Cotton Bowl Notebook: Sunday

Notes and quotes from Dallas as Oklahoma State prepares for the 2010 Cotton Bowl.

It is the topic that has rocked all of college football this weekend and now has been amended from a departure and resignation to a undetermined leave of absence for Florida head coach Urban Meyer. In Sunday's Cotton Bowl press conference both coaches were asked about Meyer.

Of course, Mississippi's Houston Nutt coaches against Meyer in the SEC and actually coached his team to upset the Gators last season as their only loss on the way to the national championship.

"Urban and I have a very good relationship and we have since he got in the league," said Nutt very sincere. "I was so surprised, so surprised. It was my wife Diana that first told me going over to the stadium last night, coming here last night. It just blew my mind and our thoughts and prayers are with him.

"He's told me before that there are times that he hasn't felt good but I never knew it was to this point to this extent where he would have to say I can't coach anymore or can't coach right now. He has done so much for college football. He's won a lot of games, won championships, and he has done it the right way. He is a good coach and we are going to miss him."

Gundy said, "First, I'd like to say that we are saddened that he is stepping down and I think he has been great for college football. I had an opportunity to go visit Coach Meyer and his staff when he was still out at Utah a number of years ago. Coach Meyer and I had an opportunity to sit in an office for about 30 to 45 minutes and I really enjoyed that."

Nutt is 52 years old, and Gundy's well publicized age is 42. Gundy has long said he doesn't see coaches staying as long in the business as they used to. The pressures, increased scrutiny with talk radio and internet will cause coaches to flame out earlier. Of course, health issues can always be a concern.

The older Nutt has recently taken those very serious and watched a few years ago as his brother Danny, a former assistant coach and now administrator, dealt with a serious health issue that nearly took his life.

"I think the announcement from yesterday makes all coaches stop and think," said Nutt. "Three years ago I started making all of our coaches go and take an annual physical. My wife started making me, and I probably waited 10 years too long. You have to take care of yourself.

"All we do is we want to please and you want to make a difference in a young person's life. It is 24-7. You put every waking moment of the day into what can we do to get better. You kind of bear that responsibility all the time. To me the trick is how you can handle things. I like to get outside for lunch, get some fresh air, jog or get on a bike. Do something and I know you have to eat right and do all those other things.

"It does make you think that you have to take care of yourself. We don't go to one o'clock in the morning anymore or to midnight. I want them to go home. After we watch the film after practice I want them to go home. I want fresh coaches. I want guys that are fresh and have energy on the field."

Gundy, who already exercises regularly, focuses on the mental well being when it comes to dealing with the job.

"I enjoy what I do," said Gundy. "I enjoy being around the players and get a kick out of seeing young men develop over four or five years and graduate and go out in the real world and have success. I would probably say that I am no different than most coaches at his level in that I still enjoy coming to work and seeing the players and putting in the work, so I think you stay with it and coach.

"I don't pretend that there is not a lot of stress and pressure with this job. It's that way across the country but it is all in the way you handle it in my opinion. If you work hard and the team works hard and you do things the right way and push on, then you get to come and spend a week together here in one of the greatest bowl games ever. It makes it all worthwhile.

"It's really hard to answer the question. I've said that Oklahoma State is really special to Kristen and I and we are thankful for the opportunities that we have here. We'll get up and continue to enjoy it everyday as long as the we can do it or until we think the job is too much or it is not any fun. For now it has been fun for me and my family."

There are a couple of notable assistant on the Florida staff that could be impacted by the situation as former OSU defensive coordinator Vance Bedford (cockroaches) coaches the Gator secondary and former Iowa State head coach Dan McCarney is the current defensive line coach.

The Oklahoma State defense will concentrate the entire week on a variety of issues in stopping the Ole Miss offense, but none bigger, or really smaller, than running back and all-purpose player Dexter McCluster. The mighty mite senior has 985 yards rushing on only 147 carries. He has caught 39 passes for 475 yards, and he threw a touchdown pass.

He is also the main guy in the "Wild Rebel" offense as he takes the snap and can freeze defenders. There was a time he was begging to play running back.

"I tell you Dexter, when we first got here he could never make it past four games health-wise, so he really wasn't on the radar," said Nutt. "We knew that he was a fast good athlete but he is 5-7 and a quarter. He weighs 168 pounds, but the more you watched the more you knew he had a big heart.

"Instead of putting him on punt returns or kickoff returns and some of those things I said, we are going to pick our spots here, let's put him at tailback and if you noticed the end of South Carolina game we reached for Dexter. Dexter knew going in that he was going to take the place of wide receiver Mike Wallace. Which we thought he could do. We were at a point that we couldn't. We were rebuilding an offensive line and Dexter gives us that threat. You don't have to hold that block long. Dexter takes your breath away. He has such quickness and explosiveness.

"The suddenness that he has on his first step is really something special," continued Nutt. "I put him pretty close to Barry Sanders with that first step, but he isn't 205 pounds like Barry was when he left there. He has such good ball skills. He can run it, catch it, and throw it. He is so elusive and he is so quick. He is such a good person too."

In case you are wondering, OSU punter Quinn Sharp has already nailed the Cowboys Stadium famous video board. He hit it during warmups before the first practice on Sunday. The board is 90 feet above the playing field and weighs 1.2 million pounds and is 60 yards long. It is a big target.

"Everybody wants you to hit it and you want to hit it," said Sharp after banging a punt off the bottom of Jerry Jones' world famous television. "It is actually harder than it look and it is higher than you think. It is just so big that it looks lower than it really is."

"No question, I expected him to hit it," said Oklahoma State associate head coach and special teams coordinator Joe DeForest. "He has great elevation on the ball and it is a great way for us to work on our hang time."

This could happen again on Saturday. Sharp had a season-best hangtime of 5.6 seconds against Rice. He gets them up in the air quite often. DeForest said it could be a real weapon on Saturday as a distraction to Ole Miss and their returners.

GoPokes Top Stories