When a college football program is really humming, “recruiting for need” doesn’t really exist in the same sense.
Instead, the roster resembles a conveyor belt: studs stacking up, one on top of another every year at each position. Prioritizing recruiting by position is more about promoting competition and projecting seasons in advance.
In the last decade, the Oklahoma Sooners haven’t had that luxury. It seems as though they’ve routinely found themselves scrambling to fill holes at a position or three in each class.
After securing a third straight top-10 recruiting class in 2019, however, the Sooners are starting to do more of the aforementioned long-term roster building with each class.
With that in mind, here’s a stab at a ranking of OU’s position groups on offense in terms of priority in recruiting for 2020 – from highest to lowest. We’ll follow up with the defensive positions next.
Razor-thin depth at the glamour position has become the norm in the world of college football, given the incessant pursuit of quality QBs. Austin Kendall’s decision to join the West Virginia Mountaineers with two years left to play leaves Lincoln Riley with just two scholarship QBs on the roster after 2019 — Spencer Rattler and Tanner Mordecai.
If Rattler wins the 2020 competition as a (presumably) redshirt freshman, how do you think Mordecai will take the news as a third-year sophomore? Not to mention, Rattler hasn’t taken a snap in a college game yet.
Josh McCuistion of SoonerScoop.com has floated the possibility that OU will take two QBs in the ’20 class, which seems increasingly likely in that context. Riley could probably finesse that by pursuing one surefire QB and one developmental player who could shift positions if it doesn’t work out.
However he chooses to pursue it, QB should be on top of the agenda for next year.
OU is severely lacking depth at center. As a redshirt sophomore, Creed Humphrey will become eligible for the draft at the end of the upcoming season. Centers don’t command much of a premium in the pros, so Humphrey probably isn’t going anywhere until at least after the 2020 season.
But how many other centers does OU have on the roster? The most likely candidates are upperclassmen who aren’t in the mix for starting positions and incoming freshman E.J. Ndoma-Ogar.
Bottom line: Offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh probably needs to add a designated center in ’20.
3. Running back
In light of the limited life span of NFL RBs, Trey Sermon and Kennedy Brooks will have to take a long look a declaring for the draft after this season. As such, the Sooners absolutely have to get at least one back in the ’20 class who can push T.J. Pledger, Marcus Major and Rhamondre Stevenson for a spot in the backfield rotation in the event that one or both of the returning stars declare next offseason.
As of now, OU has a pledge from Jase McClellan, one of the top backs in the country. The nationwide group is teeming with studs — such as Zach Evans, Kendall Milton, Seth McGowan and a host of others — at the position, so count on OU taking another back. Think Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine – if running backs coach Jay Boulware is lucky.
Assuming one of the interior linemen on the roster joins Humphrey at center, that leaves the Sooners with four guards on scholarship. Maybe a graduate transfer will join the team in the coming weeks, which would help in the short term.
In the longer run, OU currently probably has Tyrese Robinson and Marquis Hayes through the end of the 2021 season. Both are drawing rave reviews from the coaching staff, so that means going hard at guard is a little less important in the ’20 cycle.
Can you ever have enough offensive tackles? Unless the Sooners lose someone to transfer in the next couple months, they will enter 2019 with six on their roster. Five of them will be freshmen and sophomores, and all of them would still be eligible in ’20. Four of the five underclassmen are blue-chippers, per Rivals.
Once again, Bedenbaugh seems to have this unit sitting pretty. Add a blue-chip tackle in the upcoming class, and OU should be good.
6. Tight end/H-back
OU could probably use a true H-back to come up behind Jeremiah Hall, but he’ll almost certainly be on campus through 2021.
At TE, the Sooners may have Grant Calcaterra for two more seasons. With Brayden Willis and Austin Stogner behind him, OU is in good shape for the future. Seeing as tight ends coach Shane Beamer already has a commitment from a Rivals100 prospect in ATH Drew Sanders, he can probably devote some time to helping out with other positions.
7. Wide receiver
If there’s one position where OU looks set for the future, it’s receiver. The Sooners landed three players rated as five-star recruits by Rivals in the 2019 class. There’s also the possibility JUCO speedster Brandon Pierce still to come.
Wideout will always remain a point of emphasis in recruiting for this O, but it doesn’t rate as a huge priority next year. With commitments already in hand from Keller standout Davon Graham and JUCO receiver (and former OU signee) Kundarrius Taylor, I’d expect to see just one more take at the position in 2020.