USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the recruiting process. This isn’t about where just the top five-star athletes are headed but rather a guide to the process and the pitfalls for student-athletes nationwide from Playced.com. This week’s article is written by Ross Hawley, the president of the company. Playced.com is an industry leader in college recruiting. Their technology based recruiting service identifies the right colleges for potential recruits to pursue and provides a recruiting system that is second to none for student-athletes of all talent levels and ages.
To say Mike Gundy is the perfect football coach for Oklahoma State University would be an understatement. Consider this, as a prep quarterback at Midwest City High School, Gundy was tabbed the Oklahoma Player of the Year in 1986. After a storied high school career, he went on to sign with Oklahoma State, choosing to be a Cowboy over an in-state rival that shall remain nameless. While playing at Oklahoma State, Gundy started all four seasons and ended his playing career as the all-time leading passer in school history.
In 2005, Mike Gundy was named the head football coach for the Cowboys. And in just twelve seasons at the helm, Coach Gundy’s led his program to 11 bowl games, five seasons with 10 or more victories and an overall record of 104-50. He is the all-time winningest coach in program history. All that considered, it would be more appropriate to say it was Mike Gundy’s destiny to coach the Oklahoma State Cowboys.
This week, I sat down with Coach Gundy to learn what it takes to be recruited at one of the truly elite programs in all of college football. Here is what he had to say.
Q: What age do you start identifying potential recruits?
A: College recruiting has really changed over the years. One of the biggest changes has to do with when we start paying attention to recruits. It used to be that we would start watching film on guys their junior year of high school. Now, we are identifying and watching these players during their sophomore year. I’m not really excited about that trend and how early everything is taking place. There’s such a big difference between a 15-year old and a 17-year old. From physical maturity to emotional and mental maturity, it’s just a lot easier to make a sound decision on a young man with more experience and development. That said, if we want to continually bring in the type of talent it takes to win, we’ve got to accept those changes. It comes with the territory.
Q: What does it take for a recruit to get the attention of your coaching staff?
A: Obviously, it takes a tremendous amount of talent to play football at this level. For us to take notice of a guy, he’s got to be one of the best players on that high school field. Beyond that, we look for the guys that are unselfish and cerebral. Show us that your teammates and coaches matter to you by the way you play the game. Display a high football IQ and an ability to succeed in high pressure situations. Those are the kind of things that will grab our attention when we’re out recruiting.
As a program, we will never compromise our Cowboy Culture for talent. We will, and we have, passed on recruits that had the talent to play here but didn’t realize it’s so much more than that. Any young man we recruit needs to understand the importance of education and respect. When we go into the home of a recruit, we watch how he handles his mother. Is he treating her with love and respect? If he’s not, that’s a major problem. It tells us that he’s probably not showing other authority figures in his life respect, either. You have no chance of being successful within the Oklahoma State football program if you don’t understand respect. It’s that important.
Q: What does a student-athlete control during the recruiting process?
A: Ultimately, they hold all of the cards. A recruit controls what schools they’re getting face-to-face time with. They control what schools they’ll visit and what programs they’re communicating with. It’s up to them to decide what’s important for their personal circumstances. Understand, every recruit is in control of the information they’re getting. Whether it has to do with playing time or how a program will prepare them for the NFL, recruits will get to the information they want so they can make the decision they feel is right.
Q: Are you guys paying attention to your recruits on social media?
A: Without a doubt. It’s information that’s available to us, so it’s information we include in our evaluation process. We have people on our football staff that track every one of our players and every one of our recruits. I remind our guys every week about that. I just tell our guys to stay off social media! Especially, if you can’t behave. I have three sons and I tell them the same things. I just don’t understand how taking a picture of what you’re doing and presenting it for the whole world to see makes any sense. Why would you do something questionable and incriminate yourself by posting about it? That kind of behavior has certainly cost some young men an opportunity to play football at Oklahoma State.
Q: What advice do you have for student-athletes going through the college recruiting process?
A: I think the key to the process is narrowing down your options as quickly as you can. You can eliminate a lot of wasteful time by focusing in on three or four schools that really fit with your circumstances. The recruiting process is very distracting, or time-consuming, if you’re spending time communicating with programs that you’re not that interested in.
The advice I give to recruits when we sit down with them is to focus on the schools that best fit with what they want and expect. You have to know what you’re getting into. For example, if you’re a wide receiver being recruited by a run-dominant program, you need to take that into consideration. Are you going to be miserable because you’re not used to playing such a limited role in an offense? Or, maybe you’re okay with it because it’s a school you have always dreamed of playing for. Whatever the situation is, know what you’re getting into. Because I promise you this: the program recruiting you is not changing for you.