Cowboys Top Recruits From Last 10 Years

Oklahoma State’s success over the past 10 years – 84 wins and nine consecutive bowl trips – can be attributed to the type of players the Cowboys are recruiting under Mike Gundy’s direction. Let’s take a look back at the top OSU signee from each recruiting class since Gundy became head coach in 2005.

2014: Tyreek Hill
OSU fans will forever remember Hill for his dramatic 92-yard punt return for a touchdown with 45 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter of the Bedlam showdown this past December the tied the score and sent the game into overtime. The Cowboys eventually won 38-35 for their first Bedlam victory in Norman since 2001.

Hill transferred to OSU after two seasons at Garden City (Kan.) Community College and had an immediate impact for the Cowboys. In his first year at OSU, he led the team with 1,811 all-purpose yards, which ranked second in the Big 12 and 11th nationally. He was voted the Big 12’s Offensive Newcomer of the Year, and he was a member of the Associated Press’ all-conference team.

Hill’s playing days with the Cowboys came to an abrupt end less than a week after his dramatic punt return following his dismissal from the team by head coach Mike Gundy a day after being arrested on felony charges of domestic assault and battery by strangulation.

2013: Jordan Sterns & Ra’Shaad Samples
Both Samples and Sterns were four-star recruits who were ranked among the nation’s best high school prospects at their positions when they signed with the Cowboys. The speedy Samples was ranked by Scout as the 29th-best wide receiver in the nation, while Sterns was the 30th-best safety prospect.

Samples picked OSU after receiving scholarship offers from Notre Dame, Nebraska, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Texas, Texas A&M, USC and UCLA among numerous others. Sterns signed with the Cowboys after a senior season in which he accounted for 10 touchdowns (two interception returns, two punt returns, a fumble return and five rushing).

Sterns has been the most productive of the two thus far. He started all 13 games this past season as a sophomore, leading the team with 103 tackles (72 solo), with 4.5 tackles for loss, 4 pass break ups, 2 forced fumbles and 2 blocked kicks. He became the first underclassman in 18 years to record 100 tackles in a season.

Samples redshirted in 2013 and then saw action as a backup in six games this past season. He caught three passes for 11 yards during the 2014 season, with all of those catches coming in the Cowboys' win over Missouri State early in the season.

2012: Brandon Sheperd
A St. Louis native (Parkway Central High School), Sheperd was the highest ranked player in the OSU recruiting class that was ranked as the 24th-best in the country by Scout. A four-star recruit who was ranked as the second-best player in Missouri and the nation’s 17th-best receiver, he picked OSU after receiving offers from Missouri, Kansas State, Iowa and Illinois.

The 6-1, 195-pound receiver had a breakout season in 2014, leading the team with 737 receiving yards on 39 catches for five touchdowns (second to freshman James Washington’s six TDs). In OSU’s 30-22 victory over Washington in the TicketCity Cactus Bowl, Sheperd led the Cowboys with five catches for 98 yards, including a 47-yard touchdown catch and run late in the first half to give OSU a 24-0 lead. He also completed a 22-yard pass to quarterback Mason Rudolph to set up another OSU score.

But most OSU fans will remember his play in the Cowboys’ 38-35 overtime victory over Bedlam rival Oklahoma. In the most productive day of his OSU career, Sheperd finished with seven catches for a career-best 156 yards and two touchdowns (the first multiple TD game of his career), including a 43-yard scoring catch and run with 4:51 remaining to pull the Cowboys within 35-28. He also had a 39-yard TD catch in the game.

2011: Herschel Sims
Sims is one of only two five-star recruits to sign with Oklahoma State over the past 10 years (the other is Tyreek Hill). The standout from Abilene High School in Texas was ranked by Scout as the fifth-best running back in the nation and the No. 28 in the Scout 300 rankings when he signed in February 2011 with the Cowboys after being recruited by Arkansas, Arizona, Baylor, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and USC.

The 5-9, 208-pound running back ran for 2,352 yards and 33 touchdowns while catching 27 passes for 436 yards and five TDs while returning two kickoffs for scores as a junior at Abilene High. As a senior, Sims ran for 709 rushing yards during an injury-plagued senior season.

His OSU playing career lasted only one season as he appeared in nine games as a freshman in 2011 (31 rushes for 242 yards and two touchdowns in a backup role). His 81-yard touchdown run against Baylor was OSU’s longest play of the season in 2011, and also the longest in the Big 12.

Sims was dismissed from the team by Mike Gundy the next summer for a violation of team rules, which was reported to be stealing money from a teammate. He played one season at Lamar (388 rushing yards and two TDs on 96 carries in seven games in 2012), and then transferred to hometown Abilene Christian. After redshirting in 2013, Sims rushed for 559 yards and four TDs on 106 carries in 11 games during the 2014 season for the Wildcats.

2010: Shaun Lewis
The Oklahoma State coaching staff was thrilled when the nation’s fourth-best outside linebacker prospect and the No. 75 overall prospect in Scout’s rankings made his commitment. Lewis signed with OSU after receiving scholarship offers from Notre Dame, Alabama, Arizona State, LSU, Florida, Oklahoma and others.

It didn’t take long for Lewis to make an impact, earning the starting spot at the “star” linebacker position midway through his freshman season in 2010. He started 45 games in a row – never missing a contest – during his four-year OSU playing career. Over those four years (2010 to 2013), the Cowboys were 41-11, including the record-setting 2011 season in which they won a school-record 12 games and captured the first Big 12 Championship in school history.

A two-time second-team All-Big 12 selection, Lewis had a nose for the ball throughout his playing career, intercepting eight passes (including this one as a freshman that will be remembered by Cowboys fans for a long time), recovering seven fumbles and forcing another seven fumbles.

2009: Dexter Pratt
A four-star recruit out of Navasota, Texas, Pratt was rated by Scout as the 11th-best running back prospect in the nation (105th overall) when he enrolled at OSU in January 2009. He had scholarship offers from Texas, Oklahoma, Texas A&M and Nebraska, but originally committed to LSU before signing with OSU.

Pratt rushed for 1,353 yards and 19 touchdowns as a senior and had 2,054 rushing yards and 20 TDs while playing for Navasota head coach Lee Fedora, the brother of then Cowboys offensive coordinator Larry Fedora.

But Larry Fedora was named head coach at Southern Mississippi following the 2009 season – during which Pratt redshirted – and Pratt left the Cowboys team in April 2010, never playing a down at OSU.

2008: Kye Staley
Staley was the Oklahoma Player of the Year in 2007 after producing 2,325 total yards and 42 touchdowns in leading Guthrie to the Oklahoma Class 5A state championship. As a senior for the Bluejays, he rushed for 1,380 yards and 28 touchdowns, passed for 625 yards, and caught 10 passes for 320 yards.

But the four-star recruit’s career at Oklahoma State didn’t exactly go as planned. After redshirting his first year on campus, Staley suffered a serious knee injury during preseason camp in 2009. The devastating injury also kept him out of the 2010 season, and many thought he would never play football again.

But Staley proved them wrong. Not only did he return to the football field, he became a three-time All-Big 12 Conference performer (2011-13) as a fullback for the Cowboys. He was utilized most often as a blocking fullback but also was dangerous catching the football out of the backfield, recording 22 catches for 247 yards and three touchdowns.

Probably the most memorable game of his OSU playing career was in his sixth and final season – Staley was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA after missing two years with the knee injury – when he carried the ball a career-high seven times for 25 yards and two touchdowns in OSU’s 49-17 rout of third-ranked Baylor on Nov. 23, 2013.

2007: Dez Bryant & Richetti Jones
Dez Bryant and Richetti Jones were the marque recruits in OSU’s 2007 signing class. Bryant was a four-star receiver from Lufkin, Texas (rated by Scout as the 13th-best pass catcher in the nation and the 87th-best overall prospect). Jones was a four-star defensive end from Lincoln High School in Dallas (rated the ninth-best defensive end and 59th overall).

Jones had a productive Cowboys playing career, earning honorable mention All-Big 12 as a senior in 2011, and became an OSU fan favorite with his engaging personality. But he admits he was never the same player after suffering a serious hip injury his senior year at Lincoln High School that required surgery, although Jones did break into the starting lineup his last two seasons for the Cowboys.

Bryant played only 29 games during his OSU career, but his name is still very prominent in the career record book. He is third all-time in touchdown receptions (29), fourth in both receptions (147) and receiving yards (2,425), and his 194 career points rank 12th on OSU’s all-time list. His career was cut short after the first three games of his junior season (2009) when he was suspended for a year by the NCAA. He declared for the NFL Draft after that season.

Bryant was a first-round draft choice (24th overall) of the Dallas Cowboys in the 2010 NFL Draft. He was the second highest-drafted wide receiver in OSU history as Hart Lee Dykes was the 16th selection in 1989.

2006: Perrish Cox
A three-year starter at cornerback for the Cowboys, Cox finished his college career with 134 tackles, 36 pass break-ups, 10 interceptions and two sacks. He was also one of college football’s most feared return men, averaging nearly 24 yards per kickoff return and 11.6 yards per punt return.

As a true freshman in 2006, Cox returned the opening kickoff of the season – the first touch of his career – for a touchdown. He became the first OSU player to return the opening kickoff for a touchdown since 1987 and ’88 when Barry Sanders accomplished the feat in back-to-back seasons.

Cox went on to set OSU school records with four kickoff returns for touchdowns and 2,804 kickoff return yards. In four seasons, he had 10 kickoff returns of 50 or more yards, and also had two career punt returns for touchdowns.

He was a sixth-round pick of the Denver Broncos in the 2010 NFL Draft, and he has played for the Broncos (2010), San Francisco 49ers (2012, 2013, 2014), and Seattle Seahawks (2013) during his four-year professional career. He appeared in 15 games during the 2014 season for the 49ers, establishing career highs with five pass interceptions and 17 pass break-ups.

2005: Zac Robinson
Robinson wrapped up his playing career in 2009 as OSU’s all-time leader in total offense (10,175 yards), passing yards (8,317), touchdown passes (66), and completion percentage (61.2 percent).

But he almost became a Wildcat and not a Cowboy. The standout from Chatfield High School in Littleton, Colorado was committed to Kansas State for more than six months before OSU offered a scholarship in December 2004. He eventually changed his commitment after an in-home visit from Mike Gundy just a week before signing day.

He was a three-year starter at quarterback for the Cowboys, taking over as the team’s starting quarterback during his sophomore season in 2007. After spending a year as a redshirt in 2005, Robinson and his teammates won 32 games from 2006 to 2009. He led the team to unprecedented heights as the Cowboys were ranked in the top 25 in each of Robinson’s final 22 games before being chosen by the New England Patriots in the seventh round of the 2010 NFL Draft.

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