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Mike Gundy’s Toughest Recruiting Challenge Won’t Be A Football Player

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Mike Gundy’s recruiting prowess is put to the test each day. As a college head football coach, if you’re not recruiting players, someone else is likely out-hustling you. Such is the business — and grind — of being responsible for a college football program.

With experience reigning over the OSU program since 2005, Gundy knows a thing or two about recruiting. By my count, he’s signed more than 300 prospects from the high school and junior college ranks since 2005. From J.W. Walsh to Ryan McBean, to Tylan Wallace and Ryan Simmons. He’s recruited all across the country and even in Canada in search of men to become future Cowboys.

But even his most difficult challenges can’t sniff his newest recruiting battle: Filling his now-vacant offensive line position.

As the Tulsa World’s Mark Cooper reported on Friday, OSU has parted ways with Greg Adkins after just two seasons. Adkins is the latest in a long line of offensive line coaches the school has cycled through since long-time Gundy assistant Joe Wickline was poached by Texas. Whoever Gundy hires next will be his fourth offensive line coach in five seasons.

  • 2014: Joe Wickline left after serving under Gundy for nine seasons
  • 2014-2015: Bob Connelly left for USC after one season
  • 2015-2017: Greg Adkins left after being relieved of duties

The once-struggling position group in 2015 soared to new heights in 2016, jumping from more than 1,600 yards on the ground to 2,221 rushing yards in the 2016 season.

Yet it was recruiting misses that defined Adkins’ tenure at OSU. Last year, it was Klein Oak offensive tackle Ryan McCollum who flipped his pledge from OSU to Texas A&M in December just two months before signing day. One recruit, Tyler Brown, landed at TU after leaving the program. And his recruiting gem of 2015, Tramonda Moore, is at a junior college.

And this year, it was three prospects: Dan Moore, Derek Kerstetter, and Adrian Wolford who de-committed from OSU and later flipped to Texas schools. Kerstetter and Moore flipped to Texas and Texas A&M, respectively, doing so again in the month of December.

“It’s extremely difficult to make up ground in the third week of December at that particular position,” Mike Gundy said on signing day. “Especially on a four-year player. Sometimes you can grab one on a two-year. That was the most difficult aspect of this class.”

Because of the rash of de-commitments, Oklahoma State signed just one offensive lineman, junior college prospect Arlington Hambright, despite saying the goal was to sign four. Most notably, it added zero high school recruits.

During Adkins’ two year run, only three four-year linemen, Teven Jenkins, Dylan Galloway, and Matt Kegel, have stuck. All three redshirted in 2016.

With an aging offensive line group and a pressing need to get young talent to bolster the position group, Mike Gundy’s next hire may be more difficult than ever. Given the longevity of OSU O-line coaches in recent memory, and the undeniable pressure by OSU fans to expect greatness not only on the field, but on the recruiting trail, Gundy’s recruiting skills will be tested like never before.

There is an upside to the position, without question. The offense was top-20 in 2016. It returns a Freshman All-American tailback, a future pro at quarterback, and a plethora of talented wide receivers that will take the pressure off the running game.

But the running game — and the offensive line — must produce. And given the current state of the offensive line group, the lack of young four-year players to develop, it’s a unique and tricky situation for whomever Gundy elects to fill the position. And it’s a move that could define not only the success of the running game, but his success as head coach over the next few years. Or shorter.

If it seems like a lot of pressure, it is. But don’t count out Mike Gundy to find the right hire. He’s been in tricky situations like this before.

“That’s one area for us that is difficult to hold just because the pool to choose from isn’t as big and everybody’s picking at it,” said Gundy of recruiting future offensive linemen. “We have to step out of the box a little bit there and try to find ways to overcome it. We always have, and we will figure out a way.”

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