstars like Sam Bradford of Oklahoma City.
Oklahoma State has made a living with guys who were not high school superstars but turned into collegiate stars like Justin Blackmon of Ardmore.
Tulsa has rebuilt its program by finding local guys who fit the profile and have the academic legs to handle the class work at TU.
Sometimes the future success of a player can be found somewhere down the recruiting list. For instance, former OU star receiver Ryan Broyles (from Norman), who set the NCAA pass reception record two years ago, was the last player taken by the Sooners in his recruiting class.
Still, the state schools have to throw a large net over a large area to find enough players to be successful.
"It is all about population," said Stoops.
Still, the state schools try to find those local players.
"Proximity is a factor," said Stoops.
Tulsa targets players within 250 miles of its campus.
Blankenship said they cover an area roughly from Kansas City to Dallas.
Blankenship played and coached in Oklahoma high schools.
"We have a real specific philosophy on recruiting that says we're going to start with proximity and work our way out," said Blankenship. "The bulk of our class should come within a 250-mile radius.
"If you took concentric rings around Tulsa, you should see more of our recruits closer to Tulsa and a few more as you go out. We really feel a need to do our best - to own Tulsa County, eastern Oklahoma and all of Oklahoma when it comes to recruiting. We take great pride in being the Oklahoma school with the most Oklahomans."
Gundy said the Cowboys tried to recruit more Oklahoma players. They offered scholarships to more Oklahoma players.
"We took one from Oklahoma this year and that bothers me," said Gundy. "We offered a number of them. We didn't get them.
"I think it's important that the people in Oklahoma know, if there's a player who we think in any case can help us, we're going to offer him. We want to take care of all the Oklahoma people, then we want to take care of Texas. We offered a number of players this year and we didn't get them. We have fallen back on players, whether it's Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas or Arkansas, late in the recruiting game."
Gundy said late changes by players, who may break a commitment, puts extra pressure on finding another player at the last minute.
Sometimes players change their minds and decide to come to you, again forcing you to make some tough decisions about who will get an offer and who will not.
"If you have a recruit jump ship on you, we would just go out there and try to grab another one," said Gundy. "That doesn't work. There's pressure at times to fill a roster on signing day, or take guys who are close, just because you think you have to make certain people happy. There's no perfect world there.
"One thing we started years ago, and I think it's been good for us, is if there's anyone close to here that can play and fits our system, we're going to offer him. We may not get him, but we're going to move forward on him because, in my opinion, a geographical tie to a university and a football team, makes him a better player."
McLain defensive tackle Thurman Smith hugs hismother, Michelle Brown, on Wednesday after he signed toplay at Central Oklahoma. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World