Cowboys load up on defense

February 13, 2014

Offense wins games. Defense wins championships.

Oklahoma State has had an outstanding offense and has been emphasizing better defense. That focus has showed up in the football recruiting class of 2014.

OSU signed 16 defensive players, 10 offensive player and one punter in a class rated by some as in the Top 15 in the nation.

“I think that this is a terrific recruiting class,” said OSU coach Mike Gundy. “It takes a group effort, and it gets better and better at Oklahoma State. We have a tremendous product to sell. We have beautiful facilities. We’re a winning program. We’ve won 50 games in five years. Our players believe in themselves. We have a great team concept.”

OSU recruited six defensive backs, five linebackers and five defensive linemen.

The defensive linemen could be the cream of the crop.

Jordan Brailford, Trey Carter, Jarrell Owens and Cole Walterscheid form the nucleus of that line.

“We had the opportunity to have (Brailford) in camp and he showed a lot of athleticism,” said OSU defensive line coach Joe Bob Clements. “I had the opportunity to watch him live this fall and he played at a very high level.

“He played in an all-star game, the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl, out in California and did a good job against some excellent competition. He’s a guy that we’re excited to have in our program and I think is going to grow and do very well with the defensive end position.”

The linebacking corps includes Gyasi Akem of Broken Arrow, D’Nerius Antoine, Devante Averette and Josh Mabin, Justin Phillips.

“Gyasi (Akem), what’s great about him is that he’s right here in Oklahoma and he’s one of the top linebackers in the state,” said OSU Defensive Coordinator Glenn Spencer. “He’s very versatile and plays outside in the outside linebacker position. He could have the size to play multiple positions like inside linebacker or outside linebacker. I had him in camp; he is an explosive young man. He’s a humble kid and accomplished great things here in the state, we’re very fortunate to keep him in state.”

There are seven states represented in the class, with 14 players from Texas, four from Oklahoma, four from Louisiana, two from Georgia and one each from Missouri, South Carolina and Michigan. Ten of the signees were “four-star” talents by at least one of the major recruiting services and all received at least a “three-star” rating.

The Cowboys did recruit a quarterback, three receivers and two running backs.

QB Mason Rudolph (6-4, 217) finished his senior season with 350 completions on 482 attempts for a 72.6 completion percentage. He passed for 4,377 yards with 64 touchdown passes and only eight interceptions.

Randolph had offers from offers from LSU, Auburn, Louisville, Mississippi, Virginia and Virginia Tech and was recruited by Alabama, Clemson, Duke, Georgia, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Notre Dame, South Carolina, Tennessee and Wake Forest.

“We feel great about Mason and were able to win a quarterback in him that really brings all of the characteristics you want to see in a quarterback; all of the intangibles,” said OSU Offfensive Coordinator Mike Yurcich. “He’s got tremendous statistics to back that up. He was coached by Kyle Richardson over at Northwestern High School in South Carolina.

“The coach runs a very similar system to what we do here at Oklahoma State. Mason’s very familiar with that offense and feels real comfortable throwing the ball down the field and gets it out really well. He spins the ball tremendously. On top of all the physical skills that Mason has he is a tremendous leader as well.”

The new receivers are Keenen Brown, Chris Lacy and James Washington plus tight end Jordan Frazier.

“He’s a very strong receiver and a very well-rounded receiver,” Yurich said of Lacy. “He can go across the middle. He’s a vertical deep threat as well and I think he had over 60 catches this year. He’s a tough physical receiver. Chris has a very bright future in what we do. I think our system here fits Chris’ skill set very much so I think it will be a great match and he’s going to have a promising future at Oklahoma State.”

Devon Thomas of Broken Arrow and Sione Palelei are the running backs.

“I’m really excited to get Devon Thomas from Tulsa,”  said OSU Running backs coach Jemal Singleton. “He’s got a unique blend of size and speed. We’re extremely excited to have him from just up the road. He’s a hometown kid who’s going to get the chance to play in our backfield and do some great things for Oklahoma State.”

Singleton praised Palelei, too.

“We’re excited for him, a young man that was previously committed to LSU and decided that Oklahoma State felt like home to him,” Singleton said. “He is a player with speed, quickness and hands. We’re really excited that he’s going to come join us here in June and he’s going to really do some great things.”

OSU also signed Dylan Harding, a defensive back from Jenks.

“The first thing that sticks out about Dylan obviously is the storied program of Jenks,” said OSU Safeties Coach Tim Duffie. “Back-to-back state champions and he obviously played a big part in the team’s success. I think he’s an All-State player this year. He’s just a tremendous kid – very versatile.  He’s been a baseball player his whole career. He’s excited to be at Oklahoma State.

“He’s a tremendous student and a big-time team player. We’re very excited to have Dylan Harding be a part of our football team.”