How'd The New Coaches Get To OSU?

Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy was in his usual spot at practice on Monday during the Cowboys first spring practice, standing back about 15 yards behind the offensive formation as the Cowboys went through an 11-on-11 team period. Gundy had his whistle perched between his lips and he was analyzing what he was seeing as quarterback Mason Rudolph was taking the shotgun snap.

Gundy had company as behind him were the next two running backs in line to play behind Rennie Childs as walk-on stalwart Raymond Taylor and junior college transfer Todd Mays were five yards behind Gundy reading the signals from the sidelines.

Then new running backs coach Marcus Arroyo had them mimicking their assignment as the offense with Childs at running back running the play. Not a coaching breakthrough by any means, but a pretty handy way to stretch one play into three reps for the running backs. Thus some of the next contribution from a group of coaches that Gundy has added and seems very pleased with.

At the same time Arroyo had his backs tripling up on duties, new tight ends coach Jason McEndoo was standing with his tight ends and quizzing them on signals and assignments. You may not be in but don't fall asleep because their might be a question thrown your direction.

New offensive analyst Darrell Wyatt can't coach players but he can still watch with great intent and he was as he works to get familiar with the offense and how offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich calls it and how the various Cowboys players run it. The analyst is already at work.

I was told in an interview on Friday with Hall of Fame and former Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer that you would be able to tell when the offensive line was at work and you would find new offensive line coach Greg Adkins in the middle of his guys. He was on Monday.

There is also new safeties coach Dan Hammerschmidt, and defensive analyst Bill Clay is yet to arrive.

Mike Gundy admitted in today's pre-spring news conference that hiring coaches is not his favorite part of the job. It's a lot of work and he said he often has to change his cell phone number because young coaches seem to get the number and are always wanting to audition over the phone for the job.

Gundy relies on contacts and his good judgment to make decisions. Now he has six new coaches and the question for day one of spring football is how did they all get here?

Wyatt and Clay are easy as Gundy knew them personally. He was on the same staff with both coaches as Bill Clay was defensive coordinator for Les Miles when Gundy was his assistant head coach and offensive coordinator. Gundy might have kept Clay on except the veteran coach chose to go with Miles to LSU even though that eventually didn't work out.

"We discussed names and Glenn Spencer (defensive coordinator) knew of Coach Clay and thought he would be a good coach to bring in," Gundy said. "He has been a defensive coordinator at so many schools."

Besides being together at OSU, Gundy and Wyatt first met while on the same Baylor staff with a bevy of talented young coaches, including Larry Fedora, for head coach Chuck Reedy in the 1996 season. I bet Baylor regrets letting that staff go. Wyatt was in Stillwater visiting Gundy last season while sitting out a year and he made it clear then he wanted to help if he could.

"Darrell and I go way back," Gundy said. "He has always said he wanted to come back and coach with us here at Oklahoma State. Darrell is a really good coach and a good recruiter that can help in both areas."

Arroyo is another easy one to peg as the young coach, who in his 13th year in coaching, was calling plays for the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season. The connection this time was Todd Monken, Gundy's good friends and his former offensive coordinator and now the head coach at Southern Miss.

"The reality of relationships in this business is really a key aspect. Probably the most direct connection is Todd Monken," Arroyo explained. "He's one of my best friends in coaching. We've known each other for the past five years or so, so I felt that I have probably lived vicariously through some of the graduate assistants down there.

"I think what you end up doing in this world, in our coaching world, is that you move a little bit further and further above. You start directing your dialogues toward other places and guys that you've worked for, you want to get a sense of the environment and landscape of who you're working for, what it's like, what the talent's like, how are the coaches and the staff, how's the facilities, the people, the AD's, you end up doing that a lot as you move a little bit further in your career."

Gundy believes that Arroyo's career will move further. He believes the young coach is really smart and will be back in the NFL someday, quite possibly as a head coach.

Another connection helped with Adkins, who is another coach that Gundy pulled from the NFL. Adkins was coaching tight ends for the Buffalo Bills the past two seasons for head coach Doug Marrone, who he first coached with at Tennessee. Marrone resigned after this season and Adkins was looking and his former boss, Hall of Fame coach and former Tennessee head man Phillip Fulmer made a recommendation to Gundy.

"I told Coach Gundy that Greg would do a really good job for him," Fulmer said. "He is a really good offensive line coach and he did it for me coaching the same position I played and coached. It wasn't easy.

"He is also one of the best recruiters that I had as a coach. He is highly organized and very personable. I think they will really like him there in Stillwater."

Adkins certainly looked comfortable coaching his offensive linemen today. He admitted that the last week since arriving has been like cramming for an exam and he knows he is the third coach in three years for some of these Cowboy offensive linemen but he has a system that will make it easier.

"I believe in breaking it down into some simple steps, and I won't share those publicly with you, but we have four or five things we live by daily," Adkins explained. "If we can get good at those few things, generally you're going to see some progress in that offensive line.

"I think offensive line coaches make mistakes when they try to do too much too quickly and try to talk too fast. All of the different things that go with that position, you have to have attention to detail. The small things do matter. That will be the most important thing as we move forward."

Off the field, Adkins seems to adjusted well and said he didn't even mind the snowy reminder of Buffalo last week. Of course little compares to a 72-inch snowstorm that sent the Bills to Detroit for a home game with the Jets last season.

"We had that in 48 hours and then had to go somewhere else to play the game. We did win the game," Adkins said with a smile. "It really didn't bother me that much. I never actually left the office when I came into work on Monday. It all hit on Tuesday and I never left until we left on Friday. Fortunately, we had someone that could do our laundry and then we left for Detroit on Friday and practice a couple of days and then won the game. Even when we came back I still couldn't get in my condo."

Jason McEndoo knows a little something about snow after 12 years of coaching at Montana State. A couple of weeks ago his cell phones rings and shows a call from Mike Gundy. He closed his office door and took the call. He had never spoke with Gundy before but believes a convention friendship started by his wife in the elevator in San Antonio with Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney and his wife might have been the recommendation he needed.

"I asked Coach Swinney if we could stay in touch and he said, 'yes', and I emailed him once a month," McEndoo explained. "I asked him to recommend me to Coach Gundy on the offensive line job last year and then this year I asked him again."

In between McEndoo, who played collegiately at Washington State and then three seasons in the NFL with Seattle and New Orleans, worked the Clemson football camp and Swinney was able to watch him coach in person. The connection paid off with the call from Gundy.

"It was a very easy decision. When coach [Mike Gundy] offered me the job, I said yes. I think I said yes before he even finished his sentence," McEndoo joked, we think. "Since I got into college coaching in 2003 at Montana State, my entire philosophy hasn't been bounced around.

"To me, it is about the quality of life. It's not about quantity or how many places I have coached. It's about having the right opportunity for myself and my family. We loved Bozeman, Montana. It was a great place. We really loved the community and were a big part of it. So, for my wife and me, it was all about finding the right fit. We wanted to find the right fit.

"Being in Stillwater this past week showed us exactly the type of place we were looking for," McEndoo continued. "My wife grew up big into rodeo and agriculture. My mother- and father-in-law are ranchers. My kids do 4H and show steers. So, most coaches pack their box and head down there. When we come down to Stillwater from Bozeman, we're going to have to pack up our three steers and bring them along with us. It's been great driving around Stillwater. The people have been great and we're really excited to be here."

Dan Hammerschmidt is a 30-year coaching veteran and on the same day that Oklahoma State would end the 2014 season with a Cactus Bowl win over Washington, Hammerschmidt was coaching his last game as running backs coach for the Houston Cougars, watching the Cougars score 29 points in a fourth quarter comeback over Pittsburgh in the Armed Services Bowl.

"I had a former teammate from Colorado State living in Dallas and I went over to his house and we watched games (after our win). Typical football coach, right? I remember it was a good game with the big guy (James Castleman) carrying the ball and all," Hammerschmidt explained.

Now at Oklahoma State, after playing safety in college and coaching defense and then switching to spend the next 19 years coaching offense, the "Hammer" is switching back to defense.

"I did it once after about 11 years when I coached defense," he said. "Then I flipped over to offense and got the same kind of questions. I think it definitely helped going from defense to offense. I knew what defenses liked to do against wings, slots and motions.

"I think I helped for the first time back in '96 when I flipped, and now I'm flipping back again, so I'm sure it'll help. Things like splits and quarterback reads, I think I can help with that."

I think he can too. Based on observations today I think they are all going to help. It's always interesting how coaches get to where they do, but I think as we get into the upcoming season that we're all going to say again that Mike Gundy may not like looking for coaches but he sure does know how to find them.

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