Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Oklahoma Sooners [Print without images]

Thursday, May 23, 2013
States the Sooners should recruit harder

By Brandon Chatmon

NORMAN, Okla. -- One look at Oklahoma’s offense in 2008, the year of the Sooners’ last BCS title game appearance, provides a revealing look at that squad’s success.

St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford triggered the offense with Pro Bowl tight end Jermaine Gresham of the Cincinnati Bengals and three NFL draft picks (Ryan Broyles, Juaquin Iglesias and Manuel Johnson) at receiver. Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray lined up alongside Bradford with Pro Bowl offensive lineman Trent Williams and Minnesota Vikings tackle Phil Loadholt up front. The defense, meanwhile, was led by Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy of Tampa Bay and Detroit Lions linebacker Travis Lewis.

DeMarco Murray
Oklahoma recruited running back DeMarco Murray out of Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, Nev.
It was a roster littered with productive Big 12 players and several NFL draft picks.

As the Sooners struggled to insert themselves in the BCS title race in the final months of the past few seasons it’s been easy to assume the talent on the roster has diminished. Yet, according to ESPN Stats & Info, that might not be the case. Since 2008, OU has had 33 players selected in the NFL draft, tying the Sooners with Alabama for fourth in the nation behind USC (44), LSU (39), Georgia (36). The Sooners had six players drafted in the 2013 NFL draft, tops in the Big 12.

Nonetheless, the Sooners are being forced to adapt their recruiting priorities as more and more schools begin making the state of Texas one of their main priorities in recruiting. Oklahoma has started to look to other states to help supplement its roster. While the state of Texas continues to be the Sooners’ bread-and-butter, shrewd decisions on the recruiting trail could help OU return to the BCS title game and make itself a consistent contender for College Football Playoff in the future.

Recent recruiting classes have seen the Sooners expand their efforts into California, Florida and other states. The numbers show why.

Since 2004, California has produced the most NFL draft picks with 327 draftees. Texas (286) and Florida (269) round out the top three. The Sooners have signed players from all three states in each of their past two recruiting classes with California and Florida becoming clear recruiting priorities in recent years.

Yet the question remains: In which states could the Sooners amp up their efforts to supplement their talent? Here’s a quick look at a few states and one region which could provide the Sooners one or two hidden gems per year to help offset the increased competition below the Red River, based on numbers provided by ESPN Stats & Info.

Georgia: The Peach State has produced 139 draftees since 2008, ranking fourth in the nation. The SEC as a conference and Georgia in particularly make constant forays into Georgia unappealing. But if the Sooners pick their battles they could see some success, much like in-state rival Oklahoma State, which has signed four recruits from Georgia in the past three years. McDonough (Ga.) Eagles Landing Christian defensive end Andrew Williams, who has a Sooners offer, is a good example of a recruit OU could steal out of SEC country.

Ohio: The midwest’s top producer, Ohio has produced 129 draftees since 2008. Ohio State picks the best of the best and aims to keep them home, much like Texas in Texas, but it would be worth OU's effort. Big 12 foe West Virginia signed two four-star prospects from Ohio in the Class of 2013, and the Sooners have a commitment from Troy (Ohio) offensive lineman Alex Dalton for their Class of 2013 after inking tight end Sam Grant from North Royalton (Ohio) St. Edward last year.

Illinois: Invading Big Ten country would be tough but Illinois quietly produces talent with 62 NFL draftees since 2008, ranking 14th in the nation. There is no college football behemoth like other some other states, making Illinois a better state to target to secure top prospects like Class of 2013 receiver Laquon Treadwell (Crete, Ill./Crete-Monee), who considered OU before eventually signing with Ole Miss. Sooners redshirt freshman running back David Smith is from Midlothian (Ill.) Bremen, and OU has offered five players from Illinois in this recruiting cycle.

Virginia/North Carolina/South Carolina: Those three states have combined to produce 247 draftees since 2008. It’s SEC and ACC territory, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t overlooked prospects to unearth. Summerville (S.C.) safety Darin Smalls and offensive guard Steven Moss (Fredericksburg, Va./Chancellor), both with Sooners offers, are examples of OU trying to land undervalued talent in the region.