Effective recruiting is the lifeblood of college football but ironically in this day and time it could also be the biggest detriment to a team’s success. That’s the choppy waters of the COVID-19 world that we live in. Coaches need new players in order to build or maintain their programs but they also need current players for 2020 success and putting either in danger is catastrophic.
At the center of the table of conversation has to be the health of the young men that that coaches and institutions are entrusted with. There’s no way to guarantee anyone can’t contract the virus that began locking down the world since late February but it is fathomable that a world could exist where these young man can play their sport with better than normal odds of remaining virus free. That all gets blown up the very second you start receiving recruits and their families on your campus.
I know it’s important for them to visit, believe me, I do. But how stupid would it look if we did that? So we’ve got a ways to go before we’re even close to having recruits and families on campus. It’s disappointing but it is what it is right now.Lincoln Riley on not having recruits on campus for the foreseeable future
Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley understands this conundrum extremely well. His Sooners have been extremely close to reaching the pinnacle for three years now but the need to boost the defense with more talent has been the primary factor in CFP semifinal losses.
Riley and his staff have been moving in on, and trending positively, with a number of high-profile defensive recruits in the 2021 recruiting cycle but yet the Sooner headman also realizes that sacrificing safety isn’t the way to get things done. During a Zoom call with the media on Wednesday Riley expressed his support for the NCAA extending the recruiting dead period.
Riley and his staff have not only support the dead period they’ve also figured out a way to beat it by setting a trend in virtual recruiting. Prospects are able to visit the campus and facilities without leaving the safety of their homes thanks to websites like this.
It doesn’t stop with a state of the art website though. Oklahoma is personalizing virtual recruiting visits to the likes and interests of the recruits. The coaching staff has conducted over 40 such visits since the COVID-19 lock down began. Recruits, and their families, are able to visit with coaches and administrators about the business of education and football while having personal touches added in.
For Winter Garden, Florida linebacker Danny Stutsman it was muscle cars that made the difference. He had told Oklahoma coaches that he and his family were very much into classic cars and his virtual tour began with six classic 1969 cars parked on Owen Field.
“I think there’s a fine line between what players think [about virtual visits],” Stutsman told The Transcript last month. “I think some kids don’t see it as enough to make a decision, then there’s other players like myself who think it’s pretty much like going to the school.
“The essential stuff is in the videos.”
Winning is a common occurrence in Norman and the Sooners aren’t letting a global pandemic stop that. With seven verbal commitments on board for 2021 Oklahoma currently ranks #4 in the Big 12 and #31 nationally. Don’t expect that to remain though as the pending commitment from the top quarterback in the class, Caleb Williams, will significantly boost Oklahoma’s rankings. However, we know Williams isn’t coming alone and so it isn’t a reach to expect a Top 5 class nationally for the Sooners in 2021.
In the midst of a pandemic that has changed so much in how the world works anything of consistency should be cherished. That’s exactly where Riley and the Oklahoma football program fit.
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