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February 6, 2014
Strong finishes making OU cool again
Oklahoma fans could get used to the football team's strong finishes.
The Sooners did it to end the 2013 football season by beating Alabama 45-31 in the Sugar Bowl. They did it again by finishing off their 2014 recruiting class in style.
Following the Sugar Bowl, Bob Stoops confidently stated OU would finish with a strong recruiting class.
"I got a feeling we've got a big recruiting weekend coming, too, with a lot of guys not on campus but just announcing," said Stoops on the Sugar Bowl postgame podium. And we've got a lot of good things going recruiting, and hopefully it all comes to fruition here in the next week or two. This obviously wouldn't hurt that either."
SCOOPHD: HEUPEL, NORVELL, GUNDY TALK SIGNING DAY
Stoops did have a big recruiting weekend, as he predicted, when Joe Mixon announced his commitment to Oklahoma during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl that very weekend.
After Mixon, the Sooners just kept rolling, and finishing, on the recruiting trail.
The only player the Sooners failed to close out on down the stretch was Deondre Clark, who, according to reports, has already sent his NLI to LSU.
But OU even made that decision a tough one for Clark.
OU coaches hadn't closed this well on the recruiting trail in years.
"This reminds me a lot of when we started here at Oklahoma," said Mike Stoops when asked if there was something special about the group of coaches in Norman.
"This is the strongest staff we've had in a while and these guys have done a great job coming together. Everybody helps one another and that's really been key to our success here the last month and just the last year."
Oklahoma's season-defining win over Alabama came together after some rough patches during the season. The Sooners juggled quarterbacks. They lost their rivalry game with Texas in the Red River Rivalry. They were embarrassed in Waco.
They suffered injuries to key starters all along the way.
You can make similar comparisons to Oklahoma's recruiting efforts over the last two years.
Bob Stoops fired three coaches during the offseason and lost one of their best recruiters in Brent Venables to Clemson the year before.
Oklahoma finished with a similarly ranked class in 2013, but they failed to secure key targets at linebacker, defensive tackle and along the offensive line.
2014 was a year where Oklahoma identified prospects early, secured commitments and locked up their top talent toward the end of the process.
On paper both classes were ranked 15th in the country. But Mixon, Quick and Parker were huge gets down the stretch. It was a recruiting finish which was less like survival and more like domination.
In 2014, Mike Stoops spoke very much the same way he spoke after OU's victory over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. The excitement of a major victory was back in his voice.
"We've changed four coaches in the last two years and we added quality control coaches, three new quality control coaches, a couple of new G.A.'s and Courtney Viney - that is not mentioned," he said. "There's so much that goes into this process, more than just the coaches. We hired a sports nutritionist. There's everything. There's so much that goes into recruiting day-in and day-out. People that help across the board."
Oklahoma coaches have embraced social media like never before. There was a time, not so long ago, when Bob Stoops flat-out refused to be on Twitter.
Stoops begrudgingly joined Twitter, with a private, locked account.
The new faculty Mike Stoops spoke of eventually got Stoops to open up that account to the public. Stoops then started live-tweeting commitments, sending out congratulation texts to the Kings of Leon, and showing hype videos to prospective recruits.
Oklahoma recruiting, much like their offense, underwent a facelift.
"I think we've made some changes as a staff in the last year in how we use social media, and I think it's been effective," said Oklahoma running backs coach and recruiting coordinator Cale Gundy. "You just have to pay attention to it and be in tune with how it's affecting these kids out there. And it certainly has. I think we've done a pretty good job using it. It's a tool, and like anything else, it's gotta be used in the right way.
"But you have to be aware of it. If you're not, you got your head in the sand."
Oklahoma's coaches may not have had their heads in the sand. But they were definitely stubborn.
Oklahoma's 2014 recruiting class is proof Stoops has been making all the right moves lately, from coaching changes to recruiting tactics.
The finish to this year's class goes to show recruits are taking notice as well.
"It's very positive right now and we have a lot of momentum and hopefully we can carry that out. Hopefully our players, we have a very young, dynamic group of players that are very excited about the possibilities here."