Everyone involved in the Oklahoma football program recognized the tremendous opportunity presented by the combination of Bedlam’s rivalry with Oklahoma State and the 2022 home season finals at the Palace on the Prairie.
It was the ideal setting for a big recruiting weekend, and the Sooners were keen to make the most of it.
Oklahoma hosted up to three dozen valuable recruits at Saturday’s annual Bedlam battle, some of whom had already signed up for the Sooners’ 2023 class and other key targets that OU hoped to convince them to do for ’23 or to come on board in ’24.
If the showdown with the Sooners’ rival wasn’t motivation enough to put on a good show, OU was aiming for a sixth win of the season to qualify for the Bowl, and this was their final home game of the year, also on Seniors’ Day. A nationwide television broadcast (which was broadcast during prime time on ABC) added to the atmosphere of the game.
It all adds up to a 28-13 win in Oklahoma. The Sooner offense played without lights for the first 15 minutes and set a program record with 299 yards of offense and 28 points. After that, it was up to the defense, which played perhaps their best game of the year by coming off against an OU offense that had stagnated completely in the last three quarters.
The win gave Brent Venables’ troops key-eligibility in his first season as head coach and for the 24th straight season. And that was just the beginning of the beneficial effects to come.
The recruitment leap that OU had been hoping for came less than 24 hours after Sooner’s win at Bedlam. Three-star defenseman Ashton Sanders signed for Oklahoma on Sunday. The 6-foot, 1-inch, 300-pound D-Lineman was originally signed for California-Berkeley this summer but was released in late October.
“The three-star nominee has the size to bully center-backs and the athleticism to beat them quickly, too,” said John Williams, editor-in-chief of Sooners Wire.
A day later, the Sooners accepted a signing from three-star defensive end prospect Taylor wine from Nolensville, Tennessee. Wein’s recruit backlog has grown rapidly over the past month. Wein is ranked the No. 67 player nationally and the No. 23 in Tennessee for his position.
Since the beginning of the month, the 6-foot, 5-inch, 235-pound edge rusher has received scholarship offers from USC, Ole Miss, Cincinnati, Kentucky, Oklahoma State and the Sooners.
“The first thing you notice about wine is its quick first step,” says Sooners Wire’s Williams. “He’s quick-witted and often allows him to hit his blockers before they even break their stance.”
On Wednesday, OU added a third defensive engagement since Saturday’s Bedlam win. Junior College All-American Cornerback Kendle Dolby became the 23rd commitment for the Sooners 2023 class. Sanders is the 2022 Southwest Junior College Football Conference Defensive Player of the Year.
A native of Springfield, Ohio, Dolby spent two seasons with Northeastern A&M in Miami, Oklahoma. This is the same school that produced Sooner’s earlier defensive end LaRon Stokes.
Ten of Oklahoma’s commitments so far in 2023 are defensive players and are evenly distributed across all three tiers of the defensive unit: two defensive linemen, two edge rushers, three linebackers, two cornerbacks, and a safety. Three other engagements are listed as athletes and have played both ways in high school.
And the Sooners aren’t done for 2023. Among the three dozen prospects who visited as part of OU’s big recruitment weekend last weekend were two top national destinations.
Five Star Defender David Hicks, who surprised everyone on the Oklahoma coaching staff by signing with Texas A&M in late September, was in Norman last weekend to revisit the Sooners. Taking his good friend Hicks to OU last weekend was four-star security Peyton Bowenrated #2 Safety in Class of 2023 by 247Sports. Bowen has been involved with Notre Dame since January 1, 2022.
Several recruiting pundits believe the Sooners have a good chance of flipping both Bowen and Hicks, who would make a huge addition to the 2023 OU class and easily propel the class into the US Top 5.
National Signing Day is scheduled for December 21st. Oklahoma’s Class of 2023 is currently ranked 7th in the 247Sports team rankings and 9th by Rivals.