LAWRENCE, Kan. — When Oklahoma set up for a third-down stop against Houston in the season opener, several Tulsa-area high school coaches had reason to smile.
The defense was plugged with five local players on the field — Tre Brown (Union), Patrick Fields (Union), Marquise Overton (Jenks), LaRon Stokes (NOAH) and Jon-Michael Terry (Victory Christian) — who not only have made an impact in the opener, but all season long.
Throw in Levi Draper (Collinsville), Bryan Mead (Rejoice Christian) and Isaiah Thomas (Memorial), and there’s reason to salute the Tulsa area for helping a revitalized defense.
No. 6 OU (4-0, 1-0 Big 12) will look to carry momentum into its game at Kansas at 11 a.m. Saturday. The Jayhawks — under new coach Les Miles — are 2-3 overall and 0-2 in the Big 12.
“Knowing how productive we’ve been on the field, it excites us,” Thomas said. “It excites us to see kids from Tulsa can come up to this level and make a difference.”
Fields is the Sooners’ starting free safety. He said he takes special pride in playing with teammates he has known all of his life.
“We know how much influence and inspiration that we’re giving to young guys, those in high school right now,” Fields said. “Seeing guys on the field from Oklahoma, it’s that rich, homegrown talent.”
Fields is the Sooners’ third-leading tackler with 16 stops. Terry (10 tackles) and Brown (nine) are among OU’s top 12 in tackles.
Many in the Tulsa-area group have played on the same team or competed against each other in high school.
“It’s definitely a sense of pride,” Thomas said. “We look at players like Josh Jacobs (McLain), who is in the NFL. That’s the most recent major standout. Then you have (Western Kentucky tight end) Mik’Quan Deane (Memorial) doing his thing. And you have us at OU and other Tulsa kids across the country. It’s just a sense of pride.
“It gives hope to the other kids back home that they can put in the work and effort as much as we do.”
Terry is getting the most work of his career. He’s started all four games this season from new defensive coordinator Alex Grinch’s rush-end position. The redshirt junior arrived at OU thinking he would be a middle linebacker but enjoys his new role.
“With coach Ruff (Ruffin McNeill) and the way coach Grinch put it together, it’s an easy position to just play free,” Terry said. “Coach Ruff does a good job of making sure we know what our job is on every snap so we can just go all out.”
Brown, like Fields and Terry, has started every game this season. He has one of the Sooners’ four interceptions.
Overton is part of a defensive line that has rotated heavily and is having success this season. The senior is looking forward to finishing his career strong.
“It’s been good. I’m just trying to approach every week to get better and have less mistakes than I did before,” Overton said. “(Our system) for us up front is to get penetration, get off blocks and make plays. That’s a goal every week. It’s there. It’s our bread and butter. Coaches all say this is our system, and it’s cool to make plays.”
Mead, a junior linebacker, has seven tackles this season, which already equals a season high from 2017.
Stokes has four stops, and Draper has played in all four games and has three tackles.
“You go through the numbers and look at everybody who is from the Tulsa area, this is exciting,” Stokes said. “Oklahoma’s always been my favorite school, just like it has for them.”