When the idea of Oklahoma moving from the Big 12 to the Pac-12 was presented, nobody was more excited than OU sophomore Tony Jefferson.
Jefferson was one of three California natives who signed with the Sooners two years ago, joining running back Brennan Clay and wide receiver Kenny Stills. Jefferson said he believed they wouldn’t be the last ones, either. With OU playing a more prominent role on the West Coast, the Sooners were going to build a pipeline and be a factor with some of the top prospects in the area, according to Jefferson.
It might still end up that way, but the Sooners are going to have to work for it. The announcement Tuesday by Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott that the conference wouldn’t expand didn’t just surprise OU fans. It also shocked OU verbal commits.
“I had accepted that we were going out west,” said defensive back and OU commit De’Vante Harris (Mesquite, Texas/Horn). “I was going to be able to play against some friends out west and against their speed. The weather was going to be great. But like I’ve said before, it doesn’t matter what conference we’re in, because we’re going to dominate no matter where we go.”
Most Oklahoma natives grow up as big OU fans and this year’s duo of commits Sterling Shepard (Oklahoma City/Heritage Hall) and Alex Ross (Jenks, Okla./Jenks) are no different. Conference affiliation doesn’t matter to them.
But Florida native Ty Darlington (Apopka, Fla./Apopka) did have a preference.
“Of course I wanted OU to come to the SEC. It would be a lot closer to home, playing in Florida and Georgia and places like that,” Darlington said. “My family is going to have to travel if they’re going to attend a game anyway, but it would have been nice if it was closer to home.”
Remaining in the Big 12 is not a deal-breaker for anybody, either. Tight end Laith Harlow (Tallahassee, Fla./Godby) said conference affiliation doesn’t have him second-guessing anything.
Remaining in the Big 12 does have the advantage for Texas high school recruits who want to stay close to home. OU commit defensive end Polo Manukainiu (Euless, Texas/Trinity) said OU’s location played a role because his family and friends could watch him play.
It might take a while for the conference shakedown to be completed, but the commits are confident everything is going to work out.
“Wherever OU goes, that’s where I’m going,” said offensive guard and OU commit John Michael McGee (Texarkana, Texas/Texas). “If we went out west, my family could have watched it on TV. If we stay here, then they can watch me play. We’re going to make the best out of whatever situation we’re in.”