Sooners want to keep it local

NORMAN, Okla. -- Oklahoma is a program with the ability to walk into homes and high schools around the nation and ignite the initial interest of recruits, their parents and high school coaches alike. It opens up options for the Sooners in recruiting, a notion validated by Class of 2013 signees from California, Florida, Washington, Michigan and even Canada.

Yet on signing day, OU's coaching staff reiterated its commitment to recruiting the Big 12 region, with its signees and its words.

The Sooners added 17 players from Texas or Oklahoma among its 24 signees last week, then followed it up by talking about the importance of local signees.

"There are great players in the state of Oklahoma," head coach Bob Stoops said. "We're always looking and trying to evaluate the local players, and through the years we have a lot of standout, national award-winning Oklahoma players."

Sam Bradford and Gerald McCoy are names that come to mind immediately. Both starred as prep players in Oklahoma before becoming All-Americans at OU. And Aaron Colvin and Gabe Ikard, two all-Big 12 players and core members of the 2013 Sooners squad, are former Oklahoma high school standouts.

"We always want to do a great job in our home state, and fortunately, through the years, we have," Stoops said.

Five players from Oklahoma signed with OU last Wednesday.

"We're going to sign as many as we can from the state," running backs coach Cale Gundy said. "We've had a lot of very good players from Oklahoma."

When talking about Jenks, Okla., receiver Jordan Smallwood, offensive coordinator Josh Heupel's words revealed a concrete reason why inking in-state players is the perfect scenario.

"It matters to him that he's playing at the University of Oklahoma," Heupel said. "Typically, those guys are guys that make an big impact while they're here."

Even defensive coordinator Mike Stoops, who went to Florida and California for three of his five signees, prefers not to focus OU's recruiting efforts on a nationwide philosophy.

"Ideally, we would like to stay within a three- or four-hour radius of our university," he said.

The reasoning is simple. The name "Oklahoma" brings value that gets Sooners' coaches in the door. Yet, more times than not, it's simply not enough to convince a 18-year old to leave his family and friends to move across the country.

"You have to be careful going across the country, spending a lot of time recruiting players," said Gundy, who also serves as OU's recruiting coordinator. "Early in the recruiting process, everybody from the outside -- California, Florida, all over -- is going to like Oklahoma, just like all these players in Oklahoma and Texas like USC, Florida, Notre Dame, Ohio State.

"But, at the end of the day, which ones are really going to go across the country, leave their family members? And which ones are going to stay closer to home?"