NORMAN — Oklahoma remains a strong contender in the Deondre Clark sweepstakes, and it has Jerry Montgomery to thank for it.
The Sooners also could land offensive tackle Kenyon Frison, a former Utah commitment, who is likely to make his final college decision known on signing day Wednesday.
That Oklahoma is still in the hunt for both four-star prospects speaks volumes about the impact Montgomery and Bill Bedenbaugh have made in their short time with the Sooners.
“I love what they are doing,” OU coach Bob Stoops said last month when asked about his new assistant coaches' recruiting.
Stoops fired former offensive line coaches James Patton and Bruce Kittle, plus defensive line coach Jackie Shipp, last February largely because of recruiting struggles with those units.
Bedenbaugh, Montgomery and new tight ends coach/special teams coordinator Jay Boulware were hired, and all three made a noticeable on-field impact in 2013.
Even with a thin group of tackles, Bedenbaugh's offensive line group performed admirably, especially with two starters injured for the Sugar Bowl upset of Alabama.
“I can't really … I was just myself,” Bedenbaugh responded when asked about his impact. “I coached the way I coached. You know? That's really it. I don't think it was any changing anything.
“I coached the techniques I coach and that I believe in, the fundamentals. That's really all I did. I didn't come in here to change this, change that.”
Montgomery also got the most out of his defensive line unit, which struggled with depth issues all season and lost its best player — defensive tackle Jordan Phillips — to a season-ending injury after only a few 2013 games.
“Beating a team like Alabama that's been No. 1 in the nation for so long, that helps in more than just national publicity with fans,” said OU defensive end Chuka Ndulue. “High school kids are going to notice that as well. A lot of them are concerned about what the team's record is.
“When Alabama is a powerhouse all over the country and everyone watched that game and they saw that we won that game … it kind of changed a lot of kids' minds.”
Clark, though, was already starting to change his mind before the Sugar Bowl victory. The four-star defensive end from Douglass committed to LSU last summer and had essentially eliminated OU from consideration before Montgomery went to work.
Clark had developed a strong relationship with Shipp, and after his dismissal, didn't feel like OU was interested in him anymore.
“Coach Montgomery has done a great job,” said Clark's mother Dorshell. “I am really excited about what he's done and the attention he's given to Dre, because for a while after Shipp left, we just didn't hear anything from him.”