GUNDY: As everybody knows, we don't have a warm-up game. We're looking forward to playing in Athens on September 1st, and our team's very excited. By having Georgia as an opener, I think it's kept us focused as a staff in preparation for the game. I'm very excited about how our team performed in the spring. And our strength coaches have given us really good reviews on what's happening in the off-season, worked extremely hard off-season throwing and everything the players do.
Because of the opener in Georgia, I think they have stayed very focused. It's a great opportunity for us, coaches and players are looking forward to it. And it's kind of all building up inside of me right now. It's getting close, and looking forward to getting out there in week, (when the) players report (and) get started.
It's the funnest time of the year for us as a staff. We don't get to coach a lot -- four or five months in the fall and one month in the spring, and that's what we like to do most, is be with the players and have fun during the week, prepare for the games and let them go out on Saturday and play. So we're just excited, and looking forward to the upcoming season.
Q: Can you comment on having the multiple-year contracts with assistant coaches. How has that affected your program and how you can build your growth that way, the continuity that provides, things like that?
GUNDY: We feel like we have the best assistant coach packages in the conference. I think it started with Terry Don Phillips and Mike Holder years ago and it's carried on. It's grown more and more. As a head coach, can't ask for anything more than administration to make the commitment that they've made to our assistant coaches. I think that we have one, two, three, four -- four guys on five-year deals, assistant coaches. We have the rest of them on three-year contracts. And probably more money tied up in assistant coaches' salaries than anybody in the country.
What that means is that we believe in them. We're going to give them an opportunity to earn a good living, to work hard, and we want to keep them in Stillwater until they can move on and be coordinators and head coaches. We're going to lose coaches at times to be head coaches because they're quality people. They deserve it. But our goal is to keep them there. We've had very good football coaches come to Stillwater in the last 20, 30 years and moved on. Guys have been NFL head coaches, been successful in a lot of different areas, but we haven't had the commitment for whatever reason. Doesn't make a difference but now we do. It's exciting to us and the continuity we have as a staff develops our team and I think it's the only way to go.
Q: How would you rate your defense coming into this year and specifically where would you like to improve so you're not involved in so many track meets this fall?
GUNDY: Our defense will play better. Our goal is to be a tougher defense, to continue to run to the football. Obviously we're not as athletic defensively as we are on offense. I don't think there's any question about that. I think we're pretty skilled on offense right now. But that doesn't mean our players won't hit and run to the football. And they've accepted that
Coach (Tim) Beckman's come in and really done a nice job with our defense. I like the attitude of them. We'll have to have some defensive linemen step up and play well early. I think that will be very important to the development of our defense early in the season. We're going to play Georgia, and they know we don't have a lot of depth up front, they're going to try to run the ball down our throat. I've had a little bit of background with that myself when I was with Coach Miles here at Oklahoma State. I don't think there's any question that that's what they'll try to do.
Our players have to understand that they must prepare and step up and make plays. I do think we have some maturity in the secondary to where they can make great strides early in the year and play better. But there's no question, in order for us to compete for the Big 12 championship, we have to play better on defense and our offense has to carry us a little while until our defense gets going because of the youth in the defensive line.
Q: Mike, would you just kind of assess where you feel like your program is right now? Do you think that your guys have achieved enough maturity at this point to win some of those close games you lost last year?
GUNDY: That's a good question. Yes, to answer it. And the reason why is we lost those four games and I was concerned about the mental makeup of our team, the old cliche of find a way to win. When we got ahead in the ball game by 10 points or 14 or whatever it was, feeling pretty good about myself, just kind of easing through the rest of the fourth quarter. And then it ended up being a tie game, or close to where it was. And then our team had to come back and win late. We had to drive down and Bobby (Reid) had to make plays and Dantrell (Savage) had to make plays and our offensive line had to make plays.
When I looked back on it, it worked out for the best because they found a way to finish at the end of the year in the bowl game. And as I watched the team develop in the spring, I was convinced that was perfect for our football team because we had the difficult losses, but then we got on center stage against an SEC team and our team found a way to win. Because of that it should help us going into this season.
Q: Can you could give us an update on Artrell's condition and your thoughts for the upcoming season?
GUNDY: Artrell is doing very well for the type of injury he had. He's very enthusiastic. He has a great attitude. His medical treatment has been tremendous. The support from the Oklahoma State people, our players and the coaches has been tremendous. We're looking forward to getting him back to Stillwater in a couple of days.
The doctors try to keep me updated and I try to understand how all that works. The best way to put it is when there's a back injury involved, only time will tell. And he has a long road ahead of him because of that injury. But in my opinion, and I only had 1000-level biology in college, as far as I went, he will be back and he will play again because that's the type of person he is. He believes in himself, and I think he'll be back. That's just my prediction.
Q: How will you have to compensate for his loss with the guys you've got coming back?
GUNDY: I don't think there's any question that if you followed us this spring that everybody was aware that he was going to be a good football player. He had the ability to run in the low 4.3s and carry his pads and do that. Some players are fast in shorts. And some players are fast in their pads. Artie was fast in his pads. He had soft hands and he was tough.
So from the team standpoint, I'm not concerned, because of the maturity of our team and where we're at, we'll overcome it. But there's no question I'd like to have him in there running pass routes during the season. But as we all know that's not going to happen this year. So we have other guys that are in our program that have worked extremely hard and it will be an opportunity for them to step up and make plays and that's what we'll expect them to do.
Q: Obviously there's nothing you can do about schedules, but from the get-go, you've got one of the toughest road schedules in the conference. How do you think your guys will react to that?
GUNDY: Well, we hope they'll react very well. Last year as a staff, when we reviewed the season, we felt like we had an opportunity to win every game, except at Texas. We played terrible at Texas. Our guys didn't play well on the road. That's one of the reasons we're playing at Georgia. Myself and Coach Holder and the staff talked about what we thought it would take to win the Big 12 championship in the future. And we feel like our team has to play well on the road and it's quality opponents.
We're in a very difficult division. We're always going to have to win on the road against quality opponents in a tough environment. And so that's why we're taking on this challenge of the Georgia game, and every other year we're going to play a very quality opponent on the road from here on out and at home. Because we feel it's important that they prepare to play well on the road. We're more mature as a football team and we should play better on the road.
But I don't think there's any question when you play at Georgia, at Troy, at Nebraska and at OU, at A&M, and you play at Baylor, and somebody in the North, Nebraska, so it is a difficult schedule. But that's what college football is all about. And if you mature as a football team, I think you can play well on the road. Is it easier to play at home? Sure, it is. But the schedule's not changing and our players know that and we're going to line up to go play.
Q: Can you tell us what you expect from Bobby Reid this season and also talk about Chris Collins and his impact as a play-maker on your defense, and some of the situations surrounding him and how you go forward with that?
GUNDY: We expect Bobby to play better than he did last year. He has more games under his belt. Other than the Texas game and first half of the bowl game, Bobby played pretty well last year. He has a better feel for what we're trying to accomplish on offense. He's developed into a pretty good throwing quarterback. And he's dangerous when he runs the ball. So he should be improved. He's been a great leader for our team in the off-season. Bobby does everything right. He goes to class, shows up, makes his grades and he's emerged as a leader on our team by his actions.
Chris Collins is back full speed. Strength coaches tell us the off-season workouts he looks very quick. He's 231 pounds, and when he was injured last year in the Kansas game he was our leading tackle. So we're expecting good things from him. I always said in my opinion, in college football players develop more and should change considerably after they've played that first year, even if it's just four or five games, because now they become a veteran, they're used to it, they know what it takes. So when they come back they're more comfortable. So we should expect Chris Collins to make plays for us.
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