Mike Gundy got a little crafty with his latest poaching job from the Ivy League ranks to get offensive coordinator Sean Gleeson.
Gleeson wasn’t a well-known name before OSU announced his hiring on Sunday, no Graham Harrell, no Todd Monken. But among coaching circles and the scouting community, Gleeson is a hit name who has drawn rave reviews calling plays the last two seasons.
“I like this hire SO DAMN MUCH,” SB Nation’s Bill Connelly said of the hire on Twitter. “Can’t tell you how fun Princeton was to watch this year.”
“Oklahoma State, get ready to have some fun!” said Dan Casey, a well-known Xs and Os guru on Twitter who also coaches high school.
It’s true that Sean Gleeson is not the big name, insta-splash hire that will wow fans — apparently Kliff Kingsbury was taken — but that shouldn’t tarnish the quality of hire. Here are five reasons to be fired up about OSU’s new play-caller.
1. Gleeson isn’t afraid to cut loose with innovation
I’m not an Xs and Os guru by any stretch, but some YouTubing showed me that Gleeson has the goods to coordinate a terrific offense. From pop passes — SWOON! — to wheel routes in the red zone (!) and more, he’s obviously imaginative with how he controls the sticks. Just imagine Spencer Sanders pulling up from ten yards out to do this next season.
Princeton running a jet motion pop pass.
QB and WR really sell this one! pic.twitter.com/in4xQYruKk
— Coach Dan Casey (@CoachDanCasey) September 29, 2017
Don’t sleep on Ivy League Offensive Schemes!
Princeton running a Bash QB Buck Sweep to the Boundary Nub TE
➡️ Bash (Back Away) to the Trips Side
⬅️ Buck Sweep back to the Nub TE Side pic.twitter.com/LIrrvcyfYu
— Coach Dan Casey (@CoachDanCasey) October 2, 2018
Princeton consistently pushed the boundaries of play-calling in the Ivy under Gleeson, and that should continue on at OSU with the talent level he’ll be able to work with.
2. Princeton put up some points!
A stats-based point: Princeton was the Oklahoma State of the Ivy League.
In his first season calling plays in 2017, Gleeson’s Tigers went on to record the No. 2 passing offense, No. 4 scoring offense, and No. 4 total offense at the FCS level. He followed that up in 2018 by coordinating the highest-scoring offense in Ivy League history, and the Tigers didn’t lose a game.
3. Gleeson’s scheming/coaching is flexible
Gleeson’s 2017 offense was led by quarterback Chad Kanoff, a 6-foot-4 gunslinger who was primarily a pro-style prospect. He threw 388 passes and completed 284 in his lone season with Gleeson calling plays, a 73.2 percent completion percentage, and tossed 29 touchdowns to 9 interceptions.
A year later, Gleeson completely remade the offense with a different player. Though Kanoff only ran 28 times the year before, his successor, John Lovett, ran a team-high 141 times for 972 yards rushing in 2018. Lovett was a good passer, too, completing 66.1 percent of his attempts for 18 touchdowns and 3 interceptions, but his strength was running — and Gleeson made that strength shine through.
That should bode well for Spencer Sanders — or Dru Brown, or Brendan Costello — or whoever takes over quarterbacking duties in 2019. The fact that he’s shown himself capable of switching up schemes and being successful with widely different personnel is a big win for OSU.
4. Biletnikoff U should continue
There’s no need to re-litigate Tylan’s Biletnikoff snub. He definitely got snubbed. But in any case, OSU’s somewhat developed into WR-U since Dez Bryant, with Justin Blackmon winning the Biletnikoff, awarded to the best pass-catcher, twice, and James Washington winning it once. That trend should continue under Gleeson, as receivers have thrived in his schemes.
In 2017, in a more pass-happy scheme, Jesper Horsted led the team in receiving with 92 receptions, 1,226 yards receiving, and 14 touchdowns, and Stephen Carlson had 71 receptions, 935 yards receiving and 11 touchdowns. A truly dynamic duo.
In 2018 their numbers took a dip a bit because the offense was run-heavy — Horsted had 1,047 yards receiving, 13 touchdowns, and Carslon had 683 and 5 — but they remained heavily involved throughout. Because OSU is always going to skew more pass-heavy, I believe OSU will almost always have the personnel that fits a scheme more closely resembling what Gleeson was able to do in 2017 at Princeton. It’s a really good fit.
5. Continuity, continuity, continuity
There’s not a robust index online about what Sean Gleeson pulls in annually, but it couldn’t have been more than $100,000, and I’m probably being generous. Before Princeton he was at a Division III school.
So not only is OSU getting Gleeson on a relative discount well within OSU’s budget, but it almost certainly engenders some loyalty on the part of Gleeson to Gundy. He’s going to be grateful for getting called up to the bigs and, in return, he might stay on staff for more than a half-decade as Mike Yurcich did.
This is, of course, risky — Gleeson might stink, and it might lead to Gundy ousting him — but there’s a lot of positive feedback and tape on Gleeson showing that doesn’t appear to be a likely outcome, and that OSU has a young up-and-comer calling plays that will rejuvenate the offense in Stillwater.