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Tramel's ScissorTales: NFL Draft shows OU football recruiting held up under Lincoln Riley

Berry Tramel
Oklahoman

OU football’s success and general performance was on a slow – slow, I repeat, slowdecline under Lincoln Riley. That’s well-documented. 

But OU’s talent base has not necessarily declined. At least not when using the NFL Draft as the metric and at least not to this point. 

The draft concluded Saturday with five Sooners joining second-round pick Nik Bonitto and third-round pick Brian Asamoah, from Friday. Picked were nose guard Perrion Winfrey in the fourth round, safety Dellarin Turner-Yell in the fifth round, flanker Michael Woods in the sixth round and defensive end Isaiah Thomas and offensive lineman Marquis Hayes in the seventh round. 

The 2021 Sooners didn’t seem like an overly-talented team. They finished 11-2 and No. 10 in the final Associated Press poll, but those heights were achieved with a series of close calls. OU failed to make the Big 12 Championship Game, after winning six straight conference titles. 

Still, the seven Sooners selected matched the second-most at OU since 2005, 17 years ago. That ‘05 draft included 11 Sooners (the Jammal Brown, Mark Clayton, Dan Cody crowd). Bob Stoops was just getting his recruiting rolling then; he won his first few years with overachievers who either came to Norman via faith or were John Blake leftovers. 

Tramel's ScissorTales:Big 12's performance in NFL Draft helps show why OU & Texas are headed to the SEC

Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley talks with Marquis Hayes (54) in the fourth quarter during the Red River Showdown college football game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and the Texas Longhorns (UT) at Cotton Bowl Stadium in Dallas, Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. OU won 34-27.

Since then, only in 2019 has OU had more than the seven picked last week. Eight Sooners were selected in ‘19 — first-rounders Kyler Murray and Marquise Brown, second-rounder Cody Ford, third-rounder Bobby Evans, fourth-rounders Dru Samia and Ben Powers, fifth-rounder Austin Seibert and sixth-rounder Rodney Anderson. Heck of a class. 

Those players, of course, were recruited with Stoops as head coach. 

The 2020 draft still was mostly Stoops recruits, though some were Riley’s, and Stoops’ influence was decreasing in the last two years. 

Of course, not all draft picks are of equal talent.  

I devised a point system. Seven points for a first-rounder, six points for a second-rounder, etc. 

Here are the OU point totals of recent drafts: 

2022: 22 

2021: 21 

2020: 25 

2019: 38 

2018: 20 

2017: 16 

2016: 15 

2015: 29 

2014: 10 

2013: 19 

2012: 27 

2011: 8 

2010: 38 (four first-rounders) 

2009: 18 

2008: 18 

2007: 10 

2006: 30 

2005: 52 

So in Stoops’ later years, the recruiting picked up from his dip of a few seasons earlier. And the transformation to Riley didn’t really change that.  

In the last 12 drafts, five of OU’s last six most talented seasons came in the last five years. 

So why have the Sooners been slipping? Well, 2020 was the COVID year; every team but Alabama seemingly was affected. And 2021 was the one-foot-in season of Riley’s dalliance with Southern Cal. 

OU’s success has been in decline since that first Riley-coached team took Georgia to double overtime in the national semifinal Rose Bowl. The 2018 team also made the playoff and was quasi-competitive with Alabama. The 2019 team made the playoff and was not competitive with Louisiana State. Then came the 2020 and 2021 slides. 

Maybe Riley’s coaching quality subsided in recent years. Too early to tell about his recruiting. But through the 2022 draft, OU’s talent retained the Sooner standard. 

Carlson:NFL Draft success is more than a point of pride for OU, OSU football. It's critical to be elite.

Thunder report card: Theo Maledon 

Theo Maledon got off to a slow start in his second NBA season, even spending some time in the G League, but he played much better down the stretch. 

We continue our series on Thunder report cards, with the 6-foot-4 point guard from France. 

Improvement: B. Most Thunder followers weren’t aware, but the perceived falloff of Maledon’s performance was almost all tied to minutes. As a rookie, Maledon led the Thunder in total minutes. This season, Maledon’s minutes per game dipped from 27.4 to 17.8, so naturally his numbers took a hit. Still, Maledon’s per-36 minutes production went up – from 13.3 to 14.3 in scoring, from 2.9 turnovers to 2.6, from 4.3 to 5.2 in rebounds, from 2.7 to 4.0 in foul shots. Maledon was more effective in Year 2, he just didn’t play as much to show it. 

Shooting: D. Maledon was a 33.5% 3-point shooter as a rookie. But he took a major step back, making just 29.3% this season. It gets worse. On deep 2-pointers, 16 feet and longer, Maledon dipped from a solid .379 to a putrid .286. To Maledon’s credit, he took fewer 3-pointers this season. Just 47.3% of his shots were deep balls, compared to 51% a year ago. 

Finishing: C. Maledon a year ago made just 41.5% of his shots from the restricted area. That was the worst on the team by 135 percentage points. Maledon was much better this season, making 51.4% from 0-3 feet. That still was second-worst on the team (Ty Jerome made just 47.8 percent), but much better. Part of that progression probably stems from shot selection and knowing when to attack; Maledon took only 11.7% of his shots from the restricted area, down from 17.1% a year ago. 

Defense: C. Staying in front of opposing point guards remains the biggest impediment to Maledon having a long NBA career. He’s not overly quick. Maledon was better defensively this season, and his on/off-court numbers showed it. A year ago, the Thunder was outscored by 17.1 points per 100 possessions with Maledon on the court. That number fell to 11.7 this season. Still, opponents shot 50.8% when guarded by Maledon, not a good number for a perimeter player. 

Playmaking: B. Maledon showed some positive signs as a point guard. His turnover rate went down from 17.3 to 15.3 — 15.3% of his possessions used resulted in a turnover, and that’s with his usage rate having risen from a year ago. Maledon’s assist rate was about the same (18.8 a year ago, 18.5 this season – he assisted on 18.5% of teammates’ baskets while he was on the court). Continued improvement as a quarterback is Maledon’s ticket. His best-case scenario is as a backup point guard. 

More:NBA Draft Lottery has Thunder fans on edge. As for the players? They 'don't really care'

The List: Mid-major transfers to Big 12 basketball 

OSU basketball has received a transfer-portal commitment from High Point’s John-Michael Wright. It’s a rush of good news for the Cowboys, who in recent weeks have lost guards Isaac Likekele and Rondel Walker in the portal. 

Wright is a 6-foot-1 point guard who played three years at High Point in the Big South Conference and will have two years eligibility remaining. 

Wright was a three-year starter at High Point, playing for the now-retired Tubby Smith, who coached Kentucky to the 1998 NCAA championship and Tulsa to back-to-back Sweet 16s in 1994 and 1995. 

During Wright’s three years, High Point was a combined 32-56 overall and 19-32 in the Big South. The Big South champion began receiving an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament in 1991. In those 32 years, the Big South’s only NCAA victory was Winthrop’s 2007 upset of Notre Dame. 

In three years at High Point, Wright averaged 17.4 points and shot 34.6% from 3-point range. How will Wright fare jumping into the nation’s toughest basketball conference? Here’s a list of Big 12 basketball players from last season who transferred from small- to mid-majors and how they fared in Year 1 in the Big 12. 

1. Bryson Williams, Texas Tech: The 6-foot-8 forward from Texas-El Paso was a standout in Conference USA and remained so in the Big 12. Williams’ numbers dipped only slightly – minutes from 31.4 to 25.6, points from 15.1 to 14.1, rebounds from 7.4 to 4.2 — and his shooting got much better. His field-goal percentage rose to .535 from .481, and his 3-point percentage rose to .417 from .279. 

2. Kevin Obanor, Texas Tech: The 6-foot-8 forward transferred from Oral Roberts and was less productive but still played a major role for the Sweet 16 Red Raiders. Obanor’s minutes were only decreased slightly, from 31.9 to 26.1. His scoring fell from 18.7 to 10.0 and his rebounding fell from 9.6 to 5.5. Obanor’s 3-point shooting percentage dipped from .463 to .336, and his overall shooting percentage dipped from .503 to .467. 

3. Markquis Nowell, Kansas State: The 5-foot-7 point guard transferred from Arkansas-Little Rock and held up well. He played only 15 games as a junior at UALR, but using his career numbers, Nowell’s scoring dipped from 14.3 to 12.4 and his assists from 6.0 to 5.0, but his minutes stayed the same. But Nowell’s 3-point shooting dipped to .307, from .366. 

4. Adonis Arms, Texas Tech: The 6-foot-6 point guard transferred from Winthrop and was an anomaly. His minutes actually increased, from 17.4 to 25.8. Arms’ scoring fell from 10.5 to 8.6, but his assists rose from 1.7 to 2.8. Arms’ 3-point percentage fell significantly, but his 2-point percentage rose significantly. 

More:Oklahoma State women's basketball adds four transfers, including former Owasso star Terryn Milton

Oklahoma forwards Tanner Groves, facing camera, hugs forward Jacob Groves (34) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Baylor in the quarterfinal round of the Big 12 Conference tournament in Kansas City, Mo., Thursday, March 10, 2022. Oklahoma won 72-67.

5. Tanner Groves, OU: The 6-foot-9 center transferred from Eastern Washington. His scoring dipped from 17.2 to 11.6 points, his rebounding from 8.0 to 5.8 and his shooting percentage from .560 to .532. 

6. Caleb Grill, Iowa State: The 6-foot-3 guard transferred from Nevada-Las Vegas. His numbers went down in minutes (33.2-24.1), points (9.1-6.4) and assists (2.3-1.5). But his shooting held solid; his 3-point percentage even rose from .342 to .348. 

7. Tre Mitchell, Texas: The 6-foot-9 center transferred from Massachusetts. His playing time went down at about the same rate as his production – minutes from 32.2 to 18.6, points from 18.8 to 8.7, rebounds from 7.2 to 4.0. 

8. Davion Warren, Texas Tech: The 6-foot-6 wing transferred from Hampton, where he scored 21.2 points a game. Warren averaged just 9.4 for the Red Raiders. His minutes fell from 35.0 to 23.8. His rebounds were cut in half (no big deal; the Red Raiders were rebounding fiends). But Warren’s shooting, both inside and outside the 3-point circle, was virtually identical from his Hampton days. 

9. Malik Curry, West Virginia: The 6-foot-1 point guard transferred from Old Dominion and wasn’t nearly as productive. Curry came off the bench, and his minutes fell from 32.4 to 18.8 per game, his points fell from 15.7 to 9.7 and his 3-point percentage fell from .328 to .250. 

10. Jacob Groves, OU: The 6-foot-7 forward transferred from Eastern Washington. His minutes dipped from 21.8 to 17.3, as did his points (9.3.-4.6), rebounds (4.2-2.9) and field-goal percentage (.552-.432). 

OU men's basketball roster tracker:Sooners gain commitment from Luke Northweather

NCAA penalizes Frost 

Turns out, the NCAA still has a sheriff’s department. Who knew? 

It seemed like college athletics’ enforcement wing was shuttered. Its investigators and arbiters had fled. And that’s mostly true. Anybody check out college basketball lately? 

But someone left the light on. Nebraska football has been lightly popped and coach Scott Frost summarily embarrassed. Frost allowed a staff member who was not an assistant coach to tutor Nebraska kicking units. 

The university acknowledged that in the 2020 season, analyst Jonathan Rutledge coached not only during practices and film sessions, but was involved with in-game coaching decisions, all of which are against NCAA rules. The NCAA limits on-field instruction to 10 assistant coaches. 

In typical recent-Nebraska misfortune, the Cornhuskers were not good in the kicking game. Connor Culp was an outstanding kicker, but otherwise, the Huskers struggled. Nebraska didn’t have a return for a touchdown but allowed a kickoff return TD. Opponents had a superior kickoff return average and superior net punting. 

Frost, a star Nebraska quarterback in the 1990s, returned to Lincoln as a hero, having coached Central Florida to a 13-0 season in 2017. But in four seasons as the Husker coach, Nebraska is 15-29 overall, and Frost absolutely is on the hot seat. 

The NCAA penalty won’t help. Frost received a one-year show-cause order, which means other schools have to jump through hoops to hire him. That’s really no issue, because no one is standing in line to hire Frost these days. 

But Frost received a five-day suspension to be served during the "championship segment" of the 2022 season. In Division I-A football, a sport without an official playoff, that means the championship segment is anytime throughout the season. 

Nebraska’s (harmless) probation was extended through April 23, the university was fined $10,000 and the Huskers were limited in coaching spots for two spring practices. 

Frost continually makes the wrong kind of news at Nebraska. But at least we know someone still wears a badge in the NCAA. 

More:Barry Switzer is helping OU football players cash in on their fame. Here's how the 1Oklahoma NIL program works.

Nebraska red team quarterback Casey Thompson (11) signals the crowd before leading the both the red and white teams onto the field alongside head coach Scott Frost before Nebraska's NCAA college football annual red-white spring game at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb., Saturday, April 9, 2022. (AP Photo/Rebecca S. Gratz)

Mailbag: Bedlam golf 

My Sunday column on OU golf coach Ryan Hybl drew some reaction. 

Brian: “Do you think it’s a little early to compare the two programs? I agree OU should be ranked ahead of OSU. OU beat them head to head, but when you looked how they are ranked, there is not much difference. Before you start to compare the two programs, OU needs to prove it can be a top program over time, just not over 5-6 years.” 

Tramel: No. I don’t agree. 

We can compare Fiats to F-150s. We can compare vintage mailboxes to Dutch ovens. We can compare oak trees to latex gloves. I think we can compare golf programs 80 miles apart in the same conference. 

I never said OU’s program has caught OSU’s program in prestige or tradition or long-term success. But over the last 5-6 years, the Sooners have caught the Cowboys in success. 

OU wrestling has never caught OSU wrestling like that. OSU football never has caught OU football like that. But OU golf has caught OSU golf like that. Which is why I wrote about Hybl. 

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at btramel@oklahoman.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. Support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.