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The Rundown: Everything Gundy Said ahead of the First Day of Fall Camp

The Cowboys started practice Wednesday.



[Devin Wilber/PFB]

STILLWATER — The Cowboys are back at it.

Oklahoma State started its fall camp on Wednesday and ahead of the festivities, Mike Gundy, donning a bright orange shirt, met with the media to discuss the upcoming camp.

Opening statement

“Well, it’s finally here. We’re excited. Players are excited. Coaches are excited. I know the fans and everybody in the country is excited about college football. Looking forward to getting started. Got a couple practices in shorts, without pads, then practice three, we’ll get started. We had a great summer. The attitude of the team, obviously, is very good. Wouldn’t expect anything else. Looking forward to practice and getting started. About a month away from playing a game.

“We had some guys that departed and went off and are in the NFL now. But overall, these young men understand winning. They understand commitment. They understand team. They understand discipline and toughness. So, over a period of years, they learn what is passed down from the older guys and what’s instilled in them is the discipline and toughness, which happens throughout the summer. Like I shared with them this morning in the meeting, they’re being trained in discipline and structure over the summer and they don’t even know it, for preparation for today’s practice.”

On the health of the team

“Yeah, we’re in good shape now.”

On competitive areas of camp

“We have a number of spots where we have young players that we like. We think that they’ll grow into being good players. They just don’t have any experience. And we’re faced with this every year. If you’ll remember, one of the things I’ve always said is, we know what Spencer Sanders is gonna give us. We know what Brennan Presley is gonna give us. We know what Tyler Lacy’s gonna give us. We know what J.T. [Jason Taylor] is gonna give us. It’s those six or eight players that have to play this year a considerable number of snaps. How are they gonna perform? In my history, most of the time, that decides what type of season you have.”

On whether a backup quarterback or a go-to running back is more important

“They’re all important. The running back position, we’ve got guys that we like, but there’s really not a lot of experience. Dom hasn’t had that much experience either, in crucial situations. Some, but not a lot. Quarterbacks haven’t had any experience. We’ve got corners and safeties in backup positions that haven’t had any experience. Linebackers haven’t had any experience. So we have a number of positions where we have young guys that have to be developed. We get a month to continue to develop them. But they’re still not gonna get the experience and the process of growing and developing as a player until they get in games.”

On whether Dominic Richardson can be a go-to guy like Jaylen Warren, Chuba Hubbard or Justice Hill

“It’s really hard to know. I hope so. If he’s like that, we’ll be in really good shape. Again, we’re gonna have to have three running backs. We all know, if you watch college football, watch us, those guys — it’s the one position that gets beat up on. They take a lot of hits, so we need those young guys to develop, and hopefully, he’ll grow and mature. He’s been here a number of years now. He’s in a position to step up. We need him to be physically tough and we need him to do a really good job taking care of the ball and punish. He’s more of a punishing type of runner.” 

On the offensive line

“The good news with those guys is they’ve all played. We’ve repaired them in the offseason. The drill work, the team concepts, the plays they’re running in practice today, that’s all old hat to those guys. I’m not as concerned about them as I am developing some backups in certain positions. Because those guys, when they get in the flow, they should pick it up pretty fast.”

On if he feels comfortable with a starting group on the line

“I feel good about those guys. We’ve got a number of linemen — I don’t know, I should’ve counted. Probably seven or eight guys that have some experience, and certainly, five guys that have quite a bit of experience. Even Joe Michalski, he played in the Fiesta Bowl, so he’s got quality experience. Even as a guy that hadn’t had a lot of reps. We’ve got a number of guys that have played in competitive games.” 

On Tyrone Webber

“Those guys that come in with Coach (Rob) Glass, they change over a period of time. His best work’s done over 18 months, but he’s done remarkable things with young men that have come in for three-to-four months. He’s still got a ways to go to develop his body, but he’s mentally tough and at some point, that’s gonna play a role. And we’ll see how his strength levels maintain throughout August. Obviously, on the offensive line, that’s a big part of the process.”

On nonconference games at home

“Well, it’s a big advantage to play at home. One, it’s great for the students and the fans, it’s awesome to be in that situation. You’re always in a comfortable environment. It’s a difficult place to play for other teams. It is an advantage for us. When we have to go on the road, we’ve been in it long enough, I’ve been here a long time, our coaches get it. So we have some discipline and toughness that’s instilled in our players. They understand the process. But being here and starting the season here and getting a chance to get rolling is obviously an advantage.”

On getting to know the transfers during the summer

“Um, it’s always from this point on. I mean, I see them and visit with them a little bit, but you know, for me to say I know them real well, certainly not football-wise. That happens over the next month. But, I get updates on what’s going on in offseason training and in the weight room and conditioning. That gives me a pretty good indication of what’s going on. Coach Glass told us in meetings yesterday that this team’s in good physical condition, and if they weren’t he would tell us. I feel pretty comfortable particularly with linemen that if they’re in good physical condition, they should hold up pretty well in August camp.”

On how physical they will be in fall camp

“We’re going to be real physical. We’ll practice hard.”

On what has him excited about this year’s group

“Well, I’m excited every year because we have a new group of guys. So for me, I don’t know how many years this has been for me, 33 or 34, even 18 as a head coach, I’m excited about the group and them coming together. They have to create their own identity. Another thing that I mentioned to them this morning in the meeting is this team has what Coach Glass said about their training in the offseason, like all the other teams, they have to create an identity for who they are, and they have to come together as a group. Coaches don’t play. We’re not in the games. They have to decide what their commitment level is going to be. So, those are the fun things for me, is to watch them grow and develop. Like bed check, we don’t do bed checks, we don’t do curfew check. If they want to go out at night and not get their rest and don’t want to eat good food or hydrate, then they’re not committed to themselves and they’re not committed to the team. Eventually, it’ll catch up to them. Those are all things that are part of the culture and the process here that’ll help us win a lot of football games and have success on and off the field.”

On the process the receiving corps has made

“We should be in a better situation. I mean, anybody here that followed us last year, it was really scary playing up through the first four games. We couldn’t do much on offense and we were playing freshman wide receivers, guys that are former high school players, they’re just lining up out there trying to survive. That’s not a productive situation for an offense, or for a team. But that’s the hand that we were dealt last year. So, the good news with that is a number of guys have played quality reps in live situations. They shouldn’t have, but they did. That helps us, particularly, in August preparation and on game day.”

On whether it is possible for a slot receiver to end the season as the leading receiver

“Could be, very well could be. Some of that, Scott, is based on how they play us, and I’ve said that for a number of years. I don’t know how many yards we can rush for in a certain game or pass for, based on how they play us. If they want to cover down on him in the slot and not do as much on the perimeter, then he’s not going to get as many catches. If they’re going to cheat on him and cover down on the perimeter, then he’s going to get more catches. So the other team can really control that. We have a little bit to do with that based on where we line him up, if we move him, but if we go into a game and a team says, ‘Well, we’re not going to let you rush for a hundred yards,’ and they play an overloaded front and an empty box, and they’re wide in the backend, they’re probably not going to let us rush for a hundred yards. We’d need to throw for 400. Same as the opposite, if they want to back up and they want to cover down, a play light in the box and say, ‘We’re not letting you throw passes,’ they can do that. So, you never know. I think it’s important, and offensively, obviously Kasey (Dunn’s) been here with me a long time, but he understands we have to have availability in outside throws, inside throws and be able to rush the football, based on what the defense gives us. The quarterback is responsible for knowing what to do based on what they give us.”

On what he expects the defense to look like with the depth up front

“So, we led the nation in sacks last year, and just over 70% of our sacks were with a four-man rush. So, we all know that if you’re able to get sacks with four-man pressure, you’re in a good situation because you have seven guys that are covering pass. And hopefully, we have enough depth that those guys can stay fresh. When you roll those guys in, which we found because they averaged playing about 42 snaps a piece, give or take, those first seven or eight guys, the main guys play about 42 and the others play about 15 to 18 number of snaps wise. They can stay fresh, and eventually, offensive line, which they don’t substitute, they get fatigued and then throughout the process of the game you can get more sacks. If we can get sacks and still play coverage we’re going to be in a good situation. Unlike, some of the questions they asked about the backup positions, at those positions, I feel pretty good about our ability to put pressure on quarterbacks and to try to create some confusion there and get guys down to get negative plays.”

On Trace Ford

“Trace is a full go. Now, we’ll protect him in practice. We’ll let him go through individuals for three or four days and then the next two or three or four days we’ll put him in some individual-contact stuff. And then when we get a couple weeks out from the first game, we’ll throw him in the team concepts.

“Guys that have had an injury, a significant injury or multiple ones, we need to bring them back slow. My responsibility is to know who the individual is and say, ‘How do we bring him along in August and what will he do on gameday?’ 

“So, when you talk about Trace Ford, Brendon Evers, the guys that have had repairs, in my opinion as we bring him along — particularly Trace — keep him healthy, keep him fresh, get him back into it, bring him along mentally, because when you get injured it becomes a mental issue. That’s just normal protocol. I’m going to guess when we snap it on gameday he’s going to play hard. So, we’re going to bring him along slow — and the other guys that have had injuries, we’ll bring them along slow and then we’ll turn them loose and see how they play in the first game.”

On the defensive front’s ceiling with Ford back

“They’re experienced and they should be good pass rushers, they should be good defenders. We’re very fortunate we have ‘em. You know, years ago we made the transition and moved three scholarships from offense to defense. And last year and hopefully this year you’re starting to see that pay off because those scholarship numbers we added have gone to the defensive line. So, up to this point, it looks like we made a pretty good decision and hopefully it’ll play its way out this year just the same.”

On how he came up with moving three scholarships to defense

“Just me. I don’t know. I wish I knew. We were at 41-41-3 — 41 offense, 41 defense, three special teams. We still have three special teams. So, then we went 38-44. It gave us a chance to add a couple defensive linemen and then a cover guy. Just the number we came up with. I say me because offensive and defensive coaches don’t want to give up numbers, so that’s when I have to say, ‘This is what we’re doing,’ and walk out. No more discussion.”

On if it was hard making that call as an offensive-minded coach

“Not really because as I’ve said for a number of years now, certainly I’m raised an offensive guy but I’m for defense stopping people first.”

On if that helps with special teams

“Sure. Yeah, because those guys that we bring in can help us on special teams. All those safeties and cover guys, certainly. We have some of the defensive linemen protect in punt and things. Our Leos can cover in punt and do some things in punt return, so they give us some advantages from a number standpoint.”

On long snapper Matt Hembrough

“Well, nobody ever thinks about snappers and holders until you don’t have one. People just take for granted that it’s all going to just function and be smooth. That’s not true. Those questions never come up until something happens. Then the question is who’s going to do it. We’ve been very lucky here to have for years and years and years deep snappers and holders who are very disciplined. They train themselves essentially. They work out on their own. They go over here during practice and they have their own drill work. Nobody watches them.

“Hembrough’s been fantastic for us. So, we’re in a great situation with our special teams. Snappers, punters, holders, those guys, kickers, we’re in a good situation with those guys.”

On whether there is an open competition at kicker between Alex Hale and Tanner Brown

“It will be interesting to see what happens in August. We’ve got two good kickers. Alex had an unfortunate situation a couple years ago and Tanner comes in and kicks well and Alex didn’t really feel comfortable last year, in my opinion. From what I’ve been told, he’s had a really, really good summer, so we let them kick. They kick the same number of kicks every day. We let them kick and we’ll see what happens.”

On how Hale handled that adversity

“Alex is very disciplined and very mentally tough. He’s the same all the time. He’s a very unique person. He was some kind of a national award winner in skateboarding or surfing or something — some kind of surfing, slalom or something. Then he got into another sport — some extreme sport — and was good enough to play at a national level. Then he gets into kicking and he does it. So, he’s very disciplined and very mentally tough.”

On what he sees from Gunnar Gundy and Garret Rangel

“Well, they’re gonna go and get their reps and compete. One thing that we’ve done here since COVID, what COVID taught us, was the importance of everybody getting the same number of reps. In years past, ones and twos got work. Ones got the most. Twos got 80%. Threes got maybe 10%. When COVID hit, we didn’t have any idea who was gonna be able to play, so all three units got the same number of reps. Then after August camp, I realized, ‘Wow, all of our young guys have really improved by getting the same number of reps as our ones.’

“So, they’ll switch off and rotate and get reps, and they’ll get the same number of reps for preparation for the first game.”

On if he wants to play at a similar speed as the second half of the Fiesta Bowl

“Well, we always wanna play fast. We’ve done it for a long time. That’s what we want to do, but we also have to consider what situation we’re in. Like early in the year last year, we were playing freshman wideouts that were just trying to get lined up, so speed became a non-factor. Then fatigue becomes a factor when you have young kids. Our maturity level at positions gives us good numbers and then up front our health is good, Spencer can play fast. That’s the advantage we have with him. He’s become a magician with our offense over his number of years. Playing fast is the responsibility of the quarterback. If we stay healthy, it gives us an opportunity. Now, sometimes we take into consideration who we’re playing and what we think matchups are, different things like that, but we would like to play fast.”

On him thinking the tempo across the conference will pick up

“That’s just me guessing. I don’t have any documentation, that’s just me guessing. [OU offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby] wants to play fast. [Texas Tech offensive coordinator Zach Kittley] wants to play fast. I’ve been told Kansas State is playing fast now. That number is going up. If that’s true, we’re circling back like we do all the time to the way it used to be four, five, six years ago, where there was a lot of track meets. Now, defenses in this league have gotten better at stopping those guys, so we’re gonna find out how it’s all gonna pan out. The last two or three years, nobody really played fast in this league other than us from what I remember. Tech did a little bit. But if these teams that I think are gonna try to play fast all the time, it’ll be interesting to see how the defenses in this league adjust.”

On if the transfer quarterbacks across the league play a role in teams playing faster

“It could be. What do is tell you, you can’t. If you don’t have the right guy and you’re trying to play fast, it won’t look good, in my opinion. The coordinators, the guy they brought in at OU, his history is to play fast. And then Tech, with what they’re doing, the guy they brought in [Zach Kittley], I think is from Western Kentucky. That’s kinda what they do. So, it’s moreso that guy than the quarterbacks. Our history at Oklahoma State, and I can only speak for us, the quarterback could prevent you from doing that real quick.”

On all the transfer quarterbacks in the Big 12

“It’s kinda what I was talking about. It’s circling back based on some experienced guys that understand. But this is the future. The future is quarterbacks migrating from one team to the other and how fast you can implement him into your system. There’s just not a lot of patience at that particular position to develop based on what the latest fad is with movement, transfer portal. That is the position that started this if you go back and look. I forgot the young man’s name that was at Georgia and went to Ohio State five, six years ago now [Justin Fields]. He’s in the NFL somewhere probably. That kinda started it. He filed for a waiver, got a waiver, went up there and then they started bouncing around. Well, now it’s just common. You see it all the time. You’re gonna see that like crazy. I think eventually in your top 40 schools in the country, you might have as many as 12 to 15 quarterbacks who were at a different school the year before that are playing a considerable amount of time at a new school. Guys don’t want to stay at an organization if they think they’re a backup. They don’t want to stay there.”

On Taylor Cornelius and Dru Brown playing in the Canadian Football League

“We’ve been very lucky around here. We’ve got guys scattered everywhere. It’s cool. I didn’t even know it. I was off somewhere and flipped the TV on, and they were on there and I can’t keep up with where they’re all at. I didn’t realize that was who they were and someone said, ‘Hey, that’s so and so playing on TV.’ It’s cool for those guys to be able to, if they’re young and not tied down, they can move around and play a little ball. If that’s what they want to do, that’s good for them.”

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