Oklahoma State Football Recruiting: Expectations vs. Reality

Marshall Levenson

During Mike Gundy's tenure as head football coach at Oklahoma State, there have many gripes from fans, the media, and even some within the program. 

One of the bigger and most brought up though is that of recruiting, more specifically the recruiting rankings that Gundy is responsible for each year. 

Most comments you will hear on the issue is that they are "too low" or "not high enough to compete for championships". You will also hear questions from the media and fans such as "Why does Gundy not go after 4 and 5 stars like everyone else?" and "Why does Gundy settle for lesser talent every year?" 

Well, I pose this question to you.

Is he settling for lesser talent? Because in my opinion, he is not. 

I believe the product he puts on the field year in and year out should prove that. Since Gundy has been head coach, have we not seen some of college footballs most explosive offenses residing in Stillwater, OK? Have they not had a consistent number of NFL prospects on the offensive side of the ball which is now evolving into both sides of the ball? Have we also not seen Oklahoma State responsible for the 16th most wins in the nation since Gundy took over in 2005?

The Athletic has written an article on Big 12 football recruiting and its expectations of each team matched with its reality we have seen for the last decade. 

In the article it takes a look at each of the teams recruiting rankings over the last 5 and 10 years, the data of what they have put on the field, and a reasonable outlook on how the program is doing. 

In terms of Oklahoma State, here is the data:

5-Year FBS
10-Year FBS
5-Year B12
10-Year B12



25 (2011)

45 (‘16, ’20)



“Oklahoma State’s recruiting has become quite consistent over the course of the past decade. The Pokes have been hanging out in the 35-45 range of the national rankings with each of their past six classes. Mike Gundy and his staff have a blueprint and don’t stray from it much. Their reputation on offense and the NFL talent they’ve produced gives them a chance to sign four-star skill players and QBs. They develop three-star defenders from Oklahoma, Texas and their surrounding states. They’ll add good transfers to fill needs.”

“The last time the program inked a top-25 class was 2011. That’s never seemed to be a big concern to Gundy, who values fit over hype and knows exactly what he’s looking for to be successful.”

The Outlook: “Well, there’s room for some debate here. “I would approach recruiting a little differently than he does because I would want to finish up higher in those recruiting rankings than we consistently do,” Oklahoma State athletic director Mike Holder said in 2018. Those remarks, as unproductive as they were, are a reflection of their recruiting ceiling. Oklahoma State wants to contend for Big 12 titles and CFP bids. The best programs in college football have a Blue-Chip Ratio of 50 percent or better. Oklahoma State is at 9 percent this year. Six 10-plus win seasons since 2010 haven’t brought them a lot closer to signing classes on par with Oklahoma and Texas.”

“But they’ll keep discovering and developing three-stars such as Chuba Hubbard into superstars, and they’ll keep winning. If you want to argue top-25 classes are a reasonable ask for a program that’s been this successful, there’s some merit to that. But when your recruiting results become this consistent, you’re probably doing about as well as you possibly could.”

Pokes Reports Robert Allen has his own thoughts on the situation. 

“If you can get four-star players that you are convinced can play and fit Stillwater and the Cowboy culture then go get them, but spend your recruiting time and budget efficiently. I can see more high profile players being recruited but never at the expense of the backbone of well evaluated and blue collar developing players that have built the program to its current state.”

I am also of this mindset. In my opinion do not fix something that isn’t broken. Gundy and his staff routinely find diamonds in the rough and turn them into stars. Some prime examples currently on the roster would Teven Jenkins, a first round hopeful in this years draft, Kolby Harvell-Peel, who received votes to earn Big 12 DPOY, and Trace Ford, who some view may become the best player in the Big 12.

All were previously ranked as three stars or even below but Gundy saw them as real talent he wanted in his locker room. 

Oklahoma State also has a significantly smaller recruiting budget than the “blue bloods” that fans and national media want Gundy to compete with in recruiting. 

When you look at it such as The Athletic has, you can see that these recruiting rankings are not an accurate depiction of what will happen on the field. Oklahoma State is around 5th ranked in the Big 12 for recruiting but 2nd in wins the last decade, behind only Oklahoma.

This may be just be Robert and I but I think if we are winning and competing for Big 12 championships, whatever Gundy and his staff are doing in the West Endzone, it must be working. 

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Comments (9)
No. 1-9

It's a two-edged sword.... good talent won't stick around (like Chuba) regardless of ratings. So what's the point then? If we get kids that only play one or two years, then we're back at the drawing board, is that really better than a kid that develops, learns the system and dominates for two years as an upper classman?

The fans are simply lazy, IMO... they don't look beyond the shallow work that somebody else did for them to find the real truth.

rankings are for lazy fans, who don't really know what they are talking about.

High Def  Poke
High Def Poke

I have never really understood the whole obsession over Stars when you talk about someone at 17 or 18 years of age because it is so difficult to project what they will develop into at 21 or 22 years of age. I would not disagree that there may be 20 to 25 five star can’t miss players who at age 18 will be sure fire stars and possibly start as true Freshman because their physical and athletic talent is off the charts and equal to a 23 or 24 year old young man, but those players end up at Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and even Texas. When you get to the three and four star guys I don’t think there is really much difference between the two ratings and it becomes a crapshoot that relies on that players physical and mental development, luck at injury avoidance and the type of weight and physical strength program that a particular school has to develop players, not to mention if the kid has a big heart and a real desire and drive to be the absolute best he can be.

Kansas cowboy
Kansas cowboy

I do not know of all the 4 star qb. Reid and lunt are examples of bust. Chlef and horndog not bust and not 4 star. Ratings can't be the only thing a coach looks at. I do hate some other sites who promote higher ratings. It's hard to bring 25 4 stars to Stillwater. Was a lot easier for Holder to bring 1 or 2. U really do need 85 players in football, not 4, 5 or 9 like the other teams. Ratings can be wrong. I'm happy with r 3 stars and walkons.


USC, Texas, Michigan, Tennessee and other Blue bloods sign 4 and 5 stars but have less wins than the Cowboys over the last 10 years. Difference is player development vs. player entitlement. Would love to see how many 4 and 5 stars busts the blue bloods signed in the last 10 years.

Kansas cowboy
Kansas cowboy

4 star at osu r probably harder to coach. They come in starting 3 or 4 yrs as God's in his high school. Then they show up and set behind a couple of 3 stars. On another point I do think this mite be the best coaching staff Gundy's had


Or maybe, Gundy knows more about college football talent than the guys at all those magazines?


Big 12 Recruiting Rankings / Scoreboard

2010: Texas 1st, OSU 5th / OSU 33, Texas 16
2011: Texas 1st, OSU 4th / OSU 38, Texas 26
2012: Texas 1st, OSU 6th / Texas 41, OSU 36
2013: Texas 2nd, OSU 5th / OSU 38, Texas 13
2014: Texas 2nd, OSU 4th / Texas 28, OSU 7
2015: Texas 1st, OSU 7th / OSU 30, Texas 27
2016: Texas 1st, OSU 7th / OSU 49, Texas 31
2017: Texas 2nd, OSU 4th / OSU 13, Texas 10
2018: Texas 1st, OSU 5th / OSU 38, Texas 35
2019: Texas 1st, OSU 5th / Texas 36, OSU 30

Texas is easily the Big 12's Recruiting Star Champion over the last decade finishing 1st 7 out of 10 years.

OSU is also 7 out of 10 in that same decade but on the Scoreboard against those same Recruiting Star Champions.

Thing is, I'm not sure that the Horns would have it any other way. In Texas, Recruiting Stars trump almost everything else... that's why they spend so much money buying them... them and the Aggies... two pea's of the same Recruiting Star pod.


It's pretty obvious Gundy has a plan and it's pretty effective. There are two schools that consistently get 4-5 star talent, but for the most part, we're beating one of those teams with our much lower ranked, but highly motivated talent.

Gundy has to find guys that are no afraid to work for their jobs and improve, but also those guys have to be willing to fit into our Cowboy Culture AND Stillwater, which is a great college town, but not as exciting as Austin, LA or many other towns out there. I loved Stilly, but it is what it is.
For the guys coming to Stillwater and committed to working and fitting in, then we'd love to have you.
For the guys that expect to be given preferential treatment immediately -- you'd better go elsewhere.

In closing, we have to give Gundy credit for his return on investment. He's done a remarkable job and has built the OSU brand into a consistent, national contender that many schools would love to emulate.


I have a theory of how Gundy & Co. have been so successful in recruiting in difference to Recruiting Star rankings.

Gundy will go after the 4 and 5 Star guys that give honest indication that we have a chance with them but he is not a slave to those rankings and he full well knows that many (if not most) of the most successful college and NFL players were never the twinkle in some Recruiting Star "experts" eye. Those unknown 2 and 3 Star athletes that were snubbed, that and within a 400 or 500 mile radius of Stillwater is where Gundy focuses his efforts... and he doesn't rely on Journalism majors to do his evaluations.

Take Biletnikoff winner, Justin Blackmon for example. While the Recruiting Star guys never ventured far enough off I-35 to find Plainview High in Ardmore, what the Cowboy Staff found there was an athletic freak that excelled not only in Football but in Basketball too.

Same story with Biletnikoff winner, James Washington. In High School, if it was an athletic endeavor, Washington was taking it to State. Way out there north of Abilene - the Recruiting Star guys couldn't even find Stamford, Texas do to its lack of a Hooters.

Whether it be through discovery in their own camps or via word-of-mouth through the Cowboy-friendly networks of HS Coaches, Gundy and Staff bother to confirm the tout, "Freak" themselves.

Malcom Rodriguez starting HS QB/DB with 3 State Football Championships notched on the grips of his pistols to go with his State Wrestling Championships... also a great Baseball player. "3 Star". That kinda recruit.