OSU Head Coach Mike Gundy visited with local media members Thursday morning, discussing the Cowboys 2014 recruiting class. Below is a transcript of the media session:
"I appreciate everyone being here and showing interest in our class of 2014. This is the most complete class and talented group of quality young men we have been able to sign since I have been the head coach here. This class represents, from start to finish, for the first time ever, without a de-commitment. It's the first time since I've been here, that we had the majority of the class committed in the spring and summer, and we did not have a de-commitment. We have obviously secured a very balanced class who will be a part of our team in the summer. There are so many people to thank in recruiting, especially with the way it has evolved and changed over the last few years. It's so important that we don't mistakes all the way through. Recruiting is the most important thing we do here. It's the lifeblood of our football program - to bring quality men in here who want to be a part of our team, graduate and compete for championships. I would like to express my appreciation for the tireless effort and great teamwork from the people who really contributed to this class. Obviously our assistant coaches are tremendous. This is our best recruiting staff of assistant coaches we have had in my time here. These guys are excellent, they build relationships, they have good people skills and they've done a great job. There are a number of people in our recruiting office who have worked tirelessly on this class. It's kind of a 24-hour process, which used to be over a four to six-week period, and is now more of a nine-month period. Our administration staff has focused on transcripts, eligibility, grades and all of the different areas in which we try to increase the team's core GPA. It's not easy to get that information and get it formulated into a manner in which we can predict the academic outcome of some of these men. Our Orange Pride, the young ladies who help us recruit, are tremendous. They're such a great resource of information, and they're bright. The players and parents of the players enjoy being around them. They do a great job for us. Our strength staff, obviously, Rob Glass and his staff works with our players in their conditioning to help make their body bigger and stronger. Our equipment staff does a great job as well with always having our helmets, uniforms and bowl gifts out for the recruits and their families to see. Very seldom do we ever have a recruit that comes in without his family. Because of that, there is always going to be a lot of questions about our medical staff and they do a great job. Our video staff also does a great job helping our young men be the best that they can be with different video angles of practice that are all in high definition. Our academic staff of about 35 different people does a great job. We bring some players in on a set schedule, while some players just show up. We want them to know that we are always there to help them with their academic needs. Our professors and deans are always willing to meet with the players and families. The bond between the academic and athletic side of things is so much stronger now than it used to be, and we are very proud of that. Without the group of men and women that have provided private air travel for us, we wouldn't be able to accomplish what we want to in recruiting without them. There are days when I'm in Dallas, West Texas and Houston all in the same day, and that would be impossible without them. I know it's expensive, but we really do appreciate their support. Coach Holder has always allowed us to go whenever and wherever we want in recruiting. He never tells us anything is too expensive when it comes to recruiting. He allows us to do everything we need to do in recruiting, and I know it's not that way at every school. He has never questioned us and has always believed in what we are doing as a coaching staff. The wives and spouses of all the coaches have been tremendous and understanding with many of us gone on weekends and working late nights. One of the most important things in our recruiting is the community here in Stillwater. When the recruits and their families come up to Stillwater they like to go out and see the town. The people here don't even know it but the hospitality that we have here is tremendous, and it is important in recruiting. The message that our team pastor has to the recruits is unbelievable as well. I think sometimes we forget about the high school coaches. It's not just Oklahoma State that comes in to talk to them about their players, but it's also the other 15 coaches that want to meet with their players. It's difficult to satisfy all those coaches while also making sure you have your team ready to play every week. We really do appreciate the high school coaches for the time and effort they put in for us. And last, but certainly not least, has to be our current players. They are the best recruiters that we have. It's almost a two-year process of recruiting these young men. When the players get here we show them everything that would be involved in their everyday lifestyle. We then turn them over to our players. We want them to ask questions about what it's like to be here at Oklahoma State. We want them to really know what college football is like. There are parts of recruiting that is like a used car salesman because we are out here promoting all that is good about our school, but when they come here, we encourage them to hang out with our players because they are going to tell them the truth. At their age, they are going to tell the truth. The guys on our team are going to be coached and treated with respect on a daily basis. We tell the kids and their families that we are going to coach you and build you up to be a better person in the classroom, on the field and out on the streets. People believe it because we can back up what we say. Our players are energetic and play a huge role in recruiting for us. This recruiting class is going to help us reload our team with quality people and young men who fit the mold we are looking for."
On the incoming class mixing in with the current players
"You know, you never want to say too much, but thankfully one thing I've learned from my 10 years is that you want to be able to see where we're at and try to evaluate what we need next year based on what we have this year. Without getting too far outside of the box, recruiting is not a perfect science. It's like in the NFL, where they spend millions of dollars on a guy and then they draft the wrong one. It's important to our staff and it's more important to me that we are able to evaluate who we are and where we are going. Over the last five years, the teams we've had have been able to compete for a conference championship every year. This year, we failed to do a good job of coaching. We got out-coached at the end of the year. The team who won our league, Baylor, I don't even know how many points we beat them by, but my point is that at Oklahoma State, athletically, our talent level and who we are - the team that won our conference, we still beat them by two touchdowns. That shows you where we come talent-wise. As coaches, we have to develop continuity in all the things that are important. I say this to you guys each year, and it's not just coaches' talk. '13 is gone and '14 has to identify who is their leaders. What is their identity? That has to start right now. It's already started. This class compared with the last class should keep us on track to be talented enough. We do our job as coaches to compete for a conference championship each year."
On what he has seen out of Mason Rudolph
"It was a long time ago when we offered him. We're trying to find young men who show great leadership skills, play unselfishly, don't draw attention to themselves and help the team rally around them. We've been very fortunate here. The quarterbacks that we've had here in the years past have all been good people, and the players liked them. That's first. If you don't have the ability to throw it and run it a little bit, we're probably not going to get to that point, but if we get to that point, and you're somewhat self-centered and not a team player, I won't have any interest in them. They may not have any interest in us anyway, but we have young men who want to lead, and they want to be tough. I tell the team that every Saturday before the game. The quarterback has to be the toughest guy on the field. He's the only guy who gets hit and can't hit back. Everybody else gets a chance to hit back, but he just has to stand there and get hit. I wasn't a great science student or anything, but in the laws of physics, if you're standing there getting hit all the time, it'll eventually wear on you. Those guys have to be the toughest guys. That's very important, and that's what we look at. Next year we want to pick up a couple. We went to pick up two in this next class. As I said, I'm excited about watching them all play and seeing how they develop. You can't predict how they're going to come out. It's just almost impossible to predict how they're going to compete early in their careers. I haven't seen him since he's been here, and tape can be deceiving. Honestly, the little bit that I saw this year, because we made all of our evaluations on him prior to the season, was flipping through the channels and seeing that all-star game that he played in. That's all I've seen of him."
On players practicing on their own on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
"That dedication has to take place. You're not going to have success at this level in college football if guys won't do it on their own. We don't have enough time with the 20-hour rule and the time we're limited with as coaches to get them ready to play. They have to do it on their own."
On Eric Henderson's help in the recruiting process
"There are certain geographical locations in this part of the country, that, if there's a coach that's from there, and there's a history there, he can get his foot in the door a lot quicker than even a head coach. Not that a head coach is any good at it, but he's from there. He has walked those halls, has lived that life and can speak their language. You see that in certain places across the country. Some young men, he's 30 or 31, so he falls in that category, can market themselves and sell their product, and some guys can't. It's no different than the guys out here selling vacuum cleaners. Some guys can sell them like crazy, and some guys are good guys, but they can't close the deal. He has an ability to attract people. They like him. The coaches like him, know him and they trust him. The people there like him, and so do the counselors and the teachers. For that reason, he's able to have success. He got a lot of players up here to camp in the summer. He's got a lot of buddies coaching down there, and they'll drive people up here because he's their buddy. They let you get your foot in the door and get started."
On signing players who were previously committed elsewhere
"It was an unusual year for us in recruiting. You can go back over the years and you lose one or two a year from August up through signing day and you never know who those guys are. So, it becomes a mathematical situation where you try to keep above the number you can sign because if one slips you can fill one in. You also have to be careful with how many you do that with now because they changed that rule two years ago that you can't over sign. It's a little iffier in how you handle those situations. We didn't have enough scholarships to give out this year to quality players who are deserving of a scholarship and deserve to be on this team in this class. We've got young men who are walking on to the team who will be here when we start in the summer and are very deserving of a scholarship. It wouldn't surprise me one bit after a couple years, after they develop, if they're not contributing in a large way or starting for our team. I just think the core values of who we are and what we stand for makes our players our best recruiters. I think that's why we're in that situation."
On Mason Rudolph being enrolled already
"We will let all three of those guys practice. Obviously, J.W. Walsh has been here and he is the most experienced. When we go out there, he will be out there first. We have so many reps in the spring that we'll let all three of those guys go out and compete. There are five of our signees here now. They're out there and in the conditioning. We have a number of players running track that won't be out here with us until the middle of March because they're running on the track team. We have this new track facility that's awesome. Diego, one of our track coaches, has had a great relationship with us and been very involved and instrumental with us in recruiting some skilled athletes. A lot of players like to run track so we've been able to incorporate that from a football standpoint in spring track and football so that's going to help us in recruiting. Those guys had been out there. They're working out and doing well. They go out and throw on their own every day, the same as we've always done. The strength staff and the medical staff that goes out there say that when one guy [Tyreek Hill] runs you have to move your face like you would in a tennis match."
On Tyreek Hill
"He has been very successful when he has the ball in his hands. I don't think it's any secret for all of us, certainly from a coaching standpoint, if you have a player that can make plays then he has to touch the football. Do we know how it's going to be right now? We don't have a clue. All we know is that we have a player who is really fast and had a lot of success over the last three or four years when he was at high school. We also have a lot of guys returning who can make plays on our football team. We have some young receivers here who will be considerably better next year because they grew up a lot this year. They were young and just feeling their way through. Desmond Roland finished up well for us and Rennie Childs did too. I say this every year and people get tired of it because they think I'm just talking, but I'm as excited now as I ever have been about this team and about preparing for the hard work in front of us."
On Beni Tonga helping recruit Polynesian players
"Beni did a tremendous job, very similar to Eric (Henderson) in recruiting. Everything is about relationships and about being upfront and honest so that people can trust you. Sometimes you can't always give them all the information they need. Beni knows everybody in his world. I give him a hard time and say everyone he brings up is a cousin of his. Honestly, he's helped us a lot. I'm fascinated by that style and what he's been able to do in recruiting. I get a big kick out of going on home visits with him in their culture. Then we bring them here with our players and it diversifies who we are. I've said this a number of times, but college football breaks down a lot of barriers and I get so much enjoyment watching it. I tease Parker Graham and Brandon Webb because Brandon is from Owasso and is a city kid and Parker is from outside of Joplin. They became best buddies and have been inseparable. What Beni has been able to do is to continue to build relationships with young men who could potentially come to school here and help us out. It's been educating and interesting for me. I have a great interest in exploring options with what we've done with Beni. I enjoy that part of recruiting."
On visiting homes with Beni Tonga
"It's not what you would be accustomed to because it's a different culture. It's interesting. I think what I really like about it is the very most important thing is their family. You're not going to break their family up. That's what we're trying to accomplish here. You bring young men in that the very most important thing is their family. The ones I've gone on home visits to have large families and they take care of their people. There is a genuine love and compassion in their family. The way that we're all raised and the values that are instilled in us when they come here then that will spread among our staff and players. I think that can only help our football team and that's what I get out of being on the home visits."