Playing time a vital recruiting tactic

OU coaches, like others across the country, have had to adapt their philosophy when it comes to recruiting and early playing time.

Recruiting is all about evolving. You see examples of it all the time. It used to be getting offered at a junior day was a monumental thing. Now, with some kids, it’s viewed as an insult of a school taking that long to make an offer.

It used to be you waited a year, learned the ropes during the redshirt season and came out ready to make the impact as a redshirt freshman.

That’s not the case anymore.

“We definitely sign players now with full intent to play them right away and having them ready to play,” OU coach Bob Stoops said. “We have to do all we can in feeding them information and training them to be ready to play.

“Different circumstances may come up where they are not ready. We don’t ever want to put a guy out there when they are ready to be successful.”

OU’s recruiting pitch has maintained its consistency. There has never been a recruit say they were promised a starting spot at OU. Not now, not in the past and not in the future.

There’s a reason for that, said OU recruiting coordinator Cale Gundy.

“That’s always one of the biggest questions, ‘Am I going to start as a freshman?’ Of course my answer is that’s up to you,” Gundy said. “We play true freshmen around. We play walk-ons around here. We give walk-ons scholarships around here.

“So I don’t think Coach Stoops would stay here for 16 years if he hasn’t done things right. Our job is to play the very best players, and I think our guys know that.”

The examples weren’t numerous for the 2014 season, but there is obviously the one glaring example with running back Samaje Perine.

It’s not farfetched to say Perine entered the season as OU’s third-string running back and left as one of the biggest positives from an incredibly uneven season.

Heading into his sophomore season, and Perine is the lone OU player on anybody’s early preseason Heisman Trophy watch list. Guess that’s what a 427-yard record-making performance can do for you.

It’s tough to pinpoint who the guys are going to be for the 2015 class, but the early bet is on the defensive side of the ball. Names like Ricky DeBerry, Neville Gallimore, Will Sunderland and Kahlil Haughton have been tossed around.

The truth is there is a lot of wiggle room for a true freshman to come in and play immediately for the Sooners in 2015. And that’s no longer a bad thing.

“There are so many players trained at a higher level at a younger age,” Stoops said. “They are paying attention and being developed at a better level at a younger age.

“The high school level does such a good job at bringing them along that there are more players ready to play. We do have the intentions of playing them all as we sign them.”

It’s still going to be some time before it comes into focus, but if Stoops feels confident putting any true freshmen on the field, it’s not a sign of panic.

“Even the guys that have been around here for a year or two and guys that have been starters,” Gundy said. “They know every single day that if they don’t go out there and perform, someone else is going to beat them out.”

The internal competition is going to be among the biggest storylines for OU in the 2015 season.

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