How talented is the Oklahoma Sooners roster ahead of 2023?

We heard in the build-up to last season that the Oklahoma Sooners had one of the more talented rosters in the country. People (including me) pointed to that analysis as to why Oklahoma should be a contender in 2022. Some (not me) pointed to that analysis as to why 2022 was a coaching failure.

Based on recruiting rankings over the last five years, the Oklahoma Sooners should have one of the best rosters in college football. Based on recruiting rankings from the last five cycles, the Sooners have the eighth-best roster ahead of 2023. Brad Crawford of 247Sports explains:

Recruiting is the lifeblood of any successful program, and that’s no different at Oklahoma, a blue-blood accustomed to winning big. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen in Year 1 under coach Brent Venables, who came over to the Sooners following a lengthy tenure as Clemson’s top recruiter on staff under Dabo Swinney. The arrival of three five-stars in the 2023 recruiting cycle, however, is going to be a shot in the arm for Oklahoma prior to the school’s entry to the SEC in 2024. According to 247Sports’ recruiting rankings, Oklahoma has the second-most talented roster in the Big 12. You can probably guess who owns the league’s most lethal collection of talent. – Crawford, 247Sports

Oklahoma and Brent Venables have done a lot over the last two recruiting cycles to bring in talent from both the high school and transfer portal ranks. But as we saw last year when Oklahoma supposedly had one of the better rosters according to high school recruiting evaluations, it didn’t pan out to wins.

That doesn’t mean the analysis or rationale is wrong. The top of the list is carried by Alabama, Georgia, and Ohio State, three teams that most would argue are the most talented teams in the country.

But given the turnover that Oklahoma’s undergone since Venables has taken over, do recruiting rankings prior to the coaching change accurately reflect the talent on the Sooners’ roster?

Oklahoma’s last two recruiting classes were strong, but there aren’t a lot of players left over from the three recruiting classes prior to Brent Venables’ arrival.

Oklahoma had the No. 4 recruiting class in 2019 on the strength of the signings of Spencer Rattler, Jadon Haselwood, Trejan Bridges, and Theo Wease. All four of those players are gone. Andrew Raym, Reggie Grimes, and Nate Anderson are the top players remaining from the 2020 class but haven’t ascended into star players for the Sooners just yet.

The top three players in the 2021 class, Caleb Williams, Clayton Smith, and Mario Williams, are gone as well.

So, while the recruiting at Oklahoma has been good, the strength of the Sooners’ recruiting classes from 2019-2021 isn’t reflected on the 2023 roster. Given the amount of roster turnover that Oklahoma has undergone since Venables has taken over, these “talent rankings” don’t adequately reflect where Oklahoma is as a roster right now unless you look strictly at the last two recruiting classes.

But that doesn’t mean this isn’t a group capable of reasserting the Sooners as Big 12 contenders. Oklahoma brought in one of the best transfer portal classes in the first phase of the portal. Specifically, on the defensive side of the ball, the Sooners brought in several impact players. Dasan McCullough, reggie pearson, Jacob Lacey, and Rondell Bothroyd could all start for the Sooners, but at least will play significant roles for the Sooners.

Brent Venables and his staff have added talent over the last two offseasons. They have a better roster than they did a year ago, especially on the defensive side of the ball. There’s optimism that will reveal itself on the field in a wide-open Big 12 in 2023.

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Story originally appeared on Sooners Wire