Over the last several months, national media has poured on the Oklahoma Sooners about how bad things are going to be in Norman this upcoming season.
Relatively speaking, an 8-4 season for Brent Venables and the Sooners would be a major letdown, there’s no doubt about it. However, is it feasible that Oklahoma is going to fall that far? How much did they actually have to replace?
In reality, there are several teams that lost more snaps than the Sooners did this offseason. According to ESPN statistics, OU ranks 71st nationally in returning production for 2022, ahead of several Big 12 teams such as Texas Tech (90th), Baylor (99th), West Virginia (111th), Oklahoma State (118th), and Iowa State (128th). Not as bad as you thought for the Sooners, right?
Oklahoma returns the bulk of its offensive line, nearly its entire starting defensive backfield, and added key depth along the defensive line to offset the loss of Nik Bonitto, Isaiah Thomas, and Perrion Winfrey. Add to that the addition of several contributors highlighted by QB Dillon Gabriel and it suddenly appears that Oklahoma isn’t doing too bad.
Then, the next thing that the media turned to with concerns was recruiting under the new regime. Just a few weeks ago, Oklahoma was in the mid-40s in terms of national ranking for the 2023 class. At first glance, it looked like something to be worried about, but it was all a part of Venables’ plan.
From the beginning Venables and his recruiting staff have played the slow game, and have looked to the late summer months as the time to start picking up commitments.
“We’re not going to try and push and rush and force commitments right now, OK? This is early,” Venables said during the Coaches’ Road Show in May, according to SI Sooners’ Ryan Chapman. “Most young people … Because the recruiting calendar has changed in the last two years and you can now take recruiting visits in the spring, you don’t see near as many commitments that stick early prior to those visits.
“So what you’re going to see is the visits are getting ready to start, and then you can see the dominoes start to fall. So that’ll be late May, June, July. And most, probably 70 percent of the young people will make those life-changing decisions prior to their senior year. So the beginning of August. So sometimes in June and July, most of them, you’re going to start seeing those dominoes fall. And we feel that we’re in a terrific position for the ’23, ’24 and ’25 classes.”
Now, two months removed from that quote, Venables and Co. are starting to climb up the rankings, and quickly. In the last two weeks, Oklahoma has secured seven commitments, with four of those commitments being Top-150 prospects in the country.
The additions of Jaquaize Pettaway, Cayden Green and Adepoju Adebawore have all come in the last five days and have Oklahoma sitting pretty at No. 11 in 247Sports 2023 recruiting rankings, good for second in the Big 12 with just 14 total commitments. Compare that to 18 for Texas (4th) and Baylor (12th) with 22 commitments and you see that the Sooners have room to move up with more commitments coming.
Oklahoma looks to be in good position to land at least three more blue chip recruits and if that happens the Sooners could vault into the Top Five. There is still work to do on the trail, but Oklahoma is just fine under the direction of Brent Venables.