Gundy Finds A Winning Formula

It may not be the highest rated class on paper but from a long time observer this Oklahoma State recruiting class will go a long way toward continuing the path that Mike Gundy has plotted toward the Cowboys winning a Big 12 Conference championship.

His most recent team claimed a share of the Big 12 South title, but with the components coming back, with the class from last year, and in future seasons the contributions from this class then it is looking good at Boone Pickens Stadium.

"We're very pleased with our class and I think it deserves the recognition that it is receiving," said Gundy with a reserved voice in speaking of the 28-member class that has six members already on campus preparing for spring football.

"We felt very good about last year's class and the perception out there was it was an average class, which I think we found out wasn't true. This is the most complete class that we have signed since I've been here.

"Obviously, the talent on the front seven on defense, some numbers with some big guys and defensive line that we haven't been able to get in the last few years, our staff likes it and we are happy with it," Gundy added.

The class does have a heavy defensive influence with five defensive tackle candidates including a junior college addition in two-time all-conference Bakersfield (Calif.) Community College defensive tackle Maurice Hayes.

The other four are all high school signees including two-time Texas All-State and basketball record setter James Castleman of Amarillo. Castleman de-committed from Texas Tech a week and a half before signing day.

"He was very impressive on the field this year and a couple of weeks ago we went out to see him and talk with him and I caught an hour of his basketball practice and was very impressed with his athleticism while at the time weight 275 pounds," said Gundy of going to Amarillo to watch Castleman in person.

"He had good feet and good speed and was running around with a nice soft touch with the basketball with his left or right hand. I had a tendency to think he would develop into a pretty nice athlete on the defensive line. No telling how big he will get. He was impressive athletically."

While the urgency was to find defensive tackles, Gundy said the loaded defensive class won't be pressured into contributing as much as the previous recruiting class. The 2010 class saw nine of its members finish in the final two-deep of the season, including eight on defense.

"We have more depth on defense and last year we were really thin on defense and thin in the special team areas and we needed some skill players to come in and help us," said Gundy in explaining why there won't be the urgency of newcomers having to play in a hurry.

"I don't see that being as critical this year for us as when we went into that time last year. Last year we went into it a little bit more in a rebuilding phase depth wise. This year we are more built up in our depth. I would like to play some skill players on both sides of the ball but it is not as critical."

The return of Brandon Weeden insures that new quarterback J.W. Walsh won't have to be rushed into competing for playing time. However, Gundy likes his potential for the future. He had his eye on him early.

"I would say a year ago we were aware of him," said Gundy, who has always been involved in evaluating all recruits but always with a keen eye on quarterbacks. "We were able to secure a commitment from him close after that.

"He was a pretty big name a year and a half ago and we identified him as a guy that would fit our style of play. I would say there is some resemblance to (Zac Robinson). Their body structure is about the same but he (Walsh) is a little further along than Zac was throwing at this time. We think he will develop into a good quarterback at our level. I would be hesitant for people to expect too much from him early in their career. He needs the time in the program to develop."

There are plenty of other prizes in this recruiting class. It is stout in size, speed, and overall athleticism.

Most of the players lay claim to some sort of championship from high school district titles to Ryan Simmons' recent Texas Class 5A state championship to Michael Bowie's NJCAA national championship this season at Navarro, and Alex Elkins' NJCAA national championship at Blinn as a freshman.

Winning is one of the things the Cowboys coaching staff looks for.

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