STILLWATER — Following spring football, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy knew his 2010 recruiting class needed to be full of playmakers ready to make an immediate impact.
"There will be freshmen who have to play in the fall," Gundy said at the time. "Guys who are in high school right now."
Two weeks into fall practices, several of those freshmen who were in high school at that time have already shown enough to earn themselves playing time this season.
Early signs point to OSU's 2010 recruiting class developing into arguably the best class Gundy has brought in during his six years as head coach and one of the deepest in the past decade.
"We really like this class," Gundy said. "I like their attitude, I like their toughness, I like their speed and I think there's a good mixture of personalities. It's a good class."
At least 10 incoming freshman already appear ready to contribute and several others have shown flashes of playmaking ability.
Linebacker Shaun Lewis has been one of the stars of fall practice and should see the field plenty during his first semester on campus.
"He can play," defensive end Richetti Jones said. "Once he learns the plays and gets a little bit more comfortable he's going to play, he's ready. He's a guy out there like 'Even though I'm a young guy, I'm going to play with you guys.'"
Cornerback Justin Gilbert will have the chance to return kicks with his blazing speed and has the natural ability to become a playmaking cornerback once he gets more familiar with the nuances of the position.
"He's going to play," senior cornerback Andrew McGee said of Gilbert. "He was more of an offensive player in high school but once he gets his technique down and knows what he's doing, he's going to be a great player."
Running back Joseph Randle has already gained the trust of offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen and appears to have played his way out of a redshirt season.
But those freshmen are just the headliners. What makes this class unique is the overall depth from top to bottom.
Lewis, Gilbert and Randle were expected to be quality players as three of OSU's most highly sought after signees.
But overlooked newcomers like safeties Deion Imade and Zack Craig are competing among the veterans and are expected to help immediately. Safeties coach Joe DeForest has already said Imade, Craig and fellow freshman safety Lavocheya Cooper will play on special teams and provide depth at safety.
And thanks in large part to this year's class, the overall speed on the roster has increased, especially on defense.
"We have awfully good athletes," defensive coordinator Bill Young said. "Speed is much better on our football team than it used to be."
Not only are they talented, they've come in ready to work and compete.
"All of them have surprised me, coming in with the maturity that they have," senior linebacker Orie Lemon said. "They look like they already had a year under their belt."
Said senior defensive end Ugo Chinasa: "They remind me of my class. We had a lot of freshmen come in and play right away. We will have a lot freshman play the first game this year, so it reminds me of the 06 class."
FROM PROM TO PLAYMAKER
OSU has a deep group of incoming freshmen, with as many as 10 or more newcomers showing the ability to contribute immediately. Here's a look at 10 freshmen most likely to contribute ranked from high impact to low impact.
1. Linebacker Shaun Lewis
The UnderArmour All-American has proven to be worth all the hype in the first two weeks of practice.
2. Cornerback Justin Gilbert
F.A.S.T. Those four letters describe Gilbert, but he has great football skills as well. A future big-time playmaker.
3. Running back Joseph Randle
Despite playing one of the Cowboys deepest positions, Randle has impressed the coaching staff with his playmaking ability and football knowledge.
4. Cornerback Devin Hedgepeth
The early enrollee from Derby, Kan., should secure a spot in OSU's cornerback rotation.
5. Safety Deion Imade
A pleasant surprise in camp, Imade is a solid performer in the secondary.
6. Safety Zack Craig
A versatile defender Craig should help on special teams and in the secondary.
7. Safety Lavocheya Cooper
An athletic safety with excellent size, he could be a solid special teams contributor and provide depth at safety.
8. Quarterback Johnny Deaton
The early enrollee from Sand Springs is the front runner to back up Brandon Weeden.
9. Receiver Chris Dinkins
A big receiver at 6-foot-1, 224 pounds, Dinkins will help on special teams and could help on offense if he continues to develop.
10. Receiver Kevin Johnson
Opportunity abounds for Johnson, he could play immediately if he adjusts quickly to Big 12 football.