The comments come up all the time, on this site and on others, about how Oklahoma State's recruiting classes don't seem to measure up to what most folks think a top-20 program that has been challenging for the Big 12 championship many seasons and has played in three New Year's Day Bowls in the past five years with a Fiesta Bowl, a Cotton Bowl, and last season the Sugar Bowl.
We admit that Oklahoma State does not get as many "star-studded" recruits as even some other teams in the Big 12 that don't play as well on the field and win as many games as the Cowboys.
A good example of why Oklahoma State may be overachieving its recruiting ranking may be that they are getting recruits that overachieve. This past fall, you can start with the freshman All-American running back according to USA Today and Scout in Justice Hill.
"First off, I think he's more talented than some people would have thought, just based on if you put stock into level of recruiting stars or whatever people may use to try to predict a level a player may perform at," explained Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy.
"Second, he has a very good mental approach to the game. It allows him to be more mature mentally than most young players. That's helped him adjust to the play of this level. Third, he's very humble. He's not concerned with carries, yards, or necessarily what people think about him. He just enjoys being on the team. Those are pretty key ingredients to a young player having success."
Gundy is really excited about Hill because he is mature and he is tough. He was tough enough that when he fumbled in that key carry against Baylor he was able to take on the strong correction from Gundy and the staff.
"Some people thought I was a little harsh on him at that time but he was mature enough for us to say, 'Listen, in order for our team to be successful in conference play we have to hold onto the ball. We're not good enough to turn it over and overcome those mistakes,'" Gundy said of the talks after the Baylor game. "That's just what has to happen and obviously he's done a nice job handling it and going back to work and being a successful player."
Teammates on both sides of the ball are also impressed with Hill. Defensive tackle Vincent Taylor, who we think is definitely going to be in the NFL some day, maybe soon, sounds like he thinks that Hill may be there some day as well.
"He's really humble, modest. That's good," Taylor said. "He is really talented and he is only going to get better. Wait and see what he looks like and plays like after a full off-season because he is only going to get bigger, stronger, and probably faster and more explosive. He will be one of the best running backs to have ever played here and there have been some good ones."
Yes, one of those is the father of Barry J. Sanders, who also spoke with the media for the first time on Monday, and Mike Gundy spoke about Sanders just as he did Hill.
"He's been tremendous. He's in a difficult position," Gundy relayed. "He's the son of arguably the greatest running back in college football history. Maybe ever. He graduates from Stanford and comes to Oklahoma State, it took a lot for him to come here, but he played a role with our team. Our players like him. He's very mature. I think it's been a productive move for him. He's going to be fantastic the rest of his life and I'm glad he was part of our team."
I know this, he will be a tremendous success with whatever he does, business, acting or politics. Barry J. Sanders is a very bright and explosive personality.