STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) — Oklahoma State recruits asked coach Mike Gundy an obvious question during the past few weeks – who will be the Cowboys’ offensive coordinator next football season?
Gundy didn’t have an answer but used recent history to address any concerns.
The Cowboys’ high-flying offense didn’t miss a beat when two former coordinators, Larry Fedora and Dana Holgorsen, left for Southern Mississippi and West Virginia, respectively. Gundy said Wednesday he told recruits the same should be the case with whoever replaces Todd Monken, who now is the head coach at Southern Mississippi.
That assurance helped the Cowboys land two top receiving prospects from Dallas and a pair of running backs from Texas who figure to see immediate playing time, Gundy said.
“One thing that is true is that our offensive philosophy has not changed,” Gundy said. “We’re going to be spread and we’re going to run it and we’re going to throw it and we’re going to play fast and we’re going to be aggressive. We’ll find somebody who can coach quarterbacks and call plays that will run our system because we feel good about it.”
The Cowboys lost a pair of receiver prospects, but Gundy feels good about the two they signed, both of them rated as four-star prospects by the Rivals.com and Scout.com recruiting services.
Marcell Ateman had 84 catches for 1,584 yards and 27 touchdowns as a senior at Wylie East High School. He’s 6-foot-4 and 190 pounds now and Gundy thinks he’ll put on an extra 20 to 30 pounds by working in the weight room. Ra’Shaad Samples of Skyline High School had 65 catches for 1,369 yards and 19 touchdowns as a junior in 2011, then broke his ankle during the off-season. He recovered and posted a strong senior season, catching 62 passes for 1,072 yards and 23 touchdowns.
Oklahoma State’s recent success in developing NFL receivers – most notably Dez Bryant and Justin Blackmon – helped the Cowboys land those two prospects, Gundy said.
“We were able to attract wide receivers from a much larger area than we do some of the other positions,” Gundy said. “At some point, in the end, it can work against you a little bit, because somebody will say, `You’ve already got 12 or 15 guys who can play.’ So for the most part it works for us and there’s a little part of it that scares some guys away in the end.”
The Cowboys also signed two running backs after losing starter Joseph Randle, who entered the NFL draft pool. Corion Webster, who rushed for 1,786 yards at Atlanta, Texas, High School last season, had long been committed to Oklahoma State and was rated as a four-star prospect by ESPN.com.
When Randle announced his decision to forego his senior season, that opened up a spot for another running back and Oklahoma State offered a scholarship to Rennie Childs, who rushed for 1,945 yards and 19 touchdowns last season for Cypress Ridge High School in Houston.
“We have always played our freshman running backs,” Gundy said. “So they’re going to play.”
With three returning quarterbacks – Clint Chelf, J.W. Walsh and Wes Lunt – who each started at times last season, Oklahoma State didn’t sign anyone at that position as part of its 23-player class.
Gundy was particularly pleased with the quality of the Cowboys’ defensive-line signees. Oklahoma State brought in three defensive tackles and three defensive ends, including a pair of junior-college players who could see immediate action – 6-foot-2, 290-pound tackle Ofa Hautau of Snow (Utah) and 6-foot-3, 260-pound end Sam Wren of Arizona Western.
Hautau was a first-team junior-college All-America pick and Wren led all juco players last season, averaging 1.6 sacks per game.
“This will be the best class that we’ve brought in since I’ve been here,” Gundy said. “We have some meat in it. We have guys coming in who are big and physical as we speak, and then they get six months, 12 months, 18 months with (strength) coach (Rob) Glass.”
The Cowboys also used a scholarship on a kicker, Ben Grogan of Martin High School in Arlington, Texas. Grogan, who went 9-of-11 on field-goal attempts in 2012 with a long of 56 yards, will be groomed to replace the departed Quinn Sharp, a two-time Big 12 Conference special teams player of the year.
Oklahoma State signed only one Oklahoman – 6-foot-4 linebacker Dawson Bassett of Tuttle. Bassett is the brother of former Oklahoma State team captain Cooper Bassett. Gundy said he wished the Cowboys had brought in more than one in-state prospect.