OU football: Sugar Bowl victory has impacted recruiting for Sooners

Although OU only picked up one verbal commitment Sunday, it has clearly continued to build momentum that began with a stunning Sugar Bowl upset of Alabama.
by Jason Kersey Published: January 19, 2014

NORMAN — Oklahoma hosted a laundry list of 2014 football recruiting targets this weekend, and while the Sooners only picked up one verbal commitment Sunday, they have clearly continued building the momentum that began with their stunning Sugar Bowl upset of Alabama.

Three-star safety Jordan Thomas became the 22nd member of Oklahoma's 2014 recruiting class Sunday evening, when he flipped after being committed to Northwestern for more than a year. Thomas (6-foot-1, 180 pounds) is the Sooners' fourth verbal pledge since the Sugar Bowl.

Oklahoma also hosted an important pair of in-state targets — Douglass defensive end and LSU commit Deondre Clark and Jenks safety Steven Parker — and former Texas commit Courtney Garnett, a three-star defensive tackle from New Orleans.

Oklahoma's recent string of recruiting success began two days after the Sugar Bowl, when five-star running back Joe Mixon committed to the Sooners on national television. 

“(The Sugar Bowl) is huge for the program,” OU offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh told The Oklahoman this weekend. “People understand how guys are getting coached here, and not just on the offensive line. Our D-line dominated the game in the passing situations; we picked off two passes; Trevor Knight.

“You just look at the whole game, and you can see the effect of Coach (Bob) Stoops on down.”

The Sooners also potentially got some good news regarding a target who didn't even visit this weekend. Kenyon Frison, a three-star offensive tackle from West Valley City, Utah, tweeted Sunday that he'd decommitted from Utah. He made an official visit to Norman in November, and is also considering Arizona State and Nebraska.

Josh McCuistion, who covers OU recruiting for the Rivals network site SoonerScoop.com, said last week that he's been stunned by the Sugar Bowl's recruiting impact.

“My thought was, ‘As long as they can play with Alabama, at least it won't hurt them,'” McCuistion said. “But the way they won that game has just shifted everything.

“I am a little surprised with how quickly it's turned around and how big it's turned around. It's not so much that I didn't think it would have an impact, but I think it's just gonna (get) bigger than I could've anticipated.”

In two weeks, Oklahoma will host four-star cornerback Kendall Randolph, who didn't appear to have the Sooners on his radar at all until after the Sugar Bowl. The Tallahassee, Fla., native considered Louisville his top school until coach Charle Strong bolted for Texas.

And even as good as the Sooners' 2014 class is looking in recent weeks, the 2015 class could benefit even more from the convincing win over Alabama.

“All of a sudden, lots of players are starting to talk about going to Oklahoma's Junior Day,” McCuistion said.

Four-star Midwest City safety Will Sunderland, who earned Oklahoman first-team All-State honors as a junior in 2013, watched the Sugar Bowl and came away extremely impressed.

“Everybody didn't believe in Oklahoma,” Sunderland said. “I was just watching the Sugar Bowl, and I was just happy for Bob Stoops. They performed great, and the next thing you know, top players in the country are committing to OU.

“It's like, ‘Man.'” 

by Jason Kersey
OU Sports Reporter
Jason Kersey became The Oklahoman's OU football beat writer in May 2012 after a year covering high school sports and OSU recruiting. Before joining the newspaper in November 2006 as a part-time results clerk, he covered high school football for...
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