NORMAN — Fresh off the practice field, Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley was all smiles.
Just three days before OU faces Iowa State in the Big 12 championship game, the early signing period opened and the Sooners received 16 signatures for their 2021 recruiting class.
“I’m very, very proud of the people we signed, the people that are coming into the program,” Riley said. “I think there’s a lot of great days ahead for the Oklahoma Sooners.”
As of Wednesday evening, the Sooners signed the country’s seventh-best class, according to the 247Sports Composite, with one five-star, 12 four-star and three three-star prospects on its board.
OU rolled out a series of videos, featuring cameos from its coaching staff and a player point-of-view tour of its facilities, to individually welcome the program’s latest signees.
It’s been a strange recruiting cycle for OU with the COVID-19 pandemic taking away in-person recruiting over the last nine months. The Sooners still managed to put together a top-10 class, which went out of its way to make trips to Norman, despite not being able to visit with coaches.
“This group really stuck together,” Riley said. “I think they started to form bonds despite not being able to come on official visits together and go through the norm.
“You can already feel that group is kind of like, ‘Man we’ve been through something together already.’ It’s like they’ve already experienced adversity together and have found a way through it, which normally bonds people together.”
Here’s a look at the Sooners’ signees (Note: all rankings are based on the 247Sports Composite):
• 5-star Caleb Williams (QB, 6-1, 220, Washington, D.C.): The country’s top dual-threat quarterback prospect chose OU over LSU and Maryland. Williams is the nation’s sixth-ranked overall prospect and has already moved to Norman.
• 4-star Billy Bowman (ATH, 5-10, 175, Denton, Texas): Once committed to Texas, the 38th-ranked overall prospect flipped his verbal commitment to the Sooners on Nov. 1 and stayed true to his word. It’s still unclear if Bowman will end up as a receiver or defensive back.
• 4-star Mario Williams (WR, 5-10, 165, Plant City, Fla.): The fourth-best receiver in the ‘21 class provides another speedy and explosive playmaker to OU’s receivers room. He is also signed to play baseball.
• 4-star Clayton Smith (DE, 6-4, 220, Texarkana, Texas): OU assistant Jamar Cain compared Smith to Nik Bonitto in an interview with Sooner Sports TV. The talented pass rusher ranks No. 2 nationally at his position and No. 43 overall.
• 4-star Savion Byrd (OT, 6-5, 295, Duncanville, Texas): OU’s lone early signing period surprise was Byrd’s commitment to the program on Wednesday. 247Sports.com’s Crystal Ball predictions favored the ninth-ranked offensive tackle prospect staying closer to home and attending SMU.
• 4-star Kelvin Gilliam (DE, 6-3, 250, Highland Springs, Va.): OU assistant Calvin Thibodeaux told Sooner Sports TV he expects Gilliam, a fringe top-100 prospect, to impact the entire defensive line, similar to current Sooner Isaiah Thomas’ role.
• 4-star Cody Jackson (WR, 6-0, 175, Richmond, Texas): Another highly regarded receiver, Jackson was the first Class of 2021 prospect to commit to OU. The nation’s 18th-best receiver hails from the same high school as CeeDee Lamb.
• 4-star Jalil Farooq (WR, 6-1, 200, Marlboro, Md.): The Sooners’ receiving corps added another top-150 prospect in Farooq, who was also considering major programs such as Alabama, LSU and Clemson.
• 4-star Ethan Downs (DE, 6-4, 240, Weatherford): OU had one of the country’s best defensive ends in its backyard and fended off the likes of LSU, Texas and Stanford to keep him home.
• 4-star Latrell McCutchin (CB, 6-1, 175, Austin, Texas): The Sooners beefed up their secondary with the addition of McCutchin, who was committed to Alabama before flipping to OU.
• 4-star Nathan Rawlins-Kibonge (DE, 6-7, 240, Portland, Ore.): OU is expanding its “2SportU” moniker with football and basketball standout Nathan Rawlins-Kibonge, who was originally committed to play basketball at Washington State.
• 4-star Damond Harmon (CB, 6-1, 178, Highland Springs, Va.): Another highly touted defensive back prospect, Harmon picked the Sooners over offers from the likes of Florida and Georgia.
• 4-star Jordan Mukes (S, 6-4, 192, Choctaw): OU is banking on the development and athleticism of Mukes, who seemed destined for success in basketball before establishing himself as one of the top safety prospects in the country.
• 3-star Danny Stutsman (LB, 6-2, 215, Winter Garden, Fla.): The outside linebacker was one of the defense’s first commitments and the first player to send his letter of intent to Norman on Wednesday.
• 3-star Cullen Montgomery (OG, 6-5, 315, Bellaire, Texas): Garnering offers from 26 schools, one of the class’ top offensive guard prospects is headed to OU and brings a college-ready frame with him.
• 3-star Isaiah Coe (DT, 6-3, 315, Council Bluffs, Iowa): Coe will transfer from Iowa Western Community College. He was regarded as one of the top defensive tackle prospects among junior college players and ranked No. 26 overall.