It came a couple of weeks ago when six former OU players were chosen in the first six rounds of the NFL Draft. That number becomes seven if you include second-round pick wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham even though he obviously never played a game at OU.
In the recruiting arms race, you need something. Right now Baylor has the unofficial swag of back-to-back conference championships. Oklahoma State is the place to be because of its uniform combinations and recent facilities upgrades.
For OU? The tradition is nice, no doubt. But the No. 1 reason why the Sooners are still a factor is because OU can proudly say it sends players to the NFL.
Six this year and now 75 former players have been drafted during Stoops’ time at OU. The Sooners were 8-5 last season but topped the conference in the number of players drafted from the conference.
Coincidentally enough, three of those players come from the state of Kansas. Defensive tackle Jordan Phillips went in the second round by the Miami Dolphins. Outside linebacker Geneo Grissom was picked in the third round by the New England Patriots, and tight end Blake Bell rounded out the trio being chosen by the San Francisco 49ers in the fourth round.
“That shows you what you can do with kids from Kansas. We don’t get a lot of respect, but we know how to play,” said Wichita (Kan.) East Scout 300 defensive end Xavier Kelly.
OU has offered two prospects in the state of Kansas in the Scout 300 with Lawrence (Kan.) High defensive lineman Amani Bledsoe and Kelly. Bledsoe visited OU for its camp last summer, while Kelly is hoping to make his first trip to Norman next month.
So maybe it wasn’t so strange that Stoops went for Diron Reynolds to replace former co-defensive coordinator Jerry Montgomery. Reynolds has more than a decade’s worth of NFL experience and won a Super Bowl ring with the Indianapolis Colts.
His message has been clear and received well by the players he will be coaching. He knows what he’s doing. If you listen to him, you’re going to be able to get that chance at making it in the NFL.
“Yes, sir, that does mean a lot,” Kelly said. “In the end, the goal is to make it to the NFL so it says a lot that OU is able to do that with kids from Kansas.”
This upcoming season is huge for OU to get the program back on the right track and to attract the top recruits. But as this spring showed once again, the NFL is still the one thing OU can hold its hat on in terms of the recruiting arms race.