More Recent Stories
Making The Right Moves In Recruiting
On Sale At Newsstands Now!
It Requires Skill, Luck And A Little Bit Extra
Remember when Jerry Maguire told Rod Tidwell that working for him was an “up-at-dawn pride-swallowing siege?” Trying to encapsulate the sports agent selling out for his client, Cameron Crowe instead defined college football recruiting.
Lane Kiffin just offered a scholarship to a 13-year-old. That would be a cute gimmick if Kiffin were coaching at Southern Colorado. But Southern bleeping Cal? It’s like Saturday Night Live satire come to life.
How do you make sense of the nonsensical? Are there any rules to live by out there? Hardly. Pop back into the theater and pretend like Bob Stoops is Mad Max and Mack Brown is The Toecutter. It’s not far off.
I know that much after 10 years of covering the Sooners. What else have I learned about the wicked game of recruiting? Let’s see…
You know what they say about recruiting being the lifeblood for a football program? It’s the truth. For all of the silliness, it’s really, really important.
One of the first things Stoops did when he took the Oklahoma job was hire Bobby Jack Wright, and one of the first things the two of them did in their makeshift office was get out a dry erase board and start reviewing available recruits in Texas.
The OU coach who doesn’t recruit Texas doesn’t keep his job. Stoops didn’t know his way around the Lone Star State too well, but Wright did. He’d coached down there for 25 years and had more statewide contacts than the Bush family.
That opened a few doors. Then some more swung open, and before long the Sooners were crashing in and signing Texans like Tommie Harris and Adrian Peterson.
Coaching matters, yes. If it didn’t, OU’s 2000 national champs would have finished 7-4.
But first you need players to coach. And the better the players, the better they make you look as a coach.
OK, the coaching part is a big
Malcolm Kelly once said of all the Lone Star natives on his OU team: “We used to talk about that when we first got here, how we all grew up just knowing we were going to Texas. Every last one of us. I don’t know, man. I guess it was us growing up and looking at what team was the best fit for us.”
Translation: They trusted Stoops more than Brown.
Once upon a time, Tuttle High School quarterback Jason White seemed ready to entrust his future with Butch Davis. Why not? Davis’ Miami Hurricanes were surging. The coach down the road in Norman, John Blake, had OU languishing.
Then Stoops replaced Blake. White signed with the Sooners. And the rest is, well, you know…
It helps to have luck.
In the spring of 2005, Michigan quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler paid a visit to Putnam City North High School to watch Sam Bradford work out. Before leaving, Loeffler told Putnam North coach Bob Wilson he was “99 percent sure” the Wolverines would offer Bradford a scholarship. All he needed was the green light from head coach Lloyd Carr.
You assume Carr would have given it. Only, he couldn’t be reached. He was attending the birth of a grandchild. Meantime, Stoops gave his quarterbacks coach, Chuck Long, the green light to offer Bradford.
Game over. Bradford signed with the Sooners and led them to unprecedented offensive heights in 2007 and ’08. The Wolverines went 12-13 those two seasons.
It helps to have a way with people.
Jackie Shipp won over the mother of JaMarkus McFarland after she had initially resisted OU. That led to winning over McFarland, the five-star defensive tackle from Lufkin, Texas.
Cale Gundy earned Peterson’s respect by telling the Palestine, Texas, phenom the Sooners would win with our without his help.
Mike Leach clicked with Josh Heupel by clicking on the VCR and spending Heupel’s entire recruiting visit devouring game tape.
Then there’s Brent Venables, whose effect on recruits was best summed up by David White, the OU assistant who once coached five-star linebacker Ryan Reynolds at Las Vegas Bishop Gorman High School.
“Every time coaches came through, Ryan was very respectful,” White said. “But he just lit up with Coach Venables. You could just tell.”
You’d better have a mischievous streak.
The Sooners all but erased the tight end from their playbook in 2005 — until, that is, Ardmore thoroughbred Jermaine Gresham visited Owen Field for the regular-season finale against Oklahoma State.
That day, Bubba Moses was OU’s leading receiver for the first and last time.
Gresham noticed. He signed with the Sooners two months later.
You’d better have friends in high places.
When national prep defensive player of the year Gerald McCoy needed help picking a school, he went above Stoops, Shipp, Venables and any other mortal for guidance.
“Really, I just asked Him where he wanted me to be,” McCoy told USA Today. “He led me to OU.”
Maybe now God can help Kiffin.
(Editor's Note: This story appears in the 2010 Recruiting Issue of Sooner Spectator... to subscribe, call toll free 1-877-841-8877)