The case of Dominique Whaley is a terrific example for recruits -- and recruiters -- across the nation.
The Oklahoma walk-on running back, who climbed to the top of the depth chart in the offseason, had 18 carries for 131 yards and four touchdowns in the Sooners' 47-14 win over Tulsa on Sept. 3.
But Whaley didn't even start at running back for MacArthur High School in Lawton, Okla.
He was stuck behind current OU safety Javon Harris at running back and saw the majority of his playing time at receiver and safety for the Highlanders. Whaley was recruited by just two colleges out of high school.
"He was an unbelievable player," MacArthur coach Brent Manning said of Whaley. "As a high school coach, all you can do is promote the guys you think can play. We tried to push him on everybody that came through here."
Lack of exposure was the main reason Whaley flew beneath the radar of college programs around the nation. A military kid who lived in Florida, Georgia and Texas during his childhood, Whaley spent his freshman and sophomore years of high school at Ansbach High in Germany.
He was an unknown when he arrived at MacArthur, but his coach saw potential.
"With us being in a military town, we had connections at Army and Navy, but there were no takers," Manning said. "Dominique shook it off, because he's always been a team guy. If it bothered him, he never let it show."
Whaley's long road to becoming a key contributor with the Sooners could have been easier, had the junior taken a different approach to marketing his talents during his time in high school.
He didn't attend college football camps and thus didn't catch the eye of college coaches.
"That was more on me, because I didn't really think of going to camps," Whaley said. "I remember getting invited to a Kansas State camp, but I didn't even ask my parents to take me, because I was like, 'They aren't going to drive to Kansas State for a camp.' "
Whaley's story should be a lesson for recruits as well as recruiters. Behind Harris, he didn't have a chance to shine.
"Recruiting is a tough business, and he was one that got missed," Manning said.
After high school, Whaley spent a season as a backup tailback at Langston University, where he rushed for 258 yards in 2008 before electing to transfer to Oklahoma. He decided to walk on with the Sooners in 2009, and he immediately opened eyes in his first spring at OU as the scout-team running back.
Whaley's four-touchdown performance against Tulsa made for a satisfying debut for the Sooners.
"Dom's emergence has made our team better," fellow OU running back Roy Finch said. "Everything he's done, he deserves it because he's been waiting a long time for this."
Brandon Chatmon covers University of Oklahoma sports and recruiting for SoonerNation.
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