C.J. Moore’s Transfer A Cautionary Tale of Overvaluing Recruiting Stars

I’ll admit: I was wrong.

When I saw No. 35 darting across Tulsa Union’s football field in 2017, a 6-foot-5 gazelle moving quicker than everyone and with body control like Shakira, I was pretty much sold. C.J. Moore became my dude. My favorite recruit in the 2017 class.

It didn’t take me long to buy in. I saw the Division I interest he was getting, I saw the gaudy stats he was putting up with what I thought was an FCS-level quarterback, I saw the speed. I later thought, when OSU landed him, that it was getting a can’t-miss super star receiver. I basically had it tattooed on my forehead when I saw that he was a four-star, top-150 recruit.

That’s what I get for worshiping at the altar of recruiting stars.

But can you blame me? I talked with his cousin, Tracy Moore, prior to his signing a few years ago and he had this to say about him.

“I think, for me, it’s his body control,” said Tracy. “I think a lot of it is about him coming up, playing basketball since we were in diapers, he’s always had a ball in his hands. He just knows — I mean, it helps being nearly 6-foot-8 — but he knows how to go up and grab it. He’s a 4.4 guy already, and then he can jump on top of that and control his body. I tell people all the time, and I don’t say this very lightly, he’s probably the most college-ready receiver I’ve seen coming out of high school. And he’s coachable, too. If you tell him to do something, he’ll do it exactly as you say or ask how to do it.”

Sounds like it’d work out well, right? 6-foot-8 receiver with 4.4 speed who has good hands and can jump out the gym? I’m not the only one that thought it would. OSU was in, as well as dozens of other high-major programs.

Not every four-star is a C.J. Moore though. Some become Dwayne Haskins or Ronald Jones (GULP!) or Saquon Barkley or Mark Andrews. The hit rate for higher-rated recruits continues to be higher than those less-heralded. Others, though, simply don’t pan out. Moore is simply the latest example that fans — and media (guilty) — who plead for four- and five-stars and nothing less may be misguided in their one-track approach. Sometimes it’s more than that. You can’t just scroll down the Rivals recruiting rankings and hand pick your players (unless you’re, you know, Nick Saban).

And, more to the point, even if your name is Nick Saban, other factors must come into play regardless of whether you can hand pick the roster. It’s about fit. It’s about background. It’s about desire. Motivations. All of that. We could speculate on why Moore didn’t pan out, but it’d be just that: speculation.

And that’s why the Cowboy Culture — as gosh darn cheesy as it is — and it’s really gosh darn cheesy — has become a staple at Oklahoma State under Mike Gundy. He doesn’t get out of his world. He gets players who are willing to buy in. He gets gym rats. He gets long athletes and fits them into spots. If they happen to be five-stars, awesome. If they’re unranked … great.

Now, should OSU stop chasing C.J. Moore’s? *slams fist on table* Absolutely not! But in fairness to the prospect and to the coaches, it’s not right to expect OSU to go after every four-star — in the same way it’s not right to be bent out of shape that Moore, for reasons that may never be brought to light, didn’t cut it and is now cutting out early.

Oklahoma State will no doubt continue to chase highly-ranked players, and with some luck, they’ll land some along the way, too. But just because a player has a couple more stars next to their name doesn’t mean they’ll be a program-saving talent, and if you didn’t know that by now, let Moore serve as the cautionary tale that not every four- and five-star talent is created equal.

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