- Brandon Chatmon, ESPN Staff Writer
The winds of change are rippling through the University of Oklahoma.
Mike Stoops has returned to run the Sooners' defense and, after 12 years in Norman, Brent Venables has left the program to run Clemson’s defense, opening up a spot on the coaching staff for newly hired linebackers coach Tim Kish.
Head coach Bob Stoops’ decision to hire Kish is another sign of subtle changes at OU. The Sooners are in the midst of expanding their recruiting efforts on both coasts, and Kish’s hire is an example of what could be a change in OU’s recruiting philosophy.
Here’s a closer look at how OU’s recruiting has transformed in recent years:
Kish jumped right into the mix, immediately visiting Arizona standout Davonte Neal (Scottsdale, Ariz./Chapparal), a player the Sooners weren’t actively recruiting a week ago. Kish’s recruiting exploits and West Coast ties fit in perfectly with OU’s desire to expand its recruiting efforts into Pac-12 territory. Kish did a terrific job recruiting Arizona and Northern California during his time at Arizona, while also pursuing elite national prospects like current New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski from Pittsburgh.
Regarded as a quality recruiter, Kish should be able to use his Pac-12 region ties to help OU expand even further into the area.
Less of a focus on Texas
Texas will always be a bread and butter state for OU -- only two classes since 2001 have had less than 10 Texans. Current standouts like linebacker Corey Nelson (Dallas), cornerback Demontre Hurst (Lancaster), and Ben Habern (Argyle) picked OU out of Texas high schools.
Yet, the Sooners no longer need to fill the majority of their roster with prospects from below the Red River. In the Class of 2012, OU is slated to sign just four prospects from Texas (though they're in on a couple more), thanks in part to the Sooners looking more nationally (two recruits each from California and Florida) and the increased effort required by more intense recruiting battles with the rest of the Big 12.
No need to bang your head against the wall recruiting Texas prospects when you can bring similar prospects from across the nation to fill the same spot. In other words, if a elite prospect resides in Texas and the Sooners feel they can land him, nothing will change. But if he’s a very good prospect and there are similar prospects around the nation, the Texan might not be a higher priority just because he’s from Texas.
2013 early offers
One glance at the Sooners' offer list for the Class of 2013 reveals more of a national flavor for OU. Recruits from Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Florida, New Jersey, Indiana, Kentucky, California and Ohio populate the Sooners' offer list.
Not only is OU going after the truly elite players across the nation, it is pursuing several players who it feels could be getting overlooked by the schools in their home state and region.
With other schools making strong inroads into Texas, the Sooners have explored taking advantage of the national brand that OU brings with its history and tradition. Very few recruits around the nation will decide not to listen when Oklahoma calls.
And Texas remains a key pipeline state with six Sooners offers to Texans so far.
East Coast efforts
Another example of the Sooners changing their national recruiting philosophy is their 13 offers to recruits on the East Coast before signing day (30 total offers as of Thursday). Oklahoma is a nationally recognized program; no reason they can’t land some overlooked gems of their own.
Five of those offers are to Florida recruits, as the Sooners have grown tired of watching Ohio State and others swoop in and secure gems out of the Sunshine State (Chris Gamble, Santonio Holmes, Michael Brewster, etc) without the Sooners having their say in the matter.
Even if the Sooners don’t land Leon McQuay (Seffner, Fla./Armwood), a teammate of current commit Eric Striker, or Kendall Fuller (Olney, Md./Our Lady of Gospel) in February 2013, they are building relationships and laying the foundation, which could pay off at those talent-rich programs in the future.
2dJake Trotter and Brandon Chatmon