OU football recruiting strong despite defensive uncertainty
Woodi Washington changes his hand signal in each photo. "Horns down" in one. "There's only one" in another. Four fingers for Oklahoma's run of Big 12 titles in the last one.
What doesn't change is the Sooner recruit's posture. In each picture snapped during a recent in-home visit, Washington stands tall and proud and smiling.
The other constant in each photo — Kerry Cooks.
You have to wonder if the OU defensive backs coach will be standing next to Washington next season.
Cooks is one of OU's defensive assistants whose future in Norman is in question. Sooner coach Lincoln Riley is expected to name a new defensive coordinator at some point, and at big-time programs, coordinators are routinely allowed to bring a few of their own assistants.
What assistants will remain? Who will be replaced?
It's impossible to say.
And yet, with the first of two signing periods starting Wednesday, all of the Sooner assistants have been on the recruiting trail in recent weeks. Seeing photos on social media of Tim Kish in San Bernardino, California, with linebacker Jonathan Perkins or Calvin Thibodeaux in Wichita, Kansas, with defensive end Marcus Hicks or Cooks in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, with Washington is weird.
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Everyone looks so happy, but you know that those defensive coaches along with Ruffin McNeill and Bob Diaco have no idea if they'll be employed at OU in a few weeks.
It's an odd unintended consequence of Signing Day in December. What first went into effect a year ago as a way to alleviate the pressure of the recruiting process on recruits has been largely hailed. High schoolers aren't getting hounded to switch their decisions, and programs aren't been blindsided by last-minute de-commitments.
But some side effects aren't so splendid.
When asked about recruiting with uncertainty about the defensive coordinator, Riley said there had been some questions from recruits.
"I told them — and I think guys understood this when you put it in this prospective — 'If you are a senior on this football team at Oklahoma right now, what would you want me as the head coach to be worried about right now? Do you want me worried about defensive coordinator for next year and beyond, or do you want us worried about trying to win a national championship?'" Riley said.
An excellent point.
Still, it's weird to think a coach who flies across the country, visits a recruit's home, endears himself to the guy and convinces him to come play for his school might not even be there by the time the player moves into the dorms.
Riley has told recruits to have faith that the new defensive coordinator will be a good one. Look at the second-year head coach's hires, and his track record is strong.
The message must be resonating: nine of the 19 players expected to sign with the Sooners on Wednesday are on the defensive side.
Of course, winning four consecutive conference crowns and going to the College Football Playoff for the third time in four years is a pretty good message to send to recruits, too.
"There's a ton of momentum behind the program," Riley acknowledged. "I think a lot of recruits and their families right now feel like they can come to OU and they know what they are going to get."
Except for what kind of defense the Sooners will run or how they will fit in to the system or who will coach them.
Other than that, they know exactly what to expect.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 405-475-4125 or email@example.com. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.