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Why OSU Football Must Take New Approach in Recruiting

Why OSU must change its recruiting approach to become relevant again.



Oklahoma State has the No. 40 football recruiting class on its way to campus for next season. That mark ranks fifth among Big 12 programs.

OSU’s rank in the recruiting world since its last Big 12 championship, in 2011, have steadily tailed off and plateaued. It’s nothing if not consistently average. Here’s a look at national/Big 12 ranks since 2011 for OSU in recruiting rankings:

2011: 25/4

2012: 31/6

2013: 31/5

2014: 27/4

2015: 40/7

2016: 45/7

2017: 38/4

2018: 34/5

2019: 38/5

Never once has OSU been higher than fourth in the Big 12. Never once has OSU finished in the top 25 since it last won a conference championship.

Never during that span has OSU won a conference championship.

And therein lies the problem. Oklahoma State appears content with pulling in middling talent, trying to win 8-10 games, hoping its under-the-radar talent will outperform expectations. It’s all stagnated. Signing day graphics are the same. Recruiting philosophy is the same. Nothing has been tweaked to try and improve recruiting and get more talent on campus.

Switch things up! On the first day of early signing period Wednesday, OSU did nothing to try and differentiate itself from the crowd. Similar recruiting graphics as last year (all of which, inaccurately, labeled every signee a five-star prospect). Same format — a highlight reel and some factoids. Heck, even the same URLs as last year.

Meanwhile, Baylor was getting roasted for using puppets. But hey, at least Baylor dared to be different.

How is OSU trying to appeal to prospective student-athletes? Mike Gundy has a mullet, which I suppose is flair some recruits may find fascinating. But OSU’s main selling point is on Cowboy Culture. It’s a great selling point that slices to the heart of OSU’s mission, sure.

It’s also a tactic that has netted OSU a total of 10 four-star recruits since 2015, and no five-star recruits.

TCU has 12 in its last three classes alone, excluding 2015, 2016 and 2017 recruiting classes. Baylor has 10 during that span. OU has 42 and Texas has 46.

It’s clear whatever Oklahoma State’s strategy is, that it isn’t working. OSU hasn’t won a conference title in a decade. It hasn’t beat OU but twice since Mike Gundy took over the program. It is perennially outclassed in big games as favorites at home, inexplicable on its face but understandable with context that OSU isn’t recruiting like a top-25 school despite performing at such a level.

There is no quick-fix for Oklahoma State, or for Mike Gundy. Gundy remains fixated on doing things his way, and doing things his way continues to underperform. Oklahoma State can’t hold his feet to the fire because he’s the winningest coach in program history.

And so here we are, year after year, wondering how OSU can get out of its no good, very bad recruiting rut. There is no right or wrong answer. There may not be one at all. But it’s clear that OSU’s approach has plateaued the program in such a way that the ceiling has been hit barring significant changes.

Maybe it’s time to break out some puppets, or to take more chances, to shave the mullet. I can’t say what the answer is. All I know is that OSU recruiting like a sub-40 program nationally will only get the Cowboys so far in their own conference. As we’re seeing these last few years, they’re putting themselves at risk of being boatraced by other teams within the league willing to take risks they aren’t.

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