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Why OSU is Playing Freshman Safety Thabo Mwaniki



Oklahoma State signed four safeties to it 2017 recruiting class, but only one has played this season, and he has played in both games.

Thabo Mwaniki was rated as the Cowboys’ third-best safety signing in the class, according to 247 Sports. Kris McCune and Trey Sterling had higher grades, but Mwaniki made the biggest splash when he got to Stillwater. And that’s not coming from me.

“He’s real different,” senior safety Tre Flower said. “He came in with a real different mindset.”

Mwaniki was coach Mike Gundy’s fifth signing from Denton Guyer High School on the northwest side of the Dallas-Fort Worth metro. The previous included guys named Josh Stewart and J.W. Walsh, so Gundy must have known what he was getting in Mwaniki.

Flowers said he knew one of his newest pupils was going to be the one to standout after the first week.

“I don’t even think they had their physical, but I was doing backpedaling drills on the field by myself, and he ran in and got his cleats,” Flowers said. “He introduced himself, and I didn’t even know he played safety.”

Because of that, Mwaniki has only been running to get his helmet since the season started. He came on and paired with seniors Jerel Morrow and Darius Curry in garbage time, but one senior’s trash is another freshman’s treasure.

Mwaniki has five tackles over two games, which is extremely impressive for how little he has played. In fact, against South Alabama, he had more solo tackles than Flowers. Even more mind-blowing: Only one Cowboy had more individual tackles. It was Rodarius Williams, another freshman, and he had just one more.

Flowers said he thinks all of the freshmen safeties are going to end up being pretty good, and they are going to have to be as quickly as 2018. OSU has four seniors at safety this season and one underclassman on scholarship in Za’Carrius Green.

With so much youth at the position going forward, just staying steady is going to be huge in 2018 and beyond, Flowers said. 2017 is just a test run, but so far, Mwaniki has been great.

“I think a lot of it came down to who can limit the mistakes during camp,” Flowers said. “And he did it real good in camp. He was in with us, and all of them got their shot.

“I think he took advantage of it.”

That isn’t to say Sterling, McCune or Malcolm Rodriguez for that matter can’t make up the ground. Flowers said Sterling holds “a secret to athleticism,” Rodriguez being a former wrestler is “enough for a safety,” and McCune coming from a small Christian school in Dallas held three Big 12 offers out of high school.

“I think you got a bunch of ballers,” Flowers said.

For right now though, Mwaniki is clearly getting the nod, and it seems like the other safeties are getting tabbed with the redshirt. Mwaniki and all the freshmen for that matter aren’t allowed to talk with the media, per an OSU rule, but by Flowers’ account, this is a dude playing beyond his classification.

“He fits in,” he said. “You can’t tell he’s a freshman. He has confidence, and he’s making plays, tackling people, and he’s going with his opportunity.”

Take a look at Mwaniki’s profile from National Signing Day. You will find a list of achievements that stretches the length of the page, the highlight video below and this quote from safeties coach Dan Hammerschmidt.

“He’s one of those all-time kids,” he said. “Played offense, defense, special teams. He played a little QB, receiver. That’s kind of why we liked him.”

Flowers took that quote and simplified it for you.

“He’s a workhorse,” he said.

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