Exclusive: Dana Holgorsen Q&A

GoPokes.com Executive Editor Robert Allen was the first member of the media to interview new Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen during his radio show Tuesday. Here's the transcript from that interview on the Triple Play Radio Network.

Dana Holgorsen started his relationship with the spread offense as a wide receiver playing for former Texas Tech head coach Mike Leach and former Kentucky head coach Hal Mumme. Holgorsen proved to be a good student and an innovator himself as he continued with that group and with that offense as an assistant at Valdosta State and then serving as Leach's top hand at Texas Tech from 2000 to 2007, the last two years as co-offensive coordinator.

Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy and Cowboy fans have had an up-close view of Holgorsen's work the last two years as a record-setting offensive coordinator for the University of Houston. Last week Gundy announced he is bringing Holgorsen to Stillwater to install his system and guide the Cowboy offense.

We spoke Tuesday morning with Holgorsen, who was fresh off a trip to Nashville, Tenn.,and a speaking engagement at a renowned football clinic.

GP: How are you Coach?
Holgorsen: Good. How are you Robert?

GP: Fantastic, Let's get into this real quick. How did this all come about?
Holgorsen: Well, I've been talking to Coach Gundy over the last week, really over the last four weeks or so because we have had several different conversations. There have been opportunities for me over the last five years or something like that. My feeling is if I'm happy where I'm at, then I'm not really looking to go anywhere. I couldn't pass up the opportunity (two years ago) to go to work for Kevin Sumlin at the University of Houston and I felt the same way about Coach Gundy and Oklahoma State. It is too good a situation to pass up.

GP: You have roots in the Big 12 from working at Texas Tech. One thing I heard in the last few days from a defensive assistant coach in this league is that they weren't celebrating a coach losing a job, but he said, "Robert, we were so excited to see Mike Leach out of the league thinking we wouldn't have to deal with that offense. Now with Gundy hiring Dana Holgorsen that offense is back and in orange. I hate that." Now that is some sort of compliment.
Holgorsen: Well, what Mike has done at Texas Tech speaks for itself. When I left there and went to Houston I had some of my own ideas as well. Oklahoma State didn't hire Mike Leach, they hired Dana Holgorsen. After being at Houston I would say the offense is a little bit different, but I would say it is a little bit different in that we are going to be a little bit more multiple, but we are going to run the football as well.

GP: Just for the fans give us a base of understanding of just what this offense is. The one you played in at Iowa Weslyan, the one you coached at Valdosta State, at Texas Tech, and the one you coordinated at Houston.
Holgorsen: The offense has evolved and it doesn't matter whose offense you are talking about, they all evolve a little bit. I played in this system back in the late '80s and early '90s with Coach Leach and a guy by the name of Hal Mumme, who used to be the head coach at Kentucky and various places over the years.

The base of that offense since 1989 has kind of stayed the same. You know there's about five different pass plays, about five different kind of quick throwing stuff, and the screens and the run game. It really hasn't changed much over the years. It's all about tweaking things for your own personality and how you call it. What we try to do is come up with the plays we want to run and come up with a whole bunch of specific ways that we want to run those plays, so were not changing a whole bunch.

The thing with the players is that you get them to learn the offense and understand the offense. We're not going to stray very far from that because now all you're doing is teaching kids how to run it well. There are a lot of people out there and their playbook is so big that they are constantly trying to teach players new plays and what to do and how to do it and they don't get really good at it and the fundamentals of football.

GP: One area that is impressive is the option reads in the offense with the quarterback and the receivers and you rep it so that they are groomed to make the same reads together. That is an advantage when you are at that point.
Holgorsen: The biggest thing is getting everybody on the same page. It starts with coaches and getting all the coaches on the same page, and then it translates over to the players and once it translates over the them then they have to get on the same page.

The only way you can do that is by playing a lot of football. The more they are around each other and the more they play, no matter what the scheme, the better off they are going to be. It all starts with practice and it is a process, a long process. The more those guys can get out there and get on the same page, the more success you are going to have.

GP: As you talked to Mike Gundy about this opportunity and about Oklahoma State, I know that you know some guys on this football staff. Did that help?
Holgorsen: I do and that played a big part in it. I've known Coach Gundy for a long time, as a player and a coach, and have a lot of respect for what he has accomplished as a football coach. Just have a lot of respect and familiarity with Joe DeForest from him being down in Houston. I got to know him pretty good. Working with Johnny Barr was a big thrill. Gunter Brewer is just a tremendous coach, a great football coach and tremendous person.

Joe Wickline's reputation proceeds him. He worked with Larry Fedora for a long time and Coach Fedora thinks the world of him. He says nothing but good things about Coach Wickline, so I'm really excited to work with him. He brings a certain degree of toughness to the offensive line which is really important but that is where it absolutely starts. If you are not any good up front then you don't have a chance to be really good at all.

Having a staff that is there played a big part in me joining the staff. It is just really exciting to get to work with a group like that.

GP: I spoke with Larry Fedora on Friday and he said that this was not just a good hire by Mike Gundy, but it was a great hire. Of course, I think Fedora was kind of glad to get you out of the league (C-USA). Didn't you guys at Houston put 700 (yards) on them this season?
Holgorsen: It was one of the most exciting games that I've been a part of. We jumped on top of them and we were really rolling offensively. I think we turned the ball over maybe once. I think we punted once and turned the ball over once in the second half. They took advantage of that and brought it all the way back and tied it up with about a minute to go in the game and we proceeded to go down and score in about 30 seconds to win the game in the end. It was a lot of fun and he is a great football coach.

GP: How quickly do you think you can get the offense up and running. From recollection it seemed like it took hold quickly at Houston. It also seems that every time there has been turnover in Lubbock it has come back in a hurry. How do you see this going down?
Holgorsen: Well, it happened quick here (Houston), you know, from a yardage standpoint. I tell you where you get to the point where you win a lot of football games is just being really good in key situations. That is what the hardest part is, being good on third down, when you're in the red zone, not turning the ball over, not having a lot of penalties, don't have many negative yards plays from scrimmage.

We led the nation in a lot of those categories this year, last year we didn't, which resulted in less wins. We can get the system in quickly and teach them what to do with the resources that we have at Oklahoma State. That's going to be easy to do as long as everybody buys in and we hit the ground running full speed ahead with enthusiasm. We can get on the same page and we can put it out there and everybody can have a whole lot of fun with it. In order to be really, really good at and be good in key situations that takes time and there is no way around that.

GP: How familiar are you with the personnel at Oklahoma State? The heir apparent at quarterback is 26-year-old Brandon Weeden, who saved the day in the second half of the Colorado game. How much do you know about the offensive players at OSU?
Holgorsen: Not very familiar at all, to be honest with you. I know a few names. Everybody in the country knows who Kendall Hunter is and I'm thinking about giving him the ball on about every other snap. Other than that I don't know a whole bunch about them. When you make a career decision like this you don't do it for one or two people on a specific side of the ball. You do it because of the situation and because of the people you are going to work with and where you are going to work every day.

I made my decision based on those things and not on the players. I know I have played Oklahoma State 10 years in a row and I have looked on the other side of the field and they've looked like a bunch of good athletes over there, so I don't think the personnel is going to be a problem. It is about getting everybody together and getting on the same page.

GP: When can we expect to see you in Stillwater? You know I can guarantee you'll like the football offices and the west end zone.
Holgorsen: "I've just seen it from ground level and the 50-yard line but from there it looks pretty good. From hearsay and everything I hear about it, I'm sure it is going to be fun to walk in there every day and go to work. I should be up there Saturday.

Coach Gundy is going to be down here recruiting this week and I am going to hook up with him later in the week. I'll go back and we'll get everything finalized and then hit the ground recruiting next week. That is most important, getting the players. Then when signing day comes and goes it will be time to sit down get everybody on the same page from an offensive staff perspective and get into spring ball.

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