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The Recruiting Pedigree of New OSU Defensive Coordinator Jim Knowles



“It’s not a strength of his.”

That’s how Duke writer Adam Rowe recently described the recruiting prowess of now ex-Duke and current Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles, whose name was second on a list of six new hires announced in a tweet from Mike Gundy on Monday … behind Shane Euchus, an import from Ursinus College.

Not exactly the inspiring hire OSU fans hoped for on paper when Gundy parted ways with Glenn Spencer several weeks ago.

With Knowles in tow, OSU has an experienced DC who has piloted mostly average ACC defenses. But the real question — can he croot?!?! — is one that might give you a queasy tummy.

Crootin’ pedigree

Knowles was hired at the end of the 2009 season by Duke, giving him 2010 through 2018 to create a pretty large sample size as a recruiter.

The results are not overwhelming. Here is how the stars and rankings sorted out, by recruiting cycle, at Duke under Knowles watch. As you can see that while he wasn’t landing dudes left and right, he absolutely got incrementally better, landing four-star commitments in each of his last four cycles.

Here’s a look at Duke’s defense-only players over the last nine years.

2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
5-stars 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
4-stars 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 1 1
3-stars 6 5 8 7 7 9 11 11 5
2-stars 4 2 2 2 0 0 0 0 0
UR 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0
AVG. 2.60 2.71 2.80 2.77 2.63 3.10 3.08 3.08 3.17

What I found to be interesting was Duke’s propensity to, like Oklahoma State, reel in versatile athletes — specifically listed as such at recruiting services — to fill spots on the defensive side of the ball.

It made me imagine Knowles telling Gundy of that strategy at the coaches convention and Gundy, mullet flowing, falling in love immediately with a concept OSU has deployed for years under Glenn Spencer.

So how does that stack up with what Glenn Spencer was able to reel in as the Cowboy DC? Since being elevated to DC in 2013, he was given 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 to fill out classes. In that span, he landed two four-stars — once in 2014 and then again in 2015 — along with a smattering of three-star recruits and below in the time since.

2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
5-stars 0 0 0 0 0
4-stars 1 1 0 0 0
3-stars 14 10 10 9 14
2-stars 0 0 0 0 0
UR 0 0 0 1 0
AVG 3.07 3.09 3.00 2.70 3.00

The most interesting part that could be argued when comparing Glenn and Knowles is that, while Knowles has hit on some gems by recruiting standards, Glenn more consistently reeled in average or slightly above average classes.

Only once did Glenn bring in a two-star or below recruit. And while the ” but all he does is land three-stars” discussion does hold some weight, it’s also worth noting that … it could be worse. They could be two-stars or below, as was the case eleven times in Knowles tenure at Duke (albeit not since 2013).

It goes without saying here that it’s easier to recruit to Oklahoma State than it is to Duke, and the fact that Knowles improved with time is certainly encouraging. He actually out-recruited Spencer (despite being at a tougher school) in 2015, 2016 and 2017 (and probably in 2018, too, once all is said and done).

So hey, maybe the change of scenery both for OSU and for Knowles will pay off. There’s no denying he’s taking a job upgrade and, with it, an upgrade in the recruits that will be available. The fact that he’s largely been mediocre by national standards as a recruiter is uninspiring on the surface, as is the overall hire. However, when you throw in the curve that is recruiting to Duke football, it looks better than we thought it might.

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