Big 12

OU head coach Lincoln Riley speaks at Big 12 Media Days at AT&T Stadium in Dallas on Monday. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World

The Tulsa area continues to be fertile territory for Oklahoma recruiting.

It was evident last week when Broken Arrow’s Andrew Raym gave a verbal pledge to join the Sooners’ 2020 class.

“Tulsa’s certainly an important part for us and an important part of the state,” Lincoln Riley said during Big 12 Media Days. “Some of the best football in our state is played there. We just got some pretty good players out there as of late. We’re certainly going to try to continue to do that.”

Oklahoma has signed seven players with Tulsa ties over the past four seasons, including three from Union (Tre Brown in 2017, Patrick Fields and Jordan Kelley in 2018).

“A lot of kids have turned out for them there,” Union coach Kirk Fridrich said. “It’s fun for us, as coaches, to have an opportunity for our kids to at least be evaluated and have a chance to play for one of the best programs in the country.”

Former OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops was often in Tulsa and built relationships with many of the area coaches.

Owasso coach Bill Blankenship said defensive coordinator Alex Grinch has stopped by his campus. The two got to know each other a little when Grinch was aiding in the Ohio State recruitment for Josh Proctor.

Riley said Grinch has shown energy on the recruiting trail similar to his coaching style.

“He’s a hard-working recruiter. It’s very, very important to him. He’s very detailed. These players know who he is,” Riley said. “They know what he’s accomplished and how highly he’s thought of within this profession. So you know we go prove it on the field then it’s already getting better. I think we go prove it on the field and I think the same thing will happen there that’s what’s happened offensively in the last four years.”

While OU has drawn some players from the Tulsa area, the Sooners have also lost out on blue-chip recruits like Owasso’s Proctor (Ohio State) and Booker T. Washington’s Dax Hill (Michigan).

“There have been a couple of guys that we haven’t gotten that we would have loved to have gotten,” Riley said. “At the same time, you’re not going to get them all. I think there’s always a perception that the University of Oklahoma is going to get every single Oklahoma player they want. We’ve been able to get some pretty good players from other states that I’m sure the home in-state school would have loved to have gotten, too.

“That’s part of recruiting, and I think it’s a little more than anything now, it’s just part of being a little bit more of an open world and guys are a little more apt to go different places. I think that’s just part of what you deal with.”

Riley complimented the Tulsa area’s coaches. He realizes it’s important to have good relationships with them.

Blankenship and Fridrich have existing relationships with OU inside linebackers coach Brian Odom, who has visited the Tulsa area multiple times.

“I knew Odom already. (Defensive line coach) Calvin (Thibodeaux) worked for me. Grinch has come by,” Blankenship said, before adding “(Grinch) is a stud and will do a great job.”

Fridrich has been impressed with Riley’s recruiting style since becoming head coach in 2017.

“He’s searching now and trying to find the best players,” Fridrich said. “For me as a coach – and I’ve been doing this quite a while – we recognize that every kid is not going to get to play at a place like Oklahoma.

“But to have somebody evaluate whether you have a kid or not and come by and check, that’s important. It lets me know that they care about Union High School and our area.”

Eric Bailey


Twitter: @ericbaileyTW

Sports Writer

Eric covers the University of Oklahoma football and men’s basketball teams. A Haskell Indian Nations University graduate, he has been a member of the Tulsa World sports staff for 12 years. Phone: 918-581-8391