Its still early, but…
Like most OU fans I find myself wishing for the Sugar Bowl bliss days…The top of the mountain feelings that came with the biggest Sooner win in years that culminated in one of the strongest recruiting season finishes in years was oh so sweet. Making matters even better was the fact that the strong 2014 finish paved the way for best early commitment recruiting season in years.
Traditionally, OU is not part of the early commitment craze, choosing instead to bide its time through the evaluation and offer phase. Even with the rest of the world getting on board with the fad, the Sooners have hung tight. With the euphoria of the Sugar Bowl dripping like honey, Sooners prospects could not help themselves as one after made their commitment to the Sooners. Almost overnight OU had lined up top flight recruits for the 2015 class. Life was good…
Sooner fans were ecstatic as this was unchartered territory for a Bob Stoops coached team. Leading the way was home-grown and four-star product Josh Wariboko. Buoyed by early returns Sooner fans saw the start of something big as more high profile commitments were expected in-and-around the spring game. With a record crowd accentuating the positive tone of spring game, Sooner fans hit the recruiting wire services expecting word of an avalanche of new commitments. This anticipation was quickly disposed of as the Sooners hit the recruiting skids.
Unfortunately, the avalanche of spring game recruits never materialized …Adding insult to injury was the news that Josh Wariboko had de-committed. Then things went from bad to worse as OU lost four-star defensive lineman Du’Vonta Lampkin. While Lampkin is saying all the right things about still keep OU on his radar, that dog won’t hunt. Once the SEC/A&M bug bites a player, it is pretty much over. Wariboko may be a different story with his proximity to Norman and his parent connection to the school. He may still end up a Sooner regardless of his brother’s situation. Only time will tell in both cases, but regardless it appears that the Sugar Bowl highlight reel may have lost its luster with recruits.
For Sooner fans this can be frustrating. At the same time it is important to keep in mind that this is business as usual for Stoops recruiting. There is no need to panic as the Sooners traditionally start slow only to pick up steam during the season and tend to surge at season’s end. Last year the Sooners were languishing in the 30/40 range early in the recruiting season. With a late season surge accentuated by the Sugar Bowl the Sooners signed the likes of five star recruits Michiah Quick and Joe Mixon, and shot to a top ten finish. All of the sudden the Sooners were back both on the field and on the recruiting trails.
Don’t get me wrong putting early commitment hay into the barn would be nice, but that would not be the Bob Stoops way. Bottom line is this…Being the conservative coach that he is, he prefers to line up potential signees and then secure them with a great season. This process does not always work to perfection as the Sooners slipped both on the field and in recruiting wars a few years back. Last year the Stoops strategy worked to perfection and this year OU and Stoops have a chance to use this tact to its advantage again. Many times early season commitments don’t pan out…Recent Texas recruiting classes are prime examples of this fact. Same goes for being too patient… The Stoops way is the later and sometimes it works and sometimes it does not.
In 2014, the Sooners will apparently take the wait and see approach as they attempt to hang on to top tier prospects in hopes that as an undefeated season followed by a final four appearance will create an end of recruiting season surge. As usual Bob has left himself and Sooner fans little wiggle room in the recruiting matter. So be it, the ball is in Bob’s court to make it happen. Armed with the best team in years and a ready-made schedule, a continuation of last year’s end of year recruiting surge is in the works..
At the same time it will be important for Stoops to keep in mind that anything less than a playoff run will not get it done. An appearance in the so-called Champions Bowl against the SEC runner up will not impress the likes of Quick and Mixon. Just like Oklahoma, there is only one Alabama and last year’s Sugar Bowl win reflected that magic. Beating a Georgia in the Champions Bowl will not be the same as beating an Alabama.
I second guessed Stoops last time around and so this time I will give the coach the benefit of the doubt. A playoff season capped by a national championship game appearance will land the Sooners another top ten class.
The fun part will be to check back next February to see if the Stoops strategy holds up.
Rivals national top Ten and Big 12 recruiting rankings… commitments in parenthesis…
- Alabama (15)
- Penn State (12)
- Clemson (11)
- Tennessee (11)
- Texas A&M (8)
- LSU (9)
- Florida State (9)
- Auburn (12)
- Nebraska (10)
- Miami (11)
14. Texas (8)
16. Baylor (8)
19. TCU (9)
20. West Virginia (10)
30. Texas Tech (6)
31. Oklahoma (3)
43. Oklahoma State (4)
59. Kansas State (1)