Drive's Still There For Stoops in Recruiting

CHANDLER, Ariz. — It's not incredibly difficult to recruit at OU for football.

The program is perhaps the most successful all-time and was recently ranked No. 1 in the ESPN Prestige Rankings a couple years back.

That's because OU has won seven national championships, 43 conference titles and posted 33 seasons of 10 or more victories.

The Sooner program has produced 153 All-Americans and five Heisman Trophy winners, including Billy Vessels, Steve Owens, Billy Sims, Jason White and Sam Bradford.

Two of those, White and Bradford, came during head coach Bob Stoops' current era.

But even that doesn't assure OU will come out on top in the recruiting game year after year under Stoops.

Thing is, the Sooners must still battle against fertile recruiting grounds in Texas, Florida and California with schools like the Texas Longhorns, Florida Gators and USC Trojans.

Those schools can sell their programs easier to kids because of proximity and can also present climate and other reasons top tier high school athletes should choose those respective schools.

And that's where it becomes important for Stoops, as well as coaches from other programs that fight against those disadvantages, to exert a serious effort in recruiting.

It all starts with enthusiasm, something coaches that have been in the game for a while may lose as the years roll on.

Not the case, though, for the Sooner head man.

"Yeah, I mean, I don't know [why I wouldn't enjoy it]," Stoops said the morning after OU's 31-14 Insight Bowl victory over Iowa.

Some of what keeps the process fresh for him is his help alongside him.

"I do it the same as I did it since '99," Stoops said. "I mean, I'm involved, but I also think your assistant coaches are primarily responsible, too. You know, they're the ones that are out there allowed to see [the prospects] more than I am. I see a guy one time off campus and I'd like to think we all have great personalities. But I don't think one time I'm as big a deal as a guy that sees them eight times.

"So, you know, I don't know, I work it the exact same I always have and count on my assistants also to do a really good job with it."

Because the assistants play such a valuable role in the process, it's crucial for them to form a positive impression.

When running backs coach Cale Gundy visits a star back, he must bond well with him.

When defensive backs coach Willie Martinez sits in with an elite secondary player, he must relate with him.

But Stoops gets just that one chance outside of Norman, which makes it all the more vital for him to impact the kid in an even stronger manner.

So, does he have a strategic philosophy for those in-home visits?

"Not anymore," Stoops said. "Used to be when kids were waiting to make their mind up the last few weeks. Anymore, three-fourths of our guys come into my office and we're sitting there and tell me they want to be there before I have even got off campus, you know what I mean, by committing early and what not. So, you know, it may go with some towards the end, but I don't know that that's the way it used to be."

No doubt, Stoops and the Sooner assistants' drive to snag some talented prospects has paid off in recent weeks with the commitments of cornerbacks Kevin Peterson and Kass Everett and tight end Taylor McNamara, but there are still some more on the table.

Could OU land wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, safety Nelson Agholor, offensive tackle Zach Banner, or any of the other nation's best prospects?

Stoops' enthusiasm for recruiting could be vital in that.

Believe him when he says he hasn't lost it out there on the trails, and snagging any of these is just further indication of that.

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