It’s no secret. It’s the biggest recruiting weekend of the year for Oklahoma. The Sooners have had some good opportunities this year at home but nothing quite like this when No. 18 TCU comes to Norman.
The official visits are in the teens. The unofficial visitors are already hitting around the 30-40 mark. A list of who’s who among OU targets will be there in attendance.
(Euless (Texas) Trinity DT Chris Daniels is one of several Scout 300 targets expected to visit OU this weekend)
How in the world does it all come together? How does it stay together in a cohesive fashion? OU fans might not know the names but might recognize them on the field in Rajeeb “Jeeb” Hossain and Drew Hill.
Hossain is the director of high school relations, while Hill is the director of player personnel. Hossain’s tenure began in 2013. Hill took over in 2014. It’s a big weekend for OU, and they know part of that being successful is up to them and their staff.
Big visit weekends can be one heck of a task, but it can also be one heck of a rewarding experience when done right. Just like Tennessee last year where OU had 14 official visitors and netted multiple commitments and signees from the weekend.
“Sometimes the larger the numbers, it might be a little bit easier,” Hossain said. “We learn from every week, not just Tennessee week. We make the adjustments we feel need to be made.”
So far this group has been on point this season. It’s Hossain’s job to handle all the hotel bookings, while Hill handles all the flight arrangements. Recruiting assistant Tresa Lupton fills in the gaps and does other things necessary.
The goal is for the best environment possible when the recruits and their families arrive in Norman until the time they leave campus 48 hours later.
They don’t have to do it alone. Like Tennessee last year, several current OU commits are taking their official visits this weekend. They’ll put on their recruiting hat just as much as the coaches.
“The more people you have around, the better chance you got is how I see it,” Hill said. “They’re having good interactions. You have commits that are helping you recruit. Big weekends are tough, but they’re really good.”
And there’s always questions. When you bring that many guys in at once, did you give enough attention? Did you answer all the questions? Did you let the recruit/family know they’re a priority?
Big visit weekend, small visit weekend, that question doesn’t go away.
“I think that’s any visit,” Hill said. “You have guys that are visiting Ohio State, Florida State, Alabama, the SEC schools, and in my role and Jeeb’s role, you’re always wondering if somebody is doing more than us or what more you could have done.
“Our coaches give up evaluating film to go to lunch or to take guys back to the hotel. I think we do as good a job as anybody in the country.”
There has been a unique challenge this year surrounding recruiting visits. It’s not like recruits are exactly getting a real taste of the OU experience. Fancy facilities have been replaced by trailers for this season, and all you can sell is what will happen and not what is there.
Talking to several recruits, though, and none have seemed to be bothered by it. And OU is made the best of what could have been a very awkward and detrimental situation.
“I don’t think it’s a huge deal,” Hill said. “I think they can see the growth. They can see the crane over there and work being done. They can see the preview center where we can show them what it’s like. It hasn’t been an issue.”
(OU-produced edit for when 2016 safety Chanse Sylvie signed his financial aid agreement earlier this month)
Of course recruiting is always evolving. What was cool five years ago is long in the past at this point. It is said recruiting never takes a day off. That’s true, and that holds true as well for all who are a part of the insanity.
You have to stay current. You have to think forward, not backward. You can’t make a living off copying people, have to bring your own flavor.
“Our coaches do a good job of seeing what other people are doing,” Hossain said. “They do a great job of being on social media and talking about things. Looking at our stuff, we feel like we’ve been pretty competitive in that realm.”
Hill used the terms crisp and clean to describe the edits the Sooners have made this season. He’s not wrong. OU, at times, has felt like it was behind in the times and a little antiquated. This year it has really made a step in the right direction.
Part of that has come with a photoshoot with recruits wearing the OU jersey. The environment has added to the visit, Hossain said, and it was Hill’s idea.
(Example of photoshoot photo from tweet by OU 4-star running back target Trevor Speights)
Simply put, there’s just something about the OU jersey.
“To put that jersey on means something,” Hill said. “You don’t have to tell them about the history. They know the Sooner jersey is special, and they light up.
“We thought it was a way to spice up that Sunday morning where they might be tired. Send them out on a high note. We want their last memory of Oklahoma to be a positive one.”
OU has earned two commits from official visits this season. Pittsburg (Calif.) Scout 150 cornerback Jordan Parker committed following OU’s win against West Virginia. Then three weeks later, Lackawanna (Pa.) CC offensive tackle Ashton Julious committed a day after returning home from his visit vs. Texas Tech.
This weekend could be more of the same. If OU can produce on the field on senior night against a top-20 team like TCU, success could follow on the recruiting trail as OU stands at 11 commits.
Hill said they’ve been working on this event for two weeks. They know the stage is a big one and a big opportunity. This is the one fans and recruits have been waiting for. OU’s recruiting department is certainly ready.