Sooners embraced portal mentality
It’s almost laughable now to think about Oklahoma not using the transfer portal to its fullest extent, but there were real worries in December when Brent Venables took over as head coach.
Because Venables had never been a head coach before and because he spent the last 10 seasons with Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney, who still isn’t a huge supporter in the portal, nobody knew what Venables’ philosophy was going to be.
The one thing he stressed was value. Anybody that OU was going to consider or actually bring into the roster had to add value to the locker room, both on and off the field.
“The biggest thing is trying to bring value to our locker room,” said Venables back in December. “Certainly, meet the needs we have from a functional standpoint where maybe experience lacks or playmaking lacks. It’s very important that we do a very good job of vetting the types of people we’re bringing into that locker room because we’re trying to build a culture, protect the culture, continue to enhance the culture. Starts with making good decisions with those people.
“We're looking for football players, guys that bring value, and as we sort this out even more, you used to say, 'Hey, let's recruit to a number.' And you still have to do that but you have to be mindful of the fluidity with the way the rules are. So it is what it is and everybody's in the same boat. I like that. The rules are the same for everybody, the issues are the same for everybody. I think our problems pale in comparison to most places. I'll take ours over everybody else's.”
With former USC players Jaxson Dart and Michael Trigg picking Ole Miss over the weekend, it does feel like the portal will be a tad bit quieter going forward into spring football for OU. Monday also marks the last day for add/drop classes, another sign of things appearing to be finalized for the time being.
How did OU do? Not too shabby. A brief look at the additions to the Sooners roster coming for the 2022 season.
(In chronological order of commitment)
TE Daniel Parker Jr. (Missouri)
The story: The portal got off to a strange start with Parker making his announcement deep into the night, catching a lot of people off guard. It makes a lot of sense when you think about the lack of experience in the tight end room, although OU received a boost with Brayden Willis coming back. Parker didn’t mince his words, saying he’s going to prove he’s the best blocking tight end in the country during the 2022 season.
OG McKade Mettauer (Cal)
The story: Originally from Houston, this was a chance to bring a multi-year starter for the Bears a lot closer to home. Offensive line needs a lot of competition, and there’s no reason to think Mettauer cannot come right in and become one of the starters. Definitely being counted as one of those immediate contributors right from the jump.
QB Dillon Gabriel (UCF)
The story: Lost in all the hoopla about Dart and Caleb Williams, of course, is that OU made up its mind pretty dang quickly after Williams hit the portal Jan. 3. Just a few hours later, literally, Gabriel had flipped his transfer commitment from UCLA to the Sooners. His relationship with offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby no doubt played a role, and as long as he’s fully healthy from breaking his collarbone in September, there should be zero concerns. Gabriel has quickly embraced being the guy in Norman.
DL Jonah Laulu (Hawaii)
The story: Some transfer wins stick out a little bit more than others. For OU? Laulu is absolutely one of those guys. No prior history with any of the OU coaches. Offered by the elite of the elite across the country. Massive win for Venables and first-year defensive ends coach Jonah Laulu. OU is losing so much production from its defensive line. And though there is some real talent returning, adding Laulu is something very impressive.
LB T.D. Roof (App State)
The story: OK, the writing was on the wall when OU hired Ted Roof as its defensive coordinator. You knew his son would be coming along, too. But through his years in college, T.D. Roof has proven to be more than capable as a player. He’s racked up a lot of stats and will have a lot of experience. It will be intriguing to see what exactly his role will be.
DL Jeffery Johnson (Tulane)
The story: This was another sneaky one. Johnson was making a four-school trip with LSU, OU, Missouri and Michigan. After the trip to Norman, though, it was all done. Again, with all the talent lost with the defensive line, it was imperative to find some help. Johnson was a big-time contributor for the Green Wave and should be fighting for a starting spot immediately. It was the first real sign to OU fans in showing what defensive tackles coach Todd Bates can do.
CB C.J. Coldon (Wyoming)
The story: Now we come to the trio of defensive backs from two weeks ago. Coldon began it all, and he brings experience and production from the cornerback position. He also brings a lot of physicality as the majority of his highlight film is him being willing and able to make strong open field tackles. Coldon, though, is the only mid-year transfer who will not be on campus this spring. He will graduate from Wyoming in the spring and arrive at OU in June.
CB Kani Walker (Louisville)
The story: The Sooners jumped immediately when Walker hit the portal, and he almost feels like a 2022 class member. A redshirt freshman in 2022, it’s hard to know exactly how big of an impact he is going to make in his first year. With his size and background, there’s reasons to be confident things will turn out just fine. But usually you think about portal additions as being plug-and-play guys, and it’s hard to see Walker as someone who is playing from day one with guys like D.J. Graham and Woodi Washington returning for OU.
DB Trey Morrison (UNC)
The story: What was just said about Walker is the complete opposite for Morrison. A multi-year starter at UNC, Morrison has shown his ability to be effective at corner, safety and nickel, even though his size has often been a question mark for doubters. With OU losing Pat Fields and Delarrin Turner-Yell, all eyes will be on safety. Venables and a lot of the other defensive coaches are well familiar with Morrison from their time at Clemson, so it says a lot how quickly they wanted Morrison to be with them in Norman.
OT Tyler Guyton (TCU)
The story: This will be a project, with Guyton coming in as a redshirt sophomore after limited time his first two years in Fort Worth. However, Guyton is all-in with being a Sooner and said it had been a dream of his for a long time. He alternated between offensive line and H-Back last season with the Frogs, so it’s all going to be about how quickly he can adjust and be comfortable with offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh and what OU will be trying to do.