College football recruiting is a game of chance

by Michael Baldwin Modified: July 31, 2011 at 10:33 pm •  Published: July 31, 2011

Players haven't reported for fall camp for this season, and the Sooners already have more than half of their 2012 class lined up.

In what is projected to be a class of 22 players, a dozen recruits have orally committed to OU.

"We're not trying to fill up," said coach Bob Stoops. "We don't push for it. If a guy we've really studied, a guy we really like, wants to come, we'll take him."

Recruiting is vastly different than it was 10 or 20 years ago.

The new trend removes most of the drama on national signing day. The first Wednesday in February is the equivalent of national political conventions. Results are known before they're announced.

The one benefit for high school kids is if they orally commit in May, June or July, then they can concentrate on their upcoming senior season and academics.

But because of the new landscape, high school players often feel pressure to commit early. It's risky to slow-play two or three schools.

"They're realizing, 'I don't have the luxury of waiting until the fall. That may be the place I know I want to go, but it sure would be fun to take those three (recruiting) trips,'" Stoops said. "Then all of a sudden in the fall, we don't have that spot anymore."

An example: In a particular year, the Sooners might have only two slots earmarked for cornerbacks with five prospects on their list.

"I'm never high pressure. That's not my style," Stoops said. "But I've got five offers and only two spots. I'll communicate with you. If one gets taken and now there's one left...

"In our eyes, sometimes we feel those players are about the same. That puts pressure on them, 'If that's where I want to go, then I better go.'"

Penn State's Joe Paterno is credited for being the first to use the early commitment strategy in the late 1990s.

When the plan backfired, leading to several subpar classes, most coaches around the country felt the prudent game plan was to be patient. Watch a player most of his senior season before offering.

by Michael Baldwin
Reporter
Mike Baldwin has been a sports reporter for The Oklahoman since 1982. Mike graduated from Okmulgee High School in 1974 and attended Oklahoma Christian University, graduating with a journalism degree in 1978. Mike's first job was sports editor...
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