Oklahoma Football: Recruiting pipelines and the Sooner empire’s expansion

Oklahoma Sooners defensive lineman Adepoju Adebawore speaks to media during a press conference in Norman, Okla., Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023.Ou Sooners Football
Oklahoma Sooners defensive lineman Adepoju Adebawore speaks to media during a press conference in Norman, Okla., Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023.Ou Sooners Football /

Have you ever heard of “going back to the well”? Or “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”? These sayings imply that if something has worked this far, you should keep doing it. These same rules apply to Oklahoma football recruiting.

In a college football context, a pipeline refers to an area of the country where a football program has ties and personal connections that allow it to be the front-runners in recruiting local talent.

For example, a long-time recruiting pipeline for the Sooners has been the North Texas region. Players from this pipeline region include Trent Williams (Longview, TX), Marvin Mims (Frisco, TX), Adrian Peterson (Palestine, TX), Rhett Bomar (Grand Prairie, TX), Billy BowmanJackson Arnold and Peyton Bowen (all from Denton, TX aka. Norman 2.0).

Every program should be able to recruit its regional high schools’ area; however, when establishing a stronghold in another region, it can better choose top-tier talent nationwide. Blue-blood programs can recruit players on a national scale. When programs develop a national recruiting status, they create ‘home away from homes.’

The Sooners football program has established a couple of pipelines throughout the nation, and the Brent Venables staff is expanding the Sooners’ recruiting empire. The current pipeline states will prove invaluable when the Sooners transition into the SEC next summer because they will have the upper hand on other SEC powers in these areas.

On the flip side, OU will be competing against a new region of the country and have to get busy busting up a deep-rooted SEC pipeline if the Sooners want to stay healthy in the recruiting world. Here are the current Sooner pipeline areas and the ones that the Sooner staff is looking to conquer.

The state of Oklahoma: This one is obvious and is no surprise. Every school should be able to recruit its home base. Rarely are the Sooners ‘out-recruited’ in the Sooner State. Four of the Sooner’s seven Heisman winners are Oklahomans; Billy Vessels (Cleveland, Oklahoma), Steve Owens (Miami), Jason White (Tuttle), and Sam Bradford (Oklahoma City).

Also, according to On3.com, the Sooners have been able to sign the state’s top-rated recruit in 14 of the past 21 years, with a large majority of other prospects in the state who had OU offers signing as well. Equally as important, in the years when the state of Oklahoma’s top-rated recruit signed with an out-of-state school, none signed with the same school. This indicates that no other program has been able to consistently invade the Sooner State and establish an outside pipeline.

The Sooners have offered all five of the state’s current top-five rated recruits in the Class of 2024. These recruits are strongly considering OU as their college destination, with added priority on 4-star DT Xadavien Sims (Durant).

The state of Texas: Traditionally, the Lone Star State has been seen as a talent-rich geography that attracts numerous college programs. That’s easy to understand because Texas is huge. However, with Texas being in the Sooners’ recruiting (and geographic) backyard, it’s critical the Sooners do well in recruiting the state, and they have indeed.

Those Heisman winners we looked at earlier, the other three are from Texas: Billy Sims (Hooks, Texas), Baker Mayfield (Austin), and Kyler Murray (Allen). Texas high school football is considered some of the most, if not the most, premiere in the nation. Any program that wants to compete nationally in the recruiting game must establish notoriety in recruiting Texas. Few have demonstrated a consistent pipeline in the state, as an outsider, as Oklahoma. 32.

Thirty-two current Sooners hail from Texas. Several future recruits the Sooners are looking to bring in are from Texas, including current 2025 QB commit Kevin Sperry and recent verbal commit QB Michael Hawkins. The last three Texas-raised Sooner quarterbacks are starting and prospering in the NFL. The Sooners have their eyes set on nabbing some top Texas talent in the 2024 recruiting class, like RB Caden Durham (Duncanville), 5-star WR Bryant Wesco (Midlothian), WR Zion Kearney (Missouri City), eventual 5-star LT Bennett Warren (Sugarland), 5-star CB Kobe Black (Waco), LB Peyton Pierce (Lucas) and S Jayden Hardy (Lewisville) among several others.

The state of Florida: The Sooners have seen recent success in the Sunshine State. Historically, the Sooners have seen success in the State of Florida as well with names like Brendan Radley-Hiles (Bradenton), Mario Williams (Plant City), Nik Bonitto (Ft. Lauderdale), Davin Joseph (Hallandale), Eric Striker (Suffer), Marquise “Hollywood” Brown (Hollywood), and the legendary Torrance Marshall (Miami).

Florida, like Texas, is an important place to have a recruiting presence due to its population and high level of high school football competition. The Sooners have strong ties in Florida right now as well with current players Derrick Leblanc (Kissimmee) R Mason-Thomas (Kissimmee), Jayden Gibson (Winter Garden), Jaden Davis (Ft. Lauderdale), Makari Vickers (Tallahassee), Jamarrien Burt (Ocala) and Danny Stutsman (Windermere) all active contributors on the roster. The Sooners are currently hitting Florida hard on the recruiting trail, with close competitions in place for a 5-star defensive lineman, and native Oklahoman David Stone (IMG Academy), RB Tovani Mizzell (Ft. Lauderdale), S Isiah Thomas (Clearwater) and LB Drew Woodaz (Tampa).

Although the Sooners are a recruiting powerhouse, there are two specific areas I see the program trending toward in establishing a pipeline-rated recruit in Kansas City history in Adepoju Adebawore (North Kansas City, Missouri) along with 2023 composite 4-star offensive tackle Cayden Green (Lees Summit, Missouri). Typically, two recruits doesn’t make a pipeline become a regular establishment; however, these two seem different for two reasons. The first, Adebawore has, so far this spring, looked elite, as has Green. Second, the Sooners have their sights on, and the lead, in recruiting the next great Kansas City football player, and equally as impressive defensive line recruit, Williams Nwaneri (Lee’s Summit North High School). The Sooners also have offers out to other top KC-area recruits including 5-star WR Ryan Wingo, Jaden Reddell, Andrew Sprauge (committed to Michigan… not over yet though), Jayshawn Ross, and Kellen Lindstrom.

Arizona is the next state the Sooners are attempting to build a pipeline. Current Sooner commit Jeremiah Newcombe will be the first Arizona player on the Venables roster. Future Sooner hopeful and 5-star Elijah Rushing also comes from Arizona.

Pipelines work because of the relationships coaches develop with local high school coaching staffs and the trust developed throughout a player’s career. Player X experiences a program and tells his friends back home (recruits X, Y, and Z) about their experiences. Word travels, and relationships spread. Before you know it, your program has the upper hand in recruiting and gets first pick when hat selections occur. Recruiting is about relationships; the more fruitful the relationships are, the more pipeline states a program will develop.

Finally, the Sooners are in their last year of Big 12 play before they move to the SEC. With Oklahoma’s current pipeline strongholds, mixed with the crafting of new sites, the Sooners should enter the SEC with a good recruiting foundation.

Combined with the elite-level recruiters on the Venables staff (Jay Valai, Jeff Lebby, DeMarco Murray, and Miguel Chavis), these pipelines should allow Sooner Nation to expand its recruiting empire for ages.