One of the hardest things about recruiting is evaluating talent at the high school level. Coaches have to predict how a player will perform at the next level and decide who to pitch offers to. There are always players that don't live up to their billing for one reason or the other. It also helps to hit on a couple kids that may have not yet proven they're world beaters.
FBS programs are allowed only 85 scholarship athletes per year and they're only allowed to offer 25 scholarships to incoming players each year. There is also a limit of how many athletes can be on the roster at the start of fall camp (105). Aside from your 85 scholarship athletes you have a number of walk-on's who try out and may or may not make the team.
So what is a "preferred walk-on"?
A preferred walk-on is a player who was likely not highly recruited but who a coaching staff thinks has potential and could fill a need for the team in the future. The coaches can promise the recruit a roster spot at the beginning of fall camp and there is always the hope that he can earn a scholarship in the future. They basically get to skip the initial tryout and are promised a spot on the team and in practice for the next season.
There are guys like quarterback Nyc Burns from Berryhill (Tulsa, OK) who actually received scholarship offers from New Mexico State and Northern Colorado but instead accepted the preferred walk-on spot. He will be enrolling at OSU and finding a way to pay his own tuition, betting on himself to earn that scholarship.
Center Brad Lundblade and Cowboy Back Blake Jarwin also started out their college careers paying their own way and were able to earn their spots.
Another bonus to having guys go this route is the limitation mentioned above on incoming recruits. After a walk-on has been with the team for two full years, he can be offered a scholarship without it counting against the 25 incoming scholarship limit.
Oklahoma State has had success with walk-on's in the past and looks to continue that trend. Some of the prospects that either have been approached about preferred walk-on status or have already committed include:
Nic Burns - QB - Berryhill (Tulsa, OK)
Triston Grant - DE - Owasso, OK
James Lewis - LB - Memorial (Tulsa, OK)
Cade Smith - LB - Pleasanton, TX
Zach Smith - LB - Pleasanton, TX
Michael Wilson - OL - Round Rock, TX
Will Jones - DT - Plano, TX
This list is not exhaustive and will probably continue to grow as signing day closes in.