STILLWATER — Recruiting has been a high priority for Oklahoma State since Mike Gundy took over as head coach in January 2005.
The Cowboys' recruiting classes have consistently improved under Gundy and are a big reason for OSU's rise on the college football landscape.
Here's a year-by-year look at the ascent of OSU recruiting under Gundy, beginning with 2006, the first class his coaching staff had a full year to evaluate and pursue.
2006 (National Rank: No. 22 on Rivals.com, No. 16 on Scout.com)
Headliner: CB Perrish Cox. The Waco, Texas, native arrived with top billing and lived up to the hype, especially as a senior. Off-the-field troubles overshadowed his on-the-field exploits, but Cox was a difference maker at cornerback.
Surprise: OT Russell Okung. Broke his way into the starting lineup as a freshman and became a top-five NFL pick. He had plenty of suitors out of high school, but nobody could have anticipated his excellence during his four years in Stillwater.
Disappointment: QB Alex Cate. He was highly regarded out of Utah but made just one start at OSU before transferring Central Washington before his senior season.
Analysis: This group was the foundation of the 2009 senior class, which is among the most successful groups in OSU history. Cox, Okung, Orie Lemon and Keith Toston became all-conference players. Patrick Lavine, Dantrell Savage, Terrance Anderson, Shane Jarka and Derek Burton were contributors.
Grade: B+. Three NFL players in one class? That's pretty good.
2007 (National Rank: No. 30 on Rivals.com, No. 24 on Scout.com)
Headliner: Receiver Dez Bryant. He turned out to be pretty good before lying to NCAA officials cost him his final season in Stillwater. An All-American as a sophomore.
Surprise: Running back Kendall Hunter. A two-time All-American who was largely overlooked out of Tyler, Texas. An example of terrific evaluation by offensive line coach Joe Wickline.
Disappointment: Athlete William Cole. A four-star signee who never made an impact at OSU.
Analysis: OSU's ability to evaluate talent really showed with Hunter, Jamie Blatnick, Grant Garner, Jonathan Rush and Josh Cooper becoming multiyear starters. All were three-star prospects.
Grade: A-. Some disappointments but Bryant and Hunter push the class to an A.
2008 (National Rank: No. 26 on Rivals.com, No. 40 on Scout.com)
Headliner: Running back Kye Staley. A devastating knee injury appeared career-ending, but the former Guthrie High star fought back to have a solid spring. Could see some carries this fall.
Surprise: Receiver Justin Blackmon. Overlooked out of Plainview High in Ardmore, Blackmon won the Biletnikoff Award in 2010. Enters this season as a potential Heisman candidate.
Disappointment: Safety Victor Johnson. Knee injuries and off-the-field troubles derailed the OSU career of Johnson, who had the talent to be an all-conference defender. He is now at Division II Northeastern Oklahoma State in Tahlequah.
Analysis: This class had quality junior college transfers in Swanson Miller and Lucien Antoine, stars in Blackmon and Markelle Martin and with hidden gems such as Johnny Thomas and Lane Taylor.
Grade: A. Pretty good class from top to bottom featuring several core members of the 2010 and 2011 starting lineup.
2009 (National Rank: No. 36 on Rivals.com, No. 45 on Scout.com)
Headliner: Running back Dexter Pratt. He transferred after some off-the-field troubles, never made an impact.
Surprise: Tackle Levy Adcock. An late addition to the class who has become one of the top offensive tackles in the nation. Another quality evaluation by Wickline.
Disappointment: Pratt or junior college guard Anthony Morgan, a four-star signee who never secured a spot in the starting lineup.
Analysis: A tad early to evaluate but Adcock and Andrew McGee became all-conference players while youngsters Michael Harrison and Jeremy Smith could be key offensive playmakers during the next three seasons.
Grade: B. Multiple disappointments push this down to B but could easily jump to an A after 2011.
2010 (National Rank: No. 31 on Rivals.com, No. 18 on Scout.com)
Headliner: Shaun Lewis. The Houston-area linebacker was an UnderArmour All-American and played like it as a true freshman, earning Big 12 Defensive Co-Freshman of the year honors.
Surprise: Running back Joseph Randle. Let's be honest, Randle had no business seeing the field with the deep running back depth chart when he signed. Yet, midway through the season he had become a go-to guy in OSU's offensive attack.
Disappointment: Cornerback Malcolm Murray. Spent one semester on campus, then left. No impact on the program.
Analysis: This class was another example of the rise of the Pokes with several players turning down huge offer lists to become Cowboys. Several of them played immediately and Randle, Lewis and cornerback Justin Gilbert have already proven their playmaking ability when called upon.
Grade: A+. Several players with all-conference potential, but the grade could drop as players don't develop as quickly as needed, but it's too early to call anyone on campus a disappointment.