‘It’s gonna be big-time’ — Sooners’ move to the SEC starts to crystallize

‘It’s gonna be big-time’ — Sooners’ move to the SEC starts to crystallize

This whole SEC experience will take some getting used to. The fact that the Sooners are closing in on experiencing it firsthand, not just through ESPN hype, locker room chatter and 2-year-old news bulletins, feels pretty cool.

Guerin Emig

By Guerin Emig

| Dec 15, 2023, 6:00am CST

Guerin Emig

By Guerin Emig

Dec 15, 2023, 6:00am CST

NORMAN – Lincoln Riley was still happily coaching when it first broke that Oklahoma was SEC bound. Caleb Williams was still the future of the program. OU’s defense was still the bane of the program. 

That’s how two years, the rewind time to the Houston Chronicle’s OU/Texas/SEC bombshell, feel more like 20. 

Now two years have become nine months, the 2024 schedule official as of Wednesday night and OU’s SEC debut against Tennessee locked into Sept. 21. 

Yeah, it is getting more real,” safety Billy Bowman said after OU’s Alamo Bowl practice Tuesday. “I walked through the stadium yesterday and they had five huge bins filled with old stuff from the stadium. I was like, ‘Oh shoot, they’re getting it ready for the SEC.’ 

“It’s gonna be big-time.”

If OU stadium operations want Owen Field sparkling for the Vols’ visit, and for the South Carolina Gamecocks’ visit Oct. 19, and for the Alabama Crimson Tide’s visit Nov. 23, anticipation runs just as high among the players who use the place. 

Bowman included the SEC in his Dec. 8 social media image declaring his 2024 return.

Linebacker Danny Stutsman closed his Dec. 11 social media video declaring his return with the message: “SEC, see you soon.”

Asked Tuesday about the SEC’s impact on his decision to come back, Stutsman said: “Quite a bit. We’re going to be playing against the best, man. Excited for that, all those games. I can’t wait until they get announced Wednesday.”

Gavin Sawhuck revealed he would be tuning into the schedule reveal as well.

“Oh yeah, for sure. It’ll be fun to watch,” he said. “I’m excited for the transition, an opportunity to play in a new conference and play some new teams. Just think the opportunity is great.”

The SEC is becoming more real to a lot of the Sooners, and more personal to some. 

“One of my best friends goes to Ole Miss. He doesn’t play there but he’s a student,” Sawchuk said. “He’s been talking a whole lot of crap. He’s gonna be ready for that one (OU plays at Ole Miss Oct. 26). That one’s gonna be exciting.”

On a recent Red Dirt Rambles podcast with teammates Nic Anderson and Gentry Williams, OU tight end Kaden Helms shared that he played high school football with Auburn tight end Micah Riley. 

“It’s different?” Williams asked of the SEC.

“Yeah, it’s different,” Helms confirmed. “I ain’t gonna lie.”

It’s different all right. The Sooners are starting to learn. 

When the podcast conversation turned to Ole Miss, Williams said: “They wear, like, suits to the game.”

Anderson: “You said they wear suits to the game?”

Williams: “It’s a thing for fraternities or something like that. They, like, dress up.”

Helms and Anderson: “Oh the fans?”

Yes, fellas, the fans. This whole SEC experience will take some getting used to. 

The fact that the Sooners are closing in on experiencing it firsthand, not through ESPN hype, locker room chatter and two-year-old news bulletins, feels pretty cool. 

I wanted to play in the SEC last year. I’ve been excited ever since,” Jalil Farooq said. “I’ve always wanted to play in the SEC.”

Asked if he already feels like a running back in an SEC program, Sawchuk said: “I mean, I think so. We just continue to work, I think we can compete against anybody. I’d take our guys against anybody. So I think we’re ready for sure.”

Williams played it more cautiously Tuesday when asked if SEC membership was crystalizing. 

“I wouldn’t say that,” he said, “because we’ve got a very good opponent in Arizona coming in San Antonio. I think it’ll be real in January.”

Back on the podcast, Williams predicted it wouldn’t sink in until OU’s first SEC road game. That’s Auburn, for the record, Sept. 28. Set Williams’ countdown to nine months and two weeks, then. 

The clock is ticking either way. It’s getting louder. 

Anderson shared with his Red Dirt Rambles audience that he most wanted to play LSU. Helms wanted to play Alabama. 

The trip to Ole Miss came up.

“That’s gonna be turnt,” Anderson said. 

It feels like the whole ’24 season is gonna be something more palpable for the SEC-bound Sooners every day.

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Guerin Emig is a columnist for the Sellout Crowd network. Read his work at selloutcrowd.com and guerinemig.com. Reach out with feedback and/or ideas at [email protected] or (918) 629-6229. Follow him on Twitter at @GuerinEmig and Instagram at @guerin.emig. .

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