Oklahoma State recruits to build on Big 12 title

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by JEFF LATZKE

Associated Press

Posted on February 1, 2012 at 8:27 PM

STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) — The first 12-win season and first Big 12 championship in Oklahoma State history paid immediate dividends on the recruiting trail.
 
Coach Mike Gundy said he noticed a difference when he arrived at high schools to recruit players, particularly over the past few weeks since the Cowboys beat Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl for their first BCS bowl win. One glance at the school's Pistol Pete logo, and strangers knew what school he represented.
 
"Ten years ago, maybe people didn't really know who you were. I've seen a little bit of it the last couple of years, but I noticed this year that people recognized who we were and we had instant respect when we walked into those offices," Gundy said.
 
Gundy added 22 new recruits Wednesday on the first day players could sign letters of intent with college football teams. The class leaned toward offense, with four receivers and four offensive lineman but also four defensive ends.
 
The Cowboys will have to replace a group of players who produced some of the most successful seasons in school history, including quarterback Brandon Weeden and two-time All-American receiver Justin Blackmon.
 
"How do you replace them? Well, it's difficult to replace those guys because of what we've put in them and what they've put into us," Gundy said.
 
While introducing Gundy, executive director of development Larry Reece referenced how Weeden, Blackmon, safety Markelle Martin and offensive tackle Levy Adcock all got little attention when they were brought in by the Cowboys. Now, all are NFL prospects.
 
"I don't know that we've ever signed a five-star here. I can't remember for sure," Gundy said. "I don't know that we've had that many four-star guys."
 
Those recruiting ratings haven't held back the Cowboys in the national rankings, finishing third in the final poll.
 
Gundy said new recruit Wes Lunt, who enrolled in January, will have a chance to compete for Weeden's old job against Clint Chelf, last year's backup, and reserve J.W. Walsh.
 
"We wouldn't have brought him in here if we didn't think that he could be starting quarterback here, and the same thing with J.W. Walsh, and the same thing with Chelf," Gundy said. "Those three guys will get equal opportunity to be the starting quarterback on our team next year."
 
Kevin Peterson reversed a recent trend, reversing his commitment to Oklahoma and signing with the Cowboys instead. All-American receiver Ryan Broyles and starting cornerback Demontre Hurst are among the high-profile players to switch in the opposite direction in recent years.
 
Oklahoma State won the Bedlam rivalry game 44-10 last season, snapping an eight-game losing streak in the series and clinching the Big 12 title.
 
"There's more respect in the state of Oklahoma and in other states that we spend a lot of time in. It's something that you have to earn," Gundy said. "Recruiting is about being persistent and upfront and honest and spending time. These young men want to be in a program where they have a chance to win it all and want to know that they get a chance to play on TV. ... They want to be in the action."
 
Three other recruits are also on campus already: defensive tackle Calvin Barnett, tight end Blake Jackson and linebacker Jeremiah Tshimanga. Barnett had committed to Oklahoma State two years ago, then made a last-minute switch and went with Arkansas on signing day. He ended up at Navarro Community College instead, then returned to the Cowboys the second time around.
 
"We gave him some extra stadiums after he showed up because recruiting's over then and we owed him because he bolted on us on signing day two years ago," Gundy joked. "We're looking forward to him helping us down inside."
 
Gundy's next focus will be hiring a replacement for associate head coach Joe DeForest, who had been a defensive assistant in addition to coordinating special teams and establishing a recruiting base in Houston. Gundy said he hadn't spent much time looking over candidates for the vacancy and didn't know yet what roles the new assistant coach would fill.
 
He also said it was difficult to quantify the impact of DeForest's absence during the final days of recruiting.
 
"It's never smooth when you lose a guy like Joe. Joe had been tremendous for us over a long period of time. But we were able to patch it up," Gundy said. "We divided some guys on this list up by position and were able to cover some ground."
 
Gundy believes the recent run of success had an impact on his signing class -- but, then again, so did a change in uniforms — a different combination of jersey, pants and helmet each week. "Sadly enough, yes," he said.
 
"You can have a speech ready, and you've got to lay everything out and give yourself the best shot when you go in there," Gundy said. You can go into a home and fire it out for about 15 minutes and you'd be surprised that you can get stopped by a parent and say, 'Hey! Are y'all changing your uniforms any or are you going with what you had this year?'
 
"It gets brought up, not only by the players but by the parents."

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