We were all there, but let’s recap just in case:
On April 14, grad transfer Scott Pagano committed to Oregon after including the Oklahoma Sooners in his final two schools. OU was confident, but the decision made sense in that Pagano wanted to be closer to his family in Hawaii and, having just won a championship at Clemson, probably wasn’t as worried about that. Fair enough.
The next day, a double whammy: Owasso safety Josh Proctor announced his commitment to Ohio State, and Bixby offensive lineman Bryce Bray committed to Oklahoma State at their spring game. For an OU program that had aimed for a clean sweep of the best in-state recruits, the intrusions by Mike Gundy — and especially by Urban Meyer — were disappointing to say the least. But hardly a back-breaker.
Then the twin de-commitments of Arjei Henderson and Theo Wease, 2019 Texas-based receivers who realized they’d committed way too soon. Annoying, but understandable. Surely this was the end of OU’s crazy bad luck.
Well, today Putnam City (OKC) defensive end Ron Tatum committed to Texas over Oklahoma, where absolutely everybody — the pundits, the coaching staffs, even the crystal balls — thought he was going until the last minute. At a moment where Sooner Nation desperately needed some good news, Tatum’s decision has merely punctuated one of the worst months in the history of Sooners recruiting.
What the heck is going on?
Here are a handful of factors upending OU’s class:
- Tom Herman
Apparently getting repeatedly kissed on the cheek is not the total turn-off it seems to be. Tom Herman has made his presence felt unequivocally, beginning a new chapter in the Red River Shootout long before he ever faces Bob Stoops in the burnt orange.
Just look at this pile of nonsense Herman’s staff sent Tatum. Herman believed wholeheartedly from day one that he could come into OU’s backyard and pluck one of the state’s best recruits away from Stoops. He really thought he could flip a Cali kid who’s been committed to OU since August.
And he was right. Were the Sooners complacent? It’s impossible to say, but Herman certainly wasn’t.
2. Negative Recruiting
I think if you look at OU’s recent off-the-field problems individually, one by one, it’s hard to make Finebaum-like accusations about institutional failure and systematic troubles. OU has made its share of mistakes, but it’s impossible to watch your quarterbacks 24/7 or keep track of a guy who isn’t even on the team.
And honestly, I don’t think most recruits care about that sort of thing, for better or worse. But do their families? Do their parents? You bet they do. And it doesn’t take five minutes of bad-mouthing to make a point — just a suggestion. What’s going on in Norman? You might want to look into that. It’s easy to insinuate about a team that, fairly or not, gets too many bad headlines.
3. Bad Luck
From the outside, this looks like an impossibly bad trend that couldn’t be coincidental. And it’s probably not — not totally, anyway. But all these situations are conceivable in a vacuum. I think that more than anything, Oklahoma is just experiencing a wicked run of bad luck.
I mean, Urban Meyer can recruit anywhere. Herman, his former coordinator, has demonstrated a similar knack — maybe we should have seen this coming. Henderson and Wease, to be candid, never should have committed in the first place. And Pagano was always a coin flip at best.
So is it possible that these recruits all know some deep, dark secret about OU that we don’t? I guess, but that’s incredibly unlikely. OU is probably just having some very tough luck.
Sooners fans have every right to be perplexed and disappointed about this month’s returns. Two weeks ago, everything was looking great: Oklahoma was about to debut amazing new facilities that are supposedly wowing recruits, had just hauled in a top-ten class and was barreling towards another. The Sooners are prime College Football Playoff contenders and will likely remain that way for the foreseeable future.
It makes no sense that all this would happen right now. It leads to understandable questions.
But every new decision, every commit and every development is a chance for Oklahoma to get back on the right track. The top priority is finding a quarterback. Grab a good one, and the momentum has started again.
It would take a lot for Oklahoma to pull a top-10 class in 2018, especially when considering the fact that this class will be smaller than the last. But the OU coaching staff takes this far more personally than we do, and I’m sure they’re doing some intense soul-searching and re-evaluating right now. There are no guarantees in recruiting, but after last season, I’m confident this staff will still give us a class to be proud of.