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August 31, 2011To say that Bruce Kittle has hit the ground running in his first few months as a full-time assistant on Bob Stoops' staff would be a mild understatement and nowhere is his work to date more evident than the pursuit of Lakewood (Wash.) Lakes offensive tackle Zach Banner. The 6-foot-9, 310-pound prospect was among Oklahoma's first offers at the position following Kittle's hire in January.
However it seemed to most at the time that while the offer was sincere it wasn't likely to have much impact as Banner's familial connection - however distant - to Washington along with the reality Oklahoma rarely recruits the state would be too much to overcome.
But thanks to the diligent work of Kittle, along with an assist from Sooner head man Bob Stoops, the Sooners are currently in good stead with the nation's No. 7 offensive tackle and No. 38 overall player.
"Oklahoma, they are obviously in my top five, I don't have it out yet but they will be in it, I've got a scheduled visit on Sept. 24, for the Missouri game, I'm going to be down there," Banner said. "Basically we just want to get down there, I think Oklahoma is a place I could be with coach Kittle and coach Stoops, I've been talking with them for the past month or so and basically I really do like Oklahoma."
Banner says he was aware of Oklahoma's success at producing NFL offensive linemen but it's not something Kittle has forgotten to mention, and they feel he could be another to
"That's something they talk about, you look at their tackle tradition, and this year they have two senior tackles and two guys who are going to the league," he explained. "They've said look Zach you work hard, you're athletic, you've got solid size and get you down here working with the greatest trainers in the world, they are definitely talking a good game about playing early."
So what is it that has one of the country's elite offensive tackles so serious about a program that he has no personal connection to and miles and miles between his hometown and Oklahoma's campus?
"The program and the school, just basically, I talked to my best friends about it and Oklahoma has always is a place we've always watched me and my friends and stuff, we just love watching college football, we just love watching football," he said. "And if you watch college football you watch (Oklahoma) all the time, basically the program, the rich tradition. It's a place where I can set myself up, they want me to play both sports and I could set up my career, and have a good career there. I feel like we could win national championships there and I can market myself to go to the next level."
For a player so highly regarded it's almost shocking to see that Banner isn't currently ranked as Washington's No. 1 player. But the good news for one college football program is that Banner, and his close friend Joshua Garnett, are planning to become bookend tackles for one lucky school. And the two of them are clearly paying mind to what kind of class they could be joining.
"Oh yeah, I think about that all the time, I want to be in a good class. One of my good friends, Josh Garnett, he is going to schedule his official (to Oklahoma) and basically we feel like we're going to go to the same school," Banner explained.
"Oklahoma is going to recruit national guys and if it's guys from down there that's fine. I know they don't really recruit away from down there and for them to come to me cause coach Kittle came to my school and said they are serious about me if we are serious about them, I liked that."
Though Garnett won't be able to join Banner for his visit to Oklahoma on Sept. 24 he'll be able to tell his friend all about it, as well as his visit to Michigan on Sept. 9 and Notre Dame on Oct. 21 along with his two other official visits.
"I'm going to take all five officials. I'm looking for whatever is going to be the home away from home, people talk about U-Dub (Washington) being 45 minutes away but it's Seattle and that's different than Tacoma. I have to find my home away from home. I have to feel it," he said.
"I'm the hometown guy, everyone in Tacoma and Lakewood and Seattle know me they want me to go to Washington but there are a lot of other school fans around here so it's not just coming off for me locally I've gotten my name out there nationally with fans and scouts, and built a relationship with those folks."