Is Texas less relevant to OU in terms of recruiting?
Allen made an interesting claim in his recent article, and it's the source of endless arguments on various Sooner message boards.
There seem to be two main connected threads in this argument:
- Mack Brown's early verbal strategy is hurting OU, leading to...
- OU shift its focus to other states.
On the surface, point No. 1 appears to be true, but, in reality, at quarterback, wide receiver and running back, OU has not been dependent on Texas talent at all. OU's biggest recent miss at RB is Joseph Randle from Kansas. At WR it was Justin Blackmon, who wasn't offered because OU took Jameel Owens instead.
Jay Norvell, Cale Gundy, and Josh Heupel are recruiting the best national kids they can find who are interested in OU. Some of those prospects might be in Texas, but OU is prepared to go anywhere to find the players needed. OU's RBs for 2014 could easily be from Broken Arrow, Okla., and Las Vegas, while the Sooners' 2014 QB could easily be an in-state prospect.
At defensive end and defensive tackle, the combination of Jackie Shipp and Bobby Jack Wright are still recruiting Texas as well as they always have. The state of Texas lately has not been producing any difference makers at DT, although both OU and UT have high hopes for Jordan Wade, Desmond Jackson, Justin Manning and A'Shawn Robinson. At DE, OU's two-deep roster features three Texas players.
There has to be some position where UT is really hurting OU in recruiting, right? Defensive back.
DB coach Duane Akina and a string of NFL draft picks in the 2005-2007 years have given UT a clear advantage at this position in the state of Texas. In addition, the pool of DB talent in the state continues to be depleted by the trend towards spread offenses in Texas high schools.
In previous recruiting classes, OU has identified athletes who they wanted to play at DB after losing primary DB targets to UT. Often OU is losing recruits to other schools promising them the chance to play offense. OU has been able to rely on one blue-chip in-state DB a year to counter that trend, but OU's secondary depth and talent are not where they should be. Mike Stoops taking his top young DB, Cortez Johnson, from Arizona as a transfer to OU is another indicator of the depth/talent issue at DB.
Mike is evaluating and recruiting with the power of the OU brand behind him. He knows California and Florida are loaded with talented DBs and he's going to offer every kid he can. In California alone, there are probably 5 safeties better than any safety prospect in Texas. In the 2012 class, Gary Simon, a three-star recruit from Florida, on tape looked better than any CB prospect OU offered in Texas. Mike's current Florida DB offers look great on tape. So, it is safe to say there is a big transition happening at that position.
Linebacker is another area in transition with the end of the Brent Venables era. Tim Kish is taking the OU brand for a test drive and has already offered a slew of national LBs. Yet, Kish is working back to Texas, with a verbal commitment from Jordan Mastrogiovanni and an offer out to Raquaan Davis.
Really, the rise in national offers represents the most significant change in OU's recruiting practices. (The Sooners may have a low hit rate, but they only need to hit on a couple of kids. OU is not worried about some false stat like Mack crowing he signed 24 out of 28 offers.)
Why? High-end video from Hudl.com and Youtube and similar channels are transforming recruiting. Back in 2002 I had to wait for the year-end recruiting signees DVD for footage of recruits. Rivals has had decent video coverage for the last 3 or 4 years, but nothing like what's available today.
I was able to watch almost 50 percent of Cody Thomas' throws last year on Hudl.com. I've been able to watch roughly 10 minutes of footage for almost every one of OU's 2013 verbal commitments, not some three-play highlight clip. The early availability of footage has enabled OU to make that many more offers earlier in the process. Four days in Florida can be spent meeting with 10 or 12 recruits, as opposed to spending time just trying to evaluate kids.
The abundance of video footage also is helping OU make summer camps more productive. The recent session in Norman had the best collection of rising junior talent ever.
And these summer camps offer perhaps the clearest sign that OU is not de-emphasizing Texas. The Sooners attracted considerable 2014 talent to their new satellite camps in Texas, which just ended. Given their success, the OU coaches should continue to make this investment to get in contact with as many top Texas kids as possible before Mack's pressure-to-commit fest begins every spring.