Riley changing OU QB recruiting culture

First-year OU offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley couldn't be doing any better on the recruiting trail.

It was the week after signing day for the 2014 class. Oklahoma’s recruiting stock hadn’t been this high in ages. A win against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl combined with a furious close to the class had the Sooners sitting pretty.

And OU had a whopping zero quarterbacks offered for the 2015 class. In the next month, then-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel would go on a min-offer spree with three being handed out – Jarrett Stidham, J.W. Ketchum and Kyler Murray.

That obviously did not work out so well for the Sooners. Stidham and Ketchum both signed with Baylor, while Murray ended up with Texas A&M.

It was clear the old method of Heupel’s with offers wasn’t going to work. He adjusted. After a satellite camp in the summer, he offered Shea Patterson and Shane Buechele, two of the top quarterbacks in the nation for the 2016 class.

The message was sent about realizing the recruiting game had changed. OU looked to be in good shape with Buechele, but following Heupel’s departure, all bets were off.

Enter Lincoln Riley. Following an impressive run at East Carolina with an incredibly prolific offense, it was Riley who Bob Stoops turned to in order to make things right once again in Norman.

Riley’s success on the field is still to be determined. His success on the recruiting trail is already a highlight of OU’s offseason.

It started in March with a visit from Waxhaw (N.C.) Cuthbertson four-star quarterback Austin Kendall. Have to call a spade a spade here. No matter how great Riley would do at ECU, no amount of success would bring a player the caliber of Kendall to the school.

But to OU? Now that was a different question. Kendall visited in March and was offered on the visit. All the sudden things went from Kendall leaning toward Kentucky to everybody realizing the countdown was on for when he would be a Sooner.

That countdown ended the first week of April, and Riley had made a huge splash with his first pledge at the position.

Since then, the relationship has only blossomed more. Riley visited Kendall during the spring evaluation period, and Kendall returned the favor by returning to OU this last weekend with his entire family.

As Riley was hitting all the right notes with Kendall, he was already knee-deep with thoughts for the 2017 class.

OU would have been foolish to not offer Denton (Texas) Guyer five-star quarterback Shawn Robinson. The Sooners never felt like a real contender, but still, have to throw your hat in the ring with a recruit that close to home.

The next Texas offer, however, and Riley would hit another home run. Mesquite (Texas) Horn quarterback Chris Robison, who had already visited the campus in the past, made an appearance at OU’s satellite camp in the Dallas area three weeks ago.

A day later, following an outstanding showing, he had the OU offer. And last Friday, Robison made it official and committed to the Sooners. Robison is already a four-star prospect by Scout and could end up in the Scout 100 when all is said and done.

He threw for 44 touchdowns and 11 interceptions as a sophomore and comes from the same school as sophomore offensive lineman Jonathan Alvarez.

Earlier in that Friday afternoon, Robinson committed to TCU, a huge get for the Frogs. But Riley had even better news for OU fans just hours later.

Recruiting can be simple sometimes. It’s about making the connections, and it’s about being as hopeful about the future as you are about the present.

There are some areas where it’s clear recruits are looking at OU’s future and wondering what’s to come and if it’s a viable spot. Quarterback, now under Riley’s guidance, is absolutely not one of those spots.

Like the school was as a whole following the Bama win, Riley is the “it” guy for the Sooners. It’s paying off on the recruiting trail with two four-star commitments in the span of three months.

His plans have been clear. He has examined his options, looked at various targets and then made his decisions. It’s working out for everybody involved.

The easy part is getting the commitment from Kendall and Robison. Now comes the hard part. Now it’s time for Riley to earn that pledges all over again with his production on the field with OU’s quarterbacks this season.

Riley is pushing all the right buttons, and he’s already paying dividends at the most important position in the recruiting battles.


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