"We were able to sign a really balanced class with the exception of a couple positions. We have a number of young players on our team that we feel like will develop and we’ll pick up those positions next year.
"We obviously had tremendous success in the state of Texas. We were able to pick up a couple players in the Atlanta area again. I feel like we addressed some needs at positions with some two-year players that should be a little more mature and a little more physical and give us a chance to help out those positions right away," added Gundy.
The proof will come in seasons to come, and in some cases sooner. But Oklahoma State needed defensive line help, espcially at defensive end where they had the most graduating seniors. The OSU staff brought in three defensive ends, two that arrived in January in Arizona Western All-League performer Sam Wren and Alpharetta, Ga. four-star high school standout Naim Mustafaa and then the late addition of former Utah commitment Vila Leveni.
The Cowboys picked up three defensive tackles in two-time Texas All-State performer Vincent Taylor of San Antonio Madison, All-CenTex honoree Ben Hughes of Waco University, and NJCAA All-American and Western States Football League Defensive Player of the Year in Ofa Hautau of Snow Community College.
Hautau may not give the Cowboys the media and recruiting cred that makes up for the late loss of Tyler John Tyler Parade All-American and longtime commitment Fred Ross,but Gundy likes the big junior college standout from Utah.
"We feel like he hasn't scratched the surface," said Gundy of the 6-2, 290-pounder. "His best years are ahead of him and they did a great job with him there at Snow (JC).
"He comes from a big family with five brothers and there is a sister that is 16 or 17 (years of age). All of the brothers are his size or bigger. He has always had to fend for himself for food and hasn't had a lot of time to spend in the weight room. He has a great family and they take care of each other. His best football is ahead of him and he is solid right now."
The other area of the defense that should get great help out of this class is the secondary where size was added without sacrificing speed.
The corners in the class range from Darius Curry (6-1, 190) of Flowery Branch, Ga., Taylor Lewis (6-0, 180) from DeSoto, Texas, and Jerel Morrow (6-0, 180) of Emporia, Kan.
The safeties include hard-hitting Jordan Sterns (6-1, 195) of Cibolo (Steele), Texas, Deric Robertson (6-2, 203) of Killeen, Texas, and Tre Flowers (6-3, 180) of Converse (Judson), Texas.
"Gosh, we've got some good athletes," said defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer. "Jerel, Taylor and Darius, when they come in, are all good size for corners. Darius is 6-1, 190 pounds and thick and people say, 'Is he a safety or a corner?' I say he is a corner because I'd like to have some corners that size and he can run. Corners that size end up playing on Sundays (NFL)."
The other defensive player is the only Oklahoman in the class and one of two brothers in the program. Dawson Bassett of Tuttle is 6-4, 220 pounds and will likely play linebacker or maybe even some defensive end.
He is the younger brother of graduating senior Cooper Bassett. The Cowboys also added Darius Curry, the younger brother of redshirt freshman wide receiver C.J. Curry.
"He’ll be a defensive player. Dawson has earned everything he’s gotten up to this point. He was a little bit of a tweener for us because the positions that we needed him at and the positions he played, we weren’t going to take them in this class," explained Gundy, who said they offered more Oklahomans.
"From a talent standpoint and his attitude and his love of the game, we would have taken him months ago. But we really didn’t need him at outside linebacker because we have so many young players at that position. (But) we were able to find a way to get him in our class," continued Gundy on Bassett.
"He’s going to be 245-250 pounds within 18 months. He’s more active side-to side than Cooper [Bassett]. If he’s anything of a player and has the loyalty that Cooper had for our program, then he’s a great take for us. From a talent standpoint, we liked him from day one, we just didn’t know that he fit in this class. Unfortunately, sometimes that happens, but we’re thrilled that he’s a part of a great family and great Oklahoma State people."
Gundy is excited about his one specialist in the class in Arlington (Martin), Texas kicker Ben Grogan, who is a two-time All-State kicker in Texas and honorable mention All-State punter. This season he had five field goals over 50 yards, including three in one game.
"We’ve brought Ben Grogan in as our kicker and we feel really good about his future. When I watch tape of these players, if he makes a field goal then he’s good and if not we move to the next guy," said Gundy. "He kicked a lot of them that went between the goal posts, and he has a strong leg. He has the capability of kicking a 50-yarder right now. His work habits are really good."
Many fans will lament the loss of Ross among the wide receivers in the class, and he is a very talented player. The Cowboys will see him in the 2013 season opener in Houston when they open with Mississippi State in Reliant Stadium.
Gundy said he is convinced the two receivers that the Cowboys did sign in Marcell Ateman and Ra'Shaad Samples, both All-Americans according to at least one source, will play in that opener in Houston with the Bulldogs.
"One of them is six-foot-four and he gives us a lot. He’s very athletic and very physical," started Gundy. "He’s 190 pounds now so he’s going to play at 210. He’s every bit of six-four and he might be taller than that, in Marcell (Ateman).
"(Ra’Shaad) Samples isn’t as tall but he’s really fast, has great side-to-side movement and he’ll be a really good outside receiver for us. His body type is a lot like Josh Stewart’s, but he brings enough to the table that he’ll play on the outside for us. Both of these guys will fit in and have an opportunity to play in the first game."
Gundy never comments on the "fish" that got away, but when asked he did mention the Cowboys large contingent of returning receivers and the talent of Ateman and Samples may have hurt with Fred Ross. Our accounts were Mississippi State was telling Ross that Oklahoma State had a surplus that could keep him from playing much in the near future.
"We are able to recruit wide receivers from a much larger area than we do in some of the other positions. We have a number of young men that show a lot of interest in us and at some point it can work against you but for the most part it works for us," Gundy commented.
Joe Wickline got five big offensive linemen that as a group average 6-5 1/2 and 292 pounds. The five together could form a good looking offensive line right now if suited up, said Zach Crabtree, one of the new linemen.
"That is what Coach Wickline has said and he believes in this class a lot and that he thinks we will be able to do great things," said Crabtree. "I could see an offensive line with the five of us."
Finally, the Cowboys needed to add a pair of running backs and they did in Corion Webster, who rushed for 1,718 yards and 13 touchdowns as a senior, and Rennie Childs, who rushed for 1,945 yards and 19 touchdowns.
"At the running back position we were just going to take one and we had Corion Webster committed to us for months," explained Gundy. "Coach (Jemal) Singleton did a really good job of communicating with others.
"We didn’t have that extra scholarship slot until Joseph Randle made himself available for the draft. Then we were able to pick up Rennie Childs. We liked him from the start, but Webster committed first. We’re excited about both of them and we think they fit our style of play. We’ve been very successful on offense with those types of running backs."
A big part of the success of this group will be the intangibles that Gundy likes to see in players as he recruits character and guys that love football in addition to talent.
"We try to get young men who fit our system, who have values, who want to be a part of our team, and football is really important to them. Each year we come across three or four guys who are really talented, but in our opinion they won’t be a team player, or they won’t fit Stillwater, or they won’t fit what we need here, so we pass on them. Now, there’s a lot of players who pass on Oklahoma State, don’t get me wrong.
"Sometimes we see young men that may not be rated very high. I could throw the names out there all day. I think Justin Blackmon was a two- or three-star, Kendall Hunter came down to us and TCU, with (Brandon) Pettigrew it came down to us and one other school, (and) the list goes on and on.
"We have to decide whether they fit our program and we fit their needs here. For example, if you just go take a running back who may be really good in someone’s eyes, but doesn’t fit our system, so he’s not successful here and not happy, then that didn’t work. Even though he may be really good, if he doesn’t fit us and what we’re looking for, then it doesn’t help us.
"In return, it doesn’t help him, and he won’t be a good recruiter for us. So what we do, is we try to find the right guys who fit our system, so they’ll be happy here. I’ve said this for a few years, and I’m not trying to pump up my own tires, but we take a two-star and make him a three, a three and make him a four, and a four and make him a five. We really believe that is what we do."