Discover more from Oklahoma Columnist, by Clay Horning
Ah, the sweet sounds and hopes of signing day
Sooners put together a great class … if it works out, nobody transfers or encounters personal problems causing their exit … just like everybody else
The jury may be out on which recruiting source now delivers programs to greatness, high school and junior colleges that have forever created a college football nation’s fascination with national signing day, or the spoils of the transfer portal, of which players, coaches and fans are only now beginning to realize its full import.
That said, Wednesday — and, surprise, Thursday, too — still felt momentous.
Early national signing day arrived Wednesday, the first of a three-day signing period, upon which most FBS schools will put the vast majority of their ’23 recruiting classes together the old school way, via the preps and jucos.
Prior to Wednesday, prized (and less prized) prospects could only tell us where they intended to sign.
The early period extends through Friday, before the final signing period arrives Feb. 1 and, though it extends a month, the vast, vast, vast majority of stragglers will sign that day.
At Oklahoma, if you count Norman North’s Chapman McKown, and you probably should given the 5-foot-8, 160-pound preferred walk-on running back has been timed sprinting sub-4.4-second 40-yard dashes, made everybody miss in Class 6A the past two seasons and can catch the ball, too, coach Brent Venables’ Sooners picked up 26 new faces the old fashioned way, sans portal, Wednesday and Thursday.
You can find all of them here.
By state, it looks like this:
Texas 5, Florida 5, Oklahoma 3, Washington 2, Missouri 2, California 1, New Jersey 1, Tennessee 1, Nebraska 1, Indiana 1, Pennsylvania 1, Ohio 1, North Carolina 1, Colorado 1.
By position, it looks like this:
Defensive backs 7, defensive linemen 5, offensive linemen 4, linebackers 3, running backs 3, wide receivers 2, tight ends 1, quarterbacks 1.
Picking up three five-star prospects — quarterback Jackson Arnold of Lantana, Texas, safety Peyton Bowen of Denton, Texas, and Adepoju Adebawore, an edge rushing defensive lineman from Kansas City — and 13 four-star prospects, OU earned the No 5 position from 247Sports’ composite rankings, a recruiting poll of polls, behind Alabama, Georgia, Texas and Miami and in front of Ohio State, LSU, Notre Dame, Tennessee and Clemson.
In fact, the addition of Bowen, who Wednesday announced he’d attend Oregon but never put pen to paper only to sign with the Sooners on Thursday, vaulted OU from seventh to fifth on the list.
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Still, better than 96 percent of it put together Wednesday and Wednesday being the day Venables spoke about the class at length, I took a listen and wrote down a few quotes and notes.
First, there was this great quote he was excited to say I’m fairly sure will prove meaningless.
“Our versatility in our back seven is really special,” Venables said, alluding to his secondary.
Or, perhaps, his secondary and “cheetah” position. Or, on those rare occasions he goes with a four-man front, every player behind the defensive line.
Come to think of it, I wish he’d been more clear.
But that’s not the point.
Mostly he means his secondary, comprised of defensive backs — safeties, corners, nickelbacks — and, to use his word, OU’s DB signees are “versatile,” meaning they can play more than one position.
They can play safety, corner, nickel, or perhaps the cheetah spot, a hybrid linebacker/safety position that gives offenses fits provided the cheetah is the great Roy Williams or Roy Williams’ equal, Williams having invented the position way back when.
And still it’s meaningless in context because two, three, four years from now, presuming those guys haven’t transferred, their versatility will not be the subject, only their ability to defend.
Maybe, maybe, maybe, maybe, after a rash of injuries, because they’re versatile, the fort will still be held down.
Yet, for about 10 years it hasn’t mattered because most of that time, even healthy, it’s been a rotten unit.
But can they defend in the first place?
For the masses, that would be plenty.
This is not me picking on Venables, just having fun with signing day, when hope springs eternal and excitement’s in the air because everybody’s yet to fail.
You hear the same kind of thing from coaches at every school, every year, long before anybody knows if anybody’s any good.
Here’s another quotable that got my attention, perking my ears because it wasn’t the same old pablum.
Venables was ballyhooing linebacker Phil Picciotti, out of IMG Academy on Florida’s Gulf Coast south of St. Petersburg, whose hometown remains Perkasie, Pennsylvania.
“One of the most violent middle linebackers,” Venables said. “Just can’t block this guy. Violent hands, great instincts, really what you want to be strong on defense.”
And OU got him.
Is he the next Bosworth?
Maybe, but ESPN thinks 17 other ’23 class inside linebackers are better prospects than Picciotti and 247Sports believes there’s 78 better linebacker prospects, period, and 123 better prospects, position aside, in Pennsylvania.
None of which is to say Picciotti won’t become the next Teddy Lehman, Rocky Calmus or Curtis Lofton, only that his violent hands aside, a whole bunch of other linebackers impressed a whole bunch more people more, so who’s to believe what?
Maybe Venables is the linebacker whisperer.
Maybe a lot of things.
On the one hand, it’s a terrific class, notable for having as many Floridians as Texans, three from the home state and at least one from so many others, proving OU can recruit coast to coast. It’s also fantastical for ranking fifth for what’s essentially still a first-year coach who did not produce in his first year and is more likely to finish the season 6-7 than 7-6, Florida State being a 9 1/2-point favorite at the unfortunately named Cheez-It Bowl Dec. 29 in Orlando.
And still, in the name of Rhett Bomar, Spencer Rattler, Justin Chaisson and Trey Metoyer, we have no idea, never have and, given the transfer portal and instantaneous eligibility, even if we did, we wouldn’t.
It’s fun to talk about.
Because nothing is taken more seriously by more people who have no idea what they’re talking about.
Must be national signing day.