- Jake Trotter, ESPN Staff Writer
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NORMAN, Okla. -- Well before an official announcement welcoming him to the Sooners’ coaching staff, Jerry Montgomery was stumping on the recruiting trail, pitching Oklahoma to some of the top defensive line prospects in the Class of 2014.
With his latest hire, which the school finally announced Tuesday, head coach Bob Stoops showed again he’s hoping to bring better players up front to Norman. And he’s hoping that Montgomery -- and new offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh -- will be the ones who can close the deal on blue-chip line prospects the Sooners have come up short on in recent years.
Montgomery knows how to make a good first impression.
Not long after he accepted Stoops’ offer, Montgomery was on the phone with ESPN Watch List defensive ends Da'Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge) and Andrew Williams (McDonough, Ga./Eagles Landing Christian Academy) and talking to them about Oklahoma.
Landing players the caliber of Hand and Williams won’t come easy. They have impressive offer sheets, both holding offers from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Ohio State and USC. Yet to become nationally relevant past October once again, signing such line blue-chippers is almost a requirement.
The Sooners got by last year up front as they shared a Big 12 title. But against the likes of Notre Dame and Texas A&M, the Sooners were exposed for what they have been: a finesse team ill-equipped of playing dominant, championship-caliber football in the trenches.
That trend was going the wrong way, too, as OU whiffed on almost all of its top offensive and defensive tackle targets in the 2013 recruiting class.
Stoops is banking that Montgomery will help reverse the trend. At Michigan, he quickly gained a reputation as one of the Wolverines’ most prolific recruiters. Montgomery had a hand in Michigan landing all three of its 2014 commitments, and he had already developed relationships with some of the nation’s top rising high school seniors such as Hand and Williams.
Montgomery arrives in Norman not a day too soon, either. Over the weekend, OU already lost out on two of its top defensive tackle targets for 2014 as Zaycoven Henderson (Longview, Texas/Longview) committed to TCU while Tashon Smallwood (Fresno, Calif./Central) chose USC.
Sooners fans are clamoring for those days to be at an end. And that with Montgomery on board, the school of Lee Roy Selmon and Tony Casillas and Gerald McCoy will become a bastion of championship line play again.
6dJake Trotter and Brandon Chatmon