NORMAN — Something good was cookin’ Saturday in Norman.
For the second consecutive year, OU coaches hosted the “Champ U BBQ” recruiting event on campus. There was presumably plenty of meat on the grill, and more importantly, more than 35 recruits in town.
And the Sooners left no doubt about having a successful night, coming away with three commitments on the spot.
The biggest was 2018 defensive end Jalen Redmond, a three-star recruit out of Midwest City. Redmond became the 16th member of OU's 2018 recruiting class and gives the Sooners five of the top 10 in-state recruits, as ranked by Rivals.com.
OU also got a pair of commits from Aledo (Texas) High School. The first was 2019 athlete Jeffery Carter. Carter, a Rivals.com three-star recruit, becomes the third member of OU’s 2019 class and could end up playing defensive back at the college level.
The second Aledo player is running back Jase McClellan, the first member of OU's 2020 recruiting class and thought to be one of the top backs in his age group.
At least 13 of the 15 players already committed to OU’s 2018 recruiting class were also reportedly in attendance, and many more recruits from the 2018, 2019 and 2020 classes were on hand to get a better look at the Sooners.
“Guys come here, and they’re not asked to work out or run or test, it’s just, ‘Hey, this is who we are, man,’” defensive backs coach Kerry Cooks said Wednesday. “We wanna build that family atmosphere, we want to get to know you, we want to get to know your parents, we want you to obviously get to know us and be comfortable being around OU.”
Last year’s laid-back event included whiffle ball, water balloon fights and a tour of the facilities.
This year, in addition to much of the same fun, OU recruits and their families were all over social media, posting pictures with new OU coach Lincoln Riley.
Champ U BBQ is OU’s answer to similar weekend recruiting get-togethers such as Friday Night Lights at Ohio State. Paired with Riley’s trademark “googly eyes” on Twitter to signify a commit is coming, the barbecue is another way OU is trying to turn the often cut-throat world of recruiting into a more enjoyable process.
“To me, that’s how you recruit,” Riley said at Big 12 Media Days. “You’ve got to be able to relate to them and adapt the way you relate to these guys … I think that’s just kind of the new age of recruiting. There’s still the personal relationships and the home visits and the things that there’s always been in recruiting. Those are still critical, too. But there’s so many new ways of doing it, and if you’re not doing it, you’re falling behind.”
Last season’s event proved to be integral in getting recruits such as freshman linebacker Kenneth Murray and 2018 commit Patrick Fields of Union.
Some of the other big targets in Norman this weekend included: Offensive tackle Darrell Simpson (Justin, Texas), running back Isaiah Spiller (Spring, Texas) and linebackers Brian Asamoah (Columbus, Ohio) and DaShaun White (Richland, Texas).
Last season’s OU recruiting class was ranked in the top 10 of every major recruiting service for the first time since 2010, and Rivals.com currently lists the Sooners as having the No. 10 recruiting class for 2018.
And if things go as planned, OU isn’t done.
“Normally you’re not going to have great teams if you’re not bringing in some pretty darn good players,” Riley said. “I think that’s something we’ve done better the last couple years, and hopefully we can keep doing that.”