A look at Ok. St.'s recent history of recruiting Texas

Eric Nahlin

Recruiting Editor
Staff member
Dec 19, 2011
Thoreau'd on Walden
Over the years, many writers and rival fans have turned an about face when it comes to Mike Gundy. What originally appeared to be a temperamental, former quarterback turned golf prick, has become a very successful program manager with a clear understanding of his system and evaluation. He's routinely one of the most underrated coaches in the country.

Oklahoma State fans don't know how truly fortunate they've been to have him, which is something I reminded many hospitable Poke fans of when I visited Stillwater two years ago.

In 2014 Oklahoma State was destined for a 7-6 finish and the sky was falling faster than T. Boone wind shares. One sign you're a good coach? When you become a victim of your own success, which is exactly what happened to Gundy and his staff.

Sports fandom is a context free environment. What wasn't being recognized by many Ok. St. fans was the immense drop off in talent and experience from 2013 to 2014. Fast forward to 2015 and all was right in Northeast Oklahoma as the Cowboys went 10-3. Last season was marred by the 0-3 finish, but still, Oklahoma State winning its first 10 games was a fantastic turnaround from the year prior.

It's a near unanimous opinion, the man can coach and lead a football team.

But can he still recruit?

Recruiting at Oklahoma State is heavily reliant on the ever evolving Texas ecosystem. An ecosystem filled with changing climates and disappearing and reappearing variables; OU abandons the state only to reemerge a few years later; Texas A&M surges to "run the state" only to decelerate; Texas, dormant for a couple cycles, awakes to return to recruiting prominence if not outright dominance; before gravity took over, Baylor's recruiting experiences a constant, yearly uptick not unlike a roller coaster's initial ascent; TCU, led by program mastermind Gary Patterson joins the Big 12 and becomes a thorn in the side of many 2nd tier recruiting insurgents.

This is only a small fragment of the schools fighting over talent within the state. Basically, it's damn hard to carve out a niche in the most competitive recruiting territory in the nation. But for many years that's just what Gundy was able to do.

Let's take a look.

2010/Nat'l 32/Big-12 6/Avg. .8559/20 of 28 were Texans

Notable Texans: LB Shaun Lewis, LB Caleb Lavey, CB Justin Gilbert

Comments: Ultimate boom or bust class for Gundy. It also contained Joseph Randle but nearly half the class transferred within two years. Still, that core group was the foundation for years to come.

2011/Nat'l 25/Big-12 4/Avg. .8516/19 of 25 were Texans

Notable Texans: QB JW Walsh, WR Josh Stewart, RB Herschel Sims, RB Desmond Roland, DE Jimmy Bean, LB Ryan Simmons

Comments: Texans represented the fourteen highest rated prospects in the class. About the same time the hipsters were getting there, Gundy got to Denton and raided Guyer for Walsh, Stewart, and Bean. Sims was an absolute coup at the time who would have killed it in that system but things didn't work out off of the field. Simmons was a very productive linebacker.

2012/Nat'l 32/Big-12 6/Avg. .8516/13 of 23 were Texans

Notable Texans:
OL Michael Wilson, ATH Dominic Ramacher, DE Emanuel Ogbah, DE Jeremiah Tshimanga, DB Ashton Lampkin, WR Jhajuan Seales

Comments: Your eyes will jump to Ogbah, but this was a poor Texas haul for the Cowboys. I was wrong on Ramacher coming out - though I liked him as an h-back. Tshimanga's life story of perseverance was amplified when he had to give up football due to injury. I also liked Victor Irokansi coming out but he also had to give up football. Wilson, Lampkin, and Seales are all solid starters.

2013/Nat'l 30/Big-12 4/Avg. .8416/17 of 24 were Texans

Notable Texans: WR Marcel Ateman, DT Vincent Taylor, ATH Jordan Sterns, RB Rennie Childs, S Tre Flowers

The top rated player in the class is now at Houston; Skyline's Ra'Shaad Samples. Ateman is a quality #2 or #3 at the college level. Taylor played higher than the '86 Mets in high school but he always had the physical talent. He's proving that in college. Sterns is a tackling machine -- a safety version of Zach Thomas or Dat Nguyen. Rennie Childs is a platoon back and Texas would love to suit Flowers in a different color orange. I liked RB Corion Webster a lot coming out in this class but he transferred (I believe for non-football reasons). Texas looked at him late in the cycle.

2014/Nat'l 28/Big-12 4/Avg. .8555/14 of 26 were Texans

Notable Texans: WR James Washington, WR Keenen Brown, LB Josh Mabin, DE Trey Carter, DE Jarrell Owens, WR Chris Lacy, OL Matthew Mucha

Comments: It's a bit too early to know how careers will shake out but Washington is a certifiable stud. Brown was a highly sought after WR but muscled up to 240 pounds quickly and is now utilized as Ok. St.'s version of the h-back. That should be interesting to monitor. Jarrell Owens was a very interesting, yet raw, athlete coming out of Palestine. He was a TCU flip who was a jumbo running back as a prep. Chris Lacy is the prototype physically who will have a productive career. Mucha is still yet to hit his ceiling but I liked him coming out of high school.

2015/Nat'l 39/Big-12 6/Avg. .8487/10 of 21 were Texans

Notable Texans: DT Darrion Daniels, ATH Louis Brown, DT Mote Maile, DT Taaj Bakari, LB Jordan Burton, LB Za'Carrius Green, DB Bryce Balous

Comments: Daniels showed promise as a freshman. He's a prize for them. Brown was a character risk from the start and he's gone like so many other promising Gundy recruits. Burton is a tackling machine from Longview by way of Navarro. Green and Balous are very raw, and very athletic. USC RB Ronald Jones was the second fastest player on his team because of Balous.

2016/Nat'l 45/Big-12 6/Avg. .8452/7 of 22 were Texans

Notable Texans: WR Tyrell Alexander, APB LaDarren Brown, CB Madre Harper, CB AJ Green

Uh oh, this isn't enough. Three successive classes where only 31 of 69 signees were from Texas. I was the president of the Alexander fan club and liked Harper a lot. Ok. St. did supplement this class with talent from elsewhere (Calvin Bundage from in-state, Rodarius Williams from Louisiana) but it's tough to win in the Big 12 if Texas isn't your primary territory.

2017/Nat'l 30/Big-12 2/Avg. .8463/13 of 18 are Texans

Notable Texans: WR Tylan Wallace, ATH Tracin Wallace, CB Tyon Merchant, LB Brendan Vaughn, WR Lamarcus Morton, S Thabo Mwaniki

Comments: Okay, we're seeing some order restored with emphasis on recruiting Texas. That's a start. The Wallace twins are exceptional athletes. Gundy can't lose them. Merchant and Vaughn have good baseline length/athleticism. Morton's a play maker who may be a cornerback. Mwaniki is in the Daytawion Lowe, Jordan Sterns mold, as a physical, sound tackling safety. Not sure he has their range but he's an underrated prospect. There are some other guys with upside in the class too like DE Spencer Misko and OL Derek Kerstetter.

Some takeaways are quite obvious; Gundy has a pretty set, floor to ceiling with regards to recruiting rankings. His average class rating is .8450 to .8560. I have no idea how he manages that inadvertent consistency but he does.

It would stand to reason if his average class was so similar in quality year over year, his results shouldn't alter that much when it comes to win/loss but that's laboratory talk. Recruiting isn't science, much less simply inexact. It's a series of crapshoots, each player with his own risks.

To stay athletically competitive Gundy is forced to take some character risks as well as long curve developmental players. In other words, he knows going into the situation with some recruits he has to improbably hit boxcars or snake eyes. These recruits are high volatility and can either flame out early or not become productive until later in their career if at all.

In his best recruiting classes, the bulk of Gundy's highest rated players are from Texas. In other classes they're more middling and less numerous.

A case can be made that he hasn't adequately cemented the Oklahoma State brand in Texas after years of on-field success. A counter case can be made if he keeps recruiting like he has since 2010 he can make his share of runs at 1o win seasons.

Based on the current class, Gundy seems to acknowledge he has to recruit Texas better than he has the last few cycles where he saw talent decline on the field.

The 7 win 2014 season was disappointing, yet predictable based on talent and experience drop off. What was more surprising was the 10 win campaign from a year ago.

Just who is Oklahoma State these days? I'm guessing somewhere between 7 and 9 wins in perpetuity unless Gundy can somehow go on another run of landing impressive Texas talent.

Obviously there are other issues with Oklahoma State (the composer of their run-game currently works for Holgorsen) but I'm not as qualified on those topics.