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Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Edmond school becoming OU pipeline

By Bob Przybylo

EDMOND, Okla. -- It’s not that Edmond Santa Fe had never sent a recruit to a top school before, but it has never been done on such a consistent basis as it is right now.

The Wolves have had top prospects before. Defensive back Reggie Smith was about as elite as they come before signing with Oklahoma in 2005 and making his way to the NFL. Quarterback Brandon Weeden got his start at Edmond Santa Fe, played at Oklahoma State and was a first-round pick in the NFL.

JR Hensley
Class of 2015 offensive lineman J.R. Hensley will attend summer camps at Alabama, Notre Dame and Texas A&M, among others.
Getting one or two recruits to reach BCS-level conferences used to mean something at the school. Now? Well, it’s sort of expected.

“We really like the direction of our program right now,” Santa Fe coach Lance Manning said. “With the players and the coaches, we feel like really have something special here.”

He’s not wrong. Edmond Santa Fe was 4-16 in the two seasons before Manning’s arrival. In his two seasons at the helm, the Wolves are 20-4 and back-to-back district champions.

OU has noticed. And if spring practice was any indication, the Sooners will have plenty of reasons to come back to the school in the future.

Smith is almost a mythical figure at the school because of what he was able to do. But after Smith there wasn’t much interaction between the Sooners and Santa Fe.

That has changed. OU came in late on three-star defensive end Michael Onuoha for the Class of 2012. But being late was better than not being there at all, as Onuoha signed with the Sooners.

Santa Fe produced another top prospect for 2013 as three-star safety Khari Harding originally committed to Arkansas before signing with Auburn.

And the crown jewel might be this year with ESPN 150 quarterback Justice Hansen. He was OU’s first offer at quarterback. As it turns out, he was the only offer needed, as Hansen, ranked No. 94 in the ESPN 150, committed last month.

“This is the 20th anniversary of the school itself, and I think that helps,” Edmond Public Schools athletic director Mike Nunley said. “We have history here and alumni, and I think that’s important. The community and its expectations have helped develop an attitude of success.”

An attitude that should continue in the future. Class of 2015 cornerback Ashton Preston has already confirmed he will be at OU’s camp in two weeks. 2015 offensive guard J.R. Hensley is receiving attention from several top schools and will attend summer camps at Alabama, Notre Dame and Texas A&M, among others.

And don’t feel bad for Santa Fe when Hansen leaves for Norman. It’s early to project something like this, but it’s possible OU quarterbacks coach Josh Heupel will be right back in Edmond for Class of 2016 quarterback Keaton Torre.

Torre, who is already 6-foot-3 and 180 pounds, said he hopes to camp at OU and Oklahoma State this summer.

Santa Fe hasn’t reached the level of a Jenks or Tulsa (Okla.) Union just yet in terms of championships or consistent top-level recruits, but it’s starting to become the go-to school in the Oklahoma City metro area.

OU no longer has to go up I-44 East to Tulsa to find top in-state prospects.

“Coaching matters,” Nunley said. “We’ve had some good ones, and Lance Manning’s ability to coach is definitely a part of this. We’re excited with everything that’s going on right now.”