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The Rundown: Everything Mike Gundy Said at His Signing Day News Conference Wednesday

Hear from Gundy as he discusses OSU’s 2023 class.



[Devin Wilber/PFB]

STILLWATER — Before hopping on the team plane and heading to Arizona for the Guaranteed Rate Bowl next week, Mike Gundy met with reporters Wednesday at the Stillwater Regional Airport to discuss his signing class.

Oklahoma State, as of writing, added 17 players to its ranks on the opening day of the early signing period. Here is what Gundy had to say at the news conference.

Opening statement

“OK, guys, well since we don’t have as much time today with the flight, I want to get everybody’s questions with this class. So if you guys have any fire away.”

On Zane Flores

“Well, he’s had tremendous success. You know, he’s really developed over the last six to eight months with his ability to move around and run. We’re thrilled with what he brings to the table. Tremendous success in high school. Wins a lot of games, carrying his team. I think where he’s really improved over the summer is his ability to run, and that’s a big part of college football now so we’re really excited about his future.”

On Zane Flores’ arm talent

“No question, you know, to make it as far as he went when that Elite 11 contests and all that, which a lot of that’s obviously your ability to throw, accuracy, arm strength — we knew that. That was kind of a no-brainer, but his mental capacity and his football savvy, football IQ and his ability to move has really upped his game in my opinion.”

On whether there was a worry that Zane Flores would decommit when Nebraska made a coaching change

“Well, I think now there’s always worry in recruiting. You know, you establish relationships and young people make decisions for whatever reason, but we just stayed the course and it obviously worked out well.”

On how he feels about the newcomers for the offensive line

“Really good. We try to bring in young, offensive linemen in every class to develop them and you know, one of them is right here close to home, you know, JaKobe Sanders, who has essentially grown up in our house. He’s been at our house just about every day since he’s been this tall and I think he’s special. You know, his ability to play center, his football IQ, he can snap, he’s a 400-pound bencher already. I think he’s a 550-pound squatter already. At some point over the next year, he could be the strongest guy on our team. And then Gage (Stanaland), tough guy from out in West Texas. You know Jack (Endean) is a big, long guy that developed into really being a good tackle. (Isaiah Kema) is going on a mission, but you know, once he takes care of his business, he ended up being a really good addition for us late. He was a little bit of a surprise and jumped on board, but we’re excited about him once he comes back in a couple years.”

On whether there are other positions Oklahoma State might be looking to fill during the later signing period

“We could, there’s a lot of uncertainty now with how many numbers we’ll have. Because we don’t know exactly who will be on our team in two weeks. So we have to wait to balance those numbers out.”

On whether he likes the transfer portal additions combined with the signing class

“We can’t talk about any portal [because of NCAA rules]. I can’t do it.”

On the benefits of allowing transfer portal additions practice during bowl preparations

“Well there will be some of them, we don’t know who yet. But there’ll be some that want to join our team in Arizona who are really excited about being in a bowl and being part of our team. We just have to wait and see who’s gonna show up out there. Obviously we’ll know when they do. But I know there are some of them that are planning on joining our team in Arizona.” 

On whether he likes that rule change allowing transfer portal players to practice right away

“I guess. I haven’t thought about it much. There’s so many things changing now with rules that they’re just kind of out of control. But I wouldn’t see why it would be a disadvantage. I think it works. The young man’s excited about being a part of the team and wants to be on location with that team. I think they should have that opportunity.”

On the five defensive backs Oklahoma State added

“So we have a number of guys that can play a couple positions. We’ve got a couple of them locked in at what we think could be future corners, but then some guys that might move around at that nickel, slot safety area. And so we have a little maturity there. And then some young guys we want to develop. That is one position, one group that we feel good about youth in our program. And so that gave us flexibility to go after some different guys, some young players.”

On linebackers Poasa Utu and Ike Esonwune

“Both are really, really good young linebacker prospects that we feel good about their toughness, their future to develop their body, they can run. They’re going to be linebackers for us and eventually I think that both of them will be 230 pounds and run really well to that inside spot.”

On whether targeting defenders that rack up a lot of tackles is important

“Yes, guys that are productive in high school, generally will be productive in college. Very few players in our opinion that aren’t productive in high school are going to project to be very productive in college. So guys that rack up numbers and proved to us that they can have a lot of success make us feel much better.”

On NEO defensive lineman Iman Oates

“He’s a 300-pounder, there’s not a lot of them, right? So 6-2ish, 310 (pounds). Experienced. Older, two years older. Local guy from Tulsa. A lot of family there and wanted to be close to home, but it’s hard for us to find a 300-pounder and get him to be a part of our team. I think that he’s gonna make huge strides over the next eight months with Coach (Rob) Glass. Just the nutrition, the development, the strength and conditioning he’ll get and give us another big body inside.”

On whether they targeted Iman Oates in high school

“Yeah a little bit. But, hopefully a lot of us missed on him in high school.”

On what he has seen out of the current team in bowl preparation

“Well, we had 10 good practices. Our guys have worked hard, their attitudes have been great. They’ve competed, you know we went two days on, one day off all the way through up until a couple of days ago before we let them go home. They’ve had really good practices. We’ve worked hard and feel good about where we’re at, and you know, looking forward to getting out here and getting in bowl game routine.”

On whether adding players to the class late is a product of the transfer portal

“I think that we knew they were coming here to be honest with you. They just chose to make their announcement late. (Isaiah) Kema visited just over the weekend, so he kind of confirmed he wanted to be here. (Iman) Oates was in the decision-making process. Tywon Wray (Jr.) came in just this weekend. And then Ike (Esonwune) was trying to decide on a couple of things. So, they were scheduled throughout the time, I think it was just kind of the timing and when they got here.”

On Texas athlete Camron Heard

“Yeah, he’s very athletic. We look for a couple of things, we look for multi-sport guys. We like wrestlers. And then we like quarterbacks that we think might be able to play another position and I think he’s going to be a really good fit at wide receiver.”

On whether he likes the challenge of fitting the pieces together an incoming class

“I’m not a big fan of all the stuff going on now, because I think it creates uncertainty and it cheats high school players, in my opinion. I think that a large majority of schools across the country look for a public opinion, something to satisfy them with older kids and I think high school players over the last class and this class don’t get recruited because of this. But it’s kind of a sign of the time so we all have to make adjustments.”

On whether he would like to have a summer signing day to let early commits sign earlier

“Yeah, I think that players who are committed through the spring, for example, the 24s that will make decisions over the next five months, if they make a decision that we should have a July 1 and let them sign — get it over with. There’s a tremendous risk from a financial standpoint right now, in my opinion, with recruiting budgets. I can only speak for us, but I can imagine it’s everybody else with the impact of the ability to transfer and increased numbers is going to cost athletic departments a bunch of money. They’re going to find that out. Private airline flights, the different things that are going on now with this is going to cost a tremendous amount of money. And for that reason, if we can go ahead and lock young men down in July, then that saves — not that money is the most important thing, but if you’re the guy that’s counting the pennies and having to balance a budget, maybe it is. I think that if we’re not careful, we’re going to increase recruiting travel budgets, you know like here at Oklahoma State this year, probably $200,000 just because of all the stuff that’s going on with transfers. And I’m sure that some schools may really struggle with that future situation. So, I think there’s a lot of things we could do to shore it up and make it better, but right now that’s not the game we’re in at this time.”

On Australian punter Hudson Kaak

“Those guys are trained differently. They come from the [ProKick] Academy. They’re trained for American football. They grow up kicking a ball all their life. They have an ability to move to the right, move to the left, do different things with the ball. We’ve had tremendous success with it. So, we’re comfortable with that. We’re comfortable with her ability. Logan (Ward) has done a great job for us in filling in for Tom (Hutton) and has got years to come, so we’ll those guys punt it off and see where we’re at. But the ability they have with the ball is different than what American kids have just being on the sport that they play all their life.”

On how the process works with ProKick Australia

“We have a great relationship with them, the two guys that are in charge of that Academy. They trust us with what we told him about Tom (Hutton), the way we treated him. Tom gives them great feedback. They nurture these men, and they send them to places where they trust the people that are gonna take care of them. We have a great relationship with them.”

On Del City defensive lineman Jaedon Foreman

“Jaedon is just scratching the surface with his body. He’s — I don’t know what he weighs now — says 250. I think he’s going to be 290 at some point, by the time he gets with Coach (Rob) Glass and develops himself. He’s got a really good demeanor. He’s got good toughness, so he gives us another big body that’s hard to find in this area.”

On Texas defensive lineman Ricky Lolohea

“It says here he’s already over 300. We guessed him to be 300, so I think when he gets here with Coach Glass, he’ll slim up a little bit. But he’s gonna be a 300-pounder. But great kid, great family. Looking forward to what he brings to the table.”

On some of the defensive backs OSU signed

“Lardarius Webb is another guy that I’m excited about. He’s very mature. He fits a spot a for a couple guys we lost. Older guy that can play that slot nickel, maybe even some corner. We’ll see when we get him in here and see what kind of ability he has. So, I’m excited about what he brings to the table. Another one we haven’t talked much about — RJ Lester is really a skilled kid from over there at Northside. Excited about what he brings to the table. Kam Franklin, Kam has been committed to us for a long time.”

On the size of the class

“We’ve got a really good class, good group of guys. I mean, this is about the right number — 18ish or so is really a pretty good number of young guys to bring in and I’m including the two-year guys in a program because you’re going to have some flexibility with the other stuff that’s going on in recruiting now. I’m guessing that number will be pretty accurate to balance your roster on. We’ll find out where we’re at in two weeks with the other guys that we have to pick up based on roster size.”

On recruiting big defensive backs like Kam Franklin and Tywon Wray

“I mean, you would always like to have the bigger, taller, longer, faster is better, but it doesn’t always work that way. It’s production. The ones that are taller, that have what would be a little bit bigger body, they are built for a certain position, and the good news is if they grow a bunch, then they can go and move to a different position because they have height. Sometimes if you don’t have heighth then it makes it a little bit more difficult. So it is advantageous.”

On player development specialist Beni Tonga’s impact on this class in recruiting Polynesian kids

“Beni is big. Beni’s a big part. Beni’s been, gosh, I don’t know how long Beni’s been with me now, probably close to 10 years or something. But Beni speaks that language. That makes a big difference. You’re talking about a very, very close-knit group of people, very family-friendly, loyal people. Beni is a product of the Cowboy culture, and his communication with those young men is very crucial in our success in recruiting them.”

On how much Derek Mason’s connections helped discover Georgia defensive back Tywon Wray Jr.

“Yeah, that was a relationship he had in that area and went down. In my opinion, he’s a young man who has fallen victim to the different style of recruiting now and kind of flew under the radar for whatever reason. I think four years ago, he would have had multiple offers at ACC and SEC schools, but there’s not as much high school recruiting going on right now. There’s players out there now that, we haven’t located them, but there’s players out there now that are seniors in high school that aren’t being recruited, that are good enough to play at our level. They’re just not being recruited. It’s gonna be interesting over the next few years how to locate those guys and where are they at? Are they at prep schools? Are they at junior colleges? Are they sitting a year and then reopen their recruiting a year from now, not enrolled in a school? You can do that. There’s a lot of things going on now. It’ll be interesting to see how it works over the next few years.”

On what he has seen from Garret Rangel in bowl prep

“He’s had a good three weeks of practice. He’s worked hard, and he’ll continue to grow and develop with every snap he gets. He’s gonna get more comfortable every day, and he’s working hard. We feel good about the progress he’s made, and hopefully, he’ll grow up a little quicker than we want him to. It’s gonna take some time. Young players, it takes time for them to develop.”

On what progress he is looking to see from Rangel in the bowl game

“Well, the same thing I would any other player — just for him to develop mentally and comfortable decision-making throughout the game, just based on reps. I’m gonna go back to where we were the first two years with Spencer (Sanders), and guys that have covered us for a long time realize where we were at with him for the first two years. You know, the people would come to me and give the outside opinion of this guy is not good enough, need to get rid of him. It took time, developed. And then in the end everybody wants him back. So, it changed real quick. It just takes time for those young quarterbacks to develop.”

On whether players who entered the transfer portal would play in the bowl game

“The guys that have gone in the portal for us, they’re not on our team, no.”

On whether OSU is done signing players today

“I don’t know. I mean, honestly, I don’t know. I know we have two players out there that we might get later in the day, but I’m gonna be real honest with you, the way this transpires now I’m usually the last person to know. Like, somebody will text me and say this happened, and I mean, it’s changed so much like the day before signing, which would be yesterday, and all last night used to be just 24/7 communication, on the phone, texting, all this. It’s not that way anymore. It’s much different than it’s ever been. So we could end up with another one, my guess. But from what I’ve been told, that wouldn’t be until 3 or 4 o’clock in the afternoon here. So, I don’t think there’s any reason for y’all to wear yourself out checking whatever you check. I don’t think it’s going to be until 3 or 4 o’clock, and we’ll either pick up another one or not.”

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