Last week, we learned of some rule changes, mostly for the better, that will be taking place in college football. Kyle Porter outlined the changes earlier this week.
One of the more significant changes — that most people won’t care about — is the allowance for schools to add a 10th assistant to their staffs starting January 9, 2018.
You can’t run a Division-I football program on ten assistants, or nine for that matter. Schools get around the limit by hiring graduate assistants to fill in the gaps. It’s part of the big machine that spits out future professional college football coaches.
On top of that, Oklahoma State was one of the first schools to start employing multiple offensive and defensive analysts. Last year’s offensive analyst, Josh Henson is now the offensive line coach.
Former defensive coordinator Bill Clay has been a defensive analyst going on three years. The Cowboys also added Brian VanGorder, a former college and NFL defensive coordinator and A.J. Ricker, a former offensive line coach, to take Henson’s place.
So, with that army of GAs and analysts and assistants, what could Mike Gundy do with one more spot? Well, if he doesn’t use it to employ a full-time end-of-game rules aficionado, I’ve got a suggestion.
We always hear how much importance Mike Gundy places on special teams. It’s something I’ve heard assistants, current and former players and even Rattlesnake Gundy (similar inflection to “Crocodile Dundee”) himself profess. And it sounds good.
You hear how he takes a hands-on approach in those meetings. It lets those players know how important their jobs are — and they’re crucial. When former graduate-assistant-in-charge-of-special-teams coach Robby Discher left for a full-time gig at Toledo a few years ago, Gundy even planned on taking over the job himself.
Fortunately for Gundy, he was able to entice former staff member, Steve Hauser, to return from a job with the Cleveland Browns and head the specialists himself, but on a GA’s salary.
So why not have a permanent, full-time assistant head up such an important and undervalued phase of the game? This is what a few other Big 12 coaches have suggested they will do already.
You have a coordinator for offense who made $510,333 last year. You have a coordinator for defense that made $664,500. And a graduate assistant coordinating special teams on a total salary of $4,409.
Now, I’m not suggesting that Gundy grabbed the first loose orange polo he saw by the collar and shoved him into the special teams room. Everything is meticulously planned out. There is a deliberate system and order for things and Mike Gundy picked Hauser because he was confident he could do the job.
And this isn’t an indictment on Hauser.By all accounts, he knows football. And this is how coaches are made. Besides, he’s done some nice things since taking over.
• Oklahoma State fielded one of the best punt teams in the nation last year. Partially due to Zach Sinor’s excellence, OSU was second nationally, only giving up 15 total punt return yards on 16 returns. They were in the top 15 in opponent kickoff returns, as well.
• He’s still got Sinor and a couple of kickers with some potential. Matt Ammendola figures to continue in his kickoff duties after a solid year last season and would like a chance to place kick. He’s also got incoming signee Jake McClure, who has the skill set to be OSU’s kicker/punter of the future.
Is there room for improvement? Sure. The Cowboys’ return game hasn’t had a game-changer since Tyreek Hill was shown the door. That may be more on the recruiting/talent evaluation side then coaching. But you’d think with the “dudes” OSU has, someone has enough wiggle to bust out a big play from time to time. Is it blocking scheme or just a matter of finding the right returner?
If Mike Gundy wants to know what do with his upcoming 10th assistant slot that’s opening up — and some of that extra money he’s asking for — I think it’s a no brainer. Complete your staff. Whether that means bringing in some type of special teams guru or investing in the one you already have.