D.J. Ward commits to Oklahoma

NORMAN, Okla. -- Defensive end D.J. Ward (Lawton, Okla./Lawton) isn't a man of many words, so when he released his top 10 schools last week, it caught everybody by surprise.

What wasn't a shock was seeing Oklahoma at the top of the list. Ward has been a priority for Oklahoma defensive ends coach Bobby Jack Wright for a long time. But Ward said earlier this week that even though the Sooners were clearly his top choice, he wasn't looking to commit anytime soon.

After yet another positive visit, however, Ward felt comfortable enough to verbally commit to OU following the Sooners' Red-White spring game Saturday afternoon.

"It just felt right," Ward said. "I got to talking with Coach Wright this morning, and he was telling me about how they were going to use me and about my potential. It gave me a lot to think about."

And while fans watched the spring game intently, Ward, 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, was mulling over his decision about whether or not to commit to the Sooners.

He asked his father for his advice. His father is from the Akron, Ohio, area and is a big Ohio State fan, one of the reasons why Ward had the Buckeyes at No. 2 on his list of favorites. Ward said last week he wanted to visit the Buckeyes before committing to another school.

His father didn't try to sway his son one way or another, allowing Ward to make his own decision.

"He told me to do whatever makes me happy, so that's when I knew exactly what I wanted to do," Ward said.

Ward told OU head coach Bob Stoops first, before telling Wright. Most defensive ends say it is tough to equal Wright's passion and enthusiasm. And that's just when he is his normal self. Following the commitment of Ward, it was a whole different animal.

"Yeah, he was really happy, really pumped up," Ward said. "That's who Coach Wright is. He is a great coach, and we have a great relationship."

The threat of severe weather scared off several top prospects from coming to the spring game. On Friday and Saturday, numerous top targets declared they were staying home, including several recruits with OU offers.

Ward has been staying home a lot during this recruiting season as well, but it wasn't because of weather concerns. Family issues and transportation issues have kept Ward from being as active as he has wanted to be. He was invited to Texas' junior day. He was invited to the NIKE camp in the Dallas area last month, and he wanted to go to both events but was unable to be at either of them.

Even though he said he didn't plan to commit, you could tell how important this weekend was to Ward as he left for Norman, Okla., on Friday night and made sure he would be in attendance.

Ward is considered the top in-state recruit. He is one of only two Oklahoma high school products on the ESPN Watch List, joining quarterback Brayden Scott (Tahlequah, Okla./Sequoyah).

There are times when the Sooners are late to the party regarding in-state talent. That certainly wasn't the case with Ward as OU offered him after his sophomore season.

"He is so intimidating. You're an offensive lineman, and you see D.J. is up against you, and you're wondering, 'Do I really have to do this?' " said teammate Maurice Chandler, a defensive back. "He is so big, so strong but so fast, too."

Ward became a familiar face around the OU campus, attending multiple Sooners games in 2011 and building that relationship with Wright. Ward started to wear more OU apparel as the season went on as well, giving OU fans a reason for hope.

Ward is the fourth commit of OU's 2013 class and second defensive end. Coincidentally, fellow end commit Matt Dimon (Katy, Texas/Katy) was also at the OU spring game. Dimon and Ward also were together at OU's March 3 junior day. A positive visit there led to Dimon committing less than two weeks after the event.

Ward's skills have brought a number of big-time coaches to the Lawton area. Lawton coach Randy Breeze said coaches from Ohio State, Texas, Notre Dame and USC have been in contact.

Ward said he appreciates the interest, but his recruitment is over.

"No more visits necessary," Ward said. "I'm done. I'm going to OU. I'm a Sooner. It's great to know my future is secure at such a great place like OU."

Ward has combined for 169 tackles and 20 sacks in the last two seasons.

Bob Przybylo covers football and basketball recruiting for SoonerNation. He can be reached at bprzybyloespn@gmail.com.

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