NORMAN — Most expect five-star running back commitment Joe Mixon to make an instant on-the-field impact for Oklahoma next fall.
But several months before recording a single statistic in a Sooners uniform, Mixon has already become a dynamic difference-maker for the program on the recruiting trail.
Mixon, ranked by Rivals as the No. 1 all-purpose back in the 2014 recruiting class, committed to the Sooners last weekend and immediately began talking up his future home to other recruits.
“That dude hits me up at least twice a week,” three-star defensive tackle Trey Lealaimatafao said with a laugh.
Lealaimatafao, from San Antonio, visited Oklahoma last March for junior day and liked what he saw, but committed to Texas later that month.
The 6-foot-2, 301-pound prospect, though, struck up a friendship with Mixon during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl last weekend, and decommitted from Texas a few days later amid the Longhorns' coaching changes.
Lealaimatafao said he plans to take his recruitment all the way to signing day on Wednesday, Feb. 5, and that several schools remain in the mix.
“He just puts the thought in my head basically,” Lealaimatafao said of Mixon. “We became real cool at the Army bowl week. I hung out with him most of the time.”
Perhaps no player better illustrates the tremendous recruiting impact of Oklahoma's 45-31 Sugar Bowl upset of Alabama than Mixon, who admitted after committing that the upset “sealed the deal” for him.
“It's great to have a player like that, but it also helps to build momentum,” said Edmond Santa Fe quarterback Justice Hansen, another OU 2014 commitment. “I said before the Alabama game, it's going to be huge if OU beats them, not to just to excite the fans again and actually make the team believe even more, but also with just recruiting.
“So for OU to beat Alabama, No. 1, gets momentum going. Then somebody like Joe Mixon committing only gets it going more.”
The 6-2, 207-pounder rushed for 1,704 yards and 28 touchdowns as a senior at Freedom High School in Oakley, Calif., and given Oklahoma's inexperienced returning backfield for 2014, there's plenty of reason to believe Mixon could be an immediate contributor.
“I don't see any way he doesn't play because I think more than anything, he brings an element that Oklahoma doesn't really have among its backs right now,” said Josh McCuistion, who covers OU recruiting for the Rivals network site SoonerScoop.com.
“Joe Mixon is a great running back, but what makes him so special is his ability as a receiver. He really is like having a wide receiver in the backfield. … Maybe he won't be a 1,000-yard freshman, but he might rush for 600 yards and catch for another 500. I definitely think he's an instant impact kind of guy.”
Four-star receiver Dallis Todd (La Mirada, Calif.), who committed to OU last April, said Mixon reminds him of former OU star and current Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray.
“I think he can have a big impact because of the type of player he is,” Todd said. “With him being from California, I know the schools he plays against and all that. He's talented. I think he'll have a huge impact.”