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Monday, March 25, 2013
Sooners working hard within state for 2014

By Bob Przybylo

NORMAN, Okla. -- Oklahoma essentially got every in-state product it had its eyes on for the Class of 2013. And the Sooners swept up the state's two ESPN 300 prospects early.

There was never a question about defensive end D.J. Ward coming to OU, and he committed at the spring game. The same was true for cornerback Stanvon Taylor. Once the Sooners were content with his health, the offer came and he committed in May.

The 2014 class of Oklahoma high school products offers a challenge and an opportunity. The state has six ESPN Watch List prospects, and OU has offered five recruits from the Sooner State.

The early offers from prospects in their backyard are normally unheard of, but the Sooners realized they weren’t going to be the only name in town for these prospects. Get in early or get left out later.

Here is a look at how OU is faring with its five in-state offers as the Sooners prepare to kick off the second portion of spring practices:

Gyasi Akem
In-state linebacker Gyasi Akem visited Oklahoma for its junior day in March.
Watch List OLB Gyasi Akem (Broken Arrow, Okla./Broken Arrow)

Thought for a while to be a virtual Oklahoma State lock, OU has made significant strides with Akem. OU actually offered Akem before Oklahoma State in January, which was a bit perplexing since the Sooners hadn’t shown much interest in him before that time.

OU linebackers coach Tim Kish has mended the fences with Akem and a positive junior day visit two weeks ago has the Sooners right back in the thick of things.

The problem is Akem’s stock is only going up. He picked up offers from Tennessee and Ole Miss recently and has offers from other top schools such as Missouri and TCU.

Akem had a plan with his mother about how they wanted to conduct his recruitment. So far, Akem has stuck with the plan. A decision likely won't come soon.

Watch List DE Deondre Clark (Oklahoma City/Douglass)

The Sooners were among his first offers back in June. But when schools like USC, Notre Dame, Texas, Georgia and LSU also join the race, well, it won’t be easy.

Clark was temporarily out of the picture with the Sooners following the firing of former OU defensive tackles coach Jackie Shipp.

The family had grown close to Shipp and didn’t want to explore getting to know first-year defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery. But time can heal all wounds. OU has cracked the door open to get back in contention with Clark, and there’s a possibility he visits Norman soon.

SEC schools remain the favorite, but this will be a long battle.

Watch List QB Justice Hansen (Edmond, Okla./Santa Fe)

The Clark recruitment is a rollercoaster. Hansen's recruitment? Not so much. This is going to come to a head soon. And unless something drastically changes, this is a two-horse race between OU and Texas A&M. Auburn is there, but Hansen opted not to visit the Tigers last week.

He made a day-long visit to A&M last week and will return to OU for a spring practice. After that, a decision could come at any time. Hansen is still OU’s only offer at quarterback, and he understands he needs to make a decision so the dominoes can fall with other prospects.

WR Jeffery Mead (Tulsa, Okla./Union)

OU’s biggest competition for Mead might not be a school, but instead a sport. Mead is collecting top offers as a wide receiver with schools like Oklahoma State and Cal joining the race.

But it could be basketball that keeps Mead from lining out wide for the Sooners. He steadily improved his junior season on the hardwood and is a legit Division-I prospect in basketball.

The question is: if a school from a mid-major basketball conference offers, what does Mead value more? Will it be the opportunity to play basketball? Or does the allure of playing for his childhood favorite in football pull him away?

Mead is still learning the position after being a quarterback until two years ago. But his learning curve has been quick, and it’s clear OU wide receivers coach Jay Norvell sees the potential to make something special happen with the tall, athletic Mead.

Watch List S Steven Parker (Jenks, Okla./Jenks)

Parker is the most intriguing prospect in the state. The last two months are showing why I believe Parker is the No. 1 recruit in the state.

A sampling of his offers in the last month -- Texas, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt, Michigan and Nebraska. And there will be more to come.

Parker hit the road last week with trips to A&M and Texas. The Aggies have zeroed in on Parker and have told him he can take as long as he wants to make a decision.

The Sooners' biggest advantage is the Jenks pipeline at OU. It’s very strong right now. Running back Alex Ross signed with OU in 2012, while wide receiver Jordan Smallwood did the same in February. OU wants Parker to be next Trojan to make the trek down I-44 West to OU.