All you can do is make the cut. And the one after that and the one after that. Nobody has really claimed Oklahoma has a legitimate shot at Houston Bellaire Episcopal defensive tackle Marvin Wilson, but the Sooners are still standing.
They made the top 10 in the summer. They made the final five at Under Armour week. And they’ve hit all the right notes in this final month heading into Wilson’s decision 3:30 p.m. CST on Feb. 1 on ESPN.
Wilson, a five-star prospect ranked No. 1 at defensive tackle, is down to OU, Florida State, LSU, Ohio State and South Florida.
OU wasn’t even in the picture this time last year. However, the hiring of Calvin Thibodeaux as defensive line coach proved to be a difference maker.
Not only for his built-in ties to Houston, but also because of the way he has developed relationships with everybody during his first year in Norman.
It started with Tulsa (Okla.) Memorial’s Isaiah Thomas and Thomas’ coaches knew things were going to be different.
“The day Thibs got the job – if it was the same day, it was the next day – I talked to him and knew from the 30-minute phone call that he was different,” Memorial defensive line coach Darnell Whitaker said. “My opinion, and I don’t use this word a lot, I think Thibs is ‘big time.’”
After three months of recruiting Thomas, Thibodeaux was able to get the Scout 300 prospect to commit in late May. That’s half the battle. Everybody knows in recruiting it’s great to get someone, but it’s a different story to hold onto somebody.
Thibodeaux has done that and then some with Thomas.
“When it came to Coach Thibs, he explained every reason why I would be a good fit,” Thomas said. “He really has a plan. This is the guy I want to play for.
“Before, we were talking on a professional level. Now it’s more like a family. We’re more comfortable and can communicate about anything.”
Thibodeaux has hit the ground running in the last couple of months. When you viewed OU’s highly touted SoonerSquad17 class, there were a lot of big names but something missing when it came to defensive line.
Thibodeaux never threw in the towel with Wilson. Kept coming. Kept showing the interest. Kept showing the attention and respect.
It wasn’t a surprise to Whitaker.
“Even after Isaiah committed, Thibs never stopped recruiting and that means a lot,” Whitaker said. “When getting recruited, one thing you look for is a coach that really cares about you. Thibs really does, and it shows.”
Relationships can only go so far, though. The one thing tough to acknowledge for OU was scheme. How did Wilson fit in OU’s 3-4 defensive front?
The truth of the matter is he doesn’t or at least he didn’t. But if you listen to recruits in the last month, the Sooners are making the move from a 3-4 to a 4-3, which is tailormade for someone as talented and destructive as Wilson.
Then it came time for the final push. OU did just that Monday evening sending six coaches. Bob Stoops, Mike Stoops, Thibodeaux, Tim Kish, Lincoln Riley and Dennis Simmons. Four of them (Mike Stoops, Thibodeaux, Riley, Simmons) wore OU No. 99 jerseys, the number Wilson would wear in Norman.
Six coaches. It made an impression.
“It was like nothing I have ever seen before,” Wilson told Sooners Illustrated.
A source said it was the best recruiting pitch OU has ever delivered in quite some time. They were ready. They had a plan. If Wilson was wondering how OU could develop a talent like him, they had the answer.
One cohesive unit with six coaches making the final stand.
OU had some more help later in the week with former five-star defensive linemen Gerald McCoy and Tommie Harris both tweet to Wilson about why OU should be the choice.
The Sooners pushed all the right buttons at the right time. No guarantee OU is the name chosen next Wednesday. No guarantee that fax is coming to Norman, but Thibodeaux and the staff did everything they could.
Now? It’s just a waiting game.