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What Next for Sooners?

The Oklahoma recruiting class didn’t implode, but the Sooners can definitely benefit from adding more pieces as we get to the first Wednesday of February.

What new head coach Brent Venables was able to do was pretty remarkable, considering the amount of shock that hit the program after Lincoln Riley’s departure.

OU lost some commitments, sure, but gained some other big ones and currently stands at 14 signees and 15 commitments, good enough to rank No. 16 by Rivals.

Can the Sooners find another January success like Willis?
Can the Sooners find another January success like Willis? (USA Today Sports)

The early signing period had really been the only period under Riley. In the four years of the early signing period, OU has only signed three recruits in February in Michael Thompson (2018) and Brayden Willis (2018) and David Ugwoegbu (2019).

Yep, the Sooners didn’t add a single piece to their last two classes when February came around. It’s pretty obvious Venables is going to make sure that’s not the case this time around.

So, easy question, then. What’s next? Your guide to what should be an eventful six-week period leading up to the February signing period.

Keeping Gentry

Let’s start with the easy one. Not only do you have to add pieces to the 2022 group, you have to maintain the big one that’s still out there.

OU was involved in a major recruiting battle for Williams, initially. The Sooners were able to win it back in the fall, but defensive coaches Alex Grinch and Roy Manning are gone now as well as Riley.

USC is a factor. No doubt Arkansas will be a player here. And look out for Florida, as the Gators have a little ace up its sleeve by signing Owasso’s Chris McClellan.

It has never been said that Williams and McClellan would be a package deal, but it’s some familiarity Florida can offer. OU, of course, can do the same with Tulsa Union’s Jayden Rowe and Broken Arrow’s Robert Spears-Jennings.

Williams was honest about the process, saying he just needs to get to know Venables and staff better. And obviously, OU needs to hire a cornerbacks coach.

The Kanak Ordeal

This one feels like you have to do a little reading between the lines, but you’ll get there. Hays (Kan.) High four-star athlete Jaren Kanak did not sign with Clemson last week.

Going a step further, it didn’t sound like at all that Clemson coach Dabo Swinney anticipates Kanak being a member of the Tigers’ class.

Kanak has been very quiet since the Venables hire, and everybody knows he was a Venables guy the whole time through this process.

Kanak is a mid-year enrollee so things will work themselves out rather quickly. There is nothing to suggest this won’t work out in OU’s favor in the end.

A Cardinal Gibbons Duo?

Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) Cardinal Gibbons is coming off a state championship last week, and the Sooners are eyeing a couple of their defensive prospects.

Thomas has been committed to Iowa State, but the fact he did not sign with the Cyclones sort of tells you the story there. OU and LSU are among some of the big-time offers he’s received in the last couple of weeks.

Moten has the honor of being the very first offer made by Venables after taking over officially as head coach.

Moten’s stock has risen a bit, too, being upgraded to four-star status in the last two weeks. Both Moten and Thomas are expected to visit OU officially in January.

You want to talk trends? This is trending up, way up for OU for both of them.

A Five-Star Red River Battle

Campbell let the world know last week. Hey, he’s done. It’s OU or it’s Texas, and he’s not doing anything until Feb. 3.

Can absolutely respect that. Texas closed incredibly strong last week, especially with the offensive line. OU limped to the early signing period finish line in that regard.

But Campbell delayed his decision. You know Texas would have been the choice Dec. 15, but what can Venables and offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh do between now and February? Hey, at least they’re in the game. It’s up to them to change the tide of the Red River battle.

Offensive line is imperative for OU, either through the 2022 class or the portal and Campbell is a mega-priority the rest of the way. He already was, but it’s amplified now.

Barnes at Under Armour

Barnes is expected to make an announcement at the Under Armour All-America Game on Jan. 2, and OU fans can rightfully wonder a couple of things.

One, will he pick OU? Two, has he already chosen OU and signed last week?

Sooner fans have seen this multiple times during the early period. All-star game announcement from someone who signed during the early period. From guys like Nik Bonitto (2018) and Brendan Radley-Hiles (2018) to Jadon Haselwood (2019) to Chandler Morris (2020), again, it’s something OU has seen quite regularly.

Barnes appears to be a two-team race with OU and USC. DeMarco Murray is doing the heavy lifting for the Sooners here, trying to hold off Riley. That still sounds weird to say, but it’s true.

Diamonds in the Rough

The last time OU went this direction, it led to finding Willis for the 2018 class. This can still work, and it’s something Venables seemed downright giddy about last week.

He brought up former OU defensive end Jeremy Beal as a guy that fits this mold. Maybe he wasn’t all the rage when his senior season started, but that’s OK.

“I’m really excited about what’s ahead for us in the next two months,” Venables said. “One, what I know is this is a developmental game and some of the best players in high school weren’t maybe some of the top guys as sophomores or juniors.

“That’s a guy that just within the last couple of weeks that are there if we are willing to be patient and find them. That’s one reason I’m excited. They’re there.”

For point of reference, Freeman committed to Texas Tech and is the exact type of player who can fall through the cracks. He doesn’t have an OU offer, but if you’re talking under the radar and diamonds in the rough, he’s the best in-state example for 2022 still on the board.

And with plenty of spots available, Venables and staff can go have some fun and try to find them in the next six weeks.