Mid-Term Makeover: Cowboys Edition

Oklahoma State is experiencing the biggest influx of talent in the middle of the year since 2008 when the Cowboys really loaded up on junior college players.The Cowboys were needing some players at certain positions in a hurry in January 2008 right after the Cowboys had finished a 7-6 season. The situation now is not that much different as help on the defensive line and at linebacker is needed.

Moving to Stillwater for the spring semester are junior college defensive linemen Ryan Robinson, out of Jones County (MIss.) Community College, and just committed Maurice Hayes, who has been out of Bakersfield (Calif.) Community College for a semester working to finish his degree.

Joining them is junior college offensive tackle standout Michael Bowie, who played at NJCAA national champion Navarro (Texas) College.

Also, two high school seniors have checked in early. They are celebrated U.S. Army All-American and Texas All-State quarterback J.W. Walsh out of Denton Guyer and his roommate Plano West offensive lineman Travis Cross.

Also, joining this group is 2010 recruiting signee Kris Catlin out of Madison High School in San Antonio, Texas, and the speedy linebacker should jump right in and get some opportunities after sitting out the fall to get his academic numbers up to qualifying standards.

Back in 2008 the Cowboys also were needing defensive line help and brought in tackles Swanson Miller out of then NJCAA national champion Butler County (Kan.) Community College and senior Chris Donaldson from Coffeyville (Kan.) J.C., who just completed his eligibility in the 36-10 Alamo Bowl win over Arizona.

They also signed defensive end Jeremiah Price out of Jones County, and the mid-year class of Cowboys also included Snow (Utah) Community College offensive tackle Andrew Mitchell, big-hitting safety Lucien Antoine out of Fort Scott (Kan.) Community College, and two other players out of Butler County in running back Beau Johnson and cornerback Maurice Gray.

It's a little unusual to get that many guys in for the spring semester but for Bowie, originally out of Sand Springs, Okla., and Robinson it is a return as both guys signed with the Cowboys out of high school.

In fact, Bowie, who thought he was qualified academically, went through the first two weeks of fall camp with the Cowboys. He was showing signs of playing some on the offensive line as a freshman which would put him in a category with now Seattle Seahawks starter Russell Okung. There were some comparisons to Okung and now there is some thought he might be able to break into an offensive line that returns all five starters.

Bowie knows that he gained a lot of confidence in playing for a junior college national champion at Navarro, and he says he will be comfortable returning to Oklahoma State. When he came back late last fall and visited a practice the week of Thanksgiving it looked like he had never left.

"I've stayed in touch with Coach (Joe)( Wickline and I will go with him," said Bowie. "Then I have stayed in touch with all those guys because I've known a lot of them since I was in high school. Then while I've been at Navarro I've called them and they've called me and I was always getting text messages asking if I was coming back for sure and stuff like that."

Bowie is a big man at 6-5, 315 pounds, and there are some big guys joining the defensive line too. Robinson, who signed the same season out of high school as Bowie, is 6-4, 255 pounds and he earned all-conference (MACJC) and all-region (23) honors at Jones County. The very athletic Robinson finished with 122 tackles in his career, and as a sophomore had 64 tackles, 49 unassisted, with 13 tackles for loss and 8 sacks that went for 37 yards in losses.

Inside at defensive tackle where the Cowboys need for talent and depth is even greater arrives Maurice Hayes. Hayes's story really has some twists and turns.

First, he wound up going from Lindale, Ga., to Bakersfield (Calif.) Community College. That is a long way. Then after an al-conference sophomore season where he had 24 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, and 3.5 sacks he signed with Alabama-Birmingham only to find out during fall camp with the Blazers that he wasn't eligible.

He spent this past fall getting his college Algebra taken care off, and now he's moving in at Oklahoma State.

"As far as my outlook on things, I really regard this as a huge blessing," said Hayes of the opportunity at Oklahoma State. "With all the things that I had to go through and the adversity and then to land here is really a blessing.

"I was dealing with academics and in the summer I took a college Algebra course and then I was in fall camp practicing at UAB and my transcript came back and I didn't make it and I had to take it over again. That was really tough.

"My girlfriend and my momma knew on Saturdays this fall not to bother me because I was watching college football and I was thinking how that should be me out there. You know things happen for a reason," Hayes added.

Catlin also had academic issues to take care of and now that he has that out of the way, a more mature 6-1, 215-pound Catlin is set to jump in and compete where there are some openings at linebacker. Catlin had 99 tackles as a senior at Madison and had 98 tackles and two interceptions his junior season.

Few high school players have had as much success and as much fun as J.W. Walsh. The talented quarterback led his Guyer team to the Class 5A Division II state championship game and lost a heartbreaker that came down to the end against a very talented Cibolo Steele team. The week before Walsh had led his team back from a 17-0 deficit in the semifinals against Longview. The Guyer Wildcats won it at the end 28-27.

"You live for those situations to come back from 17 points down," said Walsh. "When you are a high school quarterback you dream of those situations. I was fortunate to have my teammates around me and it was a lot of fun to go out and get that done."

In the stands cheering for Guyer that day was big Travis Cross. The two Texans had committed to Oklahoma State early and bonded since meeting on a junior day in Stillwater. Both knew they would graduate early so they agreed to room together. One owns a Playstation3 and the other has an XBox, so it was a natural that they room together.

The two really are fast friends and they have combined to be leaders in getting the recruiting class close before they even get to campus. As Walsh says it is an exciting experience for high school players to make that January jump into being college students and football players.

"It's a very busy, but a very exciting time," said Walsh. "Just the last couple of weeks with the championship game and then coming down to San Antonio (for the U.S. Army All-American Game) and then heading to Stillwater and college it has been very busy but very exciting as well."

Walsh gets a jump on learning the offense and competing for the quarterback position in the future. It is a new experience to see an offensive lineman out of high school in early and it will be interesting to see how much progress he can get in the jump start.

Overall, the added players will help competition and will make Oklahoma State much the better for 2011. It worked in 2008 and no doubt it can work again.


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