Last Monday, the Oklahoma Sooners were on the verge of an improbable victory and a berth in the national championship game in spite of one of the most perplexingly inept defensive performances their fan base had ever witnessed. When it didn’t shake out the way we all hoped it would, we were all deflated. We took to social media to vent our frustrations, but that was more of a coping mechanism than anything else. Anger wasn’t the primary emotion most of us experienced — at least not at the core.
Dejection reigned supreme.
That particular emotion didn’t start to creep in until a few minutes after Sony Michel galloped into the end zone to end OU’s season, but I felt numb for about an hour after that.
All sorts of thoughts rushed through my head during that time. The thought of Baker Mayfield’s college career ending in such a frustrating fashion certainly popped up. The thought of yet another offseason of SEC talking heads bloviating about the Big 12 crept in. I, of course, also thought at length about the future of the program. Sure, it’s in good hands under Lincoln Riley, but legitimate national championship opportunities only come around every so often — even for elite programs. How long did you think it would take Oklahoma to get back to serious championship contention after the loss to Tebow and Florida? Probably shorter than the length of time it actually took.
The Oklahoma Sooners had a legitimate shot to get it done in 2017 despite its defensive flaws, and the thought of an opportunity potentially not presenting itself again for a good period time is not a fun one to have. As the hours and days went by, I slowly began to realize how emo-ish I was being. It’s not all doom and gloom for the Sooners. They’re returning a good amount offensive talent. Kyler Time is nearly upon us. The defense might be better.
But the fans of the Sooners still needed a shot in the arm. When Lincoln Riley made it clear that a change on the defensive staff wasn’t happening (at least not immediately), it became apparent that the shot in the arm needed to come from the recruiting trail. We all kind of suspected that it was coming, too.
Ft. Lauderdale (FL) St. Thomas Aquinas outside linebacker Nik Bonitto was set to announce his decision between Oklahoma, Texas and Louisville at Thursday’s Under Armour All-America Game, but there were rumblings that the four-star prospect had already signed with the Sooners. Sure enough, that turned out to be the case.
That was fantastic news for a program that is thin on quality depth at the linebacker position, but Saturday would turn out to one-up Thursday.
Coveted defensive back Brendan “Bookie” Radley-Hiles was set to announce his decision during the US Army All-American Bowl, and Oklahoma had been considered the favorite to land the former Nebraska commit for a decent period of time. However, that didn’t deter other programs from making things a bit interesting before the announcement. New UCLA head coach Chip Kelly made a push for the California native, as did new Florida State head coach Willie Taggart, who is no stranger to the folks at IMG Academy. When USC’s hat was thrown into the mix seemingly out of nowhere, some went from confident to cautiously optimistic. In the end, OU pulled off a huge recruiting victory, and OU fans were over the moon all of a sudden.
OU fans have more than a right to be excited about the commitment of such a special talent. This guy has the potential to play all of the DB positions and has been justifiably compared to Tyrann “The Honey Badger” Matheiu. I mean... if the guy makes plays like this:
SB Nation recruiting guru Bud Elliott had a chance to speak with Bookie about his decision:
Lincoln Riley knows how to fire up his fan base as well as any other coach in the Twitterverse, and he made sure to use the platform to tease some more good news:
— Lincoln Riley (@LincolnRiley) January 7, 2018
Sooner Nation u ready?— Lincoln Riley (@LincolnRiley) January 7, 2018
Eventually, the good news came from four-star outside linebacker DaShaun White, who had been committed to Texas A&M since August. White seemed like a likely flip after visiting Oklahoma in late October, and the staff situation in College Station definitely didn’t hurt OU’s chances.
The on-field results matter more than anything in the end, but not much compares to the elation that accompanies a big-time commitment announcement. This week’s commitments weren’t a cure-all, but they at least turned our frowns upside-down for a moment. That’s at least something.
By the end of the week, Oklahoma was up to No. 6 in the Rivals team rankings and No. 7 in the 247Composite Rankings. The Sooners could potentially check off some more boxes if they were able to convince the likes of Leon O’Neal and Solomon Tuliaupupu to sign in February, but this class is going to be pretty impressive as is. Regardless, our focus has shifted towards a bright future — something that desperately needed to happen.