Oklahoma football: Recruiting is year-round, but Job 1 right now

The next circled date on the Oklahoma football calendar is National Signing Day Part II, which comes up two weeks from now.

College football is considered a seasonal sport, but at elite programs like Oklahoma, recruiting is a year-round, highly competitive activity that feeds and sustains the thrills that we, the fans, long for every fall.

The Sooners’ 2021 class currently stands at 16, all of which signed letters of intent during the early signing period in December. The 2021 OU class is ranked 10th currently by 247Sports,13th by Rivals and 15th, according to ESPN.

Five of Oklahoma’s incoming recruiting class are ranked among the ESPN Top 100 and nine Sooners fall in the Top 150. That includes two in the top 16: the No. 1 quarterback recruit (Caleb Williams) and and No. 1 wide-receiver recruit (Mario Williams).

It is uncertain how many more recruits Lincoln Riley and his staff might add to the 2021 class, but it is likely we’ll see some additions between now and the Feb. 3 signing date. One wrinkle that is different in this recruiting cycle is the waiver the NCAA has granted to players who participated in the 2020 college football season, allowing an extra year of eligibility.

The Sooners recently lost out on three top targets they had been recruiting heavily. Running back Camar Wheaton, who for a long time was believed to be leaning toward OU, ended up signing with Alabama. Top-rated offensive linemen Tristan Leigh and Bryce Foster, went with Clemson and Texas A&M, respectively.

Oklahoma was successful, however, in landing four-star offensive tackle Savion Byrd, who ranks 27th overall in the ESPN Top 300. And earlier this week, the Sooners announced former five-star offensive lineman Wanya Morris was transferring to OU from Tennessee. They also have added a quarterback this week from the transfer portal. Micah Bowens II, who was a true freshman at Penn State this season, announced that he is transferring to Oklahoma.

The Sooners have had a lot of success recently in bringing in talent from the junior-college ranks. Defensive lineman Perrion Winfrey and running back Rhamondre Stevenson are prime examples of that.

I would not rule out one or two additional transfer pickups for the 2021 season, nor would I be surprised to see one or more JUCO prospects added to the 2021 class by the February signing period.

While the immediate focus on the 2021 recruiting cycle, college recruiting is not a one-year-at-a-time process. Oklahoma and the other major schools are also working ahead, looking at 2022 and 2023.

The Sooners have four commitments already for 2022, three of which are wide receivers, including five-star prospect Luther Burden out of St. Louis, Mo. Rivals rates Burdon as the No. 1 player nationally at his position and No. 7 overall.

OU also has scholarship offers out to a limited number of 2023 prospects.

The recruiting process is one of those aspects of college football that keeps the sport in the news all year long, even when the actual season is just a little over four months long. It is also one of the most important parts of a head coach’s job and the critical difference that separates the good teams from the truly great ones.