With Justin Gilbert, Daytawion Lowe and Shamiel Gary gone, the Oklahoma State secondary is a serious question mark entering the 2014 season.
But the OSU coaching staff is taking steps on the recruiting trail to make sure that doesn’t last.
The Cowboys have four incoming defensive back recruits: Houston cornerback Chris Hardeman, Jenks safety Dylan Harding, New Orleans corner Juwan Offray and Georgia safety Kirk Tucker. Athletes Tre Roberts and Ramon Richards also will likely join the OSU secondary.
So far, OSU’s 2015 recruiting class indicates focus is staying on the defensive backfield.
The Cowboys have commitments from four-star cornerback Jaylon Lane and Rivals.com three-star safety Kenneth McGruder. OSU also made four-star prospect Xavier Lewis’ list of final schools along with Texas, LSU and Arkansas. He’s expected to announce his commitment next week.
In the case of the 6-foot-2, 203-pound McGruder, the opportunity to play right away was a big draw. OSU’s safety depth chart entering 2014 is unknown. Michigan transfer Josh Furman will likely come in and grab the strong safety spot, but that leaves sophomores Deric Robertson and Jordan Sterns along with redshirt freshman Tre Flowers fighting at free safety. None stood out in the spring, and the case could be similar in 2015.
“They’re going to need people to be ready to come in and play,” McGruder said. “They said I’m the No. 1 guy they want to come in and play. They said a chance at the spot will be there, all I have to do is come in and take it.”
McGruder burst onto the recruiting scene after a strong junior year at Alief Taylor High School in Houston. McGruder changed schools late in his sophomore year, and at that point was known more as a basketball player.
Jumping into a program that also produced incoming OSU freshmen in Hardeman and receiver Keenan Brown changed that. Now Scout.com lists McGruder as a four-star prospect.
“He’s very competitive and very athletic and rose to the top real quick,” Alief Taylor coach Jody Jordan said. “He’s just naturally aggressive and likes to be around the football. And he’s got good ball skills, which I think come from him playing basketball.”
At 6-1, 180, Lane had five interceptions and 46 tackles in his junior season at Nacogdoches (Texas) High School.
He said OSU corners coach Van Malone was one of the biggest reasons he chose OSU over schools like Notre Dame, Michigan, Ohio State and LSU.
“I’ll need to prove myself to play a lot early on, but that’s what I’m going to do,” Lane said. “I talked to (OSU corners) Ashton (Lampkin) and Kevin Peterson … they kept telling me Coach Malone is a good coach and he’ll get me ready and prepared.”
Malone played four seasons with the Detroit Lions, and with Gilbert going No. 8 overall in the NFL Draft, a school known for its offense is getting a little more attention for its defense.
“You see what Justin Gilbert did and his development,” Lane said. “Coach Malone, he was in the NFL, so he has the experience to give to me and the other players.”
If the Cowboys can land Lewis, a speedy corner from Louisiana, they’d have a highly impressive trio of defensive back commits.
Regardless, OSU has reinforcements on the way.