NORMAN — There is plenty at stake for Oklahoma in Saturday's Bedlam game in Stillwater — for this season and beyond.
There aren't a lot of head-to-head recruiting battles left between the schools for the 2014 class, but the outcome of the game could affect the recruiting perception for players in the 2015 class and beyond.
“It's really big for Oklahoma State. They need to be able to say, ‘We're beating Oklahoma with some level of consistency,'” said Josh McCuistion, who covers OU recruiting for SoonerScoop.com, a Rivals affiliate. “The Big 12 win is huge and that helps, but Oklahoma can always come in and say, ‘But yeah, what's happening on the field?' That's just a trump card that, if they can win this game, they take away from Oklahoma.”
One significant undecided 2014 player with offers from both schools is expected to be in attendance Saturday. But Jenks safety Steven Parker is likely to choose between Oklahoma and Texas A&M.
There are already three juniors with offers from both schools — Jenks defensive tackle Marquise Overton, Midwest City safety Will Sunderland and Casady offensive guard Josh Wariboko. A fourth, Lawton guard Jalin Barnett has an OU offer, and an OSU offer might come soon.
Oklahoma's early push for those in-state prospects is a big of a change in philosophy. Much of that change has come since Bill Bedenbaugh, Jerry Montgomery and Jay Boulware were added to the coaching staff in the offseason.
McCuistion said he doubted Overton would've had an offer at this point if Jackie Shipp was still coaching the defensive line.
“That's just not the way they did it,” McCuistion said. “Gerald McCoy was offered in December of his junior year, and he already had offers from LSU, Miami and a bunch of other ones. Overton's not on that level, but he's very good.”
While Oklahoma's standing nationally has slipped a bit over the past few years as the Sooners haven't played in a BCS National Championship game since the 2008 season, recruits say the program still resonates.
Alex Dalton is far removed from the constant exposure to what's going on with the Sooners. But the Sooners' offensive line commit from Troy, Ohio, said the national perception of OU football is still strong.
“They're definitely one of those top teams,” Dalton said. Throughout the year, they struggled with injuries at a couple key positions and that's kind of hurt us a little, but I think we have some strong, pretty big prospects coming in that will definitely be able to contribute.”
Tulsa Union's Carson Meier, committed to OU as a tight end, is more exposed to the day-to-day goings on with the program.
But his opinion on the program is still high.
“They haven't been playing as good as they have in the past, but I haven't really been focusing on the losses and the wins,” Meier said. “I'm focused on the potential that they'll have when I get there and how I think they could be whenever I play.”
McCuistion, who talks to recruits across the country that consider the Sooners, said that's been a common theme — even among players who don't wind up seriously considering the Sooners.
“You haven't really seen a change in the way OU is perceived,” McCuistion said. “You still hear guys talk about Bob Stoops won a national championship or Bob Stoops is always competing for the Big 12 championship. In 2002, when I was talking to guys, they were saying they watched that January night against Florida State when OU won the national title. There aren't those singular connections anymore, but everybody knows they win and everybody knows they're a big program.”