Oklahoma recruiting: Sooners believe frantic December will pay off

NORMAN, Okla. — It’s been two weeks since No. 2 Oklahoma last played, but its coach, Lincoln Riley, looks anything but rested. The time between the Big 12 Conference title game and when he spoke to reporters on Thursday was a blur.

The early signing period, which begins Wednesday, changed the recruiting calendar in ways many coaches didn’t see coming. The contact period which began in late November and ran through Friday became the most important one in the recruiting period.

After the season visitation hasn’t changed from past years. It’s the importance that skyrocketed. The last time to see a recruit off campus before he can sign is those early weeks of December.

“It’s non-stop,” Riley said about the recruiting/coaching schedule the last two weeks. “At some point, we’ll catch our breath, but this isn’t the time for it.”

Oklahoma’s players basically received two weeks off because of the alteration to the recruiting calendar. Players have trained their typical six days a week since the Big 12 title game, but practices with coaches were limited.

That changed after Friday. The coaches are back in Norman. The Sooners can turn their attention to the College Football Playoff, the meeting with No. 3 Georgia and they hope a national championship run.

Oklahoma adjusts to calendar

The Oklahoma coach likes the early signing period. He’s clearly poised to take advantage of it on Wednesday. The Sooners hold 20 2018 commitments and expect most of them to turn in their letters of intent on Wednesday.

But Riley believes the rule change probably came too quickly.

“If we had to do it again, I don’t think we would have started the early signing period until next season,” he said. “In hindsight, it didn’t make much sense to do it before these kids could take early visits. I don’t know if it’s hurt the schools as much, but some of these kids are really almost backed into a corner in a way where there is some pressure on them to sign.”

The early signing period was part of two big changes for the 2017-18 recruiting calendar. The second one begins in the spring. High school juniors can take official visits to campus from the beginning of April through the end of June.

The change figures to make planning easier on prospects. There are no high school games that alter plans. It should make things easier on the schools, as well. The planning becomes easier when there are no prep games to work around or their game times that factor into it.

Oklahoma has tried to get 4-star linebacker Nik Bonitto in for an official visit since the beginning of September. It never worked out during the season. Bonitto is taking an official visit to Norman this weekend.

But it’s less than a week until the early signing period begins.

“Hell, the state championships in Texas will be played after signing day,” Riley said. “When you don’t have the opportunity to take those spring visits like we will in the future, it’s almost like we put the wrong thing first. Wish we would have done the visits first, then the early signing day.”

Oklahoma prepared for early period

The hard part is over. The Sooners expect to have an overwhelming majority of their 2018 class signed next week. No matter what happens in the College Football Playoff it can spend January trying to lock up those final spots in the class.

Players seem to like the early signing period. The Sooners landed 18 of their 20 commitments prior to September. They’ve been waiting to do this for months.

“It’s a dream I’ve had for a very long time,” Waco (Texas) Midway quarterback Tanner Mordecai said. “I can’t wait to sign with the best school in America.”

Some planned to enroll in college for the spring semester all along. The opportunity to sign in December made things easier.

“Most of us are gonna sign early,” 4-star wide receiver Jaquayln Crawford said. “We haven’t even announced yet that I think are gonna sign early.”

In recruiting, December may become the new February

For a couple generations, there’s been a countdown to the first Wednesday in February. It was one of the most important dates in the annual calendar. National Signing Day became an unofficial holiday to college football fans. It was the one day every season where all FBS teams seemed to compete against one another.

We’ll see what ultimately shakes out this week. Most Power-5 schools seem likely to sign the bulk of their 2018 classes this week. The ones that don’t likely had coaching changes in the last month and are behind.

Riley is a first-year coach, but Oklahoma’s transition from Bob Stoops to him went seamlessly. It paid off during the regular season and in recruiting.

But it’s becoming apparent that December will now be the biggest recruiting month.

“We think if guys are committed then they do need to sign. Our guys, this group has been great. We’ve had very little resistance. A lot of guys are excited about getting it done,” Riley said. “This is going to become in a lot of ways the new national signing day. Now this one will — I think the one in February will kind of become secondary a little bit. And I think it will be more and more as the years go on.”

The post Oklahoma recruiting: Sooners believe frantic December will pay off appeared first on Diehards.

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