STILLWATER — Cowboy football is back.
Oklahoma State started its fall camp on Wednesday at the Sherman E. Smith Training Center. After the early morning practice, OSU coach Mike Gundy met with reporters to preview the upcoming camp. Here are his five best quotes from that session with a video of the full news conference below.
1. Position Battles in the Portal Era
Gundy has yet to name a starting quarterback, to the surprise of some.
Texas Tech and Michigan transfer Alan Bowman seems the most likely starter given his experience. In three seasons at Tech, Bowman threw for 5,260 yards and 33 touchdowns before playing a reserve role in Ann Arbor for two seasons. But youngsters Garret Rangel and Gunnar Gundy are still competing with the experienced transfer entering fall camp.
“Whether we like it or not, we live in the age of the portal,” Gundy said. “And in this time we need to make sure as coaches more so than ever that we give everybody quality time to work it out position-wise based on their work on the field. I have shared with the staff that up through the first 10, 12 days or so of practice that I want guys working with different groups, I want concepts minimized, and when we name a depth chart, I want to look them all in the eye and say everyone had a fair shot. I think that’s all we can do as coaches for the players. Then I think the players will respect that.”
It makes sense — give everyone a shot to impress on the field before making depth chart decisions. If a player feels like he is given an opportunity to play, maybe he will be less likely to jump to the portal.
Detractors of this line of thinking will argue that starters, particularly new starters, need as many reps as possible to get ready for the season. But no matter what way you think about it, this is the type of juggling college coaches have to do with the portal so readily available.
2. The Parity of the Big 12
After a disappointing 2022, the Cowboys were picked seventh in the Preseason Big 12 poll. But recent history suggests that poll doesn’t matter all that much.
Ahead of last season, Kansas State was picked fifth and TCU was picked seventh. Kansas State won the Big 12 title, and TCU made the national championship game.
In 2021, Baylor was picked eighth in the preseason before winning the league.
So, there’s an argument to be had that the Pokes are right in the sweet spot. Here’s what Gundy had to say about it, with a reference of Nickelodeon’s favorite sea creature thrown in for fun.
“Here’s the good news about the Big 12: nobody knows what’s gonna happen in this league,” Gundy said. “And I’ve said this for a number of years, the parity in this conference, it’s even grown more now with the new teams coming in.
“I think our players look at that some. I don’t know. I never hear them talk about it. Sometimes I bring things up to them to try and jab them and they’re unaware of it. It’s kind of a downer. I think I can really set them off, and they were probably watching SpongeBob or something instead of actually paying attention to that. With the Big 12, you just look over the history, it’s pretty much anybody’s game.”
3. The Nostradamus of Realignment
Gundy was deep in his bag of tricks for it to be Aug. 2.
The Cowboys’ coach compared himself to 16th century French astrologer Nostradamus on Wednesday. Nostradamus was said to have predicted things like the Great Fire of London and both world wars. Meanwhile, Gundy read the stars for conference realignment with the addition of Colorado.
“I’m almost like Nostradamus — I’ve been telling you guys for 18 months what’s gonna happen, and I think I’ve hit it every time,” Gundy said. “Two things, I said Oklahoma State would be in great shape no matter what — which has happened. And I said eventually the Big 12 conference will rise and be just fine — which has happened. And I said that conference realignment is not finished yet, and it’s not finished now. It’s still gonna go on.”
Gundy has long had a positive outlook on both Oklahoma State and the Big 12. He frequently called the additions of UCF, Houston, BYU and Cincinnati a “home run.” And under the leadership of Kayse Shrum and Chad Weiberg, Gundy was vocal that he thought OSU was in good hands moving forward.
Jenni Carlson then asked the realignment Nostradamus what was next. He didn’t fully give away his secrets of the stars, but did say this:
“You know what I should do? I should write it down and stick it on the wall,” Gundy said. “… I should write it down and stick it up there, and when the next group comes, you guys will be excited.”
4. Commitment to a Better Run Game Starts Up Top
Bluntly, the Cowboys stunk at running the football in 2022.
OSU ranked ninth in the Big 12, gaining just 125.6 yards a game on the ground. That lackluster rushing attack then led to other issues for an OSU offense reached 20 points just once in the final six games of the season.
So, how does that get improved in 2023? Offensive line upgrades? Running backs? Gundy says it starts with the coaching staff.
“I think the commitment has to come from our staff and our concepts and schemes,” Gundy said. “In most cases, you get good at what you practice, and things you make a priority, you improve on. So I’ve asked our offensive staff to make it a point to improve in the running game, and I’m fairly confident that will happen.”
5. Stride for Stride in the Portal
There are a lot of question marks surrounding this Oklahoma State team with most of it regarding all the roster turnover.
The portal tooketh and the portal gaveth to the Cowboys this offseason. Here is what Gundy said on the talent level of the group after the big roster shakeup.
“The age of the portal, I think this is the future, right?” Gundy said. “Some go out, some come in. You would like to minimize that, but I’m not sure that’s gonna happen anymore. I think that we went stride for stride. We’ll know a lot more in about three weeks. Then we’ll really know a lot more Oct. 1. But I feel good about the exchange we made player for player.”