STILLWATER — Until last week, it looked like no Signing Day ceremony at a high school in Oklahoma would feature a football player whipping out an Oklahoma State hat and faxing his letter of intent to Stillwater.
That changed Wednesday when Tuttle's Dawson Bassett, the younger brother of former Cowboy Cooper Bassett, got a late offer from OSU and committed to the school.
Still, there is a severe lack of in-state commitments for the Cowboys in the 2013 class heading into Wednesday's National Signing Day.
Is that surprising to some state high school coaches? Yes. But it's not alarming.
“Sometimes, they catch a little heat for (not having more in-state offers and commitments),” Edmond Santa Fe coach Lance Manning said, “but I think OSU has a good relationship with high school coaches in Oklahoma.
“I don't think anybody's really that concerned with it. Yeah, it surprises me, but I'm not necessarily concerned about that they don't think much of Oklahoma football players or anything like that.”
Added Carl Johnson, Jenks' assistant coach and recruiting coordinator: “I know it's not lack of want-to on Oklahoma State's part. Maybe they're just looking for something else that fits their system.”
Last year, on the heels of OSU's first Big 12 championship and Fiesta Bowl win, the Cowboys signed five in-state players.
Calvin Barnett, who developed into the Big 12's Defensive Newcomer of the Year this past season, played his high school football at Tulsa Washington before moving on to Navarro Junior College. Wagoner's Kevin Peterson flipped from Oklahoma to OSU late in the recruiting season and made an immediate impact at cornerback as a true freshman for the Cowboys. Broken Arrow's Zac Veatch also signed. Madill's Caleb Muncrief and Stillwater's Jesse Vester — who double signed with Northeastern Oklahoma A&M — got late offers.
But this year, Southmoore's D.J. Ward, who was regarded as the state's top prospect before an eligibility issue wiped out his senior season, picked OU.
Tulsa East Central defensive back Stanvon Taylor (OU), the No. 1 prospect on The Oklahoman's Super 30 list, did not get an offer from OSU. Neither did Santa Fe's Khari Harding, whose uncle is a former Cowboy player.
“I've always tried to do a good job of not jumping on there and just saying they're foolish for not offering this kid or what, because they're more qualified (to evaluate) what they need,” Manning said. “I know there's kids and coaches that get disappointed because they don't understand why this school didn't offer them, but every school's got different motives and different reasons for who they recruit and why they do.
“Auburn's a great place, and they love Khari.”
Five of the top seven prospects in The Oklahoman's final Super 30 rankings are Sooner commitments, which syncs up with East Central coach Bobby Klinck's theory that OU's history, tradition and continued success still make it the more attractive option for the majority of the state's top high school players.
“If they had to choose between those two, usually OU's gonna win that battle,” Klinck said. “Maybe OSU's just decided that they can get more guys down in Texas than here.”
Manning doesn't necessarily buy that. He thinks it depends on how the player was brought up.
“I don't think it's one of those deals where everybody wants to go to OU,” he said. “I think right now it's just kind of how were you raised?”
It's clear, though, that OSU continues to make talent-rich Texas a recruiting priority, as 16 of its 22 commitments for 2013 are from the state.
OSU has already offered four Oklahoma players for the 2014 class, including Broken Arrow running back Devon Thomas, a four-star prospect who switched from OU to OSU in December. And some last-minute 2013 in-state offers could come just before Signing Day, much like the ones Muncrief and Vester received a year ago.
Even with the lack of Oklahoma recruits in this particular class, OSU coaches have had a continued presence with in-state high schools throughout the recruiting season.
Manning had a meeting with former offensive coordinator Todd Monken last spring to discuss quarterback Justice Hansen, who is primed to be a national recruit. Johnson said he feels his staff is always welcome in Stillwater to talk Xs and Os with the Cowboy coaches. The hiring of new assistant Jason Ray, a former Broken Arrow player who recruited Oklahoma while he was coaching at Wyoming, suggests in-state recruiting is still important to OSU.
Johnson certainly doesn't feel his school, his players and his state are being ignored.
“We've always had a great relationship,” Johnson said. “I don't see that changing. … The one thing that we look for, as far as a high school goes, when they're being recruited is, ‘Are they being treated right?' Those guys are definitely doing it.”