The Norman Transcript

February 6, 2014

Late recruiting surge shows momentum on Sooners' side

By John Shinn
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Oklahoma did not reel in a top 10 recruiting class Wednesday. If that was a surprise, it shouldn’t be. According to Rivals.com, it has pulled in just six since 2002.

According to the recruiting ranking OU coach Bob Stoops and his staff brought in what they typically do on the first Wednesday in February. This marked the fourth time in the last five years the Sooners finished between No. 11-15.

But there’s a feeling that will change next February.

“We’ve changed the whole vibe of Oklahoma football and it’s cool again. That’s positive and that’s what we want,” defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. “We want kids to play for the cool school and certainly that’s very positive when you look at what we’re able to do and what we’re starting to do for next year already. It’s very positive right now and we have a lot of momentum and hopefully we can carry that out. Hopefully our players, we have a very young, dynamic group of players that are very excited about the possibilities here.”

The Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama gave the Sooners a cache they’ve lacked for several seasons. Highly coveted recruits that had been brushing off overtures from the coaching staff are now receptive.

That showed in the final month of recruiting. Four-star Jenks safety Steven Parker, Fresno, Calif., athlete Michiah Quick, New Orleans defensive tackle Courtney Garnett, Utah offensive tackle Kenyon Frison and five-star running back Joe Mixon all picked the Sooners after the Sugar Bowl victory.

If the recruiting circumstances were the same as they were 10 years ago, OU would’ve have been able to capitalize on what it did at the end of the season even more.

The overwhelming majority of recruits make their college choice before January. OU’s had classes in the past that were completely committed before it left town for bowl games.

The true impact of its new-found status should be felt a year from now.

“I’ll put a ton of stock in what it could mean with the 2015 class,” ESPN national recruiting analyst Tom Luginbill said.

Just before OU recruiting coordinator/running backs coach Cale Gundy met with reporters Wednesday afternoon, he was talking to high school juniors on the phone. The coaching staff spent the final weekend before signing day hosting prep juniors on campus.

“Recruiting has changed so much and so different compared to a few years ago,” said Gundy who was a highly recruited quarterback at Midwest City High School before coming to OU in 1991. “A few years ago, when I came out, the difference in recruiting was nobody really took official visits. If recruiting took place your sophomore or junior year it was you going to a game on a Saturday. You really didn’t do anything else. Recruiting didn’t really start until December and January. My visits in high school, I took for of them in January. These kids nowadays, they’re done. We’ve already had a Junior Day. They’ve already been everywhere. They’ve been to seven colleges and know pretty much what they want to do and where they want to go.”

OU will enter a six-month period where it will be one of the schools national recruits will want to see. If it continues the build on the field the momentum it closed the 2013 season with, it will become hotter.

The Sooners never believed they had slipped. They’ve won two BCS bowl games in the last four seasons, won two Big 12 championships and gone 43-10 over that period.

But what OU did in 2013 showed its national credence is worthy. Alabama finished No. 1 in the recruiting rankings for the third straight year Wednesday and OU beat them. The Sooners went head to head with Notre Dame for Quick and Garnett for their letters of intent and won.

“What we were able to do against Alabama was no fluke,” Mike Stoops said. “That was our team playing on all cylinders as a young team. That gave us a lot of momentum heading into the last month of recruiting to see what we can do with such a young team and then being able to add great players to this team, we feel like we’re a championship caliber team. That’s what the kids want to play for.”