Oklahoma football: Bedlam environment reaps 2023 recruiting gains

[Stormin in Norman] Oklahoma football: Bedlam environment reaps 2023 recruiting gains

Oklahoma's Dillon Gabriel (8) walk back to the sideline after an Oklahoma touchdown during a Bedlam college football game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and the Oklahoma State University Cowboys (OSU) at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022. Oklahoma won 28-13. Bedlam Football

Everyone involved with the Oklahoma football program recognized the huge opportunity presented by the combination of the Bedlam rivalry with Oklahoma State and the 2022 home season finale at the Palace on the Prairie.

It served as the ideal setting for a big recruiting weekend and the Sooners fully intended to make the most of it.

Oklahoma played host to as many as three dozen prized recruits at Saturday’s annual Bedlam battle, some of whom had already committed to the Sooners’ 2023 class and other prime targets OU was hopeful of convincing to come aboard for ’23 or ’24.

If the showdown with the Sooners’ in-state rival wasn’t motivation enough to put on a good show, OU was seeking a sixth win on the season to become bowl eligible, and this being the last home game of the year, it was also Senior Day. A national television broadcast (the came was carried in primetime on ABC) added to the game atmosphere.

All of this combined help contribute to a 28-13 Oklahoma win. The Sooner offense played lights out for the first 15 minutes piling up a program record 299 yards of offense and 28 points. After that, it was all up to the defense, which played perhaps its best game of the year in having the back of an OU offense that went completely stagnant over the final three quarters.

With the win, Brent Venables’ troops became bowl eligible in his first season as head coach and for the 24th consecutive year. And that was just the beginning of the beneficial fallout to come.

The recruiting bounce OU was hoping for followed less than 24 hours after the Sooner win in Bedlam. Three-star defensive lineman Ashton Sanders committed to Oklahoma on Sunday. The 6-foot, 1-inch, 300-pound D-lineman originally had committed to California-Berkeley this summer but decommitted in late October.

“The three-star prospect has the size to bully interior offensive linemen and the athleticism to beat them with quickness as well,” according to Sooners Wire managing editor John Williams.

One day later, the Sooners picked up a commitment from three-star defensive end prospect Taylor Wein from Nolensville, Tennessee. Wein’s recruiting stock has been rising fast over the past month. Wein is rated as No. 67 nationally at his position and the No. 23 player in the state of Tennessee.

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 that jumps off the page about Wein is his quick first step,” the Sooners Wire’s Williams says. “He’s quick off the snap, often allowing him to beat his blocker before they even come out of their stance.”

On Wednesday, OU added a third defensive commitment since the Bedlam win on Saturday. Junior-college All-American cornerback Kendel Dolby became the 23rd commitment to the Sooners 2023 class. Sanders is the 2022 Defensive Player of the Year in the Southwest Junior College Football Conference.

Dolby is from Springfield, Ohio, and has played for two seasons at Northeastern A&M in Miami, Oklahoma. That is the same school that produced former Sooner defensive end LaRon Stokes.

Ten of Oklahoma’s 2023 commits so far are defensive players and equally distributed through all three levels of the defensive unit: Two defensive linemen, two edge rushers, three linebackers two cornerbacks and one safety. Three other commitments are listed as athletes and played both ways in high school.

And the Sooners aren’t done for 2023. Among the three dozen prospects who made visits as part of OU’s big recruiting weekend this past weekend were two top targets nationally.

Five-star defensive lineman David Hicks, who surprised everyone on the Oklahoma coaching staff by committing to Texas A&M in late September was in Norman last weekend revisiting the Sooners. Accompanying his good friend Hicks to OU last weekend was four-star safety Peyton Bowen, rated by 247Sports as the No. 2 safety in the 2023 class. Bowen has been committed to Notre Dame since Jan. 1, 2022.

Several recruiting experts believe the Sooners have a good chance of flipping both Bowen and Hicks, who would be huge additions to OU’s 2023 class and easily move the class into the top-five nationally.

National Signing Day is scheduled for Dec. 21. Oklahoma’s 2023 class is currently ranked No. 7 in the 247Sports team rankings and No. 9 by Rivals.