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Wednesday, March 26, 2014
Out-of-state schools look to raid Cali

By Erik McKinney

California has always fed the Pac-12 a majority of its recruits, as Southern California in particular is the recruiting hotbed for the conference. But as the Golden State is arguably the most talent-rich state in the country when it comes to high school football, programs outside the Pac-12 haven't been content to sit back and watch conference teams load up on California recruits.

Television, the internet and social media have all helped out-of-conference programs invade California looking for recruits, but nothing has aided those programs more than good old-fashioned effort, according to Fresno (Calif.) Central East assistant coach Tony Perry.

"The ones who put in the effort and show up and the ones getting the kids," Perry said. "Oklahoma is having success out here, and the reason they're having success is because anytime they can get to the school, they're here. A lot of out-of-state schools don't do that. They're here more than some California schools."

Oklahoma has been active in California the past four years, hauling in players such as ESPN 300 running back Joe Mixon.
Oklahoma's recent success in California can be traced back to the 2010 recruiting class, when the Sooners earned commitments from Tony Jefferson, Brennan Clay and Kenny Stills, all four-star prospects with a number of Pac-12 offers.

Jefferson and Stills found immediate success in crimson and cream, which helped the Sooners return to California for the 2012 class, signing four-star receiver Derrick Woods and four-star tight end Taylor McNamara. The 2013 haul netted Bob Stoops four-star teammates Hatari Byrd and L.J. Moore, along with three-star receiver K.J. Young, while 2014 saw Oklahoma's most obvious success in California, netting signatures from two of the state's top six players -- running back Joe Mixon and athlete Michiah Quick -- as well as four-star receiver Dallis Todd and three-star outside linebacker Curtis Bolton.

"Definitely Oklahoma," Fresno Clovis DT Jacob Daniel said when asked what out-of-state teams have made the biggest impact in California. "They've gotten a ton of guys out of Fresno...Oklahoma has a cool coaching staff -- I really like Mike Stoops. They have a really energetic staff. I see why people want to go there."

The fact that Daniel has seen a number of prospects from his town head off to Oklahoma is a huge boost for the Sooners.

"When you get that first one, he goes there and kids start asking him a lot of questions -- how is it up there, how are the coaches -- and if they say it's okay, the other kids don't have problems leaving," Perry said. "The USCs and UCLAs are always going to be right there at the top getting kids out here, but that's what some out-of-state schools are doing. They come down here so much it's like they're in California."

Notre Dame is another program taking up residence in California, as the Fighting Irish pulled tight end Troy Niklas and running back George Atkinson III away from Pac-12 programs -- specifically USC -- in the 2011 class. The Irish nearly pulled off a terrific haul in 2013, getting the state's No. 3 player, Max Redfield, and just missing out on the No. 1 prospect, Eddie Vanderdoes, after the big defensive tackle signed with Notre Dame but enrolled at UCLA.

The Irish grabbed ESPN 300 tight end Tyler Luatua in the 2014 class and already have their hooks in the state for the 2015 class, with a commitment from quarterback Blake Barnett and having made a solid impression on 2015 ESPN 300 offensive lineman Zach Robertson.

While recent additions can be an indicator of future success, recruiting has always been and will always be about relationships. Florida hasn't signed a major California prospects since landing No. 1 overall recruit Ronald Powell in the 2010 class. But the Gators have been active in California, and turned a long pursuit of Adoree' Jackson in the 2014 class into solid relationships with a number of Gardena (Calif.) Serra 2015 standouts.

John Houston Jr. said the Florida coaches have been his favorite among the out-of-state programs.

"They're down to earth and real businesslike about everything," said Houston, who also spoke highly of Florida State and Tennessee -- two more schools that made a long run at Jackson and made the best use of their time at Serra. "It's about connections with coaches, and everybody has different connections. You want to feel like they're telling the truth so you can get a good relationship."

Rico Perez, the recruiting coordinator for the Cavaliers, listed Florida, Florida State, Miami, Oklahoma and Tennessee as out-of-conference programs that have made themselves at home in recruiting California.

"The name of the school and the record speaks for itself, but they have to come down to the schools and start building relationships with them," Perez said of finding success. "It's harder for those schools to get the kids to campus because of the distance."

With such a deep and talented yet for recruits in California, the state is certain to be home to some fierce recruiting battles, both among Pac-12 and national programs. Michigan could be one to watch for in 2015, as the Wolverines already got Josh Rosen on campus for an unofficial visits and have been talked about at length by ESPN junior 300 prospects Keisean Lucier-South and Cameron Smith. Wisconsin, meanwhile, already has a commitment from 2015 ESPN 300 tight end Kyle Penniston and is strongly in the running for ESPN Junior 300 defensive tackle Kahlil McKenzie.

While the Pac-12 will reel in a majority of California's standout recruits, the ones that get away could make all the difference for national programs.