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June 27, 2014

Just Joshin': Is it Ready to Rain 5-Stars in Norman?

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Just Joshin' is a commentary article written by SoonerScoop.com recruiting editor Josh McCuistion. It's a lighthearted look at any topic possible relating to Oklahoma athletics.

"Great day, up there with the Sugar Bowl and National Signing Day."

A post from the Crimson Corner that is as good a summary of June 25, 2014 in Norman, Okla. as any available.

With the reaction of fans and recruits on the Corner, Twitter, and Facebook you'd have thought Oklahoma had just won the Sugar Bowl against the two-time defending national champions.

Though the last time the Sooners took the field was seen as a landmark win for Bob Stoops it wasn't the cause for excitement on Wednesday.

The echo that could be heard around the Big 12 and college football in general was the news that the Sooners were investing 370-million dollars into a massive renovation to Gaylord Family memorial stadium. The upgrade includes bowling in the south end zone, an overhaul of the Barry Switzer center, a new weight room, and any number of other new features.

During many conversations through the past few days with those same fans and recruits an interesting question came up.

"Do we have a lot of (Oklahoma) targets that facilities rank high on their importance list?"

The truth?

Both yes and no.

I know, I know, it's not the sexy answer you were hoping to read but the reality is there are few kids that are making a choice based on facilities…

(Keep reading through the dramatic pause)

Because great facilities are the expectation for recruits that consider schools that caliber of Oklahoma.

And the reality is they've come to Norman in recent years and found Oklahoma to be behind many of their contemporaries. It's not that Oklahoma was showing them a ramshackle weight room with masking tape on it's free weights. Nor did they find a stadium crumbling at the seams.

Instead they found a nice, but understated set of facilities. The reality of this was evident by comparing the reactions of one recruit after another when they hit campus. While so many prospects visited various Sooner recruiting rivals around college football and couldn't leave without committing, one recruit after another left Norman talking about the coaches, the people, the campus but very little of the physical aesthetics of their visit.

I'd been given the idea from several outlets that recruits would often be done touring Oklahoma's facilities and seem to have a look of 'that's it?'.

Talking to kicker commitment Austin Seibert, the setup that Oklahoma has worked with was appealing to him but listening to him speak it's also clear that he is aware his preferences wouldn't suit everyone, or even most everyone.

"With their weight room, I liked how it is right now, it's so confined and that's what I'm used to do and I feel like a confined weight room makes you work harder but that's just me I guess. Now that it's going to be bigger, it's still good," Seibert said.

More than anything it shows that while what Oklahoma had was, and is, nice comments revering a space's 'confinement' aren't going to be seen as a strength. In today's recruiting it's all about overstatement, not minimalism.

Moving forward, simply the availability of these facilities, the reality that they are coming, gives Oklahoma something else to sell. And in reality, they already have been with several visitors over the past month talking about leaving Norman being told to not worry about what the current facilities looked like as they'd change dramatically before too long.

That, 'two in the bush' approach may seem something that wouldn't hold much sway as far as sales pitches go but consider the following.

Last year Tennessee went 5-7 with four of those seven losses coming by four touchdowns or more. The Volunteers finished No. 5 in the Rivals.com team rankings. That's not to say that the two situations are identical but selling what 'could be/will be' rather than 'what is' is essentially the entire idea of recruiting.

So sure, recruits may not decide on Oklahoma for it's facilities but they'll no longer be passing the Sooners by because of what isn't on campus.

Need proof?

"THE BEST STADIUM I'VE EVER SEEN, cant wait to take my official in December," 3-star defensive tackle offer Deonte Reynolds said.

"Wow that looks sick! The stadium and facilities already looked great, but wow it looks like it's gonna turn out awesome," 3-star safety offer Kahlil Haughton said. "I couldn't imagine what the atmosphere would be like."

That's just a sample of the reaction that ran wild on Twitter yesterday as more and more recruits had a chance to see the pictures that will dramatically change the stadium.

I've said time and time again for those that think things like this, or jerseys, or any of dozens of other seemingly superfluous items are in fact completely irrelevant - why play with a hand tied behind your back?

Oklahoma's days of having to say 'yeah but' in regard to their facilities are now over, they can move forward, take pride in what they have - or will have - and know that it stands up to anyone that recruits have seen or might want to see.

Basically, Oklahoma now has a new weapon at their disposal and I'd expect them to get plenty of mileage out of it, even long before it's built.



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