Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy told a small media gathering last week that he couldn't talk about recruiting when it comes to names but he knew they needed to get running backs. It's all Oklahoma State fans can seemingly think about right now when it comes to recruiting, but the answer at running back may already be in this recruiting class. Better yet, he may already be on campus.
Todd Mays, out of two-time NJCAA national champion East Mississippi Community College, was one of five junior college players that signed in December and he is in Rob Glass' strength and conditioning off-season program right now.
The 6-0, 200-pound Mays was a state champion and All-State quarterback in high school at Olive Branch, Miss., as he threw for over 6,100 yards and rushed for over 2,000.
At East Mississippi, he played a little quarterback, a little slot receiver, and more running back than anything else. His offensive coordinator at East Mississippi, Marcus Wood, is a 25-year coaching veteran and has coached Mississippi high schools and now back at East Mississippi where he once played for the Lions.
Wood can't stop saying good things about Mays.
"He is an awesome player but he is a better kid," Wood said in his Mississippi drawl. "He is one of the most unselfish players that I have ever coached. You mention all of the different hats that he wore. He was a running back at times, a quarterback at times, he was a slot receiver at times, and he may be back on returns.
"He was about as enjoyable player as I have ever been around."
Great attitude, good kid, and that is all great, but we're not fooling anybody here as Mays doesn't make it to Stillwater unless he can play. It was Gundy who personally evaluated Mays and recruited him.
Wood talked about Gundy coming to tiny Scooba, Miss., to make the visit. Scooba is just over 700 in population. Coaches go to recruit there for players that can play.
"I think he ran for 17 touchdowns as a freshman and this season he didn't run for as many this season," Wood said of Mays. "We spread the ball around more this year than we did the last season. Todd was actually set to be the quarterback this season until Chad Kelly's (former Clemson quarterback and nephew of NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly) transfer came through.
"Todd did not have a problem doing what we needed him to and he rotated in at quarterback, running back, (and) receiver. He is about as hard to tackle in a phone booth as you will find. He is really good right to left. He does a great job of ball security and I don't think he had a single turnover this season. He can do a really good job at running back."
Gundy originally was looking at Mays as a change-up kind of player at quarterback, but that need is not anywhere close to as crucial now as the one at running back. This past season, Mays completed 15-of-16 passes for 158 yards and a touchdown. He ran the ball 69 times for 400 yards and seven touchdowns. He caught 17 passes for over 200 yards.
Again, as Wood said, he ran for 641 yards and it was actually 15 rushing touchdowns as a freshman. Good thing Gundy found a player as versatile as Mays. Wood said he is built more like a running back.
"He's built for that and he has thick thighs and a strong lower body that can move around and does a fantastic job," Wood said. "He is a strong runner and elusive as well. I think he will be really dynamic."
Okay, how about an example. This is a written story, no video, but Wood provided a highlight. This run is included in his East Mississippi highlights on YouTube.
"Probably the biggest one I remember or the most impressive one, well he had several," Wood started kind of trying to decide on the fly which Mays run was most impressive. "He might get a two-yard run and it will be the most impressive two-yard run that you've seen because he made five or six guys miss.
"His best run that I can recall, he had a 14-yard run against Coahoma Community College, running a zone to the right and our center gets pushed back and that takes away his cut back so he had to bounce. When he bounces there's nobody (to block) for the overhang guy and the next thing you know he has a guy right in his face and he makes him miss. Then he cuts back and runs over a linebacker and bounces off him and rolls around a safety and then runs over two guys at the goal line.
"I thought it was probably as physical a run as we had all season and then he also made two guys miss in the play, so it kind of sums him up as a runner. He is elusive enough to make guys miss and powerful enough to run them over, even two at a time."
Mays brings to Oklahoma State with him some tradition. In Oklahoma, we know about the strong tradition and national championships at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M Junior College in Miami. We know about the Southwest Junior College Football Conference that NEO and the Texas schools play in and the Jayhawk Conference in Kansas and Missouri. Obviously, they play pretty good junior college football in Mississippi.
"We've got 14 schools that play in the MACJC and basically they're 55 players per team and 47 of those are from Mississippi and only eight are from out of the state," Wood explained. "It's an opportunity for a lot of kids to keep playing and we're averaging about 17 to 18 BCS kids signing out of our place each year. It's been an unusual run."
Like any junior college coach and I know well with my son and former Cowboy special teams performer Zach Allen as defensive coordinator at NEO A&M, you are dealing with kids in J.C. football that often times need more than a coach.
"You wear a lot of hats, but for the most part the guys that you are coaching are all hungry to continue to play at the next level, so you're not dealing with kids that get complacent and maybe some guys are just trying to finish out playing football," Wood said of the job.
"All these kids are using this as a stepping stone and we've had athletes that have gone through some trials and tribulations. We were talking about that. LaGarrette Blount, who played at our place, and guys like Antoine Smith, who played with us before going on to play at New England. He was a guy whose grandparents had passed away. He signed with Auburn and then left school for about three or four years working and then came back. You deal with a lot of different backgrounds and a lot of different guys and you just try to help them get better make it to the next level if they can."
OSU now has one of East Mississippi's better graduates, according to Wood. He thinks Mays just might be what Mike Gundy and the Cowboys are looking for to play running back.
"He such a fantastic guy and he is so unselfish," Wood added. "I heard him do an interview at the end of the season and he talked about how when he got here he just wanted to be a quarterback, but when he realized he could help the team in other ways then he said he embraced them because that was the most important thing for him to do."
That's something he may very well have to repeat now as an Oklahoma State Cowboy.