Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
STILLWATER, Okla. -- After four years as head coach at Oklahoma State, coach Mike Gundy is pleased with what he's seen.
After Oklahoma State's 9-4 season in 2008, the team finished the season ranked 16th in the AP poll after the bowls. It represented the first time the Cowboys finished the season ranked since 1997 and their highest overall finish since 1988 -- when Gundy was the team's starting quarterback and Barry Sanders won the Heisman Trophy.
The Cowboys are poised to continue that success during the upcoming season with most of their primary weapons coming back. But Gundy said that one of his biggest quests will be to keep from building the program too quickly.
"We finished in the top 16 last season and we hadn't done that in 20 years," Gundy said. "There's a lot of excitement around here. We've worked hard. We just have to keep pushing and be patient and try not to do too much."
Gundy said the Cowboys still need to build across-the-board depth that will enable his team to challenge the nation's powers. It's been something he's been aiming for since taking over the job.
Now, the Cowboys are less reliant on quick fixes from junior college players when they recruit.
"You can't build a Division I program at a school like this overnight," Gundy said. "You have to be patient and do things the right way. We're now getting the talent where we can lessen our junior-college offers and continue to get high school players and develop when they get there.
"We have to stay with the system, stay the course and keep moving."
Oklahoma State's recent success has helped them pick up their national recruiting. In their most recruiting class, the Cowboys attracted 16 of their 23 players from out-of-state. Included in the list were three players from Georgia and one from Indiana. Both of those areas had never been heavily recruited by Oklahoma State in the past.
"We were on television more so people saw us. And we also had coaches who had ties in those area and were able to get those players," Gundy said. "The kid from Indiana (linebacker Jordan Barnes) saw us on television and wanted to check us out after we played Missouri."
That buzz has helped Gundy and his assistants sell Oklahoma State. And with new facilities and an expanded stadium opening, the future looks bright for his program.
"It's an exciting game and that helps our ticket sales," Gundy said. "It also helps our confidence because these are just kids and they see something and want to be a part of a program that's fun and exciting."
Gundy also told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that his infamous 2007 rant when he defended quarterback Bobby Reid has seemed to help his recruiting -- particularly in areas outside the Cowboys' normal areas of Oklahoma and Texas.
"No, I didn't expect it, in any way, shape, form or fashion," Gundy told the Journal-Constitution. "It's interesting since that day, which happened on impulse in my opinion, to protect and take care of one of our players, I didn't have any idea that it would take off like this. From that point on, for good or bad, I've become very recognizable across the country."
That has also resulted in the expansion of the Oklahoma State "brand" and made the school more nationally recognizable, Gundy said.
"In turn, what has happened in the last couple of years in recruiting, it has helped us tremendously," Gundy said. "I think the parents of these young men understand that 'If my son goes to play at Oklahoma State, the coach is going to do whatever he can to take care of him.'
"No, we didn't know that [recruiting benefits] would happen. But it certainly has been a huge impact. It's name recognition. Moms and dads want to know wherever their son goes to school, that those coaches are going to take care of them. And when they go to Oklahoma State. They know that's going to happen."
While Gundy sees the positives in his infamous rant, it's also interesting to remember what Reid had to say several months later after transferring away from the school for Texas Southern, where he finished his college football career.
Reid told ESPN the Magazine that Gundy's rant "basically ended my life."