Oklahoma high school football is on the rise, according to Oklahoma State football coach Mike Gundy.
For the second-straight year, the Cowboys nearly matched their total of Texas signees with the 2021 recruiting class featuring seven in-state prospects – the same total as the 2020 class. Just two years prior, the Cowboys inked only three Oklahoma prep seniors in the 2019 class.
Three of the top four Oklahoma State signees, according to 247Sports rankings, are homegrown products, including the gem of the class – defensive tackle Aden Kelley, from one of the smallest classifications in the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association.
Kelley, who is listed at 6-foot-3, 295 pounds, played in the trenches on both sides of the ball for his high school team, which is typically mandated of a Class A program – especially one in Thomas-Fay-Custer, which ranks third-to-last in average attendance in the state’s smallest 11-man classification. He’s the anchor of the lines that have pushed Thomas to the Class A state championship – set to be played Saturday against second-ranked Cashion, in a season that included a one-point victory over Pawnee in the quarterfinals.
“Aden’s a special young man, being from Western Oklahoma, grew up on farms 12 to 16 hours a day in the summer and in the spring,” Gundy said of Kelley, who is ranked No. 320 overall and is the 20th-ranked defensive tackle in the country. “He actually still farms in the mornings and goes to school and goes to workouts. He brings in the type of work ethic that we’re looking for. I think he’s just scratching the surface … from his athletic ability as he develops in the weight room over the next couple of years.”
Gundy and his defensive coaching staff also maintained its pipeline to Edmond Santa Fe, signing its third Wolves product in the past six classes – originally starting with linebacker Calvin Bundage in the 2016 class.
Collin Oliver, the 18th-ranked inside linebacker by 247Sports, follows the lineage of Bundage and edge rusher Trace Ford of shifting from Santa Fe to Stillwater. Oliver is the third-highest ranked recruit – the 395th overall by 247Sports – and is listed at 6-foot-2, 220 pounds as the state’s sixth-best prospect.
“We offered Collin a long time ago when he was probably 195 or 200 (pounds), and he’s close to 220 now and we see him as a guy that could potentially develop in Coach (Rob) Glass’ weight room like Trace Ford,” the Cowboy coach said. “We see guys in Oklahoma that we feel like are going to develop in our culture, in our strength and conditioning program. We like them more than other people because we have to look down the road. We go after him and we don’t look back, and we see (Oliver) falling in that category.”
Perhaps one of the most unique in-state recruits for the Cowboys comes from the East side of the state in Muskogee’s Ty Williams, who is ranked the eighth-best prospect in Oklahoma and is ranked No. 439 overall.
While Williams will be joining Oklahoma State’s program as a 6-foot-1, 186-pound safety, he was a two-way player in Class 6A-II. But he’s not the typical two-way athlete, playing receiver and defensive back. He was the starting quarterback for two seasons (2018-19) in one of the state’s biggest classifications – though his senior season was cut short due to injury, playing in just one game for the Roughers.
“Ty is a freakish athlete,” Gundy said. “He’s gonna be 210 pounds some day, and he’s going to run a 4.5 (40-yard dash). He’s got really good ball skills. … We have a lot of confidence, and are very excited, about his unusual strength, leaping ability and ball skills for the multiple positions that he plays.”
Oklahoma State’s head man wasn’t able to commit to whether Williams will be a safety in the Cowboy defense. That’s largely because the staff recruits defensive backs based on body type and athleticism and then work them into a role in the secondary once they arrive in Stillwater.
It is a move that has become fruitful not only for Oklahoma State, but those who have signed on.
There are three ex-Cowboys defensive backs on current NFL rosters (either active or practice squad) – Kevin Peterson of the Arizona Cardinals, Tre Flowers with the Seattle Seahawks and rookie A.J. Green, who was elevated at one point to the Cleveland Browns active roster but is back on their practice squad. It is also expected secondary starters from this season such as Rodarius Williams, Tre Sterling and Kolby Harvell-Peel will find themselves in the NFL very soon, too.
“I wish I could give you an answer, but we’re going to sign DBs that are athletic, have good ball skills and can run,” Gundy said. “And then we’ll slot them in when they get here based on what we think is best. But the way that we’re playing defense now, the different types of coverages – particularly a lot of man coverage – gives these guys a chance to come in and still develop some skills that allow them to prepare for the NFL.”
Williams isn’t the only in-state defensive back who signed. The Cowboys also inked athlete Makale Smith, who Oklahoma State listed as a cornerback at 6-1, 175 pounds from Midwest City – and is ranked as the No. 20 prospect from Oklahoma.
Another defensive signee for Oklahoma State is the fourth-best in-state recruit in Donovan Stephens, a 6-1, 205-pound outside linebacker from Del City who is ranked No. 14 overall in the state and the 49th at his position.
On the offensive side, Oklahoma State swooped into the backyard of Bedlam rival Oklahoma to land Jaden Bray, a 6-3, 190-pound receiver from Norman High. Bray is the 17th-ranked recruit from the state.
One of Oklahoma State’s offensive linemen in this class is also an in-state product – a move the Cowboys have carried on from previous signing classes.
Logan Nobles, a 6-6, 260-pound tackle from Jenks, is the top offensive line prospect in the state – and the only one ranked in the top 25 among Oklahoma seniors. He is the 19th-ranked senior from Oklahoma and is ranked No. 100 in the country at his position.