Oklahoma football: ‘Sooner Summit’ showcases ‘new normal’ in recruiting

No coaches’ contact with prospective Oklahoma football recruits, no problem.

College recruiting is currently in a dead period through Sept. 30 because of the COVID-19 pandemic , there can be no direct contact by coaches with recruits. Any contact with recruits by members of the coaching staff must be conducted virtually and not in person.

This has created a slowdown in what would normally be a more active period in picking up verbal commitments as part of the 2021 recruiting cycle.

When the Sooners received the July 4 commitment of Caleb Williams, the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in the 2021 class nationally, they may not have realized it, but they also added to the recruiting staff. The five-star recruit has been contacting a number of friends who also happen to be blue-chip prospects trying to persuade them to come play along side him and win championships at Oklahoma.

Williams’ leadership skills became even more apparent this past weekend. He and his father, Carl, organized a recruiting get-together in Norman they  called the “Sooner Summit” and invited several elite prospects — some committed already to Oklahoma, some uncommitted — with the purpose of having them get a good look at what it would be like to become part of one of college football’s blue-blood programs.

Lincoln Riley and his staff weren’t able to pull off something like this because of the dead period, but Williams and his father creatively found a way around the situation and get together some top national recruiting targets for a fun weekend while adhering to local social distancing and masking requirements.

The Williams family, which resides in the Washington, D.C. area, was already planning a house-hunting trip to Norman this past weekend, so they decided to take advantage of this unique recruiting opportunity. Caleb has been having conversations with most of the invitees trying to influence their recruiting decisions, and this presented an opportunity to do so in person and have some fun in doing so.

“It’s something that’s never been done before, offensive tackle Tristan Leigh, one of several top-50 prospects nationally, told Jason Kersey of The Athletic. “I’m happy to be part of it. Caleb, putting this whole thing together, man. It shows you what type of leader he’ll be. You’re seeing him make something great out of adversity. That’s a rare thing.”

If William doesn’t have a college major in mind, perhaps public relations would be a good choice.

Among the other top uncommitted prospects in attendance for the Sooner Summit were offensive tackle Savion Byrd, out of Duncanville, Texas; five-star running back Camar Wheaton, ranked No. 1 at his position nationally, another prospect out of the state of Texas; and wide-receiver Jalil Farooq, a close friend of Williams’, from Marlboro, Maryland.

Also in attendance in Norman over the weekend was junior-college cornerback Khyree Jackson, who played at the same high school as Farooq and committed to Alabama earlier this month.

On Friday night, the group ate in Oklahoma City and went to Topgolf afterward. On Saturday, they got to visit the Palace on the Prairie, Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. They even got to throw the ball around a little on Owen Field.

Later that evening, from their hotel, they participated in a Zoom call with Lincoln Riley.

On Saturday night, the Sooners received a 14th commitment for 2021, from four-star defensive end Kelvin Gilliam. Gilliam was unable to attend the Summit because his mother was celebrating her birthday.

The Oklahoma coaches are high on every one of the uncommitted prospect who attended the first-ever Sooner Summit. In the weeks and months ahead, it will be interesting to look back and see how successful the event  was when we see what those in attendance ultimately decide for their college choices.