Who is Jolie Ale and what does J.R. Sandlin’s exit mean for OU recruiting?

Who is Jolie Ale and what does J.R. Sandlin’s exit mean for OU recruiting?

As the 2025 cycle gets ready to heat up, there’s movement in the Sooners’ recruiting department. What does it mean for Brent Venables and OU?

Eli Lederman

By Eli Lederman

| Feb 21, 2024, 5:00pm CST

Eli Lederman

By Eli Lederman

Feb 21, 2024, 5:00pm CST

NORMAN — College football’s head coaching carousel is quiet, at least for the moment, but the offseason personnel churn across the sport continues and hit Brent Venables’ recruiting staff this week.

So, who is Jolie Ale, Oklahoma’s new director of on-campus recruiting? And what does the departure of J.R. Sandlin — the program’s director of player personnel and recruiting — mean for the Sooners?

As first reported by 247Sports Monday, Ale is set to join the OU’s recruiting operation in a role that will see her oversee official and unofficial visits, high school camps and other on-campus recruiting events. She replaces former director of on-campus recruiting Lee Davis, who left the Sooners after two seasons last month for a football executive operations and recruiting director role at UCF.

Raised in Torrance, California, Ale enrolled at nearby USC in 2015. That’s where she gained her introduction to working in major college football while pursuing a degree in communication. 

Ale became a recruiting assistant under head coach Clay Helton in 2017, and she remained in the role with the Trojans for three years until April 2020. Of potential use in the fickle space of college football recruiting: Ale also holds a Master’s degree in public diplomacy from USC.

After leaving the Trojans, Ale landed at Utah in May 2021, serving as director of on-campus recruiting under Kyle Whittingham, the longest-tenured head coach in college football. In addition to her recruiting duties, Ale was instrumental in several other initiatives within the program, including the reintroduction of Utah’s annual women’s clinic.

OU holds a similar event through Venables’ 212 Foundation each spring.

“Working for coach Whitt and this football program has been a true honor,” Ale told KSL in May 2023. “I’ve loved every second of it and being around a culture that is very specific and unique to Utah football. It’s not something you get any day, every day in all of college sports.” 

Most recently, Ale returned to California where she spent the 2023 season as a community relations assistant with the Los Angeles Chargers. 

Davis — Ale’s predecessor — came to OU in 2022 after previous stops at Alabama, Mississippi State and Florida. Between Ale’s time with the pair of former Pac-12 powers and season in the NFL, she’ll come to Norman with similar experience at the highest levels of football.

As news of Ale’s arrival settled one of OU’s recruiting vacancies Monday, another hole emerged with news of Sandlin’s departure for a general manager and assistant athletic director role at SMU, first reported by 247Sports’ Matt Zenitz

Sandlin joined Venables’ recruiting staff in January 2022 after eight seasons at Jacksonville State and quickly became a central piece in the operation that landed the Sooners back-to-back top 10 high school recruiting classes. Sandlin’s exit leaves OU down a skilled talent evaluator and one of the faces of Venables’ recruiting department as the 2025 high school cycle heats up this spring.

How big of a hit is Sandlin’s departure? Time will tell. OUInsider reported Monday that Curtis Lofton, the former Sooners linebacker and S.O.U.L. mission staffer, is expected to take Sandlin’s place in a general manager role, maintaining continuity for OU with a familiar face.

Easier to say right now: get ready to hear the term “general manager” around college football much more often. 

In a world the NIL and transfer portal world, where roster construction and player personnel operations has college football beginning to mirror the NFL, people like Ale, Sandlin and perhaps Lofton are only going to become more and more important.

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Eli Lederman reports on the University of Oklahoma for Sellout Crowd. He began his professional career covering the University of Missouri with the Columbia Missourian and later worked at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette before two years writing on the Sooners and Cowboys at the Tulsa World. Born and raised in Mamaroneck, New York, Lederman grew up a rabid consumer of the New York sports pages and an avid fan of the New York Mets. He entered sportswriting at 14 years old and later graduated from the University of Missouri. Away from the keyboard, he can usually be found exploring the Oklahoma City food scene or watching/playing fútbol (read: soccer). He can be reached at eli@selloutcrowd.com.

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