2013 Opponent Recruiting Recap: Oklahoma Sooners

Notre Dame, Oklahoma Football
Oct 27, 2012; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Landry Jones (12) in action against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

When Notre Dame and Oklahoma suit up on the same field, America takes notice. With 244 years of combined football experience, the Fighting Irish and Sooners are among the most historic programs in all of college football, making it all the more surprising the two teams have only met head-to-head 10 times. Even more impressive, after Notre Dame’s 30-13 victory over the Sooners last fall, the Irish are 9-1 all-time against Oklahoma, lowering Bob Stoops’ overall home record in Norman to an unheard of 79-5.

Notre Dame’s victory over Oklahoma – which is the first trip the Fighting Irish had taken to Norman since 1966 when ND beat the Sooners 38-0 en route to a national championship – is incalculable in its importance and may very well have been the biggest victory for ND’s program in a long time.

Initial Impressions

You know you’re an established power in college football when you post a 10-3 record and the fans begin to grumble about losing your touch. Such is the curse of Oklahoma head coach, Bob Stoops. Yes, two of those losses were in blowout fashion, but consider the sources. Oklahoma’s three losses were to Kansas State (11-2), Notre Dame (12-1) and Texas A&M (11-2). The Wildcats and Fighting Irish both played in BCS games and A&M was the only team to take down the goliath known as Alabama. Not too shabby, all things considered.

So before the college football world pegs Oklahoma as on the downswing, it’s important to remember this is a team that:

  • Took the Texas Longhorns to the woodshed (63-21) so badly that the walls are starting to cave in on Texas head coach Mack Brown
  • Had the lead against former #1 Kansas State heading into the 4th quarter (Oklahoma’s only conference loss)
  • Was tied with Notre Dame 6 minutes into the 4th quarter
  • Was co-conference champions of the Big 12 (a tidbit lost on many due to the fact Kansas State played in a BCS game)
  • Managed to put up 38.5 points per game

Biggest Hits

RB, Keith Ford (4-star, Cypress, TX)

Ford is a member of the Rivals 250 and is ranked as the 48th best player in the class of 2013. He possessed an offer sheet as good as they come, with offers from the likes of Alabama, Florida State, Michigan and Notre Dame.

QB, Cody Thomas (4-star, Colleyville, TX)

Cody Thomas is also a member of the Rivals 250 and is ranked as the 125th best player in the class of 2013. Every program in the country had interest in Thomas, with teams such as Alabama, Florida, LSU, Notre Dame and USC in pursuit of his services.

DT, Kerrick Huggins (4-star, Dallas, TX)

Huggins is a bit of a mystery prospect. Though a member of the Rivals 250 (160th nationally) and the third highest-rated player the Sooners signed, his offer sheet lacks a punch. Huggins only held offers from the likes of Colorado State, SMU, Texas A&M and Texas Tech, a lower-caliber of prestige for such a highly regarded prospect.

Biggest Misses

The recruiting woes of Oklahoma can be summarized in one name: 3-star linebacker Jordan Mastrogiovanni. The Sooners are in deep trouble at the linebacker position. The situation is so dire that Stoops is currently unable to even fill a two-deep at the position, having only 5 scholarship linebackers on his squad, one of which (Eric Striker) is a safety-linebacker hybrid.

When Jordan Mastrogiovanni, an Oklahoma commit, flipped and ultimately signed with Texas A&M hours after the Sooners had been blown out by the Aggies, the problem became an emergency. Oklahoma did sign two linebackers in the class of 2013 in athlete Dominique Alexander and 3-star linebacker Jordan Evans, but neither will be of much assistance this fall.  Alexander weighs in at 195 pounds, and Evans isn’t much better at 205. If the Sooners sustain injuries to their linebacker unit, Irish fans have to be salivating at the thought of Notre Dame running back and battering ram, Will Mahone, trying to be tackled by a 195 pound true freshman linebacker.

Notre Dame vs. Oklahoma Recruiting Battles

Notre Dame Oklahoma
Hunter Bivin (OL)
Greg Bryant (RB)
Torii Hunter Jr. (WR)
Cole Luke (DB)
Jacob Matuska (DL)
Max Redfield (DB)
Jaylon Smith (LB)
Eddie Vanderdoes (DL)
Hatari Byrd (DB)
Keith Ford (RB)
L.J. Moore (DB)
Ahmad Thomas (DB)
Cody Thomas (QB)

The real recruiting battles between Notre Dame and Oklahoma involve L.J. Moore and Greg Bryant. L.J. Moore, a 4-star safety from Fresno, California, was being pursued hard by the Fighting Irish, and almost to success. Moore took an official visit to Notre Dame for the Michigan night game and was so blown away by the experience he nearly committed to Notre Dame on the spot. Moore ultimately decided to wait, and eventually joined his high school teammate, Hatari Byrd, and signed with the Sooners. Greg Bryant was also a battle, as the 5-star running back and Notre Dame signee was at one point committed to Oklahoma.

How important was Notre Dame’s win over Oklahoma? Would high profile signees like Eddie Vanderdoes or Greg Bryant have signed with Notre Dame if the Irish had lost? Would Notre Dame, having missed out on 4-star safety L.J. Moore to Oklahoma, have been able to brush off the miss by signing 5-star safety Max Redfield instead? While we may never know, it’s hard to believe beating Oklahoma, a team that never loses at home, didn’t have a strong impact.

Overall Summary

Oklahoma is a consistent power in college football, and their production on the field and the recruiting trail reflects it. The Sooners posted a 10-2 regular season record and finished with the #15 recruiting class in the country in 2013. So how important was Notre Dame’s win over Oklahoma, helping pave the way to an undefeated regular season? A quick look at recruiting tells the story.

In the recruiting class of 2012, Oklahoma finished #11 in the country, and Notre Dame came in at #20. Fast-forward one year and Notre Dame has the #3 class in the country compared to Oklahoma’s #15. The Sooners signed seven 4-star players in 2013 – Notre Dame doubled that with fourteen 4-star players and added four 5-stars for good measure, including stealing former Oklahoma commit and 5-star running back, Greg Bryant.

Notre Dame’s 30-13 win in Norman went a long way in creating a foundation that will set Notre Dame for years into the future.

Scott Janssen is a blogger for the Huffington Post and has authored several nationally-featured articles as well as co-founded a nationally-featured non-profit organization. In his spare time he takes his NCAA Football ’13 online dynasty way too seriously and alienates those around him by discussing football 24 hours a day. Scott can be found on twitter at @HumbleBoaster.

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