DFW Connection

Les Miles stands fully committed to in-state recruiting. <BR><BR> So the Cowboys fan out and focus from Oklahoma City to Tulsa and Lawton to Stillwater. And from Denton to Duncanville and Carrollton to Lewisville. <BR><BR> "In-state?" you may balk, surveying such North Texas towns. Absolutely, according to Miles, who removed all Red River border lines upon his arrival two years ago.

"When you look back to when Oklahoma State was a 10-game winner," Miles said at the time, "they did it with an occasional out-of-state guy.

"But it was mostly Oklahoma and Texas kids."

Nothing has changed, although the Cowboys are branching out a bit in search of prospects to promote OSU's rise in the Big 12 and beyond.

Featured in Miles' first three recruiting classes: 33 players from Texas. Among those, seven are starters, 11 are key backups and another eight figure to factor into the future.

Off to a fast start this fall, six of OSU's first 12 commitments come from Texas, including highly touted prospects like quarterback Bobby Reid from Galena Park North Shore and Galveston Ball teammates Walter Thomas and Roderick Johnson.

"We're going to recruit the state of Oklahoma as aggressively and evaluate it as fully and recruit it as hard as any school in the country," Miles said recently. "And we want the kids in Oklahoma to stay at home and go to Oklahoma State.

"But in the absence of numbers, we're going to recruit Texas. And North Texas, and Dallas, gives us great proximity. You're closer to some kids in North Texas than (Texas) A&M and a number of other schools in Texas."

That's why the Cowboys are thrilled to be headed to the Cotton Bowl and eight days in Dallas, home for many Cowboys – and even more recruiting targets.

The surplus of talent in North Texas is of obvious appeal to OSU. It's among the richest recruiting grounds in the country.

"There's a lot of talent in the area," said OSU assistant Doug Mallory, who along with Larry Porter is assigned to recruit Dallas-Ft. Worth.

"There's a lot of good football programs.

"What's great about the Metroplex is you can fly in and hit 30 schools within two days."

So what's the draw of Stillwater to players?

All report easy travel, for them and their families, as a key factor. The lure of the Big 12 Conference is important. And OSU's slot in the South Division means at least two trips to Texas for road games every year.

Another common theme: the people.

From coaches to advisors to peers, players say the relationships offer rewards beyond the game.

"I felt real welcome, like this was the place for me," said Cowboy sophomore safety Vernon Grant, one of four OSU players from Duncanville. "I took several other visits. But there was a team unity here at Oklahoma State, more like what I had in high school. It was what I was comfortable with, so it was what I was going to go with."

Said backup cornerback Daniel McLemore, who came to OSU with Grant from Duncanville: "One thing, it's close to the house. And the coaches made us feel like we were at home. They said, ‘We know you want to be in Texas. But if you come to O-State, it's going to feel like you're at home again.' "And it feels like we've come together like brothers. We all played together or against each other, so it's like home."

Xavier Lawson-Kennedy, another of the Duncanville quartet and a coup recruit a year ago, included opportunity among the pros in his decision to become a Cowboy.

Miles and his staff haven't hesitated to play youngsters. Seven true freshmen have found their way to the field both this year and last. And Lawson-Kennedy was impressed with the job done by defensive line coach Karl Dunbar with Kevin Williams, who rose into the Top 10 of the NFL Draft.

"A lot of players from the DFW area find their way here because it's a great school and it's not too far that you can't get home for the weekend," Lawson-Kennedy said.

"And coach Dunbar was big in the decision for me, just because of what he did with Kevin Williams in one year. Going No. 9 in the draft, that's a big jump, from ‘Kevin Williams, who's that?' to ‘Kevin Williams, the ninth pick in the draft.' I wanted to see what coach Dunbar could do with me."

Looking ahead to next year, OSU's starting lineup could feature as many as 13 Texans. The overall roster is likely to carry a heavy Lone Star influence, swelling toward the two-thirds mark. And expect many to hail from the Metroplex, with coaches on the spot and DFW alums at work in Stillwater.

"I've been recruiting fellas since I came here," said Grant. "I like doing it and I like telling them what Oklahoma State has to offer.

"They ask about the coaches and they ask how are the other guys. Basically, on recruiting visits, we're all just together bonding – playing dominoes, video games. We're just all together.

"You won't see anybody say, ‘Oh, that team is just a bunch of individuals.' We're all hanging out and just kicking back."

As many as 125 players from the Dallas area sign Division I scholarships every year.

Behind a coaching staff of aggressive and convincing recruiters, OSU has made itself a major player in attracting its share.

"It's always been our most heavily recruited area," Cowboys offensive coordinator Mike Gundy said, "even back in the days when I was playing here. We had so many players from that area.

"And when I started here, the staff said it has to be an in-state area for us. It's that important for us."

OSU's efforts in the Metroplex were marginal at best before Miles and his staff arrived. The Cowboys were attracting some Texas talent, but mostly missing on top prospects. That has changed.

"Oklahoma State has just come in and done such a good job in Texas," said Duncanville coach Dan Schreiber. "Before Miles got there, we never saw anyone from OSU. They'd come in once and then they'd never send a letter or anything or follow up.

"If you're 3 1/2 hours from the Metroplex, I'd think you'd want to be recruiting down here." Oh, these Cowboy coaches do. And the DFW-area players are responding.

"To me, every young man is looking for really the same things," Miles said. "An opportunity to play. A coaching staff he can get along with, who will care about you personally and make you better. And for the opportunity to be at a school where there's a great cooperative spirit academically.

"And they choose a college town like ours, as opposed to a larger metropolitan community. And they choose playing in the Big 12 South, in front of their friends and family.

"I think there are great advantages to our college community."

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