Parker the next big Bedlam battle

In-state battles between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State have produced some intense ones in the past. The quest to land Scout 300 safety Steven Parker for this class ranks right up there with the best.

He has visited Oklahoma and Oklahoma State more than any other school out there. That includes three unofficial visits to OU this season and one to OSU two weeks ago.

There is no bigger fish in the sea when it comes to the Bedlam rivaly than Jenks (Okla.) High safety Steven Parker.

Parker, a Scout 300 prospect, is expected to be in Stillwater once again when the 17th-ranked Sooners and sixth-ranked Cowboys meet Saturday morning.

A win on the field would obviously be great for either team but winning the Parker recruiting battle might prove to be just as important.

"It has been a pretty even year in-state and Parker is the big fish who is still out there," Scout national recruiting analyst Greg Powers said. "Oklahoma typically has had a stranglehold on players it has coveted from Jenks, but in this situation the family connection for the four-star safety is in Stillwater."

The connection is with OSU, but the first offer was from OU. Both schools have their ties to Parker. His former teammates, running back Alex Ross and wide receiver Jordan Smallwood, are with the Sooners.

Two of his good friends, Edmond (Okla.) Santa Fe quarterback Justice Hansen and Tulsa (Okla.) Union tight end Carson Meier, are pledged to OU.

His teammate, three-star safety Dylan Harding, has been a firm Cowboys commit ever since he made it official during the summer.

There are reasons to go to both schools. OU made sure he knows what a priority he is as Bob and Mike Stoops both visited Parker on Sunday.

Those that have played against him know there is a reason why he has more than 20 offers and is the top uncommitted prospect in the state.

"Steven? Man, he's good," Midwest City (Okla.) High safety Will Sunderland said. "He does everything real well and is so smooth with everything. I definitely see what coaches see."

Parker is the state's top safety prospect for 2014, while Sunderland is set to take that title for the Class of 2015. Jenks defeated Midwest City in the state quarterfinals two weeks ago.

One recruit normally can't make or break a recruiting class. But it sure helps when you're on the winning side of things like OU was in a bitter battle for wide receiver Ryan Broyles in 2007. Back and forth it went before the Sooners came out on top against the Cowboys.

The attitude back then by OU was it could wait with some in-state kids. The Sooners would pounce in there late and get their man.

It doesn't work that way anymore. Not with schools like Texas A&M, Arkansas and Ole Miss breathing down your neck for Parker. And OU realized it immediately. Mike Stoops offered Parker in May 2012 when he was a virtual unknown.

Following an eye-opening three-day camp performance at OU that summer, it was clear the Sooners knew what they were doing. OSU was next to offer, and Parker traded in-state unofficial visits throughout last season.

This year has been different because he's not a regional name. Parker is a national name, and he has visited Arkansas and Texas A&M twice this year and made official visits to both campuses.

There were rumblings about a potential Aggies commitment after his visit, but Parker quietly eliminated that. He has been consistent throughout the process that he wants to take all five of his official visits before deciding.

The recruiting hasn't been a distraction with him on the field, though.

"He's big, a lot bigger than a lot of defensive backs you see," Moore (Okla.) Westmoore wide receiver Dahu Green said. "He's always in control."

Green should be among the state's top prospects next year and Jenks defeated Moore Westmoore twice this season, including last week in the semifinals.

OU and OSU have gone at each other hard this recruiting cycle. The Cowboys have four in-state commits, while the Sooners sit with three.

OSU also got a leg up on its Bedlam rival with the double Houston Alief Taylor commitments of four-star wide receiver Keenen Brown and four-star cornerback Chris Hardeman back in August.

The two schools battled intensely for Dallas Pinkston four-star defensive end Trey Carter. The Sooners looked to be the choice before OU bowed out because of some academic concerns. OU's loss became OSU's gain last week.

Tulsa (Okla.) Union wide receiver Jeffery Mead was another tough situation with both schools tugging at him. The Sooners won out in that one in June.

"At this point in time, the Cowboys currently hold commits from two in-state four-star recruits and a slight edge over the Sooners for in-state prospects," Powers said. "But if Parker can be wooed to Norman, it would even things up between the two schools."

Parker holds all the cards in this one. He has the Sooners and Cowboys in the palm of his hand. His decision, whenever it comes, could say a lot about the direction of both programs.


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