NORMAN — Over the last year, Oklahoma has been steadily crossing off any reason for recruiting excuses.
Athlete housing, an infusion of new blood in the coaching staff, stadium renovations and now alternate uniforms give the Sooners a much more inviting recruiting pitch.
So what’s next?
The biggest element OU is missing is an easy one to name — a recent national title. While there are several small improvements that could be made by the Sooners, winning the school’s eighth national championship could give OU its biggest boost.
“OU’s a top-five program in the entire country and now with the stadium renovations, the weight room, uniforms, beating Alabama — the only thing left to do to put them at the very top of college football is just to win a title,” Midwest City High recruiting coordinator Jason Sexton said.
Sexton sees the excitement surrounding the Sooners program from the athletes he coaches — including Will Sunderland, one of OU’s top targets in the 2015 class.
“They seem really excited about just the prospects of OU having that new weight room especially,” Sexton said. “Will, especially, because he loves the weight room.”
Sexton said the players also talk quite a bit about the uniform options recently unveiled by the Sooners and said OU’s coaches have been as genuine as anyone else to come through Midwest City recently.
Josh McCuistion, who covers OU recruiting for Rivals site SoonerScoop.com, has had a similar experience as he’s talked to prospective recruits and their coaches across the country. Soon-to-be-improved facilities and additional uniform options have certainly generated a buzz in the wake of the Sugar Bowl win over Alabama, but the additions to the coaching staff last year — Bill Bedenbaugh, Jay Boulware and Jerry Montgomery — have coincided with a better recruiting effort.
“It just seems more concerted,” McCuistion said. “It’s not two or three different groups moving in different directions. It seems like a singular effort and they’re all kind of pushing at the same thing and I think it really shows in recruiting.”
There are some minor things the Sooners could do to continue to differentiate themselves, though, McCuistion said.
Southern California recently announced that it would start offering four-year athletic scholarships to all scholarship players in football and men’s and women’s basketball.
Also last month, Indiana University unveiled a “student-athlete bill of rights” for athletes in all sports that includes four-year scholarships and a lifetime degree guarantee for any student-athlete who remains eligible for two seasons.
“It’s more about how you package things,” McCuistion said. “USC just took it on and said, ‘Hey, we do this now.’ It just looks nice.
“I don’t think that it’s really going to change anything but the presentation of, ‘Well, you know that we do this, we’re the first ones to come out and publicly say it,’ that means something.”
The Sooners currently are No. 45 in Rivals’ team recruiting rankings for 2015, though they’ve been strong of late and have traditionally finished recruiting strong.
OU enters the season among the favorites to make the inaugural four-team playoff.
A national championship to go with everything else they’ve improved recently could boost OU’s recruiting efforts even more.
“They’ve got the facilities. They’ve got the uniforms. They’ve got the winning tradition. They’ve got a really good recruiting staff,” Sexton said. “Throw a national championship in there and there’s nothing left to be had.”