It doesn’t seem like it, but Wednesday was Lincoln Riley’s first traditional National Signing Day.
That’s not usually how it works. Most times, a new coach muddles through the previous coach’s outgoing class, supplementing where he can and adding a few last-minute names.
Usually, a coach doesn’t go to the College Football Playoff until after signing day.
But with Riley taking over for Bob Stoops last June, and then with the implementation this year of an early signing period (Dec. 20-22), there’s not much going on in Norman these days that would qualify as “usual.”
Except for the fact that Riley hit another one out of the park.
“It was kind of an anticlimactic day, actually,” Riley said. “It was exciting to get the whole class together, but it’s certainly a strange feeling. It didn’t feel as much like signing day. The one in December felt certainly a lot more like the real signing day than this one did, at least this year.”
That’s because the Sooners, after going 12-2 in Riley’s rookie season and winning another Big 12 championship, signed 19 of this year’s 22-member class back in December. On the first Wednesday in February, the traditional National Signing Day, OU brought on only three newcomers: defensive tackle Michael Thompson, linebacker DaShaun White and tight end Brayden Willis.
Riley, perhaps being younger and still new to the job, has adapted quickly to the new recruiting calendar and the NCAA’s new guidelines.
Recruiting services like Rivals and 247 Sports show OU had another great recruiting year. Rivals ranks Riley’s first class tied for eighth nationally; 247 Sports ranks the Sooners ninth.
“I felt confident in our ability as a staff to recruit and what we’re selling here, I mean, the best college football program in America, this new building. I knew it would come,” Riley said. “To get this good of a class this early, with the change happening in June I think was a great step towards that.”
The Sooners signed 13 defensive players (that’s an ongoing emphasis, which is smart) and nine offensive players. Three newcomers come with five-star ratings. Eight are already enrolled for the current semester and will participate in spring drills.
“It’s a group, as a coach, that gets you really excited about the future of Oklahoma football, about the impact that this class can have, not only next year but in the coming years,” Riley said. “Really proud of how our staff handled this whole thing.
“Recruiting is not easy in itself. For a lot of these guys, especially the top players, it’s a multi-year process. And for our staff, everybody involved, to be able to this well, especially this year, when this tenure started in June — which is a little abnormal — to be able to round out a great class here is a credit to a lot of people.
“And I think the best is yet to come. The impact of this new facility, some of the new hires that we’ve made, some of the advancements that we’ve made in recruiting I think is gonna pay dividends even down the road.”
Columnist John E. Hoover is co-host of “Further Review with Hoover & Rew” and can be heard every weekday on The Franchise in Tulsa from noon to 3 p.m. with co-host Lauren Rew. In Oklahoma City, catch him Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings at 10:25 and every Friday afternoon at 4:05. Listen at fm107.7 in OKC, fm107.9/am1270 in Tulsa, on The Franchise app, or click the “Listen” tab on The Franchise home page. Visit his personal page at johnehoover.com.