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Some Thoughts on Recruiting, Mike Gundy’s Best Players and #Math

A deep dive into OSU’s All-Big 12 guys.



If you’ve been following along in the last week or so you’ve likely seen some interesting recruiting arguments as they relate to Oklahoma State.

First, this year’s NFL Draft numbers came out, and there were 10x as many 2- and 3-star players drafted as there were 5-star players drafted. Also, an old (and timeless!) debate about OSU’s recruiting methods has flared up on our forum. Boiled down: OSU’s newest RB commit might turn out to be good (as some have insinuated) but the odds say he won’t (as history and math tell us).

A closer look at both of these ideas involves some #math, so hold tight because it’s not my strongest category. The broad point here should be obvious though: More lower-tier recruits coming out of high school will have more success in college and the pros because — very simply — there are more of them.

This is extremely true nationally where you have 10x more All-Conference players who are 3-stars coming out of high school than those who are 5-stars. This proves that stars don’t matter, right?! Wrong. Do the percentages. Whereas 13 percent of 3-star players become All-Conference players in college, 55 percent (!!) of 5-star players do. There are only 30 players a year that are 5-star players coming out of high school. That’s why All-Conference lists are littered with so many lesser-star guys.

And this makes the argument for the “the stars don’t matter!” crowd easier. They have a bigger pool of humans to choose from to prove their point. It’s not about building a big pool though, it’s about playing the percentages and knowing what you’re getting.

How does all of this pertain to Oklahoma State? Well, Oklahoma State doesn’t get 5-star players, so we have to take it back a step and compare 4-star guys and 3-star guys. According to this data, here are All-Conference percentages for 4-star guys and 3-star (and 2-star) guys coming out of high school.

4-star: 21 percent go on to make an All-Conference team.
2/3-star: 13 percent go on to make an All-Conference team.

In the Mike Gundy era, OSU has landed 46 players who were 4-star guys coming out of high school or transferring in (like Tyreek Hill).  That means it has landed roughly 325 guys who were 2/3-star guys (or not ranked at all). Note: I’m not including the 2020 class.

Of those 46 4-star players, 13 went on to become All-Big 12 players. That’s a rate of 28 percent. Again, more than one out of every four of OSU’s 4-star recruits under Mike Gundy has gone on to make at least one All-Big 12 team. This includes Dez Bryant, Justin Gilbert, Shaun Lewis, Marcell Ateman and Perrish Cox.

Now let’s do the other 325 players. Out of this group, OSU has had 57 players go on to make an All-Big 12 team. This list includes Justin Blackmon, Brandon Weeden, Justice Hill and James Washington. That’s a rate of 18 percent.

So there are a couple of takeaways here.

• When we talk about non-blue chip guys (the players who are not 4- and 5-star players), we have little idea about who’s going to be good. A rate of 18 percent means that four of OSU’s 2/3-star players in every class turn out to be really good. This makes sense with what we see on the field, but it does not help us predict who those players will be.

• OSU is much better at turning 2/3-star guys into All-Conference players than other schools are (remember the national average is around 13 percent or a little under). This is not surprising. I don’t know anybody who doesn’t think Gundy and his staff are good at developing really good players.

• I should also note how many punters and kickers OSU has put on the All-Big 12 teams. It’s a lot, and no punter or kicker is ever going to be a high-star player. So this helps the “they develop well!” argument.

• On that note, OSU is really good at turning 4-star players into All-Conference players. The national average for 4-star guys becoming All-Conference players is 21 percent. OSU’s is 28 percent. This also makes sense. With better talent, OSU’s development works even better.

• When you bump it up to OSU’s 4-star guys, we still don’t really know who’s going to be good, but we do know that it’s one and a half times more likely that a 4-star player for OSU will become an All-Big 12 guy than any other recruit for OSU. So we can speak with slightly more clarity when we talk about OSU’s classes.

• Remember, OSU has had about four times as many 2/3-star players make All-Big 12 teams under Gundy as it has 4-star players. Also remember: OSU has landed seven times more 2/3-star players than it has 4-star players.

• All of this is why I holler so much about recruiting. It matters. It matters a lot. Play the percentages out, extend them out and you can see why. You can’t win a title without recruiting at a blue-chip level. Historically-speaking, it does not happen.

• As always, this applies broadly but not individually. OSU will have a 3-star player in its 2020 class that becomes a superstar and plays in the NFL. This proves nothing other than this argument should not necessarily be applied to individual players — everybody is different, and you could make the case for every player Gundy has ever recruited that that particular player is going to be great. It’s just that most of them (and a higher percentage of 2/3-star guys than 4-star guys) won’t be.

• Just because the “but look at these 2/3-star players” argument is louder and more ubiquitous doesn’t mean it’s right. Sure, there are a lot more 2/3-star guys who have been great for OSU than 4-star guys. Again, this is because of how many 2/3-star guys they’ve recruited. It’s all about percentages.

• A caveat: What OSU is doing works. It’s just not going to produce many Big 12 titles and certainly not a national championship. Still, you don’t become a top-15 program over the last decade on accident. They’re good at what they do. I sometimes just wish they’d go beyond what they do. Although there are much (MUCH!) worse outcomes than the last 15 years of OSU football.

So while I don’t feel confident saying much is going to change — although there are glimmers of hope! — let’s at least all be on the same page when we holler back and forth about recruiting, Gundy and the future.

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