It was disappointing, both for cornerback A.J. Green — who expected to be drafted in rounds four through seven — and for OSU’s fanbase who has become accustomed to seeing at least one Cowboy drafted.
It’s not the end of the world that OSU didn’t have a draft pick. Green was at best going to be a day-three draftee. It wasn’t suddenly going to sway more recruits to Stillwater. Hell, to be honest we don’t even know if Green will last in the NFL (I think he will).
And next year, OSU is set to have a few players drafted, including wide receiver Tylan Wallace and running back Chuba Hubbard. I expect a few more as well, including at least one linebacker.
But while I watched the draft unfold this past weekend, a few thoughts came to my mind, in relation to OSU, its future and its ceiling.
Stars do matter
Eight percent of all recruits are four and five stars, according to The Andy Staples Show, and 66 percent of the first-round picks in this year’s draft were four and five stars out of high school.
The 2020 national champion LSU Tigers had a draft-high 13 players selected, including five in the first round. LSU’s five picks matched what the Big 12 had in the first. OSU has six first rounders since Mike Gundy took over the program in 2005. LSU’s 13 total draftees is more than half the number of OSU players drafted under Gundy. The most OSU players taken in one draft is four in 2010 and 2018.
The four College Football Playoff teams this past season had 33 of the 255 players drafted, including 12 in the first round.
The point is this; OSU will not win a national championship in the next decade. They won’t win a CFP game either.
Hell, contending for a Big 12 title with a slim chance of actually winning it seems more realistic.
Maybe that’s harsh or unfair, but it’s the reality. Until OSU can start landing more higher-ranked talent, there’s always going to be a ceiling on what this program can truly accomplish.
Not an easy fix
The idea Gundy and his staff aren’t aware of it or need to “recruit harder” like so many OSU fans lament is laughable.
Smarter people than myself have pointed out how the correlation between athletic department budgets and success on the recruiting trail. There are few outliers and even they have unique circumstances like Clemson.
You would think winning games, going 78-26 during an eight-year stretch would convince more players to commit to OSU. But it’s doesn’t. Is that Gundy’s fault? Is that on the coaching staff?
Gundy isn’t perfect.
There are some solid recruiters on the staff. No one evaluates and recruits wide receivers like associate head coach/offensive coordinator Kasey Dunn. Offensive line coach Charlie Dickey has a history of landing talent, and is already doing so at OSU.
But Gundy sometimes goes with coaches who will stick around over young, aggressive recruiters that might leave after a few years for better opportunities. He didn’t used to be that way.
The fact he’s been burned by four- and five-star players that either flipped commitments before signing day, ended up not panning out or never making it to campus for a variety of reasons, has left a sour taste in his mouth for high-level recruits. That doesn’t mean they don’t offer them (and so far it looks like they’re putting more emphasis on it for 2021). They don’t shoot for the talented but troubled kids as much, the ones like OSU are often willing to take a flier on just to land some high-ranked talent.
I also can’t blame him. Five-star players are all committing to roughly the same eight to 10 schools every year. There are occasional outliers, but even when OSU has a connection to one, they can’t seem to sway them away.
We want someone to blame for all of it; Gundy, the coaching staff, cheating, whatever. Gundy certainly deserves some blame, but that’s because it doesn’t make sense why more four-stars would want to commit to schools like Illinois, Ole Miss and South Carolina than OSU, which was winning 10 games a year on a regular basis.
Are there some things Gundy and his staff could to do try and help in recruiting? Yes. Outside of paying recruits, is there a way for OSU to start reeling in top 10 classes? No. But man, I’d love to see one in the top-25.
OSU has good football program
OSU is one of the best in the country at evaluating and developing talent, especially at running back and wide receiver. OSU’s reputation is drawing the attention of other schools once it offer a prospect
OSU’s recruiting philosophy is not new. The Cowboys had three consecutive 10-win seasons from 2015-17 and are potentially set up for another one in 2020.
If you’re mad OSU isn’t a CFP contender and expect more from the program, that’s fair. I can’t say I disagree, but it shouldn’t take away from the success the Cowboys have enjoyed under Gundy.
Appreciate 2011 season more
On Thursday, CRFF staff members rewatched OSU’s 2012 Fiesta Bowl win against Stanford and we noticed a few things.
There were a lot of “NFL” guys on the field, including five drafted players and 13 that signed as undrafted free agents for OSU. It was the most talented roster in the Gundy era.
It’s no surprise OSU finished the 2011 season with 12 wins, a Big 12 title and within a few human votes of playing in the BCS Championship game.
We all look back at 2011 fondly and bring it up as what we expect the program to be more often, but maybe we should recall just how lucky OSU really was to have it come together. To have that level of talent, when the recruiting classes weren’t that much better than today. OSU had a first-round draft pick quarterback (Brandon Weeden) that only came to Stillwater because Oklahoma wasn’t interested. To have him and a player the caliber of Justin Blackmon come back for another season was luck.
The 2011 season is the outlier. It’s the best season in school history. And it was even better than we all remember.
Draftees don’t equal success
Here’s the thing about the draft; Kansas had a draft pick. The Jayhawks won three games last year. TCU had a Big 12-high five players drafted and went a combined 12-13 the last two seasons.
Florida and michigan have each had 17 players drafted in the last 3 years - that’s one more than both Clemson and Oklahoma. The former combined for 0 CFP appearances in that span, the latter have 6.— Allen Kenney (@BlatantHomerism) April 26, 2020
Having talent doesn’t equal success. Just ask Texas A&M.
It’s necessary to be reach the pinnacle of the sport, but it doesn’t guarantee it. Don’t assume that because the next guy under Gundy will be able to recruit better that it will equal more success.
OSU needs high draft pick for success
The 2021 NFL Draft could be OSU’s best since 2018, when the Cowboys had four players drafted which matched its 2010 draftee total.
Hubbard and Wallace will be drafted, but then there are players like linebackers Calvin Bundage and Malcolm Rodriguez and offensive tackle Teven Jenkins that could be selected as well. That doesn’t include any juniors that might have big seasons and leave early.
But this isn’t about rounds four through seven. It’s about round one.
If you really want having NFL players benefit OSU when it comes to recruiting, they have to be players drafted high that become stars like Dez Bryant.
OSU has NFL players, but are Lane Taylor and Emmanuel Ogbah helping OSU win recruits? Nope.
They need more Dez Bryants. They need Hubbard and Wallace to be All-Pros. They need Washington to pop in year three in Pittsburgh.
Would tight end Blake Jarwin becoming a weapon in Dallas be nice for OSU? Yes. Would it matter as much as Wallace being a 2021 first-round pick then becoming a star? Not even close.
OSU needs some players drafted high that pan out in the NFL. It’s been awhile since that’s happened. It would be nice if 2021 shifted that trend in the other direction.