NORMAN — When it comes to recruiting, Oklahoma is depending much less on Texas these days.
Of the Sooners' 22 current commitments in their recruiting class of 2014, only seven are Texans. And of OU's remaining targets, two are from Oklahoma and one is from Utah.
In fact, the Sooners have nearly as many commitments from California (5) as they do from Texas.
Oklahoma became less and less dependent on Lone Star State recruiting as it became apparent that most of the top-flight talent in the state that the Sooners wanted was choosing Texas, said Josh McCuistion, who covers OU recruiting for the Rivals network site SoonerScoop.com.
“It does surprise you when you think about it from a tradition standpoint and the footprint of Oklahoma football and how much connection there is to Texas, but when you look at the results they were getting,” McCuisition said. “They weren't landing those guys. Texas was landing the elite guys that Oklahoma offered and clearly wanted.”
So coach Bob Stoops and his staff began looking elsewhere, and lately, California has become one of their favorite places to hunt for talent.
“That 2010 class was the first time you really saw it,” McCuistion said. “Brennan Clay really liked Oklahoma early, and it just kinda fell into their lap that he was so big on them.”
Clay persuaded his close friends, Tony Jefferson and Kenny Stills, to join him Norman. All three became important contributors during their OU careers, and have helped recruit more California prospects to Oklahoma.
“I think a lot of things,” Stoops said earlier this year when asked what California high school players find attractive about OU. “Success, you know, the championships we've been in and won, and not won.
“And I think they pay attention and see a lot of the success California kids have had coming out here. I think it all goes together. And the fact that we're on TV every week.”
But the Sooners' non-Texas recruiting goes beyond California. Some of the best players on Oklahoma's 2013 team were from outside the area. Defensive end Charles Tapper is from Baltimore, and linebacker Eric Striker is from Florida.
Four-star 2014 offensive line commit Alex Dalton is from Troy, Ohio, and the Sooners have even crept into SEC country this year, with two New Orleans commitments, defensive back Tito Windham (Gulfport, Miss.) and defensive end Dwayne Orso (Homewood, Ala.).
Last February on National Signing Day, defensive coordinator Mike Stoops was asked about the Sooners' national recruiting strategy. He had helped OU land defensive backs Hatari Byrd and L.J. Moore, both from Fresno, Calif., and Ahmad Thomas, from Miami.
“To me, my responsibilities with my players and our team here, and then to travel was very difficult,” he said. “We were able to get in on kids that were committed to Oklahoma from the get-go and didn't waver one bit. … It's hard. The travel is hard. It isn't ideal. But you have to get the best players.”