Gundy Says Defensive Playcaller for Fiesta Bowl Will Be Decided Thursday

The Cowboys’ defensive playcaller for the Fiesta Bowl is still TBD.

Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said Monday that he plans on making that decision Thursday, just a few days before Saturday’s Fiesta Bowl against Notre Dame. Gundy also said he is leaning toward two guys instead of one. The position is vacant after Jim Knowles left the program for Ohio State after the Big 12 Championship game.

“I have a pretty good idea of what I want to do right now, but I would hate to say that it might change,” Gundy said. “And I want to watch these practices really close and see how things are going with our coaches and their communication with the players, which is very important on game day. I’m comfortable with what’s happened.

“Over the last three weeks I’ve only watched defense. I haven’t spent a lot of time watching offensive football right now since Coach (Jim) Knowles left. I’m gonna watch the next couple days and then sit down with the defensive staff and meet with them and explain to them what I think’s best for the game.”

Gundy didn’t mention any names, but the hottest name on his staff from the outside as a potential promotion has been defensive line coach Joe Bob Clements. Clements has been coaching the Cowboys’ D-linemen since 2013, making him the longest-tenured defensive assistant on staff along with corners coach Tim Duffie.

As a refresher, here is a look at the Cowboys’ defensive staff.

Joe Bob Clements — defensive line
Greg Richmond — defensive line
Tim Duffie — corner backs
Dan Hammerschmidt — safeties
Koy McFarland — acting linebackers (following Knowles’ departure)

Whichever coach or coaches take over Saturday will be asked to guide a defense that ranks eighth nationally in scoring defense, third in total defense, first in team sacks, first in tackles for loss and second in third-down defense. And they’ll have to do so against the No. 5 team in the country.

“We compete offensively and defensively in live situations in practice, and I watch to see the interaction and the decision-making that takes place during those competitive practices,” Gundy said. “Because essentially, that’s what happens on game day. They’ll get 75 of those in game day, in practice we’re only getting about 21. But it gives me a good feel for what’s going on.

“I’ve kind of alternated coaches that are up in the front and then in the back end of the defense and let them work together. And I’m really surprised, they know it really well. I’ll be honest, when I first started, I wasn’t sure that anybody was quite up to par with the level that Jim was because essentially this was his system. Terminology and system is a big deal. Now, we’ve morphed it into a different concept over the last couple years, but essentially it was his to start with. And I’m pleased with the other four guys in there that they’re very, very up to date, for lack of a better term, on what we’re doing scheme-wise, terminology-wise defensively in the big picture.”

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