OU to the SEC: Oklahoma's Gamble Will Pay Off on the Recruiting Trail

SI All-American Recruiting Director John Garcia Jr. explains how OU's imminent move to the SEC could put the Sooners over the top.
Publish date:

The landscape of college football is ever changing.

Texas A&M took advantage of this when the Aggies moved to the SEC in the last round of conference realignment.

Along with their newly minted SEC status came recruiting perks, as the Aggies turned themselves into a perennial recruiting power.

Now, the Oklahoma Sooners are positioning themselves for a similar renaissance.

In their final decade in the Big 12, Texas A&M’s recruiting class was ranked at 20.4 in the country by 247 Sports. In the 10 years since joining the SEC? They’ve ranked at 9.7 on average.

And the reasons for their massive jump aren’t too hard to piece together.

“It’s the competitiveness (in the SEC), and that’s really where it always has been,” Sports Illustrated All-American recruiting director John Garcia Jr. told SI Sooners. “It has vaulted to the best of the best in every single measure. Whether you go recruiting rankings, whether you go winning on Saturdays, which is still important… whether you go college football playoff titles, whether you go to the all important NFL … the SEC has been at the forefront of the discussion."

As just about everything in college football seems to change at an all-time pace, Garcia said the message from recruits has remained the same — they want to know how they can get to the NFL.

“The NFL has become number one on sort of the average recruit’s pecking order of priority,” Garcia said. “That’s what we hear more than everything else. More than family, feel, fit, NIL stuff, and that’ll be part of it too. But what we still hear the most is about Sundays and any NFL Draft will reinforce that SEC notion.”

That’s been an uphill battle the Sooners have had to fight for a decade now in every major recruiting battle. The notion that the Big 12 is an inferior brand of football has continually hurt OU, especially on the defensive side of the ball.

That’s about to change.

“Now, you’re not an outlier,” Garcia said. “Now you won’t be in that outlying list and now that no longer becomes a varying point in that decision-making process. A lot of kids look at that conference and say ‘I just want to play in that conference.’ Particularly, again, in Florida, Georgia and Alabama.”

Oklahoma will no longer have to fight that battle with Texas A&M for the top talent in the Lone Star State, and they might be able to further their foothold in the traditional bedrock of the SEC, throughout the south in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Florida.

“I mean if you’re an offensive recruit and you’re not looking at Oklahoma, you’re kind of missing the boat here. But now in the argument of why shouldn’t I go there, the conference would become a part of that conversation,” Garcia said. “For programs on the cusp like Oklahoma looking to get over that championship hump, something like that can absolutely be the difference.”

The timeline is all over the place. The Grant of Rights expires in 2025, but there has been speculation that OU and Texas could be taking the field in the SEC as early as 2023. If that’s the case, Garcia said there will likely be no delay in seeing that bump with recruits.

“It’s instant,” he said. “If you think about recruiting, the bulk of programs are beginning to wrap up this class of 2022 so they’re sort of turning the page (to 2023).

“That sell would translate immediately to your graphics department, your marketing department, the whole shebang on social media would flip from one day to the next.”

Not only does the move to the SEC make all the sense in the world financially, the recruiting bump could be the final piece in the puzzle to putting the Sooners truly back amongst the elite of the elite in college football.