Mike Gundy spoke publicly for the first time in weeks on Wednesday in a radio appearance with Robert Allen on Triple Play Sports in Stillwater to talk about the incoming 2023 recruiting class, the defensive coordinator search and what he was looking to accomplish with that hire, the culture at OSU and much more.
Here is a look at some highlights of what he had to say. You can catch the interview in full here.
On the 2023 recruiting class and newcomers
“We’re going to have 38 new guys, basically a third of our football team. Portal and NIL presents us with something very unusual. Those four you mentioned (four high-school recruits) would have been so much more highly recruited if the portal wasn’t in place. It’s trickling down to the Division-II level. Because of that you have high school players that have offers but aren’t being recruited. They want to be part of the culture. The message was straightforward with them delivered by myself: If they want to be a part of a team, an old school team, that believes in loyalty and commitment and discipline and hard work and trust, come to Oklahoma State. Get a chance to play big time football, chance to win a Big 12 championship, get a chance to get an education in a 19-year organization that’s a proven commodity. If you’re looking to go somewhere where you’re not going to be held accountable on a daily basis and be involved in the discipline and hard work, you should go somewhere else. I told that to them, their families. If you want to be coddled, live in a world that’s unrealistic, go somewhere else. They want to be challenged, want to be coached, they want the Navy Seals prospects. That’s what we ended up with [in Tykie Andrews, Jamison Mejia, Sesi Vailahi, Jalen Pope].
On what OSU is looking for in OL prospects
Gundy said what he and his staff liked about OL signee Jamison Mejia is that he’s “nasty.”
“We’re looking for guys who are nasty and want to finish blocks. That’s going to be a big push for us this spring. We’ve got to get back to the way we were in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, guys were nasty up front. I think [Mejia] can do that. He’s a guy you bring in the program and he’s got the skillset and hopefully the mental side to compete in 24 months.”
On RB signee Sesi Vailahi
“Fascinating young man from Utah, the running back. … We see him as a little bit of Justice Hill. Some really good side-to-side movement. Maybe not as fast as Justice in high school, but has that ability and competitive speed. Has some slash and cut in open field. Doesn’t get caught on tape. His competitive speed is pretty good. Looking forward to what he can bring to the table.”
On the mix of transfers
“We have two year transfers, three year transfers, four year transfers, five year transfers, six year transfers, coming from everywhere. I thought ‘this might be difficult.’ Usually you’re bringing in a couple JUCO transfers and then maybe two or three high school transfers and you can run them right in there. I thought ‘how is this going to work?’ They’ve all come together. They’re excited. The incoming high school players and transfers came here, they’re hungry to be part of Oklahoma State football.”
Gundy on excitement level
“It’s an exciting time. My energy level is really high. The portal creates a lot of stress for us. Not necessarily negative, just stressful not knowing who is going to be here and who is not going to be here. The movement with college football players, I’m not in agreement with all of it. But we adjust with it based on what the standards are. It was a stressful time [trying to replace outgoing players]. If you try to replace them all with high school players you’re going to end up fielding a really young team.”
Gundy on culture at OSU
“The culture side of it has been really good. I’ve had 15-20 meetings with some of the veteran players, talked about culture. We kind of laughed about the so-called ‘public perception’ of there being a poison in the locker room — which is basically bullshit. You’re going to have two, three or four guys that feel like they want to get more playing time. I’m not on Twitter, but I have people that keep me updated with stuff and we giggle. I’ve met with a lot of the veteran players, we discussed it face-to-face and they kind of laughed about it basically. Said it’s not any different. There was no talk of any of this (when OSU was top 10 in the country and 6-1).”
Gundy on QB room
“I’ve been able to have conversations with [Alan Bowman]. I didn’t have any idea what Spencer would do. When he moved on we bring another mature guy in [in Bowman]. He’ll have to earn his spot. In all fairness to Spencer and to Rangel and Gunnar this past year, when you struggle to run the ball and at times you don’t have solid protection, it’s extremely difficult to play quarterback. Those guys will be out there in the spring. Bowman brings a lot of experience. We’re in good position there. We’re going to be considerably better in the offensive line and at the running back spot. Year older, year more mature. Got young man from Michigan State [Elijah Collins] who is showing great explosiveness. All those things create excitement.”
Gundy on fans and criticism
“We really never heard much about people being excited about OSU football. People go crazy around here if we don’t play as well as we should around here or if we lose a game. It’s fascinating and exciting for me that that many people care about OSU football and are so involved and want us to do good. I think it’s cool that many people care. When I first got here there wasn’t very many people that cared.”
Gundy on planning the DC hire
“There was a few things I was looking for. Coach Mason mentioned to me that he needed a break a little bit. Felt like with everything going on and the transition that he loved being here. He just wanted to be 100% all in. There’s just a lot of things going on, lot of stress. I started doing some researching. The demand for coaches to be at this school is crazy.
“I started getting bombarded. I counted roughly 14 coordinators at the Power Conference level — three in SEC, couple in Big Ten — guys who had pretty good careers who wanted this job. I was looking for a certain fit based on what I think OSU needs to be, direction we need to go and the talent we can recruit.
“Once I started doing research there was only four or five guys that knew this system. I wanted to be able to play some odd fronts, some three down along with some four down. I’m interested in doing some things we did three years ago with Jim Knowles. Once he came in, we sat down, we said things have to change. He’s a very smart guy. He made adjustments, changed things up and the last two years with him we were really good on defense.
“I wanted to do some odd-front style. When I started doing research on the odd front it’s not anywhere near what people would think from a fit standpoint. I knew I’d have to find someone who understood the odd front to bring in to mix in with what we’re doing with an even front. I talked to a lot of people and concluded we needed someone who was an odd-front guy.
“There’s a stack front — Tony (Gibson) down at NC State, a stack guy, Rocky Long — but this is a little different. This is more of an even stack. I interviewed Bryan Nardo for five and half hours. Only reason I stopped was because I had to get him back on a plane. Otherwise we’d have kept going. These were extensive interviews with multiple people. He’s called plays for nine years, and he understands the odd front. He’s a great teacher, non-ego guy, worked his way up from the bottom. Have a lot of respect for him. I saw him as the best coach and best fit for Oklahoma State.”
Gundy on 2023 conference schedule (and not facing Texas schools besides Houston)
“It’s not a big deal. We have the Texas schools in our conference. Once it gets going I think OU and Texas are going to depart. My guess is they depart after this year. I don’t know that, nobody needs to quote me on that, not trying to start a social media fire. I think from what I’ve seen this is probably their last year. Nobody has told me that. I’m just an outsider looking in. They’ll reshuffle this thing and we’ll get back to playing the Texas schools. Players aren’t as concerned with that stuff.”