What is OU getting from its new assistants?

Cooks, Simmons bring recruiting and development skill to Sooners

Less than 24 hours after Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said that the Sooners’ staff would be complete by the middle of next week, it’s just about done.

It seems that when Stoops said he couldn’t comment because it “hasn’t happened,” he really meant, it hasn’t happened yet, and the middle of next week really meant the middle of the next day.

It looks like Oklahoma has filled out its openings, even if it doesn’t want to acknowledge them.

Wide receivers coach Dennis Simmons is coming over from Washington State after confirming to Foxsports.com on Wednesday, and former Notre Dame defensive backs coach Kerry Cooks is taking the same position at Oklahoma. He appeared to confirm his hire Thursday morning on Twitter.


As of 11 a.m. Thursday morning, Oklahoma still didn’t confirm the hires.

Cooks is replacing retired Bobby Jack Wright, who left the Sooners after more than 40 years as a coach for multiple teams. Simmons will replace former co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell, who took the job coaching receivers at rival Texas.

But semantics aside, it’s now a complete staff with a different look than the one that left.

Simmons knows exactly what he’s getting into with the Sooners, having worked with current Washington State and former Texas Tech head coach Mike Leach for almost 10 years. He also coached with Riley at East Carolina.

What he brings to Oklahoma though is something fans never seemed to get with Norvell. Despite some successes, Norvell was widely criticized for not developing wide receivers well enough. This led to an all-out failure in the passing game this season, magnified by struggles at quarterback.

Simmons has a history of getting the best out of every wide receiver. He coached Michael Crabtree, who was a three-star receiver with offers from just about every Big 12 school, into an NFL receiver. East Carolina’s Justin Hardy, who just broke former Oklahoma receiver Ryan Broyles’ career receptions record this season, is poised to be drafted in the NFL after coming to the Pirates as a walk-on.

This season, he coached Vince Mayle – a senior receiver who finished the year with 1,483 yards and nine touchdowns. Mayle was recruited two years ago out of Shasta Community College, where he played basketball not football.

Simmons, who was a part of Washington State’s top-ranked passing offense last season, also recruited recent Sooners signee Dahu Green to Washington State, only to have Green flip late and smile on National Signing Day when asked about the coaching changes.

“Uh, no I’m not,” Green said with a smile when asked whether he would give any scoop on the coaching changes.

Most of all, Simmons seems to be a family man, citing that as a reason he was taking the job at Oklahoma to FOXSports.com.

"It was really hard to leave the kids we have here and the relationships that we have formed," Simmons said to FOXSports.com. "But this is an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.

"My 5-year-old daughter will only be a couple-hour drive away now and my wife's family will be much closer. It's an opportunity for me to have both of my kids grow up around each other and for my wife's mom to be able to watch her grandson.”

Cooks almost appears to be a younger version of his replacement. Despite having coached at Notre Dame the past five years deep in the Midwest, Cooks is well-regarded as a Texas recruiter. Since 2009, 11 Texas players have committed to Notre Dame.

Cooks appears to be coaching the entire secondary at Oklahoma – a change from last year when Wright coached cornerbacks and co-defensive coordinator Mike Stoops coached safeties. The hire appears to leave Stoops, who recently was assigned to share defensive coordinator duties with defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery, without a position to coach.

Cooks played at Iowa and was drafted in the fifth round in 1998. He played three years in the NFL, something that won’t be lost on players or recruits. He has been a defensive backs coach at Wisconsin, Minnesota and Notre Dame for the past eight years.

Prentice McKinney was once a Notre Dame commit, but he flipped late and is now a Sooners, joined the coach who originally recruited him to South Bend, Ind.

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