STILLWATER, OK – NOVEMBER 27: Wide receiver Blaine Green #28 of the Oklahoma State Cowboys loses the ball on a 15-yard catch after being downed by safety Patrick Fields #10, linebacker Shane Whitter #13, and cornerback Woodi Washington #0 of the Oklahoma Sooners at Boone Pickens Stadium on November 27, 2021 in Stillwater, Oklahoma. The Cowboys won ‘Bedlam’ 37-33. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
In recent years, the notion of a top-rated defensive prospect considering the Oklahoma football program as a potential destination in his recruiting process was essentially a non-starter.
Besides, Oklahoma was considered an offensive powerhouse, and the Sooners would characteristically attract elite skill position players, especially quarterback talent while Lincoln Riley was at OU. Defense was more of an afterthought, and the Sooners inability to get in on the best of the defensive talent available in recruiting was reflective of that.
In the early part of the Bob Stoops coaching era, defense was the team’s biggest weapon. In fact, it was Oklahoma’s strength on defense that enabled to Sooners win their seventh national championship in the 2000 season.
Back on the sidelines in Norman is Brent Venables, one of the principal figures who helped put together some of those outstanding Oklahoma defensive teams. What Venables was able to achieve defensively at Clemson during the past decade is already beginning to carry over to OU in terms of drawing interest in Oklahoma among several of the best defensive prospects in the country from the high school ranks.
The Oklahoma staff was not at the Under Armour spring recruiting camp in Atlanta this past weekend because the recruiting dead period did not end until March 1, but the Sooners’ presence was alive and well in the minds of many of the young participants.
UPDATE: 5⭐️ Safety Caleb Downs will visit #NorthCarolina and #Oklahoma within the next few weeks, in that order, according to On3 Sports.
He may try to attend #NotreDame’s spring game on April 23rd, also.
Update: Downs will visit #Athens on Tuesday also. pic.twitter.com/1Fi8GcBOvr
— Recruits CFB (@recruits_cfb) February 28, 2022

Before now, Oklahoma has not had a strong presence in that part of the country, largely because it is in more a hotbed for SEC/ACC recruiting and harder to get top prospects to come to OU. But things have changed for the Sooners with Venables taking over and the name recognition and reputation he had at Clemson and in recruiting this area also the impending move of Oklahoma to the SEC.
OU is actively pursuing several of the top prospects who were in attendance at the Under Armour event.
Perhaps the biggest name at the Atlanta recruiting camp that is on the Sooner target list was defensive lineman Lebbeus Overton from Alpharetta, Georgia. The consensus five-star prospect recently reclassified from the 2023 class to the 2022 class. He is on most everyone’s radar, but the schools he is leaning toward the most appear to be Texas A&M, Oklahoma and Georgia.
OU is hoping to help its chances of landing Overton by also going after is older brother, Micaiah, a tight end who is in the transfer portal after a year at Liberty. Their father, Milton, played at Oklahoma in the early 1990s.
The Sooners are also targeting a five-star safety, Caleb Downs, who is also from the state of Georgia. OU is in stiff competition for Downs’ commitment. The Sooners have extended an offer to Downs, but he also has offers from Alabama, Ohio State, Georgia, Notre Dame and North Carolina. He reportedly has visits scheduled this month to all of those schools along with OU.
Another defensive lineman who was in Atlanta at the Under Armour camp last weekend and who OU defensive line coach Todd Bates is very high on was T.A. Cunningham. Cunningham, a four-star 2023 prospect, according to 247Sports, is from the same Georgia hometown as Lebbeus Overton.
At this stage of his recruiting process, Cunningham is considering a handful of major schools that include Georgia, Florida, Texas A&M, Tennessee, and Oklahoma. Interestingly, those are all SEC schools plus OU.
There were also a couple of offensive prospects in Atlanta that the Sooners have high interest in for 2023. Wilken Formby is a four star-rated offensive lineman from Tuscalossa, Alabama. Auburn and Alabama are also very interested in Formby, as is Ole Miss, along with OU’s Bill Bedenbaugh, who would love to have the 6-foot, 7-inch, 295-pounder on the Sooner offensive line.
Ayden Williams is a 6-foot, 3-inch wide receiver from Ridgeland, Mississippi. is scheduled to make a visit to Oklahoma soon. He also has offers from Florida, Florida State, Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Southern Miss. Reportedly, Williams has a prior relationship with new OU offensive coordinator Jeffy Lebby from when Lebby was at Ole Miss.
In addition to combing the deep south for top 2023 recruiting targets, Oklahoma also is in hot pursuit of a couple of top-rated, in-state prospects. Bai Jobe is a highly recruited edge rusher from the Sooners backyard in Norman.
Although the Sooners are in good position to land Bai, he has received as many as 30 scholarship offers from schools that include the usual suspects when it comes to quality prospects: Georgia, Alabama, Texas A&M. Texas and Ole Miss.
Oklahoma is also very interested in four-star athlete Jacobe Johnson, another native Oklahoman, from Mustang, the Sooners do not want to get away. Johnson has the athletic ability and speed to play on both sides of the ball. He is rated as the No. 10 athlete in the 2023 class by 247 Sports.
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