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Mike Gundy on Spencer Sanders: ‘We’re Not Scared to Play a Freshman’



Mason Rudolph hasn’t even thrown his last pass as an Oklahoma State Cowboy, but attention has already turned to who will be taking snaps in 2018. That’s partly because there’s so much uncertainty after three years of stability (which, for Gundy, is like two decades) and partly because of the early December 20 signing day.

Mr. Everything Spencer Sanders was the first to turn his signed letter of intent at 7:01 a.m. on Wednesday morning, and that impressed Mike Gundy.

Gundy was not shy about what that leadership could mean for the future of Oklahoma State football.

“Got it in first because … I got second-hand information, I have not talked to him this morning, but he said, ‘It’s hard to lead when you’re in the back. So … I’m all in.'”

Whoooo buddy.

“He’s a winner,” said Gundy. “I love that he’s labeled as a dual threat quarterback. He’s a pocket passer that can run. We’re excited about him being part of our program. He’s been very loyal from start to finish and had a lot of opportunities to not be loyal.

“The coaching staff at Denton Ryan was as up front and honest and as strong as any I’ve seen in doing things the right way. The young man said he wanted to come to school here. There are other people coming in over the last month, trust me. They said, ‘Until he says he wants to look at another school then we’re going to do the best we can to hold you off and do what’s right.’ They know what’s going on.”

Sanders, who was OSU’s first commit in the class of 2018, tore his ACL shortly after that commitment in the fall of 2016. He bounced back for a spectacular senior season, though, that included 3,800 passing yards, 1,400 rushing yards and 70 total TDs as he led Denton Ryan to a 14-1 record before they fell in the state semifinals to Highland Park last week.

Sanders had 260 yards passing, 160 on the ground, 5 total TDs and an embarrassing number of big-time plays.

On Wednesday, Gundy called him the most complete freshman QB “off of high school tape” OSU has ever gotten. He is also the 18th-highest ranked prospect in OSU history (new teammates CJ Moore is No. 13).

“He’s a great prospect,” added Gundy. “He’s very humble. For all the awards he’s received, he never says a word.” Gundy mentioned his lack of talking twice. “We spent an hour and a half fishing on three different ponds (at my ranch on his official visit) and he never said a word to me.”

Of course there will be plenty to dissect and discuss in the months leading up to Oklahoma State’s first game against Missouri State on September 1 next year, but it’s sort of difficult to imagine Sanders not being squarely in the mix after hearing Gundy talk about him for the first time publicly.

There is precedent, of course. Of the five players to start at QB since Brandon Weeden graduated, two were true freshman and one (Wes Lunt) did so in his very first game as a Cowboy.

But that year, Lunt enrolled in January and played through spring ball. This time around, Sanders won’t enroll until the summer. That’s fine with Gundy, though, who said he wants Sanders to enjoy playing basketball this spring and enjoy the last days of his high school career.

“Everything will get started eventually,” said Gundy. “It will move really fast, but he’ll be fine.”

It was interesting to watch Gundy and listen to the way he talked about Sanders. His infatuation is apparent and the manner in which he got uber-serious before talking about how important it was to fax his LOI one minute after he could crystallized things for me. Sanders is probably going to play in his first year, and I think there’s a pretty decent chance he’s going to be the starter in Game 1.

“I like the development of Corn Dog, and I like where Wudtee’s at so in the spring we need to really get into how good are they and what can they do for our team,” said Gundy. “But … we are not scared to play a freshman. If we have a young man who comes in and has a gift. He’s willing to lead. He’s tough enough. It’s our responsibility … to put the playbook together to where the young man understands it to where he can have success.”

That’s going to be the biggest thing. Sanders is gaining a lot by living out his high school days in Denton, but he also might be losing a lot, too. If he was enrolling in January I would nearly lock it down that he would start in September. But because he’s not, that’s up in the air.

“Coach Jones told us, ‘If the best players aren’t on the field, it’s your fault as a coach. You better get the best players on the field,’” added Gundy noting a different Sanders who was also pretty good.

“That’s the old Barry Sanders story. I’ve always remembered that, and there’s no doubt about it. If we have a freshman at any position that’s the best player, clearly gives us the best chance from a leadership standpoint, from a toughness standpoint — that’s what Mason was, he was a great leader and he was a tough sonofabitch — if this guy is that way, or any other player, you got to put them on the field.”

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