Ollie Ollie oxen free? OSU certainly hopes not with portal set to open

Ollie Ollie oxen free? OSU certainly hopes not with portal set to open

Watching Ollie Gordon after the Big 12 Championship Game, the OSU tailback certainly gave the vibe of a guy who was all in on the Cowboys.

Jenni Carlson

By Jenni Carlson

| Dec 2, 2023, 5:57pm CST

Jenni Carlson

By Jenni Carlson

Dec 2, 2023, 5:57pm CST

ARLINGTON, Texas — Ollie Gordon slowly ambled onto the JerryWorld turf where Cowboys were grieving and Longhorns were celebrating. The Oklahoma State tailback didn’t seem all that interested in wading into the mob of players and coaches to shake hands.

He didn’t have to.

Several Longhorns found him. There were high fives and hugs and even a photo with offensive lineman DJ Campbell and tailback Savion Red. Like Gordon, both played high school ball in the area around AT&T Stadium, Campbell at Arlington Bowie and Red at Grand Prairie, so it was a nice moment.

Still, watching the reunion Saturday afternoon you almost wondered if an OSU staffer might jump out and usher Gordon away from anyone in burnt orange. This, after all, is the transfer-portal era. 

Who knows what sweet nothings might be whispered in Gordon’s ear in the next few days.

On the day Texas dismantled OSU 49-21 in the Big 12 Championship Game, orange-and-black thoughts probably turned to the future pretty early in the proceedings. There’s a bowl destination coming Sunday and the early signing period coming in a couple of weeks, but with the transfer portal opening Monday, that has to be top of mind.

And with great players being lured away by the promise of huge name-image-likeness paydays, Gordon’s future has to be front and center.

He was not made available for interviews after the game, so we don’t know where he is on any of this, but watching him after the game, Gordon gave the vibe of a guy who was all in. He threw his arm around Brennan Presley’s shoulders, encouraged sulking teammates to head to the locker room, and then was the only voice as the team trudged silently off the field.

Even as no one else said a word, Gordon barked encouragement that echoed around the cavernous bowels of JerryWorld.

“Phenomenal,” Cowboy offensive coordinator Kasey Dunn said when I asked about Gordon’s impact.

It would’ve been good on many accounts for the Cowboys had they not dug such an early hole against the Longhorns. But that early deficit meant OSU had to throw more and run Gordon less. It would’ve been wildly interesting to see what Gordon might’ve been able to do against Texas’ stout run defense if the game had been a bit closer.

Instead, Gordon had a tough day against the Horns, managing only 34 yards on 13 carries.

He still finished the season as the nation’s leading rusher, amassing 1,614 yards and becoming must-see TV. Everyone knows Gordon’s name nowadays. Everyone sees what a supreme talent he is. 

“Of course, you worry about him,” Dunn said of losing Gordon in the portal. “Now, the kid loves it here, and he’s killing it, and he’s done everything for us and knows he’s gonna get the ball again next year. 

“Everything points in the direction of the Cowboys.”

Then, Dunn paused.

“But there’s a price for everything, I suppose.”

I assume whatever can be offered to Gordon will be. It might not be allowed under NCAA rules for teams to approach him, but that won’t keep some teams from reaching out to Gordon and people around him if they haven’t already.

That’s how talented Gordon is.

Dunn, who could be out recruiting in the coming days, said he plans to be in Stillwater on Monday because of the transfer portal opening. He wants to be available to talk to Gordon or any of his guys if needed.

“I think you have to be in a position to where you’re there to answer questions and make sure you’re available for them and you’re not on the road,” Dunn said. “If they see you just immediately out there beating the bushes, I don’t know how they take it. 

“Me personally, I want to be around for my guys, and if they have any questions or doubts, I want to be there for them and not on the phone somewhere.”

Recruiting your own players becomes a priority, and no one is a bigger priority for Dunn and the Cowboys than Gordon.

After the Cowboys were hit hard by portal departures last season, losing numerous starters and rotational players, unease would be natural. But at least one team leader senses a different vibe this season.

“I really can’t see a lot of anybody hitting it,” Cowboy receiver Rashod Owens said of the portal. “This team’s real close to each other. We built the relationships since January. A lot of relationships have been built, a lot of trust, a lot of leadership. 

“It’d be surprising if somebody does or a few people do.”

Now, the Cowboys are sure to have somebody enter the portal. There are bound to be players who decide the only way to get more playing time or find a different role is to go somewhere else. But if OSU could avoid an exodus like last season, that’d be good for the future.

(Say this: the Cowboys ended up doing all right making up for their portal losses. They put together a team that made the Big 12 title game, after all.)

But the Cowboys have a good nucleus of players. Talented. Tough. The more of those guys you can keep, the better.

That’s not lost on the OSU coaches.

As Dunn watched the Pac-12 title game Friday night, one of the Dr. Pepper “Fansville” commercials came on. With a violent storm rolling into town, residents are trying to figure out what’s happening.

“It’s the transfer portal,” the sheriff, aka The Boz, tells them. “It’s out of control.”

“I started laughing my ass off,” Dunn said. “The transfer portal is out of control and sucking everybody into it. I’m sitting there watching it with my wife; we’re just cracking up because we live it, you know?”

He chuckled.

“So, who knows what’s gonna happen? Hopefully, the transfer portal isn’t out of control for the Cowboys and we have a good team coming back.”

That starts with Gordon and doing everything possible to keep him from getting sucked into the portal.

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Jenni Carlson is a columnist with the Sellout Crowd network. Follow her on Twitter at @JenniCarlson_OK. Email [email protected].

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