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How Oklahoma is Evaluating the Spring Transfer Portal Period

The new portal period opened on Saturday, and the Sooners are expecting to land some new names as Brent Venables continues to replenish the roster.

As spring football has begun to wind down for college football programs around the country, transfer portal season has begun to heat up.

Oklahoma still has a week left of spring practice, culminating with next Saturday’s Red/White Game.

But the spring transfer portal period opened last Saturday — it runs from April 15-30 — and for OU, that means more players will soon be announcing their intentions to transfer to Oklahoma.

So as the portal begins to fill up this spring, how does Brent Venables and his staff evaluate talent in the portal? How do they come to a consensus on a player?

There’s actually a lot that goes into it.

OU coaches and support staff maintain a vigilant eye on portal movement. Once a player enters his name in the portal, a coach or staffer might know that player from their relationship in the original high school recruiting process. Maybe the coach knows the player’s high school coach or family, or they have history with his college position coach or head coach. Or maybe they were impressed while studying an opponent’s film, or perhaps they simply saw something while catching a game on TV.

AllSooners recently asked defensive coordinator Ted Roof how the process works in Norman.

First of all, Venables is the ultimate decision-maker, Roof said.

“But we all have opinions,” he said. “Everybody’s opinion is listened to and whether, like you said, you knew a kid from high school, that this kid would fit our program, or maybe that kid wouldn’t fit our program from an off-the-field type of situation. The film kind of talks for itself.

“And then you talk to other coaches that you might know and the places that these guys are coming from and get their opinion. It all adds to a bunch of information — and Coach Venables makes a decision on what to do.”

OU reeled in 11 newcomers during the winter transfer portal window. Venables is big on culture, so finding players that fit there is important. So is finding players who can play.

“There's a maturity, usually, that's a little bit different,” Venables said, “just because they're older and, whether they've been scarred up or they've played a lot and they've grown, they've matured. So their mindset, a lot of times, is different than maybe a freshman. So that can be an advantage.

“But you’ve still (got to) find guys that are team guys. And so we really feel good about the group of guys that we brought in — from team-centered leaders, where they're coming from and then having the maturity to know how to go and compete every day. They believe inherently that you're going to get what you earn.”

Venables has hired a staff he knows, of course, but he also brought in people whose judgment he intrinsically trusts.

“We present our opinions,” Roof said, “and then say, ‘Hey, this is what I think should happen.’

“And then he says, ‘Yeah, I agree,’ or ‘No.’ ”

There’s a lot to like about the Sooners’ 2023 portal class, an enticing blend of maturity and game experience and athletic ability.

“I thought we did OK,” Roof said, “but we haven’t seen the full effects of the transfer portal because there’s some guys out there not practicing.”

Venables said as he replenishes the roster that the total of newcomers should reach 37, so Sooner Nation can expect some movement over the next two weeks.

But Venables said the very nature of the transfer portal comes with its own caveat.

“What you love about a young player is that you have all this opportunity to develop them and guys that are going to be there for three, four or five years,” Venables said. “You know, by the fourth and that fifth year, by the time that comes around, these are guys that can play at a really, really high level consistently for you.

“So the negative of the portal is the guys are in and out. And so there can be constant turnover. And at the end of the day, that’s not what you ideally want. You want continuity and stability on your roster. That's a good thing. Even if it’s a little lesser talent and get a guy for, you know, three, four, five years, — those fifth-year guys, they can play at a really high level and they understand what winning football looks like. And they certainly understand, inherently, deeply, how you do what you do.”