NORMAN — Judging from his two recent hires, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops has clearly made improved recruiting a top priority.
Relationship building and commitment closing, though, aren't the only improvements Stoops seeks; Bill Bedenbaugh and Jerry Montgomery each bring recruiting experience in different parts of the country, which should allow Oklahoma to expand its national footprint.
That's important as ever these days. Coach Kevin Sumlin and Texas A&M's high success in their first SEC season has already made OU's recruiting in the state of Texas even more difficult.
Bedenbaugh, Oklahoma's new offensive line coach, was officially hired last week after two seasons in the same position at West Virginia. Montgomery agreed to coach OU defensive linemen this weekend, a source confirmed to The Oklahoman, although the athletic department has yet to officially announce the former Michigan assistant's hire.
“They've recruited the Big Ten region, and for all of Bob Stoops and the staff's connections in that area, it's not an area they've really hit in a while,” said Josh McCuistion, who covers OU recruiting for the Rivals network site SoonerScoop.com.
Both coaches have already hit the ground running. One of Bedenbaugh's first 2014 offers was to offensive tackle Steven Moss of Fredericksburg, Va.
Since becoming Oklahoma's head coach after the 1998 season, Stoops has signed exactly one player from the state of Virginia: Richmond wide receiver Brandon Caleb, who signed in 2006.
Within hours of Montgomery's hire breaking Saturday, he'd already contacted 2014 four-star defensive end Andrew Williams, from Eagle's Landing Christian in McDonough, Ga.
Williams holds offers from Alabama, Florida, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Texas A&M, as well as Montgomery's former employer, Michigan.
Oklahoma's last signee from Georgia was receiver Cameron Kenney in 2009, although he came to the Sooners via Garden City Community College in Kansas.
At 33 years old, Montgomery becomes Oklahoma's youngest assistant coach; his youth could become a strong recruiting asset for OU.
Bedenbaugh, meanwhile, has developed a reputation as one of the top recruiters nationally. Lots of that derives from the tenacity with which he attacks recruiting.
“You have to be relentless,” Bedenbaugh said last week. “You have to talk to them all the time. You have to make those kids understand how important they are and how much you want them here. And I think that's it.
“I'm gonna work hard at it, just like I am coaching. I don't think there's any magic.”
McCuistion said Bedenbaugh's impact on Oklahoma is already being felt in the 2014 class.
“These guys are incredibly active,” McCuistion said of Bedenbaugh and Montgomery. “I've had more to do in the last week of following Bedenbaugh than I had in months following (James) Patton and (Bruce) Kittle.”