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Notebook: O-Line Issues, Youth at Safety and ‘Crootin Never Stops

What we learned from Mike Gundy’s post-Iowa State media luncheon.

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STILLWATER — Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy went well over half an hour at his weekly media luncheon Monday, a bit longer than normal.

Gundy talked freshmen quarterbacks, and also talked about guys getting there eyes violated quite a bit (more on that below). Here are three takeaways from the Monday news conference.

O-Line Musical Chairs

Entering the season, the expectations for OSU’s offensive line were high from seemingly everyone, including Gundy.

Since, Gundy has mentioned in conference after conference about the offensive line needing to improve. Saturday’s loss to Iowa State might have been the most glaring example that the OSU O-Line isn’t where it was thought to be.

“I would say now, if I was a gambling man and I was to bet on it, then I would’ve probably lost my money at this point about where we’re at,” Gundy said.

The year started with OSU rotating Larry Williams, Marcus Keyes and Shane Richards at the guard spots to keep the group fresh. Then, it looked like OSU settled on using Arlington Hambright and Teven Jenkins at the tackles, Keyes and Williams at guards and Johnny Wilson at center. Then a wrench got tossed in that with a Hambright injury that forced Jenkins to move from right tackle to left and Richards to start at right tackle.

On Monday, Gundy said there is a chance Hambright comes back this week depending on how he practices throughout the week.

“We played some musical chairs early, based on trying to get the guys in the right spot,” Gundy said. “We settle in a little bit. We lost (Hambright), so we started going to the musical chairs again. Then in the last game it was really more technique and fundamentals.

“It’s not an effort problem. Last week was just some technique. It’s still there. We’re just not there yet. Maybe I need to do a better job at not making predictions.”

The Show Must Go On

Gundy didn’t have too much time to sulk about OSU’s loss to Iowa State.

As usual, home games equal recruit weekends, and the Cowboys had a fair share in town, including class of 2019 wide receiver Langston Anderson. The Cowboys also picked up a commitment from 2020 linebacker Josh White, who picked the Pokes over Alabama.

“We had recruits in here this weekend,” Gundy said. “Game’s over, I had to go and do the recruiting. Then went to dinner Saturday night until 10:30 doing recruiting. Then had breakfast/brunch at my house Sunday morning at 9:45 until noon, recruiting. You can’t just sit at home. It is what it is. That’s kinda the way life is.”

Despite dropping a potentially game-winning pass, Tylan Wallace was involved in the recruiting festivities at the dinner, Gundy said. The dinner was a “big five-course, six-course meal” where “you don’t know which fork to use.”

“(Wallace) stayed there the entire two hours,” Gundy said. “He was a great ambassador for the university. He’s a great kid. He won’t drop the next one. The next time it happens, he’ll make the play.

“… You don’t have a lot of time to rally or feel sorry for yourself. You just gotta keep rolling.”

Young Safeties

With all the talk of playing or not playing freshmen quarterbacks that came from Gundy’s news conference, the Cowboys’ safeties are fresh off high school fields.

The Cowboys’ prominent safeties are Malcolm Rodriguez (sophomore), Jarrick Bernard (freshman), Thabo Mwaniki (sophomore) and Kolby Peel (freshman). Gundy used the term “got his eyes violated” more times than I care to count Monday, but he eventually broke it down to say they got caught looking at all the jet motion and play action in the backfield rather than staying with their keys.

“Those guys have to be really, really disciplined,” Gundy said. “Thabo didn’t get a lot of work last year, and then you have two true freshmen. Everybody knows. It’s not a secret.”

Gundy broke down Brock Purdy’s 26-yard touchdown pass to Matthew Eaton at the end of the first half, and said the Cowboys were in cover 2, meaning the two deep safeties had free reign over where to go. Peel froze for a second and was unable to get to Eaton in time to disrupt the play. Gundy said the faster reactions will come with experience.

“Should’ve been an interception,” Gundy said. “He got caught and froze for a second, and that’s what happens. He came off the field, and he knew it.

“Tre Flowers, that’s an interception. He’ll get better. He’s good. We like him. We like all of them. Right now, their just learning on the run.”

Rodriguez missed the Kansas game because of injury, and Gundy said he was playing with quite a bit of pain against Iowa State. Gundy said Rodriguez ran better Thursday night and said he thinks Rodriguez’s health will improve mightily over the next few days.

“We’re young at the safety position,” Gundy said, “and it’s a difficult spot to be young at.”