Bob Przybylo/Scout

Sooner Intel: OU & the art of closing the deal

Intel returns talking about OU and its ability to close the deal for #ST2K18.

The Sooner Intel, created by Bob Przybylo in 2011, 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.

Oklahoma recruiting took its first real shot in the face since #SoonerSquad17 during the month of April. A 30-day stretch that had high expectations nearly fell flat on its face for OU.

The Sooners lost three commitments, saw three in-state targets commit elsewhere before salvaging something with the commitment of Deerfield Beach (Fla.) High defensive back Miguel Edwards last weekend.

The loss of commitments will happen sometimes. It’s just a fact in recruiting. Even with SS17 being ranked No. 6 by Scout, it suffered the decommitments from guys like CeeDee Lamb, Trajan Bandy, Jalen Reagor and Jacob Phillips.

The Sooners were able to lock down Lamb once again and the beat rolled on with OU finding other guys.

Decommitments for the 2019 class just aren’t really going to get people riled up. There’s no doubt the talent of Allen (Texas) High’s Theo Wease and Richmond (Texas) Travis’ Arjei Henderson, but it’s OK and OU can/will recover.

OU, and offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley in particular, took a calculated gamble by going after Newbury Park (Calif.) High quarterback Cameron Rising last summer instead of the local favorite, Moore (Okla.) Southmoore’s Casey Thompson.

Both are committed to Texas and Riley is back to the grind. Hindsight says that was a bad move but not many people were complaining when Rising was a Scout 100 prospect committed to OU back in August.

No, what April is really known for are missed opportunities to lock down the state. Sooners Illustrated sat here for months saying OU was going 7-for-7 with its in-state offers. There was just no way the Sooners were going to mess this up.

It was there on a silver platter. Walker was first. Then Fields came along, followed by Kelley. The train was rolling before it hit an abrupt stop April with commitments of Josh Proctor to Ohio State and Bryce Bray to Oklahoma State.

The biggest blow, maybe figuratively and literally, was Ron Tatum picking Texas instead of OU last week.

So what happened? You wonder if OU didn’t read between the lines. Multiple in-state coaches have said a possibility of thinking everything would be as easy as 2017. Might be going too far to say arrogance but a belief that no matter what other schools did, OU would win out.

Bryce Bray

Bray grew up a huge OU fan, but the Sooners were pretty late to the party. He camped at OU, visited the campus a number of times but no offer. Oklahoma State didn’t waste much time, offering before Bray became a name to watch. It wasn’t until after winning the OL MVP at The Opening regional in March that OU fully took notice. Perhaps OU thought as soon as it did, Bray would come calling to come home because of how much he loved the Sooners. It didn’t happen.

Josh Proctor

This is a hard one to accept, especially from in-state recruits for the 2018 class. Defensive backs coach Kerry Cooks was the first coach to offer Proctor back in November 2015. When OU makes an in-state offer that far off, most assume it’s a wrap. D.J. Ward, Steven Parker, Will Sunderland, Levi Draper and Brey Walker are some of those examples. Sooners make their claim, everyone else backs off and OU locks them up.

But here’s what happened with Proctor and Tatum – other schools didn’t flinch. For Proctor, it was Ohio State. Here’s the curious thing about Proctor. After visiting OU quite a bit through last year’s camp, he was unseen and unheard of in Norman during his junior season.

Now that could have been Cooks believing he still had nothing to worry about so all would be well or maybe it should have been a red flag that things weren’t as easy as first thought.

Ron Tatum

But this? This is the one that’s borderline unexplainable. OU was the second Power 5 offer, only Kansas beating it to the punch. Defensive line coach Calvin Thibodeaux was there from the start, and Tatum was on campus at least six times from October through April’s spring game. Texas just didn’t back off. Where maybe other schools saw the writing on the wall, Oscar Giles wasn’t ready to quit.

So OU ends up as the runner-up for Bray, Proctor and Tatum. It’s the art of closing the deal and knowing how with each kid because they’re all different.

That’s why maybe Bray gets a pass because OU had a relationship from afar with him but not that close, connected one until recently.

Nobody knew Proctor better than Cooks. Nobody knew Tatum better than Thibodeaux. Or at least nobody should have known those two guys better because of how early OU struck.

Knowing that, you would figure OU would understand how to handle the situation, how to get the close. Some guys don’t mind being prodded a bit. You never flat out say commit or we’re moving on, but maybe you say something along the lines of reserve your spot.

It can backfire and point to J.K. Dobbins last year, who was just plain sick and tired of being asked to commit to OU and ended up signing with Ohio State.

That’s where the relationship should come in. Cooks with Proctor and Thibodeaux with Tatum, they should have known by April how those guys respond best.

Did Proctor feel pressure to be an in-state kid committing to OU? Did Tatum want a better idea of what OU had in store for him as a commit? Not an enviable job, but the assistants do the brunt work to figure these things out.

Were family members unsure of what’s going on? You make sure everybody is 100 percent clear about what’s being expected. No gray area, not in recruiting.

Here’s the good news. You don’t always have to close the deal in April. You have to on signing day in February.

If OU knows where it took some missteps in these recruitments and decides internally they’re still worth going after, the Sooners can turn the tide.

SoonerSquad17 is going to be talked about as the standard for a while, but even think about that class. OU went 5-for-5 with OKPreps in the Scout 300 and landed six overall from the state.

But it didn’t come easy. Levi Draper was committed to Oklahoma State. Creed Humphrey was committed to Texas A&M. Tyreece Lott was committed to TCU.

None of those sat well with OU, just think about Cale Gundy’s subtweet to Humphrey about playing for a team that talks about winning championships compared to a team that does.

Everything can be smoothed over when you figure out the missing ingredient, figure out how you can close the show.

Draper’s father, Sean, said Cooks was instrumental in turning that around. The Humphrey family said Bedenbaugh double-downed his efforts after Humphrey went to the Aggies. Ardmore coaches said Thibodeaux realized he might actually be letting Lott get away if he didn’t step it up.

There’s time to figure it out. Find the missing ingredient, close the deal. SoonerSquad17 did that, now we’ll see if #SavageTeam2K18 can follow that necessary trend.

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