Nobody is surprised anymore when Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley and the recruiting staff combine to guarantee a recruiting weekend is going to be special.
As Riley has demonstrated during his first two years as OU’s head coach, recruiting is a priority, and the Sooners have fared very well in hyping up big weekends and delivering as promised.
Following all the coaching moves after the 2018 season, last weekend was the initial time for the first-year coaches to get a feel of what it’s like to be immersed in one of those weekends.
“That was second-to-none,” first-year cornerbacks coach Roy Manning said. “First of all, just logistically pulling that off with as many prospects as we had including their families. Hats off to the coaching staff, recruiting. Annie Hanson was the MVP of the weekend getting all that organized.”
Hanson, assistant athletic director/recruiting strategy and administrative engagement, and Drew Hill, the director of player personnel, plus several others in the recruiting department made sure the weekend went off without a hitch.
With just a few days to put everything together because of the game moving from Saturday afternoon to Friday evening, nobody knew how the crowd would be Friday and how OU would be able to present its message during the weekend.
The fans came through with 50,228 as the announced attendance for the first-ever night spring game. Recruiting was a hit with some top-tier commitments already public and more almost guaranteed to be on the way.
“The exciting thing is when you have people on campus – at Oklahoma specifically – there is just so much to sell,” first-year defensive coordinator Alex Grinch said. “It turns into a long day or a long weekend for some people because there’s so much to highlight. That’s the fun thing as a coach. You’re not tap dancing and you’re not trying to play the distraction game.
“It’s for the elite. I’ll say it over and over again, it’s for the one percent in the country, and we have to find them.”
Riley made it a point to have the spring game a major recruiting tool last year. Initially a gamble, now OU has sort of set the trend and the bar of how it’s done. Instant gratification and longterm success – the Sooners found both from last year’s event.
“It paid dividends with a monster recruiting class that had no more single important date than that spring game last year,” Riley said.
The goal is obviously to do the same thing this time around. And although three commitments might have felt like it was on the low side of things, there’s no question OU planted the commitment seeds with several elite prospects.
The key? Being real, being a family.
“The reoccurring thing that just keeps being brought up is family, family, family from the recruits, from the parents,” Manning said. “Just from everyone, it feels like family. That’s really unique to Oklahoma.”
And the schedule change definitely brought some different aspects to things, such as assistant coach Shane Beamer waiting at the Oklahoma City airport to pick up a recruit Friday afternoon.
Whatever you have to do, OU has shown it is willing to do.
“You want to put your best foot forward. You have to be on every single second,” Beamer said. “That’s what we were. Starting with the game Friday night, it was a great recruiting tool for us for all those prospects to see the support of the fans.
“From the time they get there on Friday until time they leave on Sunday, it’s game-like in a real genuine way. It’s not an act. We’re not doing that. We’re real and genuine in everything we do. The recruiting was the priority, for sure. Thought it went great, for sure.”
OU moved from the No. 14-ranked Rivals class to No. 11 following the commitment of Raytown (Mo.) High cornerback Dontae Manning on Sunday. Don’t be surprised if OU ends up with another top-10 class for 2020 and don’t be surprised to see a plethora of those signees being the same kids who were on campus last weekend.
*SoonerScoop.com will have more with Annie Hanson and Drew Hill on just how exactly they were able to execute the weekend on such short notice.