OU with momentum out west

It's common knowledge Cali has become a big recruiting spot for Oklahoma. Sooners coaches explain why and how it's working.

It became something to watch in the Class of 2010 with the "Cali Trio" of running back Brennan Clay, wide receiver Kenny Stills and defensive back Tony Jefferson.

But it could have ended right then and there for Oklahoma. A one-year flash in the pan. Instead the Sooners influence in California is only growing. After a brief absence from Cali in 2011, OU has five players from California on the roster from the 2012-13 classes.

Then the crown jewel happened earlier this month. OU has signed four high school recruits from the state, including two in the top 10 of Scout's top 150 prospects in the West.

A lot of the talk mentions the 2010 group, but wide receivers coach Jay Norvell said it would be foolish to believe that's where it started.

"When you're in California recruiting, we tell kids all the time, there's history at Oklahoma since Coach Switzer was here with quality kids from California," Norvell said. "I walk into places and they tell stories about Coach Switzer a lot. That helps us a lot."

It doesn't hurt OU's chances the fact defensive coaches Mike Stoops and Tim Kish spent the better part of the last decade on the west coast, coaching at Arizona.

Stoops is quick to point out, though, that initial relationship will only get you so far. The rest is up to you.

"It gets you in the door, but our program here and what you do on the field is really important," Stoops said.

That's what is helping the Sooners right now. Because the success has to go beyond the Trio for it to have a long lasting impact.

Wide receiver Derrick Woods and tight end Taylor McNamara both are starting to find their footing in Norman and their place with the team. After some early questions, as sophomores in 2014, they should be a bigger factor.

As true freshmen, Fresno natives L.J. Moore and Hatari Byrd both got to see the field even if it wasn't as much time as some might have expected or as much as they would have liked. Wide receiver K.J. Young redshirted last season but from all accounts was a vital part of the scout team.

OU is never going to abandon Oklahoma and Texas. It's the lifeblood of the program. But as more schools come into Texas, the Sooners had to find another option.

"I just think where we are in Oklahoma we're in the middle of the country," Norvell said. "When we need to look for players, we have a choice of East or West. When that great player isn't here in Oklahoma or Texas, we need to find them elsewhere.

"We are a great option because in California there's just the Pac-12. They don't have the excitement around a lot of their programs. The Pac-12 stadiums, just the fervor that our conference does. Kenny Stills wanted to go somewhere with a fervent fan base. Those schools don't have that but maybe one or two games a year."

And that brings us to this year's crop. OU was able to sign five-star running back Joe Mixon, four-star wide receivers Michiah Quick and Dallis Todd and three-star linebacker Curtis Bolton.

OU coach Bob Stoops sees it another way as well. He and his coaches wouldn't be doing their job if they didn't attempt to see what else is out there.

"When people call you or send you information or you reach out to the top 13-to-20 players at a position and they have a strong interest, you follow up with it," Bob Stoops said. "We have been able to connect with these guys, and it's worked out with them coming here."

What the Trio has meant to OU's current roster is something the current roster is going to mean to the future kids. In getting recruits like Mixon, Quick and Todd, it's a statement by OU to the rest of the nation the Sooners are still a factor in recruiting.

OU has already offered a handful of Cali prospects for the Class of 2015, and there's no reason the Sooners won't end up being a major factor in their recruitment.

"Kids recruit other kids, and I don't think that's any more evident than this year's class," Norvell said.

And if that's the case, then OU's future in the west is in good shape and will only be bolstered by a solid 2014 season.


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