Thursday opens up the window of recruiting that has been closed with the longest "dead period" in Division I football recruiting that this reporter can ever remember.
In the past the holiday dead period, a time when only one phone call a week is permissible between coaches and prospects, has gone through the New Year's Day bowl games with a brief recruiting period opening up between those games and the AFCA Coaches Convention. Now with the College Football Playoff, the dead period extended through Monday's CFP Championship Game and through Wednesday's end of the AFCA Convention.
"You want to get out there and see your (committed) players face to face," Gundy told reporters on Wednesday of the long dead period. "There is a different communication when you see them face to face versus when you’re talking on the phone. You want to get out there and see them."
Now as the recruiting opens up again, OSU is preparing for its largest weekend of official visitors with some 12 to 13 prospects and their families expected. Many are players committed to the Cowboys but some such as running backs Chris Warren of Rockwall and Aca'cedric Ware of Cedar Hill, both in Texas, and versatile athlete Xavier Castille of Rockwall are uncommitted players that are critical for the Cowboys in recruiting.
Gundy said the running back position is the key pieces to the rest of the Cowboys 2015 recruiting puzzle. They took a loss on Wednesday when Lawton (in-state) offensive guard prospect Jalin Barnett committed to Nebraska. and his scheduled visit for the weekend was canceled. But the Cowboys have a young line on offense that really improved and have already brought in or have committed mature re-enforcements for that position group.
The need for running back may be why it is expected that Gundy will head to Georgia today to see one of the top junior college running backs available in Lilburn (Parkway), Ga. and more recently Butler County C.C., Kansas running back Chris Carson.
"The head coach from Oklahoma State is going to visit me," Carson told us last week. "Then I will decide where to visit. I'm thinking Louisville and Oklahoma State."
Carson, who rushed for 974 yards and 9 touchdowns this season at Butler, is 6-2, 210 pounds and has very good speed. He is a big and explosive running back.
In high school in Georgia he rushed for 2,246 yards and 29 touchdowns in his career. His senior season he carried 175 times for 1,100 yards and 11 touchdowns. He is committed to Georgia but needing another math credit to graduate junior college and move on. That has left the door open that Oklahoma State and Louisville are trying to pry open.
"We have to pick up a running back in this class. We can’t talk about (specific prospects). We have everything we need," Gundy said to the group of reporters yesterday. "We just need to get a running back, and we will."
One of the reasons that the running back pursuit is intensified was that shortly before the dead period started, eight-month commitment and standout running back Ronald Jones of McKinney North in Texas de-committed and eventually pledged to USC. It's a part of recruiting you have to deal with and move on.
Gundy was asked if the strong finish to the season helped halt some of the poachers on Oklahoma State's commitments and strengthened those commitments. "Some, but (the process) is pretty much over. Could it have secured some things that were a little bit (uncertain)? Sure. The guys we were on, we seem to be very firm, but you can get blindsided at any time in recruiting," Gundy said.
As the last three major visit weekends in January approach I asked Gundy if his players are still his best recruiters and the real integral ingredient to recruiting success down the stretch.
"You know, we had our meeting on Monday (team recruiting meeting) that I was telling you about and they know we are having our biggest recruiting weekend this weekend and then we’ll have a few the next weekend and a few the next based on what is going on and who is available," Gundy sarted with his answer.
"We get the players (recruits) in here with their families and we get them with our players as soon as possible. When they come here they aren’t going to be sitting in here with me all day, they are going to be in that weight room and over in those apartments that they live in and on campus. They are going to be living their life with the players and they have to get used to them.
"Our players like playing football here," the head coach continued. "The lifestyle we provide for them is beneficial for them. It’s hard ( to play college football), it’s stinking hard and that is why it’s hard to lose because you put so much in. They love being here. We take nine days off for spring break, we take four days off for Christmas, and they get three weeks off before the summer. We do things so they enjoy being here."
That and some immediate and ample playing time is why I think over the next three and half weeks that Oklahoma State will get what they need at running back and to finish the class. It certainly should help that two veteran coaches and successful recruiters in Eric Wolford and Dan Hammerschmidt are out there on the stretch run helping too.