"I appreciate everyone being here and showing interest in our class of 2014. This is the most complete class and talented group of quality young men we have been able to sign since I have been the head coach here. This class represents, from start to finish, for the first time ever, without a de-commitment. It's the first time since I've been here, that we had the majority of the class committed in the spring and summer, and we did not have a de-commitment. We have obviously secured a very balanced class who will be a part of our team in the summer.
When you look at the past two recruiting classes together, what do you see?
Gundy: You know, you never want to say too much, but thankfully one thing I've learned from my 10 years is that you want to be able to see where we're at and try to evaluate what we need next year based on what we have this year. Without getting too far outside of the box, recruiting is not a perfect science. It's like in the NFL, where they spend millions of dollars on a guy and then they draft the wrong one. It's important to our staff and it's more important to me that we are able to evaluate who we are and where we are going. Over the last five years, the teams we've had have been able to compete for a conference championship every year. This year, we failed to do a good job of coaching. We got out-coached at the end of the year. The team who won our league, Baylor, I don't even know how many points we beat them by, but my point is that at Oklahoma State, athletically, our talent level and who we are - the team that won our conference, we still beat them by two touchdowns. That shows you where we come talent-wise. As coaches, we have to develop continuity in all the things that are important. I say this to you guys each year, and it's not just coaches' talk. '13 is gone and '14 has to identify who is their leaders. What is their identity? That has to start right now. It's already started. This class compared with the last class should keep us on track to be talented enough. We do our job as coaches to compete for a conference championship each year.
What did you see in Mason Rudolph that made him the quarterback you wanted in this class?
Gundy: It was a long time ago when we offered him. We're trying to find young men who show great leadership skills, play unselfishly, don't draw attention to themselves and help the team rally around them. We've been very fortunate here. The quarterbacks that we've had here in the years past have all been good people, and the players liked them. That's first. If you don't have the ability to throw it and run it a little bit, we're probably not going to get to that point, but if we get to that point, and you're somewhat self-centered and not a team player, I won't have any interest in them. They may not have any interest in us anyway, but we have young men who want to lead, and they want to be tough. I tell the team that every Saturday before the game. The quarterback has to be the toughest guy on the field. He's the only guy who gets hit and can't hit back. Everybody else gets a chance to hit back, but he just has to stand there and get hit. I wasn't a great science student or anything, but in the laws of physics, if you're standing there getting hit all the time, it'll eventually wear on you. Those guys have to be the toughest guys. That's very important, and that's what we look at. Next year we want to pick up a couple. We went to pick up two in this next class. As I said, I'm excited about watching them all play and seeing how they develop. You can't predict how they're going to come out. It's just almost impossible to predict how they're going to compete early in their careers. I haven't seen him since he's been here, and tape can be deceiving. Honestly, the little bit that I saw this year, because we made all of our evaluations on him prior to the season, was flipping through the channels and seeing that all-star game that he played in. That's all I've seen of him.
Can you address the role that graduate assistant Eric Henderson had in recruiting and really in Louisiana and with the Kirk Tucker youngster in Georgia?
Gundy: There are certain geographical locations in this part of the country, that, if there's a coach that's from there, and there's a history there, he can get his foot in the door a lot quicker than even a head coach. Not that a head coach is any good at it, but he's from there. He has walked those halls, has lived that life and can speak their language. You see that in certain places across the country. Some young men, he's 30 or 31, so he falls in that category, can market themselves and sell their product, and some guys can't. It's no different than the guys out here selling vacuum cleaners. Some guys can sell them like crazy, and some guys are good guys, but they can't close the deal. He has an ability to attract people. They like him. The coaches like him, know him and they trust him. The people there like him, and so do the counselors and the teachers. For that reason, he's able to have success. He got a lot of players up here to camp in the summer. He's got a lot of buddies coaching down there, and they'll drive people up here because he's their buddy. They let you get your foot in the door and get started.
You said that you did not have a de-commitment, but you picked up seven players that at one time were committed to other schools, including OU, LSU, Stanford, and TCU.
Gundy: It was an unusual year for us in recruiting. You can go back over the years and you lose one or two a year from August up through signing day and you never know who those guys are. So, it becomes a mathematical situation where you try to keep above the number you can sign because if one slips you can fill one in. You also have to be careful with how many you do that with now because they changed that rule two years ago that you can't over sign. It's a little iffier in how you handle those situations. We didn't have enough scholarships to give out this year to quality players who are deserving of a scholarship and deserve to be on this team in this class. We've got young men who are walking on to the team who will be here when we start in the summer and are very deserving of a scholarship. It wouldn't surprise me one bit after a couple years, after they develop, if they're not contributing in a large way or starting for our team. I just think the core values of who we are and what we stand for makes our players our best recruiters. I think that's why we're in that situation.
You have several players enrolled and in school already including Mason Rudolph, how do you see that working in spring football?
Gundy: We will let all three of those guys practice. Obviously, J.W. Walsh has been here and he is the most experienced. When we go out there, he will be out there first. We have so many reps in the spring that we'll let all three of those guys go out and compete. There are five of our signees here now. They're out there and in the conditioning. We have a number of players running track that won't be out here with us until the middle of March because they're running on the track team. We have this new track facility that's awesome. Diego, one of our track coaches, has had a great relationship with us and been very involved and instrumental with us in recruiting some skilled athletes. A lot of players like to run track so we've been able to incorporate that from a football standpoint in spring track and football so that's going to help us in recruiting. Those guys had been out there. They're working out and doing well. They go out and throw on their own every day, the same as we've always done. The strength staff and the medical staff that goes out there say that when one guy [Tyreek Hill] runs you have to move your face like you would in a tennis match.
That guy would be Tyreek Hill, can you comment on what he can do for you and does he replace Josh Stewart and his departure to the NFL?
Gundy: He has been very successful when he has the ball in his hands. I don't think it's any secret for all of us, certainly from a coaching standpoint, if you have a player that can make plays then he has to touch the football. Do we know how it's going to be right now? We don't have a clue. All we know is that we have a player who is really fast and had a lot of success over the last three or four years when he was at high school. We also have a lot of guys returning who can make plays on our football team. We have some young receivers here who will be considerably better next year because they grew up a lot this year. They were young and just feeling their way through. Desmond Roland finished up well for us and Rennie Childs did too. I say this every year and people get tired of it because they think I'm just talking, but I'm as excited now as I ever have been about this team and about preparing for the hard work in front of us.
You and your staff and player development specialist Beni Tonga have continued to recruit and sign players of Polynesian heritage. Talk about the reasoning behind placing an emphasis on recruiting those young men.
Gundy: It's not what you would be accustomed to because it's a different culture. It's interesting. I think what I really like about it is the very most important thing is their family. You're not going to break their family up. That's what we're trying to accomplish here. You bring young men in that the very most important thing is their family. The ones I've gone on home visits to have large families and they take care of their people. There is a genuine love and compassion in their family. The way that we're all raised and the values that are instilled in us when they come here then that will spread among our staff and players. I think that can only help our football team and that's what I get out of being on the home visits.