Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy caught some heat for his comments following the Early Signing Day, when he said, “We go after every eight-star, six-star, four-star and every star in the world we can get around here and they all go to other schools at this point so we go get whatever else is out there.”
The comment appeared to be directed specifically towards the quarterback position, but as Kyle Porter wisely pointed out on Pistols Firing Blog, there are reasons to believe Gundy and his staff may not be going after as many recruits as maybe they should be going after.
In fact, it’s my belief that there’s no reason at this point, based on the success Gundy is having, that his recruiting class shouldn’t be in the Top 25 on a yearly basis. Gary Patterson has been able to do it at TCU with arguably less Big 12 success than Gundy. Oklahoma State should be. Right now their 2019 class is ranked 46th, behind a school like Iowa State, which makes no sense considering Gundy’s program won 10 games for three straight seasons (2015-2017), is less than 10 years removed from having a legitimate chance at a National Championship, has an offense known for its ingenuity and explosiveness and is just a few hours from fertile Texas recruiting grounds. It should be alarming to Oklahoma State fans that they’re getting out recruited by Matt Campbell and company. This is not a knock on the Cyclones. What Matt Campbell is building is incredibly impressive, but the longevity and success in Stillwater is far greater to date.
However, when it comes to Gundy’s bigger point regarding quarterbacks, he added, “Try to find the very best one that fits our system… We kind of work our way from here out, and we usually end up on the east or west coast somewhere. There’s a number of guys in this area that we tried to get in on and they didn’t have any interest in us so we just go to the next guy.”
It feels like a defeatist attitude in many ways, but I’ll give Gundy this: with the amount of players that are transferring, especially big name quarterbacks, most recently Georgia’s Justin Fields (potentially), one of the top prospects in America in the Class of 2018, Gundy has a point. Also, the new redshirt rule has change the game, where players can play in up to four games, and still redshirt, also creating a larger transfer market.
Justin Fields is considering a transfer, even though he knew he was committing to a program that just reached the National Championship with a true freshman quarterback in Jake Fromm. I get the competitive nature of every player believing he can compete, and maybe beat out, anyone and everyone on the field, but Fields is a prime example of someone who should have possibly considered a non-blue blood program.
If playing ASAP, which so many high school players are now prepared to do, is of high importance, five-star prospects should start considering schools a step or two below the Alabama’s, Ohio State’s and Oklahoma’s of the world.
Here’s a perfect example: Iowa State QB Brock Purdy.
Purdy also had offers on the table from Alabama and Texas A&M. Had he gone to those programs, do you think he would’ve come close to seeing the field this season? Certainly there was no chance of that happening in Tuscaloosa. He went to Ames, joined an up-and-coming program, and stepped in as the starter in the middle of the season and now becomes the face and the leader of the program for the next two to three years starting in 2019.
And guess what? Brock Purdy gets reps and his chances of playing in the NFL aren’t diminished playing at Iowa State. If anything, they increase because of the quality experience he is getting. It’s 2018, not 1958. Every single college football game is on television. Sure Alabama gets more national prime time action, but that is irrelevant when it comes to getting drafted today. Every fan or scout can see a Power 5 player play on every Saturday from his couch. It’s easier than ever before.
So why do the top recruits fall head over heels for the blue bloods when there are often times several road blocks to playing? In the case of Justin Fields, had Jake Fromm been a junior last year, the move makes more sense. One more season and then you can compete for the opening. 2018 would be a chance to get a season under your belt to learn the system and get adjusted to college. But the idea that Justin Fields is now surprised that he probably won’t be a starter at Georgia until 2020, at the earliest, should not be overly surprising.
So I’ll tell you what, Gundy definitely has a point. But it’s also Gundy’s job to sell the story I’m telling in this article to recruits. The lifestyle of a top recruit at Oklahoma State is nominally different, if at all, compared to a top prospect at Oklahoma. The facilities at the majority of Power 5 programs are outstanding, everyone will play on national television several times per year and the scouts can find you easier than ever before.
When the quality of options are greater than ever before for high school athletes, the non-traditional programs need to begin making that pitch more effectively. If not, the College Football Playoff carousel will continue between the same handful of programs, the recruiting rankings will barely budge, and despite the amount of money in college football, the sport won’t see the parity it deserves.
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