When Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy met with the media on Wednesday morning, just minutes after the last National Letter of Intent had been faxed into the Oklahoma State football office from the lone West Coast signee in Cowboy back Sione Finefeuiaki, he started by stressing that he thought this was a very cerebral class of recruits, newcomers that would come in and be able to think fast on their feet, read the situation and process and go make plays.
I think Gundy is right on, he's got some really smart players in this class but he also has some really good athletes in the running back position, wide receiver position, and in the secondary. I know what the ratings are. and with Scout two of the three wide receivers are four-star athletes, but I think both running backs and two or three of the players recruited to play in the secondary are worthy of another star each.
I know why they don't get it. Chuba Hubbard is from Canada, but Alabama, Auburn, Oklahoma, Oregon, California, TCU and Texas A&M among others all wanted the speedster. It's time Canada had a four-star. Georgia product J.D. King played at Class AA Fitzgerald in the state, a smaller school.
From the secondary, Gilmer's LaMarcus Morton played both ways and not exclusively at corner, where Oklahoma State thinks he will be outstanding. Sunnyvale's Trey Sterling was All-State at running back in Class 3A as Gundy said that is where his coaches had to play him to win games. Sterling did play defense and was outstanding on that side of the ball when he was out there.
Denton Guyer product Thabo Mwaniki was really hard to narrow down and Guyer head coach John Walsh said he was one of his best athletes and he played him at wide receiver, running back, quarterback, linebacker, and in the secondary, all in one season.
It's like Gundy said when asked what gives with the recruiting rankings and how well the Cowboys seem to overachieve their lack of recruiting prowess.
"Either we're really damn good evaluators in recruiting or we're damn good coaches," Gundy said, somewhat tongue in cheek, or not. "Rob Glass (coordinator or speed, strength, and conditioning) has something to do with it and he is in my opinion the best in the business at what he does."
It's hard to not like the running backs.
"It could be the most interesting position for us in a year or so. Obviously, Chuba (Hubbard) has world-class speed," Gundy said. "There's been some conversation that in four years he could be running in the Olympics. Whether that's right or wrong, I always go back to something Coach (Pat) Jones used to say that 'when you get to a certain point, you're really fast,' and he's really fast. When he was here on his visit he weighed 196 pounds, and he cracked a bone in his leg in his last game of the year so he hasn't been able to train, and he still weighed 196 pounds. So what's great about him is that he could weigh 215, maybe 220, and he's already running a 10.5.
"With J.D. King, we've wanted him for a long time, but I was concerned about us holding him because of the distance. When he came back on his visit with his mom, I had a good conversation with her. She said from day one that when he visited here in the spring, he called her and said 'Mom, I'm going to Oklahoma State'. He said 'I've never felt this way. It feels like home and I'm going to Oklahoma State.' So we were able to hang on to him. He's another young man that is already over 200 pounds. I think he was 207 on his visit. So we've got a couple of backs that can be good if they're durable and potentially play at 215 or 220 pounds."
One other thing to like that we have constantly pointed out is that Hubbard finished his final game playing on a broken fibula in his left leg. That means he is a football player that runs track, not a track runner that plays football.
"I don't know if it was cracked or broken or what, but they went ahead and sat him for six weeks after it, but he did go out and he finished the game with it," Gundy said.
As for the wide receivers, the common denominator is speed, and then the bonus is good size, especially from LC Greenwood, who is big, big like Adarius Bowman and Dez Bryant.
"It's interesting when you look at them. LC is six-foot-three and we've got him down at 210. I think he was more than that," Gundy continued. "I think he was 218 on his visit. He's a big man that's going to play at 230. When we offered him, I don't think he had any offers. Once he jumped on board, which is pretty traditional for us, every other Big 12 school goes in and offers him in most cases. Then we have to battle them and hold them off to keep him. I was concerned about that because once they come in and look at his tape and see his body structure, I thought this was going to be a battle. There was a little battle at times, but we were able to hold him.
"Braydon Johnson is 185 pounds, and he's fast," Gundy said as he got into the other two receivers. "He can fly. I doubt that he'll run less than 4.45 after he's been here a year, so he allows us to take the top off the defense, which is what we want to do anyways. And then you have Tylan (Wallace), who is a fast Josh Stewart. Josh Stewart was tremendous in a phone booth, but when he opened it up he was 4.65, 4.7. I think that Tylan has the same quick twitch as him, but he's going to run under 4.5. That's what you get with him. It's a good group of skill."
Two other characteristics in the recruiting class that interest me are the wrestlers. Gundy wrestled in high school and grew up driving in the summer to compete in wrestling tournaments with current Oklahoma State wrestling coach and two-time Olympic gold medalist John Smith, who was from Del City.
Gundy appreciates wrestlers and his two current high school wrestlers Oologah defensive end Brock Martin is unbeaten at 15-0 and looking to win his third straight Class 4A individual wrestling championship, this year at 220 pounds. Wagoner safety prospect Malcolm Rodriguez is also unbeaten and looking for his second Class 4A individual wrestling championship at 195 pounds. Snow C.C. defensive tackle Fua Leilua won a high school individual title in Utah at Spanish Fork High School.
"And Brandon Evers was a good wrestler," Gundy added. "I am excited about the class from Oklahoma. I've said this the last couple years, and I will say it again this year, the talent in the state of Oklahoma is getting better and better each year. With the budget cuts and the education cuts that are happening in this state, I'm not sure how that is happening because there have been cuts all across the board. Coaches are cut, teaching has been cut.
"I'm a big proponent of doing whatever it takes to make education and fund education in this state, but it is not happening. But for whatever reason, the talent is getting better and better. We have a number of young men from Oklahoma that are in this group that fit the criteria we started this conversation with today. And as you know, I am a big fan of wrestlers. It is a sport that takes discipline, accountability, structure, and when you are out there on the mat, you can't blame anyone but your own. That's why I like those guys. But when you look at the guys we have, you have Evers, Brock, you have Odom, Rodriguez. When you talk about those guys, they kind of fit what we talked about earlier and we are excited about those guys. It is important to them. There is no question that the geological location of the players makes a huge impact on the program."
Finally, Oklahoma State added Leilua and also Cowboy back prospect Sione Finefeuiaki from College of San Mateo C.C., and he is a 6-0, 245-pound bulldozer type player. They are both of Polynesian descent and the Cowboys have continued adding "Poly" players because Gundy believes they are good players and good teammates.
"They're very loyal, very family-oriented," said the head coach as he prepares to head into his 13th season in charge of the program. "They understand structure and discipline in most cases. Their families or the generation before the parents of the young man we're recruiting have had to work extremely hard to get to this country. They're loyal to this country. They get up and work every day and are thankful for who they are and where they are. That's exactly what we're looking for here. It's not 100 percent, but in most cases they're not looking for, 'What all can you do for me and my son when he's here?' What they tell their son is, 'Here's an opportunity. You better do what they tell you to do.' It makes it easy to coach them. We don't have issues. I can pick the phone up and call their dads and say we're having an issue with missing class with so-and-so and that will be the last class missed we have from him. We really enjoy their culture and what they stand for."
Oh yes, and what was that he meant about having smart, cerebral players?
"The game has changed considerably, especially in this league. Teams are playing with three or four split out from the backfield and they're moving them across, faking the handoff or faking a pass," he explained. "In our system, you have to be able to think really fast.
"You have a gap responsibility, a coverage responsibility and a play-fast responsibility, all while two guys are moving from the snap of the ball that might change my responsibility. Each year we evaluate things we think we've done positive and overall in all areas. In these last couple of years we think that players that are able to think and react quickly - that are football savvy - they'll be able to contribute better to our program. If we think you're a cerebral player and able to get their faster, we're probably going to pick you over the other guy."
Gundy added after leaving the room that he has not had anything new happen with his contract. "I hope we can get it worked out, but I didn't want it brought up today because I didn't want it to overshadow the recruiting class," he answered.
Also, the coaching staff and some support staff have an extended weekend as they will not meet again as a staff until next Tuesday morning. Many of the coaches were heading home and some heading on vacation.