Five Thoughts on Oklahoma State Letting Go of Glenn Spencer

Written by Kyle Porter

Oklahoma State has let go of Glenn Spencer as its defensive coordinator for 2018. This would have been Spencer’s sixth year at the helm, but now Mike Gundy is looking for his fifth defensive coordinator at OSU, following Vance Bedford, Tim Beckman, Bill Young and Spencer.

This wasn’t a shocking move, and the timing makes sense (more on that in a minute). I saw a lot of “you got the wrong coordinator” chatter on Twitter, which is hilarious considering Oklahoma State had a top-two offense last year and not even a top-50 defense. Spencer did lead what was probably the best defense in school history in 2013, but his other four defenses have fallen somewhere between above average and below average. Not exactly the championship zone.

It’s a good time for Gundy to shake things up, too. With Spencer Sanders presumably ushering in a new era in 2018, you might as well hit reset on a defensive philosophy as well. And it gives us another huge storyline to discuss for the rest of the offseason.

Here are five thoughts on Spencer’s firing in Stillwater.

1. Underrated … but not good enough

The bottom line here is that Oklahoma State’s defense was not good enough to contend for championships in either the Big 12 or nationally. I know points per drive is not the preeminent statistic when it comes to defensive success, but it is meaningful. OSU’s average ranking over the last four years nationally was No. 66. Not good, Bob!

OSU’s defenses have actually largely been statistically worse then most of Bill Young’s (and you guys wanted him tarred and feathered and dragged down Hall of Fame).

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His defense hasn’t been inside the top three in the Big 12 in any of the last four years in terms of points per drive (although it has finished fourth in consecutive years). The conundrum for me is that I always thought Spencer was pretty severly underrated by most OSU fans who thought OSU had the worst defense in the Big 12 (not even close) but not good enough for the new OSU standard. That leads us to…

2. Gundy’s Bar

Can you imagine telling 1999 you that OSU just went 10-3 for three straight seasons and fired one of its coaches for that? (related: can you imagine telling 2013 you that Mike Yurcich outlasted Glenn Spencer in Stillwater?) The renewed standard in Stillwater is that Oklahoma State wins championships. That’s how it should be. That’s what you would expect from a head coach making $5 million a year. That’s what this firing signifies. Gundy values continuity on his coaching staff above almost all else. Apparently one of the “else” is marked improvement from being a top-four defense in the Big 12.

3. Timing is Nice

The timing might feel a little bit odd, but it makes sense. With the new early signing period in December and most of OSU’s 2018 class already in the fold ahead of National Signing Day on February 7, Gundy let go of Spencer right around the time of the AFCA Annual Convention in North Carolina (I believe Spencer actually made a last-minute trip out there).

If you’re going to be fired, this is the best time for it to happen. Other coaches are hobnobbing and you can take your TCU 2016 or Texas 2017 film and walk around with an iPad around your neck with it playing for the sake of promotion. All terminations suck, but it seems like Gundy did Spencer a solid by not waiting until after National Signing Day in February.

4. Philosophical Shift

I think Oklahoma State is going to step outside of Oklahoma State world for this next hiring. Three of Oklahoma State’s four defensive coordinators had either played or coached previously in Stillwater. I agree with Carson that OSU needs to make its Dana Holgorsen hire on the defensive side.

With a new era of football about to begin for Gundy and Co., why not bring in some hope and change with it on the defensive side? I don’t know that you’re ever going to realize the transformation of the program like you saw under Holgorsen, but it’s at least worth stepping way outside of OSU world to try and make it happen.

Spencer made $675,000 in 2017 and was the 47th-highest paid coordinator so you certainly have some money to play with. And if what Gundy said after Bedlam about being offered more resources from various boosters is true, then you might have a lot of money to play with.

5. A beloved man

*Steps outside of media bubble*

Glenn Spencer is the man.

I’m going to miss his warrior poems and him as an adult with grown children giving flying chest bumps to 300-pound athletes. He always gave a damn about his players, his coaches and everyone around him. He even cared about his relationships with people in the media. That’s not a foregone conclusion. Not all coaches are like that, but he was.

My favorite memory of him will probably always be when he stared Kyle Boone in the eyes last year at Karsten Creek (I started packing up my stuff thinking we were going to get kicked out) and he said, “You do a good job, man.” Terrifying.

I talked to one former player who said he was “more sad than anything” and that the football offices wouldn’t the same without him. I think that’s where most folks who celebrate or cover OSU are right now. Spencer seemed like a good dude whom his players loved and was awesome at times, but ultimately didn’t do a good enough job. Sometimes that’s OK. I think he’s going to be fine with that legacy.

Hopefully he lands at a place where he doesn’t have to scheme for Big 12 defenses anymore.

*Steps back inside media bubble*

  • AC

    I’m with you on all of this. He’s a genuinely good man and that’s fantastic to have. But being a good man doesn’t mean you’re a great coach and, at this point, the expectation is that we have to be better. I wish him the best and hope that Gundy makes an absolute home-run hire at DC (and hire a ST coach already).

  • DKurt

    I hope Gundy thinks “outside the box” with the new hire! Gundy realized he’s had to adapt with changes over the years, now it’s time to do the same on the D side!

  • Mark

    Glenn was always my favorite person on the coaching staff. But I agree with this decision; it was time for a change. Wish him the best.

  • Big D

    Great dude. I actually really liked what he was doing with recruiting, geographically.

  • Brian Cassens

    Thank you for #5. I don’t know why but this is a hard separation.

  • Brian Cassens

    I hope he gets to enjoy more chicken thighs through success in whatever happens.

  • Chris Gordon

    So when can we expect the Early Candidates list?

  • OSU Student

    I wish the best for the guy. I hope he lands somewhere that makes him happy. But it was time for this. If we can improve the defense even minorly, it will do a lot for moving us in the right direction.

    And blaming the offense for the defense’s mistakes and claiming the offense needs to slow down to a Bama-Esque pace, especially after spending 4 months crying that Yurcich isn’t aggressive enough, makes you look both ignorant and hypocritical. (Looking at you, okstateprobs) You can’t blame the offense for averaging 43 ppg in the 3 loses. Almost giving up 50 points at home to a sheltered offense that’s barely holding on to a winning record ain’t the offense’s fault.

    • Chris Baker

      Scoring 40 at home against KSU and their 3rd string QB should always be enough. Scoring 52 against anyone, even ou, should be enough. I’ll put the TCU loss not on either side of the ball, but rather bad luck in having to play with 4 reserve offensive linemen at times.

      • Joshua Corbett

        Concur to the eenth degree

      • spokepokes

        YIP!

    • spokepokes

      Don’t even try arguing with okstatprobs its generally pointless

      • OSU Student

        I thought it was funny that there were about 200 people on twitter telling him how dumb he sounded, but somehow he came to the rationale that his insane take is correct and everyone else are complete idiots. Lol.

  • This…: “Can you imagine telling 1999 you that OSU just went 10-3 for three straight seasons and fired one of its coaches for that? (related: can you imagine telling 2013 you that Mike Yurcich outlasted Glenn Spencer in Stillwater?)”
    …is SO true! But, we’re in anew reality.
    Also…ABSOLUTELY on #4, and, as much as it pains me, on #5 as well.
    Love ya Coach! It’s just time…

  • Chris Baker

    You can’t ignore two things about this; one, our D just hasn’t gotten it done, on paper or on the field, and two, no coach in the history of sport with the level of success (or lack there of) Spencer had is more loved by the fans and the players. By all accounts if you looked at this with cold logic, you could ask why not last year? But Glen is just that good of a guy. Additionally, even though his players did not make the strides they needed to on the field, I believe every player who got to be around Glen Spencer will be a better person as a result.

  • David

    I wish he stayed on as a position coach.

    • spokepokes

      This may sound cold but I don’t. He was the LB coach before DC and our linebackers have been out of place and have tackled very poorly throughout his tenure. And that was his position!

      But I wish the guy best of luck at whatever he does moving forward.

  • jt

    I couldn’t agree more with each point.
    Best of luck to him on the next chapter of his life. Who knows, if for some reason he can’t find a job coaching maybe he could have a second career as a motivational speaker.

  • skipcook

    Point #6. The PFCrew has almost always chosen to maintain their risk free touchy, feely critical analysis of the OKState D and the obvious decisions which were necessary to fix it. IDK why. Maybe for fear of being on the wrong side of HCMG. Or maybe they feel it’s not their role. But rather, they should be the folks to put the best face on an obvious problem-one that almost every OkState fan can readily call out. Denial is not a river in Egypt. Hopefully in the future you guys will put the pom poms aside and offer some reliable critique.

    • WN

      Well said. There certainly seems to be a dynamic that affected the commentary on the D.

      Spencer is most certainly a decent person. That, along with him complimenting PFB (Point 5), are 2 logical factors for the efforts to sugar coat reality with repeated Points Per Drive stats.

  • Jerry Bridge

    Top 2 offense that couldn’t finish against OU, TCU and K-State. Play calling was horrible. How many people out there knew for a fact that when our offense took the field the first play was going to be a run? How many more times are we going to see a scteen pass to the right or left that never gains any yards?How many more times are we going to be 3rd and 15 or 16 and Yurcich calls a run play? Run up the middle, run up the middle. Run up the middle. Our offensive plays are so vanilla. Oh and lets not mention the clap from Mason to snap the ball. That is a great way to let the defense know were snapping the ball. Offensive line couldn’t move anyone or hold their blocks. We need a overhaul on offense.
    Yeah defense didn’t help that much. I like Whitener but we didn’t have a stud linebacker that was killing everyone.

    • Kayla Fields

      Are you talking about the offense that put 52 points on OU, 40 points on K state, 31 on TCU? In any other game with a team with even a mediocre defense, those are numbers that win games. This has been a defense issue, not offense. You can’t win if you can’t stop your opponent. Has Yurcich’s offensive calls been boring and predictable? Yes. However, he managed to average at least 40 points per game, giving us a top five offense. I have never been a Yurcich fan, but looking at the numbers, he got the job done. I think some changes could be made to his play calling, but a complete overhaul is unnecessary.

    • Mark

      You know that clapping sound that you apparently hate? Yeah, it also does a good job of not getting us false-start penalties. While I don’t have stats to back it up, I’d wager that our O-line was one of the least penalized lines in the country last year, a detail that often goes overlooked. When we DID get false start penalties, it was almost always on a receiver – often it was Washington.

  • ssbn599

    If Mike Yurcich gets the credit for our offense, where are all the job offers? Yes, we finished 10 – 3, but a 3rd place finish in the Big XII was way below our expectations. We have to win the games we’re supposed to win. We played OU a great game Could have won with a break or a good call. That team did not show for TCU or K State. And I don’t fault our players for that.

    • Sonny

      Yurcich is…uhh…adequate, but not exactly a “Gundy” with the press, right? My daughter’s Guinny pig glows in personality compared to the guy. He may struggle in interviews. A school may as well present a bowling ball to the media and keep him locked in a closet with all the film he can watch.

      • Erving R. Feldman

        Mr. Yurcich has plenty of personality. I’ve talked with him on more than one occasion, and heard him speak several times. I have found him to be energetic, very smart, and focused. I think he is doing a great job, and the numbers back me up.

    • swaggypaw

      NFL QB
      2 (minimum) NFL WRs
      2 (minimum) NFL RBs
      Should be at least top 10 offense, minimum. I don’t think this is overachieving…

      • spokepokes

        You think King is an NFL RB?

        • swaggypaw

          I do actually…and probably more so than Hill….assuming he fixes whatever sent him to the bench for the last few weeks of the season.

  • Cowboys17

    Gundy needs to Coach like he as a mullet

    • stepdaddy

      So true!

  • Les Miles

    “Underrated…..but not good”

    Giving up 149 points in November to OU, Iowa State, and K State is pretty bad.

    I understand if you give up points in the OU game, but that was just abysmal.

    K State and Iowa State (Even though Iowa State has Montgomery and Lazard) are really not very good offensive teams.

    You give up 263 yards passing to Iowa State’s 4th string QB and then you get obliterated by the 3rd string QB from K State which had his best passing game all year long against us. Not to mention the K State receiver looked like the biletnikoff winner that game and hadn’t really done anything all year long.

    I like GS, but it was definitely time for a change. This defense has really only faced one passing threat QB all year long (Baker Mayfield).

    You can’t give up tons of passing yard to average or below average QB’s and expect to make the next step.

    The defense (besides the WV game) has been bad all year if you really look at it. The strength of the OSU defense all year has been the DL. Which is good if your not forced to play a legit passing threat. Did we have young corners? Sure, but the defensive performance in November is what really put the nail in the coffin and it was very noticeable.

    Imagine if we would have had to face Jake Fromm from Georgia or the Clemson QB?

    • skipcook

      OKState: NCAA Rank Against the Pass: #118 — Butt Ugly

  • skipcook

    One question the PF guys are likely too timid to ask: How does Head Mullet, Mike Gundy, CEO, fail to address the performance of his DC, who’s averaged 89th in total D, over the last 5 years? Offered without comment.