First, Mike Gundy needs to hire a new defensive coordinator, either from within the program or from the outside. It needs to get done now so that if he is from the outside he can have a hand in finishing the recruiting class as there are at least four potential defensive positions left.
The run on Oklahoma State assistant coaches may not be over, and with bowl teams and NFL teams finishing their season there will be some major address changing. Did you notice the Dallas Cowboys fired their special teams coordinator?
Let's go with defensive coordinator first. I had been pretty adament about hiring from within to keep the continuity of the system. I still think that would be a big plus and I know that Joe DeForest and Glenn Spencer are good coaches.
However, DeForest is the number one special teams coordinator in the country in college football, and Gundy likes the comfort of having DeForest overseeing his special teams. Move him out of that duty and now you have a somewhat new defensive coordinator or co-coordinator with Spencer, and you also have a new special teams coordinator.
Sources inside the program think Gundy would be hesitant to do that. I know from talking to the head coach that he felt the defense played pretty good in the Holiday Bowl, considering the situation and gave the offense a chance. Looking back at Tuesday night, had the offense been at full strength, no injuries to Dez Bryant and Zac Robinson and no impact (likely more mental) from having arthroscopic surgery for Kendall Hunter, and the defense would have been enough.
I think that DeForest, Spencer, and/or DeForest and Spencer would be a good solution. The defense stays the same, the players are familiar with these coaches and I thought responded well to them in the short period of time in preparing for the bowl game. I also think given more time, either coach or both together would make some more changes in the defense to fit their personality that would improve that side of the ball.
Remember in the end, especially on defense, it is not the X's and O's, but the Johnnies and the Joes that make the difference. The Cowboys need to improve physically, fundamentally, and mentally. A quick explanation, bigger, stronger, and faster across the board and some of that is happening in recruiting, look at the size of the defensive backs being recruited.
Tackling was better this year, but slipped some in the bowl game. Mentally, the defense needs to gain more confidence and could benefit from some of that fire in the belly, Muschamp-style stuff.
If the Cowboys go outside, the three assistants involved on staff are all good coaches (DeForest, Spencer and Jason Jones) leaving Gundy in the strange predicament he was in when he hired Beckman two years ago when he was needing a coordinator but wanting to keep staff in tact. All three are excellent recruiters with DeForest being the master of Houston.
Spencer has opened doors, even a pipeline, in Georgia and is the coach that recruited Horace Hubbard out of Fort Scott (Kan.) Community College. Jones has done a good job and has southeast ties and good ties in Texas and the Tulsa area. If it had just been the coaches, he would have won the battle for Gabe Lynn.
As we reported earlier, former SMU head coach and current Pittsburgh defensive coordinator Phil Bennett has been asking associates about Oklahoma State and what the situation is like there. Bennett wants back in the Southwest where he played at Texas A&M and coached at A&M, OU, Kansas State, SMU and others.
Bennett would be a good choice. Heck, he'd be an excellent choice but would he come in under the conditions of keeping the staff in tact, and Bennett would almost assuredly want some sort of assistant head coach distinction. He is a huge recruiter that could serve as an instigator and finisher on the recruiting trail in Texas.
Most people know my relationship with Dan McCarney is strong and that I firmly believe that Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard blew it big when he came in guns up and fired McCarney to get his own man. His own man has already ditched him and McCarney is getting ready to coach Florida's defensive line in the BCS National Title Game. Who looks better now?
McCarney is the "ball of fire" kind of guy you want and is a master with defensive linemen, one of the few coaches you would hire as a coordinator that specializes in the defensive line. I think he would accept the conditions and be a strong recruiter as a "coordinator finisher."
Both Bennett and McCarney have Big 12 ties which help but on the outside, or an outside of the box candidate, anything is possible. Remember this is an NFL-style of defense and as of this week there are four NFL defensive coordinators and defensive assistants that are out of work. Some are very good coaches and you don't necessarily need the new defensive coordinator out on the road recruiting. He could be in house evaluating talent, both on the squad and on the board, as to who he needs and wants.
No college defensive coordinator or strong defensive assistant is out of the question either as the contracts and salaries offered at Oklahoma State insure that anybody and everybody would listen if called.
Yes, even Reggie Herring, although his star has fallen a little lately. Herring is a good coach and especially effective with college athletes. I do think Jerry Jones is going to keep that staff because Jerry gets to come in and play football whenever and however much he wants, and Wade Phillips and his staff don't run him off.
Gundy is not without a plan and is calculating, so you can expect an answer quickly. He also demands much more respect within the coaching community than he did two years ago as he has three consecutive winning seasons, a top-25 finish, and captains a program with excellent facilities and compensation packages.
Two head coaches produced in two years in Larry Fedora and Tim Beckman make OSU a launching pad for assistants. This will happen as Gundy promised in a week to 10 days.
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