Spring Football: Gundy Q&A

Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy was talkative following the Cowboys' 115-play scrimmage on Saturday that served as the program's seventh practice of the 15 allotted workouts in the spring. Here is all of what Gundy had to say in an interview with Robert Allen of Go Pokes and John Helsley of The Daily Oklahoman.

JH: What did you think of the way things went in the scrimmage?
MG: I was pleased with the way that both sides of the ball competed. In spring you would prefer not to be in cold weather. It wasn't that wet, but our offense needs to execute in those type of conditions. It's easy to do it when it's dry and there's no wind. What I was most encouraged about offensively was not turning the ball over. We have a long ways to go and, at times, things seem slow. David Washington is sick, so you take your center out and you move up Corey Curtis and he is in there taking snaps with the twos and the ones. You adjust. It makes for a difficult situation, but he adjusted well, and it showed some maturity on his part to be able to get in there and snap the ball, especially in a new system where he is trying to find out who to block much less snap. We put the ball on the ground three or four times with our snap. I didn't like it, but at least it was with guys that hadn't done it.

Defensively we only gave up a couple of big plays. I've said this to our staff. We'll win our games by being tough, being in great shape, not giving up big plays, and executing on offense and keeping the defense on the run. That's what I see happening right now. We had maybe 80 or 90 plays today and we didn't have a delay of game. We had too many sacks, and we have to eliminate sacks. I was blowing the whistle on the quarterback. Some of those sacks may not have been sacks with our quarterbacks. That's not the point, we have to cover guys up and there were times the quarterbacks were responsible for those guys in protection and they didn't get it done either.

My message to the team today after practice is that they have to spend time on their own to pick up the system on both sides of the ball. Montana State, they don't care if it's a new system or not. We have to be ready to play in that first game, so I challenged them to spend time on their own, understand what is happening. We are halfway through spring, we're learning to practice hard, keeping up tempo. Our offense is forcing our defense to get in great physical shape. I'm encouraged by XLK and big Walt. Those guys have been here. I'm not sure all last year those guys could make it more than five or six plays in a drill. They are finishing the practice now. Walter has lost 15-20 pounds. He still has a long way to go. He needs to lose more weight. XLK is showing effort, he's chasing the ball, and they are finishing practice. It's a great example of two young guys that are buying into the system and starting to mature and gel. They are by no means the finished product, but we're encouraged by the effort they are providing to the team.

JH: You said too many sacks. That's the offense in you talking isn't it?
MG: Too many sacks for us. I'm excited about it. I tell Vance (Bedford) in the staff meeting that it's funny when you get to be a head coach you want the defense to stop everybody. I don't care how many points we score. I want stops and I want to play good special teams. Vance knows that. I take time in practice to go over and talk to their guys. I find myself watching offense and I always will.

I want those sacks and I want these new linemen that we have on the defense to get up the field. Some of the guys I was referring to were unblocked guys. (Ryan) McBean is making plays, (Josh) Pinaire is making some plays, and (Jamar) Ransom is very fortunate that we are in a 4-3 defense now. He's a much better player playing closer to the ball. He runs well side to side. I think on the hash he was a little bit uncomfortable. It's been a good adjustment for us. Victor DeGrate runs well side to side and he is making some plays for us. Adam Gourley at offensive tackle that has decided he wants to make some plays. He's playing well for us. Coach Wickline has moved some guys around on the offensive line. That makes a tough day for us because there are guys playing guard and tackle that have never played that position. He's trying to find the best two deep we can find for next fall in the system that we are playing.

RA: As a coach you understand the need for a scripted scrimmage, but as a quarterback don't you understand how frustrating a scripted scrimmage can be?
MG: There are times when I blow the whistle on a sack with our quarterbacks that is probably not a sack. We have the ability to separate and get away from people. I don't want them getting hit this spring. They got hit last year and I kind of know where they are coming from and it's not important to me that they get hit this spring. Next week we will start putting the ball down and playing it. The reason that we script scrimmages is to make it sure that we get plays worked on each hash mark.

What happened is, in the past, you become a right-handed or left-handed team and each play is worked on that hash mark. For the offense that is okay, but the defense needs to work both hashes. We've scripted it, but our last five practices we will put it down and play it. What we do in scrimmages is more realistic than what we've done in the past. Most coaches are off the field. Coach Wickline is out there helping those offensive linemen that are out there playing different positions for the first time. Today the defense, unlike the scrimmage last Wednesday, didn't have any trouble keeping up with the no-huddle offense. They were able to signal in their plays and get them executed. We're making strides.

RA: I want to ask you about the running backs. These are young guys but as a group you have to be happy with what you are getting out of the running backs?
MG: Julius Crosslin has to be able to get downhill and get his 250 pounds turned toward the goal line and get going. He is showing signs of that. Down in the red zone today he was running sideways too much. Greg Gold is going to bounce around more. I mentioned earlier, Greg Gold is showing the coaching staff that he wants to play in games. I think, at times, as coaches that we have to be careful that when a player has been in your program three years you think, 'well maybe he can't do it.' Greg Gold is going to play in games somewhere. We may split him out some as a slot receiver because he has good hands. It's important to him that he makes plays. I'm impressed with his effort. Hamilton is playing hard. Hamilton is a freshman that is just out there playing. He was on the scout team last year, so what he has got out of these practices is the first time he's been in the action and held responsible for what he does since high school. Calvin Roberts is coming on some. Calvin is still a little timid when he runs the ball. He needs to learn to drop his pads when he runs the ball. Calvin is 215 pounds, he needs to drop his pads and run. Part of that is learning, they are thinking but there is some talent there. Our offensive staff is going to have to do a great job in the off season to see what our ability is at each position and formulate our offense around that and not what we think we should be doing. That is the most important thing in coaching - where's your talent, (and) how can you get them the ball because they are the ones that are going to score points, not simply the plays that we think are best.

JH: How do you think the quarterbacks are playing?
MG: I think they are doing good. Donovan (Woods)is a better mid-range thrower now than when we ended the season. He still needs to hit more throws. Bobby (Reid) is coming along, but Bobby is still making throws that are way off the mark. Part of where Bobby is struggling is that he didn't get any practice last fall. Just like J.J., number 33 the fullback, the last time he played was in high school. Those guys that went down on the scout team last year are being held responsible for the first time and Bobby is making that adjustment.

Al Pena is making some plays at times, but because Al doesn't have the same mobility as those other guys have he has to be accurate in his throwing game. He'll get better and he was accustomed to doing some of that in high school. All the underneath range passing game that we are throwing he has to be accurate to give himself a chance to be on the field. The other guys have more flexibility because they have the ability to run and separate and make plays on their own.

I challenged them today in the meetings after practice to spend time on their own. We don't have enough time as a coaching staff to get them prepared by the end of spring ball. We don't get that many hours with them, so they have to take time on their own and make the decision that they want to understand so they can go out there and just react instead of think all the time. They will figure that out. We finally completed our installation, so everything that we want to put in on both sides of the ball other than goal line and short yardage, heavy personnel, is in. We should start to see some repetition of certain plays where guys can really get a feel of what is going on. Now we've allowed our defense to do just about everything blitzing because coach Fedora and the offensive staff don't want to hold anything back. You are also putting yourself in a situation to where your quarterbacks not only have to learn the system, but they have to learn the system versus a variety of looks.

JH: What happens from here on out at quarterback to try and separate those guys and make a firm call?
MG: We'll try to give them more of a series because the middle of next week on we will put the ball down and try to play it. We did so many things on hashes to make sure that we got all of the looks we wanted. We'll put it down and play now to try and give each quarterback a number of plays or the series and that gives them an opportunity to be a leader and see what kind of field general ability that they have and see if they can get the other players to rally around them.

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