By JOHN SHINN
There are 10 days remaining until National Signing Day. There is just enough time for Oklahoma to close what could be a monumental five-week period in the program’s history.
The Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama on Jan. 2 clearly elevated the Sooners’ perception on the recruiting trail.
The biggest impact — recruiting wise — will likely be felt in 2015. OU has a junior day scheduled for next Saturday and it will include many high profile recruits.
But there are ramifications that have been much bigger than a ripple.
“I think more than anything it was the combination of the Sugar Bowl win and Joe Mixon. I think it made Oklahoma look really big over the course of a few days,” Soonerscoop.com recruiting editor Josh McCuistion said.
Mixon is Rivals.com’s No. 1 running back in the Class of 2014 and the No. 9 overall player. Landing him was enormous for several reasons. The Oakley, Calif., running back is an elite prospect at a position OU needs to fill with Brennan Clay and Roy Finch both graduating.
Perhaps the most important is the pied piper aspect of a player like Mixon. He isn’t interested in being the Sooners’ only five-star recruit.
“It’s not just that Joe is a highly rated guy, it’s that he’s very active in social networking. He’s been to a lot of camps and he knows guys from all across the country. He’s not a guy who is going to sit on the fence and see what happens,” McCuistion said. “He’s really been active in helping Oklahoma in recruiting.”
OU would love for that to have a major impact on this year’s class. It currently has 22 commitments for the Feb. 4 National Signing Day with three — junior college tight end Isaac Ijalana and linebacker Devonte Bond and Edmond Santa Fe quarterback Justice Hansen — already attending classes at OU.
One of the major aspects of the elevated reputation on the recruiting trail is it has allowed OU to spread its footprint.
Of the recruits the Sooners are still hoping to land, one is New Orleans St. Augustine defensive tackle Courtney Garnett. The former Texas commitment visited OU last week. He visited Tennessee this weekend. Another is offensive tackle Kenyon Frison from West Valley City, Utah. He visited Nebraska this weekend.
Ironically, the class could very well come down to what two highly coveted in-state recruits do. Jenks defensive back Steven Parker made an official visit to Auburn this weekend. It is believed that OU and Texas A&M are the final two vying for his letter of intent.
Oklahoma City Douglass High School defensive end Deondre Clark has been committed to LSU for months and he was in Baton Rouge, La., for his official visit this weekend.
“Those guys are a huge part of it,” McCuistion said, “but again, defensive tackle from Louisiana and an offensive lineman from another area OU hasn’t really recruited before — Utah.”
If the Sooners can land all four to the class, which is currently Rivals.com’s No. 18 class and No. 16 according to ESPN, it likely elevates it into the top 10. The way they closed the 2013 season has a chance to get the recruiting ball rolling in 2014 and beyond.
“More than anything from the people I’ve talked to, it sounds like for Oklahoma the doors have really opened and guys who weren’t interested in making visits have suddenly decided to,” McCuistion said.