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The Rundown: Everything Mike Gundy Said at His Weekly Luncheon

On expansion, Sanders and offensive struggles.

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Photo: Devin Wilber/PFB

STILLWATER — Mike Gundy’s team is 2-0 and headed to the Smurf Turf.

Oklahoma State is “back at it” preparing for Boise State this weekend after beating Tulsa 28-23 on Saturday. Gundy held his weekly media luncheon Monday. Here is everything he said from it. (Video of the news conference is also below.)

On injuries

“I don’t really have any injury updates. We’ll know a lot more tomorrow, but nothing’s changed, with the exception of what we talked about after the game.”

On the offensive line’s performance against Tulsa after watching the film

“They probably played a little better than I gave them credit for, some of the stuff that I was concerned about after the game without me watching the tape. So, they improved from the last week, let’s put it that way.

“They’ll get better each week. Some of what we’re dealing with is we’re going through a little bit of an adjustment scheme-wise based on our injury situation at wideout. It’s a little adjustment for us that got thrown on us last week late in the week. That’s tough to do. We have a little better feel for where we’re at now.”

On moving Cole Birmingham to left tackle

“It’s just based on some of the changes we made with our personnel and trying to give ourselves the best chance. Some of it’s based on a matchup with the team we’re playing. Each one of those guys, like (Taylor) Miterko’s still young. In most cases in years past, offensive linemen don’t play until they’re in their third year of your program. They redshirt, they’re a redshirt freshman, a redshirt sophomore start competing a little bit, then their bodies change and they get mature. These guys are still really young, so we’re trying to move them around, put them in the best position to give us success based on who we’re playing.”

On if they expected the running game struggles entering the year or if it has surprised them

“It’s a numbers game, right? We lost a group of wide receivers. They played different coverages, put an extra guy in the box. It’s very simple. If that guy’s not in the box and he’s back there playing pass, one less guy to block, one less guy that can make a tackle on the running game. That’s as big a factor as any scheme that you draw up. It’s a simple process. You know when the Giants won the Super Bowl and they had a great four-man pressure, they played Cover 2, won the Super Bowl because the four-man pressure. So, it’s a simple game. If you can cover, then you put extra guys to stop the run. If you can’t cover, you got to back up to stop the pass, big plays and fewer guys to stop the run. Teams are ganging up a little bit on us based on the youth we have wide out, and that extra guy is fitting in the run game. That’s really what it comes down to.”

On if Hunter Woodard will be back this week

“I would hate to predict. I thought there was a chance Tay Martin was going to play. When you have those type of injuries, it’s really hard for me to predict what will happen. It’s hard to tell.”

On if he is comfortable going away from zone running schemes to go to more power and play-action

“It’s obvious what we’re dealing with right now. We have youth at Cowboy back and youth at receivers. You’re robbing Peter to pay Paul in just about everything you do. You can be a four-wide receiver set and two short edges, and if you have skill outside there, they have to take a guy out of the box and defend the pass and you can run the football. If not, then you’re an 11-personnel team, and then it’s run-pass. That’s pretty prominent across the country right now. We’re very young right now and inexperienced wideout, we all know that. It’s the same issue at Cowboy back. So, that’s kind of what we’re dealing with at this time.”

On if it’s tough having to coach all the young guys

“Well, it’s not tough for me because I know what’s going on, like I said the other day. I expect certain things from these young players at whatever position. If they come up short, I get it, I understand it and I know going in what they’re gonna do. I’ve been in this a long time. Just like I said after the game, we had some dropped passes and some alignment issues — that comes with inexperience. Then we also had guys make some really fantastic plays, that comes with good players that are inexperienced. So, you get both. People that don’t understand the game and just watch it, they can get concerned and have issues with it, but it’s not with me because I know what we’re dealing with.”

On Spencer Sanders’ performance after watching the tape

“He played good. We didn’t protect him as well in this game as what we wanted to, and obviously he threw one to a guy and he ran it in for a touchdown. But sometimes that’s going to happen. If we’d have protected him a little better, I would have felt more comfortable with his play, but he still is a threat running the ball and he makes plays running the football.”

On the importance of having a run threat at quarterback

“I think a run threat is a big part of college football. You don’t see a lot of Brandon Weeden-style of offenses anymore. If you’re dominant up front and you have dominant receivers and really good running backs, you can run any kind of offense you want — doesn’t make any difference at all. If you have deficiencies somewhere in the system, you have to find a way to make up for it. I always use the term with you guys, this is not a complicated game. If you’re deficient at wideout, you got to figure out how to keep wideouts going so you can rush the ball. If you’re deficient at running the ball, you have to figure out how to run the ball somewhat so you can keep throwing passes. If you have a quarterback that’s mobile, that allows you to do some of that because he can make up for the extra guy. If we have six people — five linemen and a Cowboy back — to block, and they’ve got seven people in the box. The only way that you can run the ball unless somebody just makes somebody miss, is if the quarterback becomes a factor because they got one more guy than you do. Like the old vibrating football game, if you put more than they do over there, you got a chance to vibrate down the field. If you don’t, you don’t. It’s the same concept. You can pack them all in and put nine people in there, and if they put 10, they still have one more than you. So, defenses always try to get an extra guy in the run game, and offenses always try to make sure that guy’s not in the run game. That’s all there is to it.”

On if he liked Tay Martin’s mentality of wanting to play despite being hurt last week

“I mean we want guys that want to play, guys that want to get on the field and fight through pain. We play a game where players have to compete with injuries. There’s a difference between being injured and being hurt. Sometimes guys that are hurt can play through it, sometimes guys have injuries, try to, but they can’t. So, Tay is eager to get back on the field. He just wasn’t ready.”

On OSU’s defensive performance after watching the tape

“They played good except we didn’t get as good a pass rush as we needed to halfway through the third quarter. Up through the final three minutes of the game, we made some adjustments, and then we got back to being a good pass rush team. But we went through about 15 minutes of the game where we didn’t have a good pass rush. When you don’t have a good pass rush, you’re not going to be a good defense. I liked what we did, we just need to improve that lull there and make sure we still get some sort of pressure on the quarterback.”

On what he liked about a set with four defensive ends on the line

“Well, it’s more speed in the pass rush. In a pure passing situation, we put four guys out there that have agility, makes it a little difficult for linemen to get their hands on a block, compared to two bigger guys that aren’t going to be as agile in rushing the quarterback.”

On Boise State

“Their defense looks just like our defense — multiple coverages, blitz packages, zone blitz, they’ll play man, they’ll run to some high (Cover) 2, they’ll play (Cover) 3 cloud. They look almost identical to us on defense, scheme-wise. Then offensively, Boise has had a history of using 11 and 12 personnel. Sometimes they have to do a lot of things, do a lot of shifting, do a lot of motion. They’re very similar to what they’ve done for years in what they do. The quarterback’s a good player. They have wide outs that make plays. They’re a well-coached football team. They’ve done it for a long time. This is a really good football team. This team should be right. I hadn’t seen the rankings, don’t look at it, but they’re a Top 25 team in my opinion.”

On the blue turf

“I felt like Gene Hackman and Hoosiers, felt like taking a tape measure and making sure they know it’s 52.5 wide and 120 long. My personal opinion is that they have a unique situation there, which I think is pretty cool what they did. They kind of live in their own world out there, and they have their own way of thinking. They’ve been good at it, and that was a neat addition for them in my opinion. I mean I’ve never been there, I don’t know a lot of people from there, but just an outsider looking in, it’s pretty cool what they did. But essentially, the field needs to be the same for our guys and our preparation and and focus and getting ready to play and competing out there should overcome the color of the turf.”

On if Brennan Presley is considered an older receiver or a younger receiver

“Well, he’s not an older guy. If you look at his total number of plays, he’s been in like four games in his career. He didn’t play enough last year until November to talk about. So he was on the team and he’s practicing, but he’s not playing games. That’s two different things. He’s not anywhere near being a veteran player in my opinion. He gets it. He understands we can do more things with him because of reps, but we saw him drop the ball Saturday that he should have caught. That’s still youth and things happen fast for those guys, but he’s gonna be fine. He’s a threat in the return game every time he touches the ball in my opinion, and as he gets more experience, he’ll make more plays. And we do count on him. We do a variety of things with him because he has been around for a while. He just had played a lot of games.”

On Bryson Green’s touchdown catch

“It was a really good catch. He’s 215 pounds. He’s big. He’s physical. He’s strong. He used one arm to catch the ball and gather it and secure it to the ground. Those are the things you see that I talked about earlier. I said this in August, we have a good number of young players that a year from now and a year and a half from now are going to give us a pretty good group of three or four guys to be foundation-wise at wideout. Right now you’re just seeing what they can do, but you’re also seeing the mistakes they made with youth. You’re seeing both sides of it. He got smacked up pretty good twice trying to block, and he shouldn’t because he’s 215 pounds but the reason he is, is because he’s thinking. He’s not being aggressive. That’s what you get. But you see flashes of why we want them on our team, and then you also see times when they just got to get going a little bit with reps.”

On Spencer Sanders

“One, he competes. Two, when he runs the ball he’s dangerous. I’d like for him to not fumble the ball. He needs to do a good better job with ball security. We didn’t protect him as well as we should have. That’s always going to factor in with the quarterback, doesn’t make difference who that guy is. I thought he played good. If we’d have protected him better, he would have probably had a chance to play a little better. And we had some drops, right? Some balls that went on the ground that shouldn’t have gone on the ground. The ball that he throws to (Jaden Bray) and he drops, if Braydon Johnson, that’s his position, if he catches that, he scores. He’s going to catch it and run score. Then the ball that BP dropped, that’s the same position. If Spencer would have had a little bit better protection and had some mature guys out there, his game probably would have looked a little better.”

On Spencer Sanders’ demeanor

“He got a lot better last year, we talked about it. The first year it was rough. The second year it was rough. Last year was a lot better, and he’s fine this year. He’s grown up, he’s matured, he’s been here enough, he has a good relationship with Coach (Tim) Rattay and he’s fine.”

On Kanion Williams’ performance on special teams

“One area that up to this point in the year that I told you guys early on was I thought would be really good on special teams, and so far that’s held to be true, based on guys like Kanion (Williams). We have a number of 195- to 215-pound bodies that have experience and they can run, and they can block, and they can tackle, which is important to special teams. There were several blocks on that play, Kanion’s just happened to be in space. And he’s done this for years, so he gets it, he understands it. And, obviously, his block is the reason he was able to get from the 40 to the end zone. His experience and just the inside, the integral part of playing the position he plays, and the way they played him knowing what to do. His experience paid off and allowed us to get a touchdown, and it changed the game and won the game for us, basically. You know we won the game playing defense and special teams, and that big special teams play was huge. We lost the penalty yards by 10, but we won the return yards by 125. So we were 115-plus in those two categories. That’s why we won the game.”

On what he has liked about the Cowboy backs and what they need to work on

“They’re playing pretty good. You know (Braden) Cassity’s not played before. And Austin Jarrard just showed up here a couple months ago, so we’re inexperienced at that position. But from a missed assignment standpoint, they’re pretty sound. They’re just learning and trying to develop and get a feel for the game. There’s times they’re getting knocked back. Once their technique improves and once they get a feel for the speed of the game and the strength of the game, that’ll improve some, maybe in a month. So I’m pleased with where they’re at, but I also understand with where they’re at in their career.”

On if more experience at Cowboy back will allow them to get targets in the passing game

“Yeah, it does. I mean there’s things we do with them in the passing game. When you’re deciding who’s going to run the ball and who’s going to catch the ball, in my opinion, you have to make a decision on — you have to have a pecking order based on those guys that can touch and score. Our Cowboy Backs traditionally haven’t been as skilled as what we’ve had in the backfield or on the perimeter. That doesn’t mean there’s not certain times they can’t catch the ball, but a lot of it depends on matchups. You know you hear that term used all the time. Just watch an NFL game and listen every time somebody else say, ‘You see this matchup? You like that matchup. Well he threw here because of this matchup.’ And so we do the same thing when we scheme plays, because a lot of it’s based on matchups.”

On what the Big 12 adding BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF does from a recruiting aspect

“You know we haven’t had that discussion yet because until 10 days ago we didn’t know this was going to move this direction, so it was basically a waste of time. We knew a week ago that this was going to happen. So, it’s been talked about, but not anything worth talking about yet because we’re a year or a couple years away from that league really coming together. 

“I will say this, that we have brought four schools in from very heavily populated parts of the country with great viewership in different locations that we’ve never been in. When you talk about Central Florida, you talk about Cincinnati, and you talk about Houston, you’re talking about huge populations in viewership for television. And then with BYU, you know, you have their following with the church that’s coast-to-coast. So, essentially we hit a home run on this league, no question about it. 

“How we try to attack it in recruiting? We would probably get a feel for how young men in Central Florida or in Ohio would feel about coming to school here and get a barometer and a feel for it because I don’t want to fly all the way across the country if I can get the same product within a four-hour drive. And there’s a lot of players within a four-hour drive of us now. So we would have to feel the water, get a good idea of what the interest level is before we make that decision. A little easier to Houston because you get a direct flight right? And a little easier to Salt Lake City because you get a direct flight. The other ones are a little bit more of a risk but we’ll see. 

“Maybe we can find young men that makes the pool that we choose from a little bigger that say, ‘I’ll come to Oklahoma State and go to school.’ But I don’t want to go down there and then somebody says, ‘Well, you just flew over 50 schools to get there. Why would you go there?’ I mean that’s kind of the things we have to look at.”

On how the Big 12 adding the new members helps solidify what they tell recruits now about the future of the conference

“I’m going to repeat myself now, but when I said we hit a home run. We hit a home run in a lot of areas. The concern, which I said this in July, was not having a destination and landing point in recruiting to be able to tell young men this is who we are, that’s an issue. I never tried to say it wasn’t an issue. From the start, I said that is an issue. I didn’t think we would have this accomplished until next year, which is what I said, I was wrong. But, I also mentioned that, no matter what Oklahoma State is going to land somewhere and be just fine. There’s too many things going here in football. 

“Whenever this conference realignment starts, whatever it ends up, it might change again in ’25, if you just start looking at where media rights are it’s gonna change again. Oklahoma State’s going to be fine. We have too good of a product. We’ve won too many games, and too many people watch us. But the way it turned out couldn’t be any better, in my opinion, for the Big 12, for Power Five conference standing, and we all know that the budget becomes a big issue. So we’re in a very solid and sound budget situation for years to come, until it starts to all turn over again in ’25 or could be ’24. Now, I don’t know. Nobody knows, but it probably will turn again. Oklahoma State will be just fine, because those are the things that — you know people talk about recruiting, you can hide it all you want, but you need to be in a Power Five, which we are. The Big 12 has got a big name, which it is. And we now know our destination, and you don’t get budget cuts in your athletic department. It’s a big deal. So we took care of all that. 

“Now moving forward, Central Florida, based on being in our conference now, it’s only gonna get better for them. I mean they’re located in a huge population. They’ve got great football in that part of the country. They already have 70,000 students. And BYU is, in my opinion, looked at as a Power Five conference school, their logo, for a long time, and they have a huge following from coast-to-coast. And you have Cincinnati now that has played well for a number of years and they have a huge populated area that’s in a very big television market there. So now, how is that going to improve their logo? I bet it improves. Their marketing people, I’m just guessing, are fired up at Cincinnati now to start marketing that for their logo. And then Houston’s been wanting in our league for a number of years, right, supposedly? And they’re sitting right in the Big 12 country, and they got tons of population, and tons of high school football to recruit from. And a lot of viewers down here. The only thing, they battle the Astros and the Texans and the Rockets, but for the most part, it couldn’t have happened any better for Oklahoma State and the remaining eight schools, in my opinion. I don’t want to speak for those other schools, but I know for Oklahoma State, the future’s a home run.”

On how much recruits care about the ‘Power Five’ label

“Young people nowadays are into those things, which people in my generation would say that it doesn’t really matter. Your generation likes those kinds of things. So, we have to adapt to your generation because that’s the generation we’re recruiting right now. They like those kind of things.”

On importance of middle America having a Power Five conference

“This can go on and on. The economic value of this conference staying intact for Stillwater, Waco — Dallas-Fort Worth is a little different with TCU — but Manhattan, Lawrence, OK? It’s important in a lot of ways. When you talk about the economy and restaurant business, and just all the things that keep these areas turning, this was a huge get for — I’m going to speak for Stillwater because I know a lot of people in Stillwater, that are in private business and small business owners and not even that, some of your bigger businesses companies that are here — it’s a big deal for us to stay sound in a big conference and play football games. So to answer your question, in my opinion, from an economic and a marketing value for what you’re talking about is very important that we try to establish what presidents and the ADs and the Big 12 was able to get accomplished.”

On offensive coordinator Kasey Dunn visiting his home state of Idaho

“He likes Idaho. He’s from there, and his wife’s from there. And he’s building a retirement home there I think, last I heard. But you know on our trips, we get on the plane, we get there, we go to the hotel, we start working again, we eat, we work, go to bed, we get up, we work, do meetings and go play. So, very seldom do we ever leave the facility. I’m sure it’s a beautiful place up there, but I doubt we’ll get very far from the hotel.”

On if it will take a few years to get the Oklahoma State brand back in the Houston area

“We’ve had a number of players from Houston forever. I’m not sure that [the SEC] just locked it down, but they’ve gained ground just based on the geographical location of where everything is. You know, Houston is pretty far east. So, my point in that was, we have to make a decision as to his question of recruiting is a business. We get a certain number of days and certain number of hours that we can go out and try to sell our product. And the poor example I use is selling door-to-door vacuum cleaners. I can’t spend all my time somewhere going door to door where they’re not going to buy any vacuum cleaners, or I don’t get to pay rent and eat food. I’m broke. That’s a poor business decision. So, we have to decide what geographical locations in the country based on this realignment give us the best chance to sell quality vacuum cleaners, so we can keep our company running.

“Well, that’s what it is in recruiting. We’re just going to have to see. I said that the other day because now you have Texas, they’re in south central, so you have them and (Texas) A&M all the way sweeping down through there. I think most of us would agree it would be a little tougher based on them jumping in that league. Not to say wouldn’t do it, but you just have to decide where your strengths are. And we’ll still go into Houston. We’ll always recruit Houston, it’s just a matter how much we do based on what the mental approach is with all the young men we’re recruiting down there.”

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