The Rundown: Everything Mike Gundy Said after the Cowboys’ Thursday Practice

STILLWATER — The Cowboys are finishing up their first week of the fall semester, but they’ve been at football practice for a while.

Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy met with the media after the Pokes’ Thursday practice. Here is a breakdown of everything he said.

Opening Statement

“So we’re doing really well. As far as updates on things you guys would want to know about, we’re doing good with our offensive line, we’re building some depth. They will continue to improve. Obviously (Taylor) Miterko’s there, they’re switching off head-to-head every day. We’re using all four running backs. We plan on using all four runnings backs. Quarterbacks are coming along really well. Spencer (Sanders) continues to progress. Shane (Illingworth’s) having good days. We like Tay Martin. We like what Brennan (Presley’s) doing. Braydon Johnson will be practicing with us tomorrow, kind of know what we get from him. And then all the young guys are learning trying to catch their breath. The Green twins (Blaine and Bryson), (Jaden) Bray. And then Cowboy Backs — Austin (Jarrard) is working, [Quinton Stewart] is working, (Braden) Cassity’s working. 

“And then defensively everybody is — the guys that would be rotating in the two-deep and almost the majority of the threes, the young guys are all healthy. We’ve been very fortunate. Collin Clay’s got a little bit of a meniscus or twist, whatever in his knee, he might be out a week or so. Trace Ford has been working his way back into practice. Tyrese Williams had a little two-day injury, but for the most part we’re doing really well. We’ve been fortunate. We just need to keep pressing on and stay the course.

“I’ve had two serious discussions with them about the students back on campus now. And we know that the virus is present, it’s around, it’s everywhere. Last year we felt like they did a really good job of reducing their social interaction, which is extremely difficult at their age. And I shared with them, I think they’re gonna have to do it again. The other students that are here this weekend I doubt they’re going to be concerned. I hope they are, but we all know how it is. I was driving home the other night, two or three nights ago, going the back way, going south where my house is and I drove across Sixth Street, and saw what I would call a block party. Students were welcoming themselves back. And that’s what we need to try to avoid as our guys. But anyway, I think we’re doing good so that’s where we’re at now, moving forward and attitudes are great.”

On the cornerback battle

“Christian (Holmes) and Jarrick (Bernard-Converse), those guys get a lot of work. (Jabbar) Muhammad, Korie (Black) they’re in there. And then the young guys. Twenty-four and zero are guys that gonna get 65% of the ones right, and then those other guys are grabbing 30%, and then the young guys are working their way in.

“All those safeties are rotating through. Linebacker wise, the guys that you think would be getting work are getting work. Malcolm (Rodriguez) is working in there, Devin (Harper’s) working in there, Jeff (Roberson), and one other one (Lamont Bishop). Those guys are all rotating in.”

On Christian Holmes

“I just talked about him today in the meeting. He’s had a really good camp, and his maturity is showing up out here. My personal opinion on him last year was that he wasn’t really in good enough shape to compete at a high level, because we didn’t train him in the offseason because of COVID. He’s in much better condition at this time right now.”

On how many wide receivers might play this season

“Four guys will play a lot, more than you would think. And then there’ll be two that play 15 snaps a game, maybe three, don’t know yet. So six or seven, really six.

“Yeah, we need to be two deep. When we were our best around here during Mason (Rudolph’s) years when we had a legitimate two-deep, we could put guys in and it didn’t matter what the down and distance is. That gives us a lot of flexibility, that second wave though is young. We’re gonna have to be patient with them as they develop. We don’t have the luxury of the maturity, but we also understand that we have to do the best we can to reduce the wear and tear on their bodies once we get to October and November.”

On what some of the true freshmen look like

“(Jaden Nixon) is doing good. He just happens to be in a position where we have a bunch of people. On a normal year, he would be rotating in and I would say probably show up some and could possibly show up some in the first few games, but I really like where he’s at. We’ve got four guys that are going to play that position right now. We have the luxury of developing his body, which he needs. He’s a track guy, he needs 15 pounds, but he’s in really good position where he’s at.”

“(The freshman safeties) are almost in the same boat. They’re threes right now, when they work with all the young guys, they’re not in that category that Jaden is being behind so many running backs, but they’re all getting a lot of work out there. We’re still repping the threes the same number of reps we get our ones. So those guys are getting quality work.

“(Collin Oliver) is going to play. A lot based on different things, packages we use. I feel like he’s going to be in the game plan.

“(John Paul Richardson) has been out a few days, he’s got a little tight hamstring, he’ll probably be back this weekend. The twins could be in the game playing, Jaden (Bray) could be in the game playing and so will JP. Those guys will rotate through.”

On if they talk about redshirting players anymore

“Not really. You know it’s funny you ask that, because you know Richetti Jones is working back for us now in player development, he’s followed the program closely, but he’s obviously not in college. He’s been in high school and been doing development. And he said, just today, he said, ‘Before we decide who we’re going to redshirt, can I talk with them about keeping morale up?’ And I said, ‘We don’t do that anymore Richetti. We haven’t done that in like four years.’ 

“I mean, they can play four games. So we don’t really have those conversations any more. And so what happens is they kind of know who’s not going to play more than four games, but, it’s not like okay all the sudden you’re going down here like it used to be.”

On depth helping special teams

“If we’re not really good in special teams then I’ll be disappointed because we’ve got experience at punter, experience at kicker, experience at deep snapper. The deep snapper might be good enough to play in the NFL — (Matt) Hembrough. We’ve got a bunch of guys that weigh between 190 and 210 that can run and tackle. So I just feel like — you know we can say what we want. We should be good.”

On if the bar is higher for Spencer Sanders this year based off his spring

“At that position, the bar’s always high for those guys. Spencer handles things great. Two years where he’s played here, he was in competition just to play. He’s always done his job, done what we’ve asked him, never said a word, competes. He’s starting to get more confidence. He makes plays out here. The defense makes plays against him, too, which is good. I just feel like he’s in a good spot. Is he gonna make mistakes? Sure he is. Sometimes will he fire one to the wrong team? Sure he will, just like Mason (Rudolph) did. But I just feel like he’s in a good spot mentally, and I think he’ll play really well.”

On Aden Kelley

“Aden’s doing good. He’s one of those young guys. He’s exactly what we thought he is. He’s a year away from his body developing and maturing. He’s playing in a grown man’s position. Attitude is unbelievable, understands leverage and strength, plays really hard, loves life, loves to be out here. He just needs some time to grow.”

On if he is making plans to go hog-hunting with Kelley

“Well, Gage (Gundy) is. Gage is already working him. I told Gage, I said, ‘Now, he uses his hands. You’ve been using a rifle.’ There’s two different types of hog hunting. Aden, he’s a perfect fit here at Oklahoma State with just his temperament and the things he likes to do. He and I talk about raising Bermuda hay and things like that.”

On Dezmon Jackson’s style

“He’s a little bit of a slasher. You don’t wanna go out on a limb too much, but for his performance in the games that he played in, he probably played as good as anybody in the country for the amount of reps he got in games — his production. I’m somewhat hesitant and don’t say this a lot, but he actually plays better in games than he practices. He practices hard, but in games he slashes and seems to be more productive than he actually is in live settings in practice, which is kinda the important part of what we do. There’s very few young men that I’ve come across in my career that were actually able to do that. There is a big role for him on our team with what he brings to the table. When we put him in games last year and asked him to be successful, he was very successful.”

On who Jackson reminds Gundy of

“Not when I was playing, but he was a lot like Keith Toston. Toston might be a little bit more physical, and Dez might be a little bit more agile. But, they both run standing straight up, and then they can make a cut. They’re a little faster than what you think. A little bit like Keith Toston.”

On Caleb Etienne

“He’s doing good. He’s still a couple weeks away. He’s being force-fed. (Taylor) Miterko is young, too. Miterko’s just a baby. Both of them are young and inexperienced from that standpoint, but we’re force-feeding them and just rolling with them.”

On his comfort level with the guys on the right side of the line

“I’m pretty comfortable with what we’re doing up front. With all of them.”

On running back depth

“The advantage that any coaches have in college football is competition and depth. If you have a young man that’s competitive and wants to play, and he knows that there’s two or three other players at his position that are good players, he’s gonna compete every day. And if he’s healthy because he’s not getting beat up in games, he can practice hard every day, which makes our offense better. Right now we have that luxury. In year’s past, obviously Chuba (Hubbard) is a great player. Justice Hill was a great player. We could go back through all of them. But they took a lot of hits on gameday, so they were limited in practice. That’s not the best way because the old ‘You gotta practice to play well’ is the truth. So, I’m excited about rotating these guys in. I know it gets brought up, ‘Well, what if one of them gets a hot hand?’ Well, yeah, if somebody gets a hot hand, they’re gonna roll until they get tired. We’re not gonna take somebody out that’s just rolling. But, we should be able to keep guys fresh and healthy. Then in the end, times have changed with the way things are, players still wanna know what their future is beyond this level, and when you have guys that don’t have to take a lot of hits, it’s good for their future. So, it’s a positive situation.”

On how he has seen Christian Holmes grow

“We get young men that come in here and transfer in, the portal or whatever, graduate transfer, and the first thing that they will tell you is from wherever they came from, ‘We weren’t used to working like this.’ With COVID last year, we didn’t get to push our guys and get them in really good shape. He’s in good condition now. Tay Martin’s in good condition now. That’s a big difference, in our opinion, in order to play in this league. It’s no different than anybody here. If we’re not tired and we’re doing something, we can do it pretty good. Then go get really tired and try to do the same thing. You can’t think, and you’re not as productive. Well, that’s what Christian was doing last year in games, and that’s what Tay was doing last year in games. Now they’re in good condition. I feel good about where they’re at, so they should start performing at a higher level, and the guys behind him should be able to give him a little bit of a break this year.”

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