NORMAN — Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops fired three assistants last February, replacing them with coaches who brought impressive recruiting backgrounds.
This weekend might be a sign that things are turning back around for the Sooners, who have been criticized for a perceived talent shortage the past few years.
New defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery, who was hired away from Michigan, is bringing in two California defensive tackles — Tashon Smallwood from Fresno and Ainuu Taua from Lompoc — for Saturday's home game against TCU.
The Sooners are also hosting five-star athlete Adoree' Jackson (Gardena, Calif.); five-star running back Joe Mixon (Oakley, Calif.); and four-star athlete Michiah Quick (Fresno, Calif.) this weekend.
Josh McCuistion, who covers OU recruiting for the Rivals network site SoonerScoop.com, said the staffing changes haven't just affected recruiting in the new coaches' position groups, but across the board.
“You can tell talking to the (high school) coaches that deal with these guys year in and year out,” McCuistion said. “They'll say, ‘Man, Oklahoma's more present. They're around. We're hearing from them more.'
“Just little things like that, which, to the kids doesn't mean a whole lot. For the coaches, that's a big part of it. You want to make sure you're welcome in those doors anytime you go in. They used to feel like Oklahoma expected the kids to come there, rather than wanting to work to make sure they came.”
Today, though, the entire OU coaching staff seems fully intent on outworking the competition.
Co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell, who has been widely viewed as Oklahoma's ace recruiter the past few years, said he's been impressed with Montgomery, offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh and special teams coordinator/tight ends coach Jay Boulware so far.
“These guys are all experienced recruiters,” Norvell said. “They've all recruited at great programs, and they've all had reputations of really hustling. You've gotta be a hustler. You've gotta get from school to school, stay in contact with your connections, because your connections are the guys who get it done for you.”
Bedenbaugh established a strong relationship with Troy, Ohio, offensive guard Alex Dalton while still coaching at West Virginia.
Dalton attended a West Virginia summer camp before his junior season and received a WVU scholarship offer from Bedenbaugh just before he left for Oklahoma.
The three-star prospect — who said he always liked Bedenbaugh but that West Virginia “wasn't at the top of my list” — soon picked up an OU scholarship offer and committed to the Sooners in May.
“I like his level of seriousness,” Dalton said. “He was the first coach to ever write me personally in the mail. That said a lot. It's kind of ironic that he was the first one to write me a letter and it turned out that's who I ended up going with.”
Norvell said the best is yet to come for the new assistants, because it typically takes a full year on a new job to really get going in recruiting.
“To be fair to any of those guys, or any coach coming in, it takes almost a year to have worked on a kid in your area to really have that connection,” Norvell said. “But they've all got great ideas, got great energy.
“You know the old saying about recruiting is that it's like shaving — you've gotta do it every day or pretty soon, you look like a bum.”