By Michael Kinney
Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley was beaming when he addressed the media Wednesday afternoon. Despite just getting out of practice, he was still feeling the buzz from a dramatic and successful early signing day.
“It’s been an eventful day. But it’s been a great day. I don’t know in all the year recruiting if we’ve ever honestly had a day like this,” Riley said. “So many things went in our favor. Had a few recruits here that went down to the wire. It’s a very rewarding and gratifying day. Proud of all our guys, the way they stuck with us. This class was special from the beginning. It started with some great players that decided to jump on early. Like a lot of great classes, this class continued to help us recruit. It’s been a very unselfish class. A lot of great players see, yes, I can go accomplish individual things I want to at Oklahoma. These great players wanted to play together. They wanted to win championships and continue to build on the legacy.”
According to Rivals.com, the Sooners ended the day with the No. 5 overall recruiting class in the nation behind four SEC schools – Alabama, Georgia, Texas A&M and LSU. Of their 22 signings, three were 5-Star and 10 were 4-Star recruits.
The Sooners landed five players who will be on the defensive line at Oklahoma. It is a continuation of what they have been trying to do the past two years
“I think when you start talking about the strengths on paper of this class, it’s hard not to start there. Our top targets throughout the process are the guys we ended up getting. Kori Roberson was a top prospect,” Riley said. “Marcus Hicks was (Marcus) Stripling was. Laron (Stokes) popped up here late and was really a need at a big-time point for us. Derek Green was one early we identified, that we really loved out of North Carolina. It was one of those where it just kind of came together. Give Calvin Tidwell a lot of credit. We really back up two really nice defensive line classes. We said 18 months ago that recruiting that position was going to be a priority. We’ve been good there. But we’ve got to get back to being elite there. I think these two classes are a big step in that direction.”
One of the biggest moments of the day was the signing of safety Jeremiah Criddell. He seemed destined to be heading to Oregon, before going on national TV and announcing he was coming to Oklahoma by giving the horns down hand sign.
“It was one for the books,” Riley said. “Great player. Obviously comes out of a prime program over there at Mater De in California. Guy that we’ve had our eye on for a long time. His recruitment really picked up here at the end. One of those guys that had his choice to go wherever he wanted to go. It was a huge target for us. Safety was certainly a position we wanted to continue address in this class. He gives you some great versatility. We’re excited about him being physical but also can cover. Really love the kid and his maturity. It was a tough decision for him and it came down to the wire. It was a cool moment when he chose the Sooners.”
When Criddell was on ESPN announcing his decision, Riley and his staff were filmed watching it all. Once he said he was going to be a Sooners, the coaches exploded in celebration.
“Every time one of these guys commit it’s not always captured on video. There is an extreme level of excitement because we’re competing for the best players in the country. And it’s competitive. These guys have a lot of good places they can choose,” Riley said. “When they choose OU, they trust us with their future and developing them and being all that we need to be for them. We get pretty excited. No different than scoring a touchdown in a big game. We have fun it. We put a lot into recruiting. We put our heart and soul into that to, as much as we do winning games.”
The highest profile player in the class is quarterback Spencer Rattler. The 5-star recruit is the consensus No. 1 QB in the 2019 class. Riley was asked if Rattler can start at Oklahoma as a freshman.
“A lot goes into that. Physically, he will be as gifted as anybody we’ve brought in here,” Riley said. “I felt that for a long time. Even when I watched him as a freshman, I felt he was a cut above most guys out there. He’s got elite physical talent. I think he has the mentality to come in and compete early. As Spencer knows, we have other really good quarterbacks on the roster and there is going to be competition like there’s always been.”
Tailback Marcus Major is one of only two signees in the 2019 class to come from the state of Oklahoma. Getting him to replenish the running back room was huge for Riley.“It was big. One of the early guys that we targeted and as his film started to circulate, you could see this kid is incredibly gifted,” Riley said of the 6-0, 195 Oklahoma City native. “We got around him, his family, you could tell he had the kind of stuff we want here. Great kid. Very humble, hungry. Wanted to be here. Extremely gifted. He is going to be a little raw coming in like a lot of these guys are. But man, the tools this cat is working with, they’re pretty good.”
The Sooners brought in depth at wide receivers with the signings of Trejan Bridges and Theo Wease. Riley said they will get a chance to see action early.
“I think they’ll certainly have a chance to,” Riley said. “Getting some more receiving threats with some of the guys we’ve lost and some of the guys we’re getting ready to lose, that was important. I certainly think they will have a chance. We’re going to throw them in the fire early.”
Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider