STILLWATER — The Cowboys are three weeks out from their 2023 season-opener.
Oklahoma State held a media availability after their Saturday morning practice. Here are Mike Gundy’s best quotes from the day with a video of his full news conference below.
1. Quarterbacks Still Even through Saturday’s Scrimmage
The Cowboys had a 100-play scrimmage in Boone Pickens Stadium on Saturday, but Gundy said he is still not ready to name a starting quarterback.
Gundy said he has been pleased with Alan Bowman, Garret Rangel and Gunnar Gundy to this point and said the battle for QB1 will continue into next week.
“Right now, you couldn’t do it [name a starter],” Gundy said. “As soon as we think that it’s beneficial to our team to make that decision, but if you would’ve watched today, you wouldn’t have been able to do it. That’s a little bit of what we, I guess myself, that’s what I’m faced with. We’ll let them run at least another Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. It’s not like any of them aren’t playing good. They’re all playing good, so that’s good news for us. Not yet.”
Gundy said the experience Rangel and Gunnar gained through being thrown into things last season has helped them this offseason. Gundy also fielded a question on Gunnar’s ability to run the football, something that sets him apart a bit from Bowman and Rangel.
“There’s times based on who we’re playing a quarterback’s gotta move and go make a play,” Mike Gundy said. “Then there’s parts of things we do in our offense where quarterbacks have to run the ball. Obviously he’s my son. I don’t talk about him a lot, but he’s up to 207 pounds. He’s gonna run 4.6-flat pretty much every day. He’s developed himself and has come a long ways. In that particular area, he has an advantage, that’s for sure.”
2. An Update on the 3-3-5 Implementation
With the Cowboys still trying to find out which quarterback will take snaps Sept. 2, the other side of the ball is going through even more transition.
New defensive coordinator Bryan Nardo is in the process of implementing his 3-3-5 (three defensive linemen, three linebackers and five defensive backs) defense. Gundy said he is still learning the new defense himself, but things seem to be going well here in August.
“I really like what we’re doing,” Gundy said. “I really do. I like the simplicity of what it gives us, and I’m learning it. I don’t know it. I like the simplicity of it. I like the flexibility. It’s easier to play four-down than I thought it would be. And I like what Bryan’s doing and his teaching and coaching, and I like that our defensive staff has rallied with him. I like the way that it’s gone up to this point.
“We haven’t played a game, but giving you a fair answer, I really like where we’re at. I don’t think it could be any better now at this point. We’re still in some development stage, but I just think we’re in a really good spot right now.”
3. Running Back’s Working through Fall Camp Knocks
It doesn’t appear we’re much closer to knowing how the running back carries will look, either.
Similar to the three-man quarterback battle, Gundy sounded pleased with what he has in the competition among Jaden Nixon, Ollie Gordon and Elijah Collins. Gundy did note that Nixon and Collins have missed time this fall for minor injuries.
“They’re getting hit a little bit, but we’re not hitting them all the time,” Gundy said. “They need hit. They need tackled, and they need taken to the ground so we can find out where we’re at. But we just don’t do that anymore.
“We’re gonna have some depth. Elijah was banged up and out for a few days. He’ll be back Monday. Nixon got banged up — he was out a few days. He’ll be back middle of the week, somewhere they said. Knock on wood, they’re all gonna be up and running here middle of the week. They’re doing good. It’s very similar to the quarterback situation. They’re all doing pretty good, and all of them have things they need to work on.”
For the uninitiated, here is a quick breakdown of each of those guys:
Nixon: A redshirt sophomore speedster, Nixon is listed at 5-foot-10, 185 pounds. In 60 carries with the Cowboys, Nixon has ran for 303 yards and a touchdown. He has caught 22 passes for 192 yards and three touchdowns. Also a danger in the return game, Nixon housed a kickoff against Baylor last season.
Gordon: A 6-foot-1, 211-pound bruiser, Gordon was a highly touted true freshman last season who rushed for 308 yards and two touchdowns on 62 attempts. He also caught 12 passes for 76 yards and two scores.
Collins: A transfer from Michigan State, Collins ran for 988 yards and five touchdowns in 2019 before injuries stunted his time with the Spartans. He enters his Cowboy career with 1,506 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns across the past five seasons.
4. An Update on the Specialists
Tom Hutton and Tanner Brown were the Cowboys’ Day 1 starters at punter and kicker last season, but with both gone, the Cowboys will have to look elsewhere in 2023.
The Cowboys bring back some experience, though, mainly in Alex Hale and Logan Ward.
Hale was a Groza semifinalists in 2020 before a freak injury ahead of the Bedlam game put him out for the remainder of the season. He didn’t have a field-goal attempt last season but did kickoff some and made a pair of extra points. He is 16-for-20 on career field goals.
Ward punted for the Cowboys after Hutton’s season-ending injury last year. A big leg, Ward averaged 45 yards a punt. He is listed as a kicker, and Gundy said anything longer than 55 yards is likely Ward’s, with Gundy saying, “He can kick it through the goalpost at 60 yards.”
The Cowboys also brought in another Australian punter in Hudson Kaak from ProKick Academy.
“Logan, he played at times, so he has some of that [experience],” Gundy said. “The Australian hasn’t. It’s new to him. He’s still looking for a funny-shaped ball. He’s really the only one that’s new. And I’m being honest, I feel good about it. I feel comfortable with where we’re at.”
5. D-Line Depth
Oh, look, more roster turnover.
Brock Martin is gone. Tyler Lacy is gone. Brendon Evers is gone. Sione Asi is gone. Collin Oliver is a linebacker now. But Gundy said his defensive line might be as deep as ever.
I wrote earlier this week on the size of the Cowboys’ defensive front. It’s a group of guys that, for the most part, have waited their turn in Stillwater. Gundy pointed out two examples of that Saturday in Collin Clay and Xavier Ross.
Clay transferred to OSU from Arkansas ahead of the 2020 season. Injuries had plagued his time in orange and black before he played in 12 games last season. Listed at 6-3, 310, Clay will help man the middle of OSU’s defensive line in the new 3-3-5 scheme.
Xavier Ross enters his redshirt senior season listed at 6-4, 290. He didn’t play a ton before last season, where he appeared in 10 games and made his first four career starts. Ross looks to be a valuable piece whether the Cowboys have a three-down front or a four-down front in 2023.
“At this point, we have more depth in our four-man front than we ever have in our four-man front, which is good” Gundy said. “Those guys are playing pretty good. Collin is a guy that’s developed his body. He’s, I don’t know now, 320ish [pounds], something like that. Went through a year where he was injured for a while. He’s kinda grown up and developed some more toughness. He is a powerful dude.
“… [Ross] falls into the exact same category. Took him about three years to realize this is a tough man’s game. He looks 100% different now than he did this time last year. He’s bigger. He’s developed himself. He’s competing. He understands it’s OK, it’s gonna be violent, there’s a lot going on, just keep fighting. I’m very pleased with him.”