STILLWATER — On Thursday, Mike Gundy spoke with the local media for the last time before the Cowboys’ season opener against Missouri State.
Oklahoma State hosts Bobby Petrino’s Missouri State squad Sept. 4. At his first media luncheon of the summer, Gundy hit on OSU’s first two-deep, what he expects the atmosphere to be like and more.
“Well we’re at it finally, somewhat of a game-week routine. A little heavier practices over the next two of three days, but for the most part, we’re in that fold at this time and we’re doing good. I don’t have a lot of updates for you other than what I had a few days ago. We’ll know a lot more about our football team in a month. But I’m excited about where we’re at. I’m excited where the team is from a competitive standpoint.
“We have a few young players that will get a chance to get out and compete some based on where we’re at on the depth chart. We’re just pushing forward. Glad we got a little bit of heat here the last few days to practice and open them up a little bit from a cardio standpoint to try to get us ready for what I guess is going to be hot the first couple few games. So guys are in good shape and moving forward.”
On Blaine Green on being listed as a starter on the depth chart
“Well he’s very physical. He’s 215 pounds and picked the system up early and stayed healthy. That allows him to get a chance. Sometimes we have young players that may pick the system up and then athletically put themselves in a position to compete, but if they get dinged up or get a soft tissue injury and their out for three or four days, it sets them back considerably because of their youth. So far he’s stayed away from all those situations.”
On what the position battle at left tackle between Taylor Miterko and Caleb Etienne
“Well, we’re working both guys. We feel good about ‘em. At some point somebody will take that role. In the first game, I would guess they’re both gonna play. And then we see how they play — we all know that some young men play different in games than others. I think both of them deserve a chance to get out there and compete.”
On Brennan Presley returning kicks, returning punts and playing wide receiver
“You know, it’s interesting. That’s what he did in high school. When I first recognized him at a summer 7-on-7, I was watching one of my kids play. He was playing wideout and defensive back for Bixby, and they play eight or 10 games a day, and he never came off the field then. And he gets here and he does the same thing in practice, he never gets off the field. Is it a little bit of a concern? Sure. He’s kind of like a little rubber ball … he just kind of bounces off things. I’m glad he’s on our football team, but he loves to play. He likes to compete. He wants to be on the field.
“In fact when we’re working special teams returns, we don’t hit our returners, so he asked can he put flags on to see if they actually get him or if he makes them miss. He doesn’t like that they can just tag off on him. I think he’ll be fine.
“Brennan has a different train of thought at times. It’s the first time I’ve been asked that.”
On running back depth
“We’re very fortunate we’ve got a number of guys that we trust can carry the ball and be effective for us at the running back spot. I’ve never had the luxury of having this many backs. If we have 40 rushes a game, perfect scenario would be 10s across the board. Will it happen that way? I doubt it. If somebody gets hot, they’ll stay, but we do have the luxury of not letting one player get completely fatigued and or getting beat up throughout the season.”
On Missouri State coach Bobby Petrino
“You know, I have a lot of respect for him with what he’s done. I think there’s certain guys across the country over an extended period of time have proved that they can win and have success. Now, his is a little different in the different places he’s been, but for the most part, everywhere he stopped he’s been successful on offense, his quarterbacks have played well and he’s won games. And he’s done it over an extended period of time. I don’t even know how long he’s done it. Y’all would know before me, I just know that he’s been coaching, he’s been a head coach a long time. He’s obviously doing the right things because he’s continued to be a head coach. That’s really what I think of when I hear his name.”
On where Spencer Sanders is in terms of guys that have started three years at quarterback
“His durability, even though he’s had an injury or two here and there and missed a few, he’s come back, but guys that play 20-30 games in a college career is pretty good from a standpoint that you don’t see a lot of young men that can stay healthy enough and put themselves in a position to do that. He could go on to, at some point, he could play over 40 games. He seems to be improving each year, seems to be improving each day. The supporting cast around him needs to do their part because we all know that he and I are going to get too much credit, and people are going to be too critical of us. He understands that, and the team and supporting cast around him need to play really well and put him in a position to have success.”
On how Sanders’ leadership has developed
“He does a really good job in his own way. We all have our own personality. I see him at practice, I don’t see him in the locker room. He has a good relationship with the players and he brings them together, and they goof around, even him and the defensive guys. So, I would say that his ability to bring the team together is pretty good at this time.”
“Again I don’t see him outside of football. You would have to ask him, but outside of football he’s to himself a lot. He likes to fish and hunt, and he’s not in large gatherings that you would maybe think other college players would be in. But in his team setting, he’s a good leader and brings the team together.”
On the biggest reason for expecting the offense to score more points this season
“I think we have some experienced players. I think the quarterback has improved. We were in a very difficult situation on the offensive line last year. We’re more improved in that area just by depth. We still have young players that are at in those spots, but just overall I think that we have a group that should play better based on the situation we were in last year.”
On if he feels better about progress at quarterback or progress on the offensive line
“I feel good about both. I don’t think there would be a big difference in either. I think that — as I’ve said multiple times — I feel comfortable with where Spencer’s at. Tim Rattay has helped him tremendously, being with the same guy for a couple years. I think Tim’s an excellent coach. I think he has good relationship with all the quarterbacks, which is important in my opinion. And then from an offensive line standpoint, we’re just healthier than we have been. And that’s a big part of being able to practice full-speed give ourselves the best chance.”
On Missouri State quarterback Jaden Johnson
“Well, he’s active. He can move around. Again, Coach Petrino’s had success with that style of player in the past — a guy that can run the ball some, can sling it downfield, make plays. I would say that we would have to lean toward him being an experienced quarterback. He’s been around. So that’s kind of the way I see it.”
On meetings with Tay Martin
“With Tay, when he came here this was a whole new world for him — the structure, the discipline, the accountability. And it took him a period of time to adjust. And essentially, he’s a self-made guy. He has a daughter back home. So, we had a lot of talks about the importance of things in life beyond football and responsibilities beyond football. That was one of them, in that, in my opinion, he needed to work on life skills as well as football to improve in areas that would, at some point, if his daughter ever says, ‘Hey, why did this happen?’ He can give her an answer that he would be proud of. Sometimes when we’re young, we don’t think that way.
“Tay and I spent a lot of time together, I don’t pretend to be a counselor, but I learned a lot about him, and hopefully I was able to help him with some things outside of football. The football side of him is going to be just fine. He’s got a gift. With the distractions and things that were tugging on him, didn’t allow him to perform at a level that he needed to perform at. And part of its maturity, but he’s got a great heart. He’s a good person, and he wants to do the right things for all the right reasons, so that gives him a chance. Then he just listened — and I wasn’t the only one, there’s been multiple people that have helped with his development — but in my opinion, he’s in a really good spot right now. Not to say that he’s still not a kid, but he’s in a good spot right now. And that’s why he’s been performing so well in practice.”
On Jaylen Warren
“Lot of experience, success at a high level, very physical, great young man, unselfish, willing to work hard. He is going to play well.”
On what will happen with the player who doesn’t win the left tackle position battle
“At some point, whoever finishes second in that battle will be that swing tackle because we need to try to have two centers, and a possible third if there’s an emergency, because it’s hard to run a play if you can’t get a snap, which you know. We have the swing tackle and a swing guard, and that’s where that position will play.”
On Danny Godlevske and Preston Wilson at center
“Fortunately we’ve got three and a half guys now that are practicing for us that can snap, if we have to, which is good news. Hopefully we don’t have to use all those guys, but that’s good news. Danny gives us a lot of the same that Jaylen (Warren) did. He’s played at a high level for a long period of time. He’s been successful. He came in unselfish. He came in and said ‘I have to prove myself,’ both young men did. Not we’re going to give you something, you’re not entitled to anything. They said ‘I’m going to have to prove myself.’ Great young men, great work habits, compete and tough. He’s gonna play good. Those things are going to allow him to play good.”
On if it is harder to teach culture to transfers
“In our case we’ve been lucky. Obviously I’ve been here 100 years, and most of our staff has been with me a long time. I distribute that throughout the group. I let each guy, each coach, Rob Glass and Richetti Jones, and Coach (Jim) Knowles and Coach (Kasey) Dunn and (Tim) Rattay — each guy controls their area. So, it’s their responsibility to instill our culture. And then I just watch the thing grow, and if I think there’s an issue then I’ll get involved, otherwise it pretty much runs itself now.
“So when we get a young man in like Tay (Martin) or Danny (Godlevske) or a younger guy like Austin Jarrard, even Jaylen (Warren), but Austin Jarrard has got X number of years. So Coach (Jason) McEndoo is responsible for instilling our culture in Austin, not me. I don’t spend as much time with him. He spends pretty much every day with Rob Glass or his position coach. And then I see them all and at times, but for me to be able to parent them and instill that in him would be difficult because there’s 135 of them. So, to answer your question, it just depends on the young man when he’s come in there. Now, in the instance that he asked about Tay, he had essentially one year left, and then COVID allowed him to have another year. So, sometimes it’s a little more difficult because they’ve had three or four years of something, not that that something might not be good, it’s just not the way we operate. So, sometimes it’s a little more difficult to train those guys than it is those guys than maybe Austin Jarrard, who really only been out a year or so.”
On Jayden Jernigan
“He’s practiced well. He’s down, he’s about 280 now. He was in the 290ish earlier when he was playing. And then he was out. He had a couple things with the virus and took a long time to get him clear, and then he had another little injury. But he’s had a really good camp, and he’ll be in a rotation and I’m excited about watching him. You know, it does a guy good to see a young man that was out basically a year and then able to find his way back and get out there and compete.”
On Devin Harper and his experience being a sixth-year guy
“Well, we’ve mentioned this throughout the camp, the super seniors, at whatever school it may be, is a huge advantage. So I’ll give you an example. We have six guys like him. And we had, I’m just gonna throw four names out of guys that maybe at one point thought about coming back and being a super senior: Amen (Ogbongbemiga), Cam Murray, (Dillon) Stoner and (Calvin) Bundage, how about that? So if you took those four guys and put them on our team right now, how much better would we be with experience and depth? That’s what super seniors do for you. My math’s not great, that’s 20 something percent or maybe close to 30%. If you have 22 starters and put four or five guys out there. So that’s what those guys could do. Devin has that experience. And he’s fast. And he likes to play football. He’s another player I’m excited about watching, and I’m glad he stayed in our program, and I’m glad he’s on the team.”
On what he anticipates the atmosphere being like next Saturday
“We’re all trying to get back to normal. We know that. But I think we all are aware that the virus is still an issue. I don’t pretend to be a scientist, but it may be more contagious now than ever. I would hope that the majority of them that would come here would be vaccinated to protect themselves. That’s their choice. Obviously, they have an opinion. For the pageantry of college football to get back to normal is a big deal for everybody in the country. I know you guys probably watched some of the games I did — the College World Series, girls College World Series, Omaha. I watched them, and it’s packed. Made me feel good to see that. That’s college athletics, so I’m excited about that. And we want everybody to have the freedom to come and go. We want to try to get back to normal life as much as possible. We just need to be as careful as possible.”
On how much gameday atmosphere affects recruiting
“It’s big for everybody, not just Oklahoma State. You want to bring players in. You want them to be able to see your tailgate. That’s a big part of us here. We have 35,000 people tailgating pre-virus. Now we should have, I don’t know what it will be, but it’ll be more than last year. And then eventually, hopefully it will get back to where it was. Then you allow a young man, some prospective student-athletes, to look and see kind of what it’s like. Most of the players that visit during that time of year are wanting to get a feel for what it’s like on your campus on a gameday.”
On if there is an update on the team’s vaccination rate
“We might be at 84 (%), maybe something like that. We can get to 89 (%) if we were to maximize vaccinations without pre-existing conditions. We do have some that are not recommended getting it. We could still get another eight or 10, I say that, maybe six or eight. Hopefully at some point maybe they want to do that to keep themselves from catching it and being out for quite a while.”
On his confidence level going into a season opener with this team
“I like our team. We have players on both sides of the ball. I like where we’re at. I like their effort. I think we’re a good team as it relates to special teams. I like our team. We’ll see. I mean it’s just really hard to predict until you’ve been in it a month and we kind of know where we’re at. Hopefully, once we’ve been in a month, we’re healthy, we don’t have a crisis at any particular position. But, I like where we’re at.”
On whether team captains have been named
“We have not done that. That’ll be next week, and our captains are picked each week by each side of the ball, all three phases, and they’re the captains during the week. Then at the end of the year, those captains that have been picked during the week by the coaches based on their work ethic, their leadership and the previous game’s production, then at the end of the year, the players vote on their own captains for the season captains that go on the picture on the wall.
“This started years ago because we might pick captains right now, and then two of those five might get injured and not be with the team the rest of year. So, when you travel or you go to the game, you can be down to three captains instead of five. So that’s why we adjusted, and we don’t do that anymore. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong. I’m not saying it’s fair. I’m just saying that I wasn’t comfortable with that. That had happened to us before where you had a guy or two that couldn’t be there. So, we’re relying on those guys that we choose as captains to lead our team that week.”
On Alex Hale’s health
“His workload has been what it would have been on normal year at this point. As I mentioned, those guys all have their own workloads, their own plans. Essentially they get themselves ready. He’s been involved in everything that I’ve seen him be involved in prior years. So, I would say he’s doing good.”
On if he has the pieces to get back to the level to compete for Big 12 titles
“Well, you have to put yourself in a position athletically to get there. I mean we all know that in order to win at a high level, you have to be good athletically to give yourself a chance. Got to get a few breaks, got to stay healthy. Couple games, you got to get a turnover here and there to win. Gotta win one or two on the road that maybe people think that are a toss up or that you can’t win. Then your team’s got to be unselfish. We’ve been in position, quite a few years really, when you look, I don’t know, one time I tried to figure it up in my brain that when I started coaching in the Big 12, if we would had a championship game, I think we’d have been in it about six times. We’ve been close maybe even more than that. We just have to continue to push. Guys got to stay together. We’ve gotta be competitive. Got to get a few breaks. Gotta do a good job of coaching them, put them in a position.”
On how a quarterback’s mentality changes when playing behind a struggling offensive line
“Anybody, really, that plays behind a young offensive line or an offensive line that’s not ready to play, like our guys weren’t last year, they have a biological clock in their brain, and it goes off quicker because of just feeling people around them. That was a big effect in the situation we were in last year. We were in that, I don’t know about five years before that, we had a really difficult time on the offensive line, and it was hard on our quarterback. That’s why I’m excited about Spencer, in my opinion, playing better this year. I think he’ll be more comfortable and his biological clock won’t be ticking so fast.”
On if he will get to go to Edmond to watch his youngest son, Gage, make his first high school start
“I hope so. They got a tough schedule. They might have the toughest schedule in the state. So, it’d be good to go watch it.”
On what kind of TV guy he thinks Brandon Weeden will be
“He ought to be good, knows the game, right? Quarterback, should have a little Tony Romo in him. Should be able to call things before it happens. If you start calling plays out before it happens, all of a sudden you get a $6 million contract. He ought to be a guy that can do some of that. Plus, he has a great personality. People like him, comes across good. So, I would guess that he would do really well.”
On how he thinks former OSU players will do in the NFL this year
“I think (Matt) Ammendola’s the starter, right? Somebody said the other day. That’s awesome for him. I mean, how about that? Walk-on come from Philadelphia, you walk on here, unselfish, tireless worker, wasn’t entitled, never said a word, did his job. He was a good kicker, but I don’t know that when he was here everybody said, ‘Hey, that guy’s the next Dan Bailey.’ But, worked his tail off, did everything we asked him. We just talked about him the other day, I was just talking to Danielle about him. When we did bowl flights and stuff, he had to go all the way to Philadelphia and come back — probably not the greatest flight, never complained. And then now, I turned the TV on the other day, I just happened to be there. He he kicks a 54-yarder. He sneaks a 46-yarder in — he was living right, credit card snuck it in. Then he kicks the 30-yarder. So I said, ‘OK, I’m just gonna check him out.’ So, I pull out my phone because they keep me abreast of them, but I can’t keep up with all of them. So, I pull up the Jets, and I’m trying to find the roster and I’m going to push his name. His name comes up, but he doesn’t have a picture. It’s got like the Jet logo, usually not a good sign, and Dola’s a good-looking kid. So anyway, I said, ‘OK, I’m gonna check the depth chart.’ So, I go to depth chart, and I scroll down to special teams, and they had like 1-2-3. It was one, and it was Matt Ammendola, and I was like, ‘Hey, that’s awesome.’ So, I flipped to see who he was competing against, there wasn’t anybody else on there. So, I thought, ‘Looks like to me he’s the guy.’
“So I’m really excited about those guys. I hear Tylan (Wallace’s) doing good. I hear (Dillon) Stoner’s doing good. Somebody said Chuba (Hubbard) was doing good, had a long run the other day and had two catches for 30 yards. I don’t know where everybody’s at. Isn’t the big cut coming up like Monday or something? So, we’ll know a lot more then, but we do have a number of guys that are out there, so it’s pretty cool.”
On who will handle kickoffs this season
“He’s been working both guys (Brady Pohl and Tanner Brown), and I’m going to guess it’s going to depend on how Alex (Hale) feels with his recovery. But both guys have had been working that. I’ll know today because we’re doing full-speed kickoff today. … Whoever he puts out there today is going to be the guy because I told him I wanted the ones out there in every position. I want to know who’s out there, so that’ll be whoever it is today.”
On if he gets more questions outside of the building on the season or conference realignment
“Well, just so you know, I go directly to my car, and I go directly to my kid’s practice if he’s practicing or I go directly home. So, I don’t get very many questions, but it’s a variety of both. You know there’s a lot of interest in conference realignment. I have had really good discussions with Dr. (Kayse) Shrum, and she assured me that if there was anything that came out concrete worth talking about, that she would let me know. I haven’t paid much attention to it because she and I have a really good relationship.
“How about this, so last Sunday we had a scrimmage. It was a night scrimmage. So, I’m sitting up here in the orange chairs, taking notes and acting like I’m doing my job, all that stuff. They’re down there scrimmaging, and I kinda like, you know how you’re sitting somewhere and you feel people around you? And I kind of look up, and then I noticed it’s Darren (Shrum) and Dr. Shrum. That’s pretty cool. So, they’re kind of sitting there watching the scrimmage. It’s late, I mean 7, 8 o’clock, whatever on a Sunday night. I’m taking my notes watching and talking on the walkie talkie, job justification, all that junk. So then we stopped to get the next series done, and I kind of look over. We got the president of the university wearing a hat, T-shirt, running shorts and tennis shoes. She kind of comes over and sits a chair away from me for the next hour and a half, watch the scrimmage and talk football, talk conference realignment and whatever. Pretty cool. It’s pretty awesome.
“So, we’ve had enough discussions, and I feel like if there’s anything concrete she’ll let me know — if there’s something that we actually need to make decisions on, but I’m getting a lot of both of those at this time.”
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