NORMAN — Certainly not all, or even most, but a faction of Oklahoma fans has been crabby with me in recent weeks in communication via email and Twitter.
Two things, in particular, seem to be bugging the Sooners supporters: First, the name Tim Kish did not wow enough as a hire for the linebackers opening. Secondly, the recruiting class that will officially sign Wednesday is not up to the lofty standard.
To each concern, I say this: Give them a chance.
Some of you are and will, I realize, but perhaps not enough of OU fans are withholding knee-jerk judgment. I'm a firm believer that, for a variety of reasons, past results don't always necessarily dictate those in the future.
That thought extends especially to the recruits. They're not even on campus yet, and this class has already been labeled as substandard? Just because of a dot or star or grade, or whatever system establishes worth to those who play high school football?
Maybe this class is sorry. I don't know. I'm just inclined to believe that's something to be evaluated in two or three years. As an example, remember that Frank Alexander was something of an underachiever until his senior season – when he took it upon himself to become the Big 12's best defensive player.
I was watching “Miracle” this weekend while running at the gym. It's a fantastic movie, one I hadn't seen in a while. There's a scene early in the film I had forgotten about, in which legendary – and late – coach Herb Brooks tells the U.S. hockey association types that he knows who he wants on his team after only one day of tryouts.
They guffaw. Even the loyal assistant coach, Craig Patrick, does not understand.
“But some of the best players aren't on the roster,” Patrick pleads.
Brooks laughs at him, says he isn't interested in the best players; he wants the right players.
That's how you've got to assemble a football team, correct? My friend Bruce Feldman noted Saturday that four of USC's five “5-star” guys from two years ago had already left the program, though the remaining one, receiver Robert Woods, is excellent.
Too many 5-stars, too many divas? Conceivably. Give me the 3-star who loves OU, doesn't mind working his tail off and is addicted to winning.
A guy like David Smith sort of strikes me that way. The Sooners found him way late, after the run of running back transfers. Maybe he winds up being one of those guys, maybe he doesn't. But don't you love those stories of undervalued players – those first-blush judged – who wind up being cornerstones?
Wonder how many Patriots fans were once thinking, “Who the heck is Tom Brady? Did he even play at Michigan? … “Wes Welker? Who's this shrimp?”
Am I saying the Sooners, because of this class, are going to beat the Russians – or, connecting the analogy, compete with USC or LSU or Alabama? No. But who's to say they aren't? Let's wait and see. Plenty of time to establish those opinions.
Same for Kish. Sorry, folks, Ray Lewis was not available to coach your linebackers.
I've heard a lot of people trotting out this “but they couldn't even win at Arizona” argument, regarding both Kish and new-slash-old defensive coordinator Mike Stoops.
Well, guess what? A lot of people wouldn't win at Arizona, and Stoops' staff actually worked a minor miracle there without many people noticing. The Wildcats had been to bowl games in the three years leading up to Stoops' firing. That's noteworthy in Tucson, even if 'Zona wasn't regularly in BCS games.
Kish was so integral to the staff that he was Stoops' choice to replace him as the interim. And Kish told me last week that he had been regularly conversing with both Mike and Bob Stoops in the past month, just in case something happened with Brent Venables or anyone else on the staff. The Stoopses sure think a lot of the guy. I would think that's a pretty strong endorsement.
He carries the strong-recruiter reputation, like a lot of assistants around the country do. But how many got their new employer in the door with a top-10 recruit that the school previously had zero shot with?
Just after Kish was hired, he flew to Arizona to meet with Phoenix-area native Davonte Neal, an “athlete” rated ESPN's No. 8 overall prospect. The Sooners are still longshots to get Neal as a receiver or cornerback, but they're now in the conversation.
At Arizona, Kish could sell sunshine and pretty girls. At Oklahoma, he's got seven national titles to go along with pretty girls (never mind the wind, guys). He's got an expanded recruiting budget and resources like he's never had before. In a world of haves and have nots in college football, Kish called OU a “have.”
So, give the guy a chance. Give this recruiting class a chance.
It's distinctly possible that these guys exceed your expectations. If not, we'll let our columnists pile on them later.