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Football Recruiting: TCU revamps coaching staff, Lincoln Riley heads to USC

NCAA Football: Lincoln Riley Press Conference Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The last few days have been a whirlwind, haven’t they?

We all (hopefully!) had a fun Thanksgiving with friends and family, our first normal Thanksgiving in two years. Just when everything seemed calm and merry — the Christmas season is upon us — the final full college football Saturday of the season unleashed hell on us all.

First, Michigan beat rival Ohio State for the first time since Jim Harbaugh took the reins of the Wolverines in 2015, a shocking turnaround after where Michigan was as a program at this time last year. Then, Oklahoma State beat Oklahoma in Bedlam for just the third time in coach Mike Gundy’s 16 seasons.

Those two events were fairly surprising. Michigan’s win was an upset even though the Wolverines were a top five team; Oklahoma State’s win was not technically an upset though Gundy has long struggled against OU regardless of who is favored. But those two shockers paled in comparison to Sunday’s events.

Just 12 hours after wrapping up his post game press conference after a Bedlam loss on Saturday night, Lincoln Riley decided to pack his things and leave Oklahoma to become the new coach at USC in a move that blindsided, well... everybody. Then, in similar fashion, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly bailed out of South Bend to take the open job at LSU. Somehow, the Irish have found Kelly’s successor in less than a day. I guess it helps to have one of the hottest assistant coaches in football.

However, this post isn’t (totally) about those things, at least not about Kelly and Notre Dame. It is about the coaching carousel. Coaching staffs have been shaken up across the Big 12 this season — yes, season, all this has happened and it’s not even the offseason yet!!! Joey McGuire was announced as the new coach at Texas Tech weeks ago, TCU stole Sonny Dykes from rival SMU to fill its open HFC job, the OU/USC stuff happened and LSU stole Notre Dame’s coach; the Irish then filled their open position basically on impact. The regular season ended three days ago. Anyway, here’s what happened around the Big 12 and how it may affect OSU recruiting.

Lincoln Riley leaves OU for USC

This move shook up the landscape of college football on impact. Riley carries as much clout and credibility of just about any coach in the sport. Now that he’s no longer at OU, so too are many recruits and players who de-committed or hit the transfer portal. It’s been a total firesale and the Sooners are now not only without a coach, but without several current and future playmakers as well.

The Sooners have had seven decommittments in the class of ‘22, including three since Riley left for USC. Those three are running back Raleek Brown — a five-star running back from California — Derrick Moore (No. 96 nationally) and Demetrius Hunter (No. 356). Other players in the class have insinuated on Twitter they may consider de-committing.

Perhaps where OU was hit the hardest was in the class of ‘23. The Sooners owned the No. 1 class by a wide margin with seven commitments. That is now down to No. 7 nationally with three commitments. Those who de-committed include three five-star recruits — QB Malachi Nelson (No. 2 nationally), WR Brandon Inniss (No. 10), ATH Makai Lemon (No. 27) and RB Treyaun Webb (No. 109). Of those, Nelson and Lemon are from California; each attend Los Alamitos High School. Their Los Alamitos teammate — WR DeAndre Moore, Jr. (No. 49) — remains committed to OU at the moment but the Sooners may lose his commitment as well.

For comparison, Oklahoma has lost five recruits in the past four days that each of whom would rank among OSU’s top five recruits of all time had any signed with the Cowboys. The thing that stands out about most of OU’s de-commitments is that they’re mostly offensive skill players. Again, Lincoln Riley has more pull with recruits than perhaps any coach in the sport not named Nick Saban.

Oklahoma recruiting will suffer. The class of ‘22 might be beyond repair in terms of covering it to where it was. The Sooners had a top 10 class just four days ago, now it clocks at No. 16. There is still plenty of time left to recruit, but it will likely have to be players who are currently uncommitted. The early signing period is just two weeks away so it is highly unlikely OU will be flipping any commitments — especially without a head coach for the time being.

As much fun as it is highlighting OU’s struggles, that isn’t what this is about. It helps paint the picture, though. The question is how what’s going on in Norman affects OSU recruiting. The answer is probably not much. On the field, OSU might be able to steal a win or two against OU as the Sooners’ talent level drops off a little from what they’re used to when the class of ‘22 starts to get older. How much worse off the Sooners are will depend on how well they can recover in the class of ‘23; that won’t be determined until OU names a new coach.

It doesn’t really matter either. Oklahoma State recruits Oklahoma and DFW for the most part. OU recruits the cream-of-the-crop nationally. Oklahoma targets top 400 players, OSU targets mostly recruits ranked 300 or below. There’s some overlap but not a ton. OU is a national brand and the Sooners will recover on the recruiting trail when they name a new coach. Not to mention, OU is leaving for the SEC soon and the Bedlam rivals likely won’t be facing each other anytime soon after next years’ tilt in Norman.

The thing to really worry about if you’re an OSU fan is...

TCU hires Sonny Dykes, all-star recruiting staff

Hey! TCU is still in the Big 12, right? Oklahoma State will face the Fort Worth Frogs for years to come and the staff just installed has a chance to make TCU special. Sonny Dykes is heading up the joint as HFC after leading SMU to its most successful stint since the Ponies received the Death Penalty. Then he decided to take his talents to Fort Worth and brought several SMU commits in the class of ‘22 with him.

SMU secured commitments from the three highest-rated recruits in program history — at least since recruiting services began in the early 2000s — in the class of ‘22. Now two of those three are committed to TCU and the third is leaning toward TCU. This happened in part because Dykes brought ace recruiter Ra’Shaad Samples with him to Fort Worth.

Unbeknownst to me until now, Samples was an Oklahoma State Cowboy once upon a time. He was a member of OSU’s class of ‘13 and is OSU’s 30th-best rated recruit of all time as of today. Samples caught only three passes in his career as a Cowboy before transferring to Houston and medically retiring soon after.

OSU connection aside, that’s irrelevant. Samples turns 27 years old (!!) in two weeks and is one of the hottest young assistants in college football right now. He helped haul in SMU’s three highest-rated recruits in program history in their class of ‘22 before moving to TCU; those three have all since de-committed and two committed to TCU, following Samples. Now at a “Power 5” school with more resources in one of the largest recruiting hotbeds in the nation, Samples should have no problem bringing in top 25 recruiting classes.

Samples got his start as a graduate assistant on Tom Herman’s staff at Texas in 2018. He was joined on that staff by Bryan Carrington, who left Texas with the rest of the Herman staff. Carrington spent this season at USC and recently joined Dykes’ staff at TCU. Carrington was widely loved by players at Texas during his time there and many lobbied for him to stay when Steve Sarkisian was hired last winter.

Carrington and Samples give TCU two of the most influential recruiters in the state. Blue chip recruits will still be likely to sign with Alabama, Ohio State, OU, Texas, Texas A&M and other “blue blood” programs that recruit the state heavily. But not every four-and-five-star recruit can sign with those programs, and now OSU will be fighting TCU heavily for those lower end four-star guys.

TCU’s lowest-rated class between 2016-2020 was ranked 31st, while the highest was 23rd. The 2021 class fell to 53 and the 2022 class has just four commitments after the Patterson firing and is at 95th, though that will rise. Oklahoma State has recruiting finishes mostly in the 30s, but finished No. 30 last year and currently owns the No. 29 class so far this season.

With a new high-powered recruiting staff at TCU, the Frogs should be among the perennial contenders in the new Big 12. Oklahoma State will have to compete against TCU for many recruits, though the recent run of success should help OSU. The Riley move to USC affects OU’s recruiting but likely won’t have much of an affect on OSU, while new staffs at TCU and Texas Tech will challenge OSU at the top of the new Big 12 recruiting rankings.