Sooner (coaches) Intel

Some insight into the recruiting game from OU's coaches.

The Sooner Intel is an inside look into Oklahoma football and basketball recruiting and is solely for Sooners Illustrated subscribers. It is a sneak peek into what’s happening with OU recruiting and is not to be distributed anywhere else.

Usually at this time we dive right in with what recruits are saying about the Sooners. But in the last week, Sooners Illustrated has been able to pick the brains of several of OU’s first-year coaches and get their thoughts on the process.

Reynolds adjusting to social media age

With four first-year coaches, the recruiting landscape has changed for the Sooners. But no doubt the person it has changed the most for is defensive line coach Diron Reynolds.

After spending more than a decade in the NFL, this is the first year Reynolds to be recruiting on a full-time basis since 2001 when he was an assistant at Indiana.

Obviously the game has changed. Well, at least most of it. Reynolds did say there is one part of recruiting that hasn’t changed in all these years.

“The road is about the same,” Reynolds said. “Making all those visits and getting on the road – that’s the same.”

What’s not the same is living in the social media age. In a world of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and everything else, it has been a challenge for Reynolds and something he wasn’t afraid to admit.

“It’s a different wave of kids,” Reynolds said. “All you can do is just try to get in there and do your best.”

Reynolds has definitely trying, but so far, he hasn’t made a major impact yet. He is still vying for his first commitment for the 2016 class. And there have been some recruits where it felt like OU and Reynolds had made the right push only to find out the Sooners weren’t in the mix.

Reynolds has loved to say it’s not a four-year decision. It’s a 40-year decision but sometimes there’s no way to get that through to kids.

“A lot of kids are interested in other stuff than what’s actually going on in the school,” Reynolds said. “Sometimes you have to let them see the stuff first. Show them that we’re competing with the rest of the schools in every way possible.”

Reynolds said there is no secret formula in terms of who he is looking for. The formula that was right in the 1990s remains right today.

“It’s big and fast,” Reynolds said. “It’s always big and faster. The bigger, the faster, the better. That has not changed.”

Riley says tradition sells itself

Lincoln Riley was able to build a nice little offensive juggernaut at East Carolina so you’ll have to forgive OU fans if their expectations are incredibly high now that he’s in Norman.

He knows this. He understands this. He accepts the challenge, and so far, he is delivering in spades for the Sooners.

“We’re looking for the same type of guys, but here we can be in the backdoor for anybody in the country,” Riley said. “The number of candidates you can go after is a lot bigger.”

Riley hit the ground running in closing out the 2015 class. And it has been well talked about now how well he has OU looking for at quarterback for the 2016 and 2017 classes.

Commits from four-star Austin Kendall and 2017 Scout 100 quarterback Chris Robison, it’s readily apparent Riley is able to connect with today’s kids.

But why? Riley can’t answer that one.

“I don’t know, really,” Riley said. “I think more than me it’s this offense at this place that sells itself. “You think about the history of this place and everything we have at Oklahoma, and it sells itself.

“I think we will be attractive to a lot guys at a lot of positions, not just quarterback.”

The biggest things mentioned so far by recruits regarding Riley is how easy he is to talk with and his youthful energy. That, of course, makes sense as Riley is trying to prove he belongs at a place like OU, and he’s eager to shut up anybody who doubts his ability.

Riley has done half the job. He’s a master on the trail. If you can add a quality product on the field, the sky will absolutely be the limit for what Riley can do during his time at OU.

Simmons needs someone who ‘wants the ball’

Wide receiver is also another spot with a facelift for this season. You always felt like you knew what former coach Jay Norvell was looking for at receiver. He was either going for those slot targets or those tall targets.

Unfortunately for OU, that hasn’t really panned out the last couple of cycles as it felt like OU was just a bunch of little guys trying to play big.

That could change with Dennis Simmons running the show and trying to develop Class of 2014 receivers like Dallis Todd and Jeffrey Mead. The size is there, now it’s up to Simmons.

And when it comes to what Simmons is looking for in a receiver, he joked initially before really explaining what he’s searching for in a potential prospect.

“Someone with talent,” Simmons said. “No, seriously, I’m looking for someone who wants the ball. What I mean by that is they’re willing to go up and make those tough catches. They’re able to separate themselves from the defense, get open and able to come down the ball in a crowd. Want someone who catches the ball with their hands away from their body and is physical.”

Simmons had a great reputation at Washington State and in running this “Air Raid” style of offense. Simmons, though, didn’t mince words. Doing this in Pullman and doing this job in Norman are two very different things.

“It’s still challenging,” Simmons said. “At Washington State, you’re in races with Utah, Colorado and Arizona, schools like that. At OU, now it’s Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State.

“You’re still having to work. You’re still having to help kids and show them how you’re going to help their careers and show them you’re passionate about doing it. OU tradition gets you in the door, but you still have to do the work and outwork everybody.”

Simmons is still searching for his first receiver commit although he has played a role with both Ryan Parker and Adrian Hardy. Both are viewed more as Cale Gundy (Parker) or Lincoln Riley (Hardy) guys.

Simmons did help the Sooners land a major one in four-star linebacker Bryce Youngquist last weekend so you know he can get the job done and should only do better going forward.

Stoops on state of Texas: ‘Always hard’

The perception has been recruiting the state of Texas has never been more difficult for Oklahoma than right now.

Like right this second. With the emergence of Baylor and TCU as Big 12 powerhouses and Texas A&M’s move to the SEC, it sure feels like there are a lot more options now than just OU and Texas when it comes to making a choice.

This feels true, but if you ask OU coach Bob Stoops, it’s not any more difficult than it has been since arriving in 1999.

“I don’t think more (difficult),” Stoops said. “It’s always been hard. Everything thinks it’s been easy before. It’s never easy. Won the national championship at Florida. Won the national championship here in 2000, it wasn’t easy the next year in recruiting.”

OU has adapted its philosophy obviously by recruiting the state of California more. For OU’s 2016 class, only one of its eight commits are from Texas with Houston Spring Dekaney wide receiver Adrian Hardy although junior college receiver Ryan Parker is also from Keller, Texas.

Baylor seems to be the school for skill kids as the Bears routinely have speed that few schools have across the country. TCU is the school for toughness as Gary Patterson has instilled that physical mindset in his guys. And A&M going to the SEC opened up the conference more to Texas. But Stoops said nothing has changed.

“I don’t get that,” Stoops said. “To me, it’s always a battle.”

OU’s calling card in recruiting continues to be the NFL Draft and it was once again with six (or seven if you count Dorial Green-Beckham) being selected in this year’s edition.


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