Spring Football: One-on-One With Mike Gundy

On the near eve of the finale for Oklahoma State in spring football we check in with the head coach of the Cowboys. Mike Gundy is approaching his sixth season as head coach and will do so back in a former role of being a CEO type of head coach.

Gundy brought in Houston's Dana Holgorsen to serve as offensive coordinator. Bill Young is heading into his second season after coaching the defense to major improvement last season as defensive coordinator. Joe DeForest (10 years) is recognized as one of the best special teams coordinators in America and the rest of the OSU staff is veteran with offensive line coach Joe Wickline (six years), inside receivers coach Doug Meacham (six years), outside receivers coach Gunter Brewer (six years), running backs coach Robert Gillespie (second year), linebackers coach Glenn Spencer (third year), and cornerbacks coach Jason Jones (third year) all returning.

The spring game is Saturday at 6 p.m and Gundy is excited.

Question: Fans are curious with practice this spring having been closed. Okay, what is the format for Saturday night and the Orange-White game? We understand it is different this year.
Gundy: It will be a little bit different than what we have done the past three years because of our numbers. We have roughly 30 percent of our scholarship athletes (in football) that are supposed to arrive this summer. What that means for spring football is we don't have as many players out there at practice to divide up and play in a legitimate game. Next year our singing class will be 16 or 17 players and we will be back on track for having enough players in our program.

What we have is a point system in place with offensive have the opportunity to score points on touchdowns, extra points, field goals, explosive plays meaning a run of 12 yards or more or a pass of 16 yards or more. They get points for consecutive first downs.

Defensively, they can score if they get a turnover or if they score a touchdown off a turnover, block a field goal or a PAT, force the offense into a three and out or a sack and so fourth. We've got a system set up that will be fair for both sides.

We will play offense against defense. We will put the offense in orange and the defense in white. We'll have kickoffs and punts. We won't use players from both sides so the jerseys won't get confusing. We'll have special teams set up and do the best we can. (We'll) have a scrimmage, but in a game-type setting.

We'll start in certain areas of the field, start on the 35 and a couple of times start on the 50. Then we'll have time where we'll play all the young ones, what we call the threes. The new guys and the down the line guys that are great for our program and work hard every day and give them an opportunity to play. It will be a great day.

Where we're at number-wise, and we are fairly young right now, we've got a number of new guys on defense and we've got a new offensive system, in the best interest of Oklahoma State football and to keep the excitement generated and the fans coming to the spring scrimmage on Saturday it is best to use this system to keep everybody in place and not only have some fun but also to use this last practice.

Quesitoni: Is this really is the best format to give the fans an idea of what happened this spring and a preview of their team for the fall?
Gundy: It is Robert, and we had the luxury the last couple of years of having and Orange-White game because we were in the third and fourth year of our system on both sides of the ball. And even though we were playing a second teamer or at times a third teamer the system was far enough along that everybody knew what they were doing and could execute.

if you look at our twos on both sides of the ball, I count nine of the 11 guys have never been out on the field (in a game). If you do break a team up, you are playing with guys that have never played and if the system is new it makes it even more difficult. This will give the fans a better feel of who we are and what direction we are going in compared to splitting the team up and having guys in there that have never played and are still learning the system.

Question: Despite how young your team is, are you happy with how much maturity they seem to show in coming out and practicing and getting the work in?
Gundy: One thing we have established here is we have a consistent program. We have strength and conditioning, we have academics, we have all the things that the student-athlete, football player uses each day so our system is in place and these guys know how to win.

We talked about it yesterday after practice. It doesn't make any difference to us who is on the field when we play Washington State, whether you are a freshman or sophomore or veteran guy. You could be Kendall Hunter, a returning All-American. We expect those guys to go out and make plays. We expect them to play with great intensity and great effort. That is one thing that has been established in our program that really works for us.

Their work habits are good right now. Their effort is good. You just don't see as many guys that have experience. When you have a number of seniors that have been playing three years you are not going to have, when you turn that year over, you are not going to have as much experience as you had the year before. We all know that but the most important thing is the system is in place and these guys will come on and we've had enough leaders that have established themselves.

Kendall Hunter and Orie Lemon have done a good job. Ugo (Chinasa) has done a good job. Brandon Weeden has stepped up and done a good job. We've had enough leaders to come up and show the younger players what needs to be done to get the job done.

Question: There are observers that believe this has been the most physical spring practice in your years as head coach. Do you agree?
Gundy: We've had more thud practice where you don't take them to the ground, you scrimmage full but you don't go all the way to the ground. We've had more thud practice than we've had in the past. Our second spring after our first year was really physical because I didn't thing we'd established ourselves with enough toughness in those players.

Right now I think that we've had a physical spring and we have stayed healthy. We have to continue to be a physical football team. We've had some guys step up and make (physical) plays. We've enough thud tackling without taking them to the ground.

Question: With you not being as involved in the offense, fans are curious how you are doing and adapting to that?
Gundy: I'm doing fine. It is different for me. I won't deny that I want to be involved in talking and coaching (offense), but I'm giving Coach Holgorsen his space and watching the defense more. I have enjoyed going down during the tackling period , standing behind the defense and getting after those guys about being in a gap, wrapping up, and stripping the ball. I've enjoyed that part of it.

There are times at practice, during the first hour and the individual work, that I am walking around and at times I kind of wonder what I am doing out there. I have enjoyed being able to get some other things done in the office during the day, whether it be recruiting or fund raising or whatever is important to the development of Oklahoma State football instead of spending six hours a day in an offensive meeting room doing X's and O's.

I think in the long run it is going to be beneficial. It has been a little different for me, but I'm doing good. I enjoy what I do and look forward to going to work each day.

Question: You had Mike Leach in last week and during spring practice I know you enjoyed your time with former USC coach Pete Carroll when the new Seattle Seahawks coach came in to have dinner with Russell Okung. You also had Chip Kelly here from Oregon and Chris Peterson and his son visited from Boise State. That is almost like career education having all those head coaches come in.
Gundy: It is always interesting when you have the opportunity to converse with other head coaches. When you compare notes you really find out that it is the same everywhere in the country. People think the grass is greener on the other side, and it really is not.

It just solidifies how important the system is, how important personnel is, how important the coaches are, how important the people that contribute to the everyday success of our football program are in the administration, from top to bottom. How important that is because it is all about loyalty and everybody being on the same page. You learn a little from each one of them.

I enjoyed visiting to Pete Carroll for 40 to 45 minutes while we were watching practice and he was commenting on what was going on. I was able to visit with him on what he thought was important in college football right now. Obviously, Chip Kelly has done a great job at Oregon out there, and I visited with him on what he thinks is important.

Chris Peterson has done as good a job as anybody there at Boise and he had commented on some things at our practice that he was really impressed with and wanted to take back to Boise. In the time I spent with Coach Leach, and stand on the sidelines while he was watching the offense, and teaching me what was going on with the offense based on the plays that were getting called because there are a lot of similarities in the offense. Some of it he was unfamiliar with because Coach Holgorsen has changed some of it but some of it he was familiar with. It was the first time I had been with Mike in a football setting other than when we competing against each other. I had seen him at Big 12 meetings, recruiting, and I had seen him certain places and I enjoyed this time with him.

Question: I really thought this offense was going to be strictly pass happy and the running backs might be forgotten. I was wrong because this offense may be the best thing for the running backs and I am not just thinking of Kendall Hunter.
Gundy: Every offensive system is designed and built around what each coach thinks is important in moving the football. When Coach Leach put this offense in at Texas Tech they had run the ball about 17 percent of the time and when Coach Holgorsen was at Houston they were running the ball 37 percent of time.

It is double compared to what they were doing at Texas Tech and the most important thing we can do on offense, whether it was the one we were using or the one we are using now, is finding a way for good players to touch the ball and get into space and score no matter how you do it, whether you hand it to them, flip it to them, toss it to them, throw them a screen, throw it to them deep downfield.

The two areas that are common in the offense that we are using and the one that we had are the tempo in that we don't huddle and we go very fast. Two, there is still a design in the scheme to allow the running backs to have success in some way whether is is all-purpose yards or running the football..

I feel very confident that the offensive coaches understand who the players are on our offensive football team that can move the football and score points. Now we have to use the system we have in place to get them the touches to move the football and score enough points to win the game.

Question: Good luck on Saturday and I know this will be a good show.
Gundy: Thanks, Robert. We'll see you then.

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