Not long ago, Oklahoma and Texas were the only two schools who could hope to land the top talent in the Lone Star State. The Sooners regularly traveled south of the river and beat the Longhorns for top prospects like Adrian Peterson. Mack Brown vs. Bob Stoops was one of the best battles in the recruiting world, and usually more than half of OU’s classes hailed from Texas.
That trend sort of peaked around 2010, in the waning years of Brown’s tenure and when the Sooners fell off as a perennial powerhouse. OU signed 17 Texas kids that year. In 2011, 12 of their 17 signees were Texans.
Clearly the departure of Brent Venables and other staff shakeups had the Sooners looking to change tactics after that season. It took awhile for them to find their footing, but the Sooners eventually developed a formidable national footprint, pulling guys out of California and Florida with regularity.
It took until this year, however, for the strategy to come together for another top-10 class. And the best part is, it’s happening with some of the best Texas talent again.
This year Oklahoma only inked nine Texans — a big step up from last year’s four, but down a bit from 11 in 2015. It’s the quality of Texas kid, though, that makes this year truly exceptional.
Chris Robison could have played almost anywhere, but committed in 2015 and never wavered for a moment. The SEC made a hard run at guard Tyrese Robinson. Southlake Carroll safety Robert Barnes had offers from several Big 12 teams as well as Alabama, Notre Dame, Ohio State and USC.
Wide receiver Charleston Rambo got offered by almost every program in the Big 12, and CeeDee Lamb actually de-committed from OU last year, racked up some more impressive offers and came back to the Sooners anyway.
Yeah, not every single Sooners target has ended up in Norman. Jalen Reagor was a notable, and still puzzling, defection from the talented receiver class OU put together. And the Big 12’s Texas hegemony is definitely over — the best programs from the SEC and Big 10 are poaching Texas recruits left and right.
But Oklahoma absolutely recruited the pants off the rest of the Big 12 this season. Even late runs from Matt Ruhle and Tom Herman couldn’t get another Big 12 program into the Rivals top 25 classes. The bottom line is, Oklahoma is going to be more talented than every other Big 12 school for at least the next several years.
A few days ago, our parent site SB Nation noted that Oklahoma is one of the only schools that wins without growing top recruits in-state. There hasn’t been a five-star out of Oklahoma in years.
For any other school, that’s not a sustainable model. But OU has the facilities, tradition and coaching staff to convince Texas boys to come play in Norman. It’s great that OU is able to keep the best in-state recruits away from Mike Gundy, and can grab a five-star talent from California or Florida or Pennsylvania or (almost) Tennessee.
But the backbone of great OU recruiting has to be Texas. The Sooners got back to that in 2017, and they’ll reap the rewards for years.