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Five Thoughts on Oklahoma State’s 2024 Signing Class

On worries, winning battles and what’s next for the Cowboys



[Devin Wilber/PFB]

STILLWATER — One could argue whether Signing Day has lost some of its luster since the addition of the transfer portal, but Wednesday was still quite the day in the college football world.

Oklahoma State signed 17 players on Day 1 of the early signing period. The Cowboys could add an 18th Thursday evening when corner Jacobi Oliphant makes his intentions known, but now that most of the dust of Wednesday has settled, I thought it’d be a good time to give five thoughts on the Cowboys’ class.

1. Worried About the Ranking?

As of writing on Thursday, Oklahoma State’s class ranks 11th in the Big 12 and 64th nationally.

Those aren’t particularly sexy numbers to look at, especially considering it’s a Big 12 that doesn’t include Oklahoma and Texas — two teams that rank in the Top 10 nationally. Although it would be great to see OSU better those numbers, let’s zoom out for a second and look at it more broadly.

Now more than ever the average player rating means more than the traditional ranking. The transfer portal is the main cause of that because teams are no longer consistently taking 25 commits a class. BYU, for example, has a Big 12-high 22 commits while Colorado has only six. Colorado ranks last in the traditional Big 12 recruiting rankings, but its average player rating of 93.13 comfortably ranks first. Here is a look at the league sorted by average player rating:

Rank Team Average No. of Commits
1 Colorado 93.13 6
2 Texas Tech 89.17 22
3 UCF 88.21 18
4 Utah 87.54 15
5 TCU 87.45 21
6 Kansas 87.35 17
7 Kansas State 86.98 15
8 Baylor 86.75 14
9 Oklahoma State 86.71 17
10 Arizona State 86.49 18
11 West Virginia 86.44 22
12 Arizona 86.35 19
13 Cincinnati 86.29 21
14 Houston 86.27 15
15 Iowa State 85.81 22
16 BYU 85.48 23

Alright, so now OSU is ninth, which still doesn’t breed a ton of confidence. But when spots four through 14 are separated by a whopping 1.27 points, I think it’s fair to say OSU’s recruiting is on-par with the league.

Need another example? Let’s take a look at the quarterbacks for each class and what their 247Sports rating is. Arizona State, Colorado and Houston didn’t have quarterbacks in their 2024 class as of writing, so here are the 13 schools that did sorted by rating:

Team Name Rating
TCU Hauss Hejny 92
Texas Tech Will Hammond 91
Arizona Demond Williams 90
Utah Isaac Wilson 90
Kansas Isaiah Marshall 89
Oklahoma State Maealiuaki Smith 89
Cincinnati Samaj Jones 88
UCF Riley Trujillo 87
West Virginia Khalil Wilkins 86
Iowa State Connor Moberly 86
Kansas State Blake Barnett 86
BYU Noah Lugo 85
Baylor Nate Bennett 84

Again, that’s a fairly fine margin of separation for much of the league. If you got an 87 on a test in college I imagine you weren’t disappointed you didn’t get an 89 because it’s essentially the same grade.

Now, if OSU wants to compete for national titles, recruiting will undoubtedly need to take a big step forward (and that likely starts with moola), but the Cowboys will be able to compete in this new-look Big 12.

2. Winning Battles

Speaking of competing in the Big 12, the Cowboys came out on top of some Signing Day battles on Wednesday.

In one, the Cowboys flipped Del City corner LaDainian Fields from TCU after offering Fields earlier in the month. Fields is a 6-foot-1, three-star cornerback who had been committed to the Horned Frogs since August. It could’ve been a coincidence, but he announced his OSU offer the morning of Dec. 11. That evening Fields posted a picture of some members of TCU’s staff, including head coach Sonny Dykes, making an in-home visit.

OSU had some things going for it in this battle. For starters, Fields’ cousin is Rodney Fields, a Del City running back who also signed with OSU on Wednesday. Then there’s the idea of Stillwater being closer to home than Fort Worth. But still, the Pokes got it done.

“[TCU] pushed hard on him, which they should’ve, to keep him,” Mike Gundy said Wednesday. “They wanted him. We’re closer. We have more connections there. His home base is surrounded by Oklahoma State people.”

The other battle involved OSU playing defense.

Out of Salt Lake City, three-star offensive lineman Nuku Mafi committed to OSU in mid-October alongside his high school teammate Semisi Tonga. Tonga flipped to Arizona State on Dec. 12, leaving many to wonder if Mafi would do the same. Then with things seeming unstable, BYU reportedly made a late push to swipe Mafi in the days leading up to Signing Day. But then eight minutes after the Mountain Time Zone window opened, OSU announced Mafi had signed with the Cowboys.

“He was loyal to us,” Gundy said. “His partner went to another school, so you still had that game going on out there a little bit, which is understandable. He never really acted like he was going any other direction. He was really good. But they were beating up on him pretty good there in the last couple weeks, but he stayed with us.”

Sure, losing Tonga was less than ideal, but the Cowboys winning battles against conference competition — both in-state and out — seems like a big deal.

3. My Favorite of the Class: Tre Griffiths

Every week throughout the high school season, I throw together our “Friday Night Highlights” to look and see how OSU’s commits performed that weekend. It doesn’t get read a ton, honestly, but it keeps me up to date with the class. One person who kept standing out to me on it this year was Tre Griffiths.

Griffiths is a 6-foot-3, 200-pound receiver from Keller, Texas. He caught 43 passes for 847 yards and eight touchdowns in nine games as a senior, according to MaxPreps. He had at least 100 receiving yards in four of those nine games:

Keller Central: 10 catches, 192 yards, two touchdowns
Southlake Carroll: six catches, 177 yards, one touchdown
Timber Creek: six catches, 142 yards, three touchdowns
North Crowley: six catches, 100 yards

So those types of numbers initially piqued my interest, but then he released a season highlight reel last month, and I was all the way on board. He has a big frame, seems to take pride in blocking and runs like a gazelle.

He came in fourth in the triple jump at the Texas 6A State Championships as a junior last year, and his father was a college soccer player. So, he just seems wildly athletic.

“We really liked his ball skills and his ability to run, moves well side to side,” Gundy said. “… He could be a 215-pound guys in a year and a half, which gives you a thick receiver that can hold some leverage on the edge.”

Griffiths is a three-star recruit, ranked 695th nationally. He committed to OSU in June over offers from Texas Tech, Baylor, Kansas, Utah and others.

4. So Many DBs

It seemed like every time I looked up this cycle, a defensive back was committing to the Cowboys.

OSU signed four Wednesday:

Landyn Cleveland — Mansfield, Texas
David Kabongo — Roanoke, Texas
LaDainian Fields — Oklahoma City
Willie Nelson — Longview, Texas

And the Cowboys have a decent shot at grabbing another Thursday evening when St. Louis standout Jacobi Oliphant announces his commitment. And OSU has already added a transfer safety in Kobe Hylton.

Cleveland is the highest rated of the bunch — in fact he turned down offers from Alabama, Texas and Oklahoma to sign with the Cowboys — but overall it seems like a good haul. If Oliphant picks the Pokes, he’ll be the lowest-rated of the freshmen DBs, but even he has a ton of upside in that he is 6-foot-4 and plays corner.

5. So What’s Left?

Much of the recruiting attention will now shift to the portal, where the Cowboys still have some holes to fill.

To me, defensive line is OSU’s most noticeable hole with Anthony Goodlow and Nathan Latu running out of eligibility. I think the Cowboys like what they have in guys like DeSean Brown and Jaleel Johnson, but OSU did struggle to get a pass rush at times this year. I imagine the Pokes will look to bring in some experience there — evident by their offers.

The offensive side of the ball is interesting.

The Cowboys lost Jaden Bray and Blaine Green to the portal and will also lose Leon Johnson III unless Johnson gets a waiver. Brennan Presley has another year of eligibility should he choose to use it, but he hasn’t made an announcement as of yet. So, returning contributors at this point from this past season are: De’Zhaun Stribling, Talyn Shettron and Rashod Owens. With OSU signing only one freshman receiver, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Cowboys try to transfer in one or two there.

Ollie Gordon hasn’t made an announcement as to whether he will return at running back. If he does, the Cowboys don’t have a ton of experienced depth behind him. If he doesn’t, the Cowboys don’t have hardly any experienced depth at all. With Elijah Collins running out of eligibility and Jaden Nixon hopping in the portal, that leaves Sesi Vailahi as the only other scholarship running back on OSU’s roster. The Cowboys did sign two Wednesday in Rodney Fields and Jaden Allen-Hendrix. I could see OSU looking to add someone from the portal there, but the question might be whether someone with experience would be willing to come in and back up the reigning Doak Walker winner.

Lastly, quarterback. Alan Bowman’s eligibility for next season is up in the air. If he is unable to come back, is OSU good with rolling with Garret Rangel, Zane Flores or even Maealiuaki Smith? Or would they go back into the portal? And if they go back into the portal, do they risk losing one of those younger guys? These are the games of chess college coaches have to play in this modern era. Whatever is going to happen, I imagine OSU wants the NCAA to get a move on when it comes to Bowman’s eligibility so the Cowboys can start planning for the future.

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