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The Rundown: Everything Mike Gundy Said in His Pre-Arkansas Pine Bluff News Conference

On the Golden Lions, Dominic Richardson and more.

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[Photo via Devin Wilber/PFB]

STILLWATER — For the 13 time in Mike Gundy’s tenure, they entire Week 3 of a season 2-0.

Gundy met with reporters at his weekly media luncheon Monday afternoon to discuss Oklahoma State’s upcoming game against Arkansas Pine Bluff, which kicks at 6 p.m. Saturday. Here is everything Gundy had to say.

Opening statement

“Alright, so back at it. Not really much on the last game to go over. It’s pretty clear after the game what I said and I think it was dead on. So, moving on. We improved in a few areas, we still have a long ways to go, but I was encouraged by the improvement we had in certain areas and so we’ll continue to work hard this week at Oklahoma State and then we’ll come up with a good game plan and get started when the guys get back to work tomorrow.”

On goals for going up against an FCS opponent

“So I told the team that overall on paper, whatever paper means, didn’t mean a lot last week, but on paper, people are gonna say you’re a more athletic and a more talented team, and I’m okay with that. So, but I’m stressing the importance of focus, stressing the importance of us improving in all three phases, and then also understanding that we always respect whoever we play. We talk about that in this culture for years here. They are averaging about 67 points a game, so sometimes that’s hard to do when you’re playing air. So our players are aware of it. They’ve got some skilled guys that run around and make plays. So, we need to be held accountable for ourselves and individuals and then our three columns or three units, and then line up and go play hard and that’s what I told him last night.”

On this being the last game before Big 12 play

“Well, we’ve got a lot of sharpening to do. We’re a long ways away from being a sharp tool, as you know. So, we need practice. We need the practices. We still have youth, we have inexperience. We cut down mistakes considerably, but we still have more mistakes than what we would have on a very productive year per a week. So we’ve identified those. We’ve come up with plans we think helps us to eliminate those as we move forward. And we need good practices this week. And, you know, we’ll worry about the next one later, but for the most part, I told them the truth. This is where we’re at, this is who we are, this is who they are. This is what they’ve accomplished. This is what we’ve done this year. This is what we need to get accomplished this week, all while having a game plan for these guys just like we would anybody else.”

On Dominic Richardson

“So, he’s a big physical runner. He’s maturing some, we know that. He actually made some guys miss in some space which was encouraging. Arizona State had skill and so I was encouraged by that. I think he understands the type of runner he is, and we need to work around his skill set. And then we need him to improve a little bit and each one of those areas.”

On challenge of teaching Dominic Richardson to avoid hits

“Well, there’s a big challenge, because we are kind of who we are, right? So, you’ve probably always wanted to do this, and if somebody came to you and said, ‘I want you to frame houses,’ you might not be fired up. You know, either you don’t want to work outside in the heat, or you like to come jack with guys like me, one or the other. But regardless, you don’t really change who you are. So, it’s almost like taking a quarterback and getting them into camp as a freshman saying, ‘Hey, are you going to change throwing motion?’ He’s been doing it for 12, 15 years, probably not gonna change much in his throwing motion. So, we’re asking him to do a few things to improve his skill set, but we like who he is. We knew he was when we took him. We knew that was the style runner he is. We know what style runner Jaden Nixon is. We know what style runner Ollie Gordon is. But that doesn’t mean they can’t improve in certain areas. And he’s working to make those improvements. We also want him to master being who he is. And we’re kind of seeing that growth at a very early stage.”

On similarities between Dominic Richardson and Chris Carson

“You know, Carson really kind of stayed true to who he was, you know, his last year here he was a very punishing runner. And then he ran the same way in the NFL when I saw him run. So, I think there’s similarities there. But, you’re right as we progressed through that year where he made huge strides, he started to do a few things differently and that’s kind of what I’m talking about. But, he’s not going to be Kendall Hunter. He’s not going to be that guy. That’s not who he is, okay? So we need him to improve his skill set a little bit where his strengths are.”

On Dominic Richardson’s running style opening him up to possible injuries

“Well, all these guys get hit. There’s two positions, quarterbacks are going to get hit on Saturday’s and not deliver blows. So they’re just a freebie shot. And running backs take the most violent hits, because in most cases they’re getting hit from all different areas with guys that could potentially even have a running head start. So it’s always a concern, and that’s why we’ve had to play three running backs most every year that I’ve been here.”

On Deondre Jackson

“It’s day-to-day. We’re just waiting just like you.”

On whether there are any calls he can make about the Deondre Jackson situation

“You ever called like your phone service system? Have you ever called like you’re — you haven’t had to turn in any insurance yet, right? If you call an insurance company, you’ll get an automated system and they’ll pass you three or four numbers. Essentially they don’t want you to call and turn your claim in because they don’t [want to pay you.] That’s what happens when you call [the NCAA]. They pass it to somebody else and eventually nobody answers.”

On what the major improvements were on defense

“We were better at communicating. I mean, you guys watched the game. In the first game we left gaps open multiple times. Turned guys loose in the red zone in coverage, we were much better. We still have a ways to go. But we’re improved. I’m pleased with the improvements we made from Week 1 to Week 2. But those improvements aren’t to a point now to where we can be successful for the remainder of the year. We need more improvements this week. So, as I’ve said multiple times, as coaches we’re responsible for that. We have to look and say here’s what happened. Why did this happen? What’s the plan to solve it? Put that plan in place and make it better. I saw that take place. But, I need to see that again this week in all phases. Just like offense, we were a better run blocking team in the second half than we were in the first five quarters of the season — or three halves, got much better. I don’t know why, but we were.  That’s the way it needs to be from start to finish in order for us to continue to improve each week.”

On if better communication on defense starts with a certain position group

“Yeah, much more communication now than ever, particularly in the back end. Defensive line communicates some, but not like safeties, corners and linebackers. And I said this last week, but just as a reminder, those guys that were playing linebacker and those safeties last year that played for us played a million games. So their communication was somewhat just a given. These guys are learning that. And so it was better, but we still have to improve on it. And the other team knows. I mean, they know exactly what the issues are. Most coaches can identify youth on either side of the ball and they’re going to go right out. It’s just like — you watch an NFL game, corner leaves the game or safety leaves game, it won’t be but two or three players and they go right after that guy. Tom Brady and those guys that’s exactly what they’re going to do. I watched it last night in the fourth quarter. In that game, Dallas showed certain things and he saw it, two out of the four plays in a row and he checked to the speed cut by the inside receiver, when he saw man-coverage. He was covered up on the safety and he hit it twice. Same thing the coaches do at this level.”

On Brendon Evers and Brock Martin being “throwbacks”

“Yeah, sure. Well, you know, and it’s interesting, I talked to the team about our ‘DAT’ — discipline, (attitude) and toughness — and explained to them and defined that for them so they understand what that actually means, right? So most young people that we communicate with today, you can tell them something, they shake their head, they have no idea what you’re talking about, unless you question them and ask them. And the other day I talked to the team about it and how important it is and the way this culture was built. And when we were done, Brock walked up, put his arm around me and said, ‘Coach, you know, really all I have it discipline and toughness because I’m really not that good.’ He goes, ‘I just kind of live on discipline and toughness.’ And I said, ‘Well, there’s two things, 1) that’s true. 2) you are pretty good, because you choose to do that and you are tougher than most people that step on the field.’ 

“So yes, those are throwback guys from the day and Evers is like a 30-year0-old man. You know, he’s working on his third degree or whatever. He’s got, I don’t know how many degrees he’s gotten here and he’s getting his education and he’s a role player. You know, they get beat up. You see in games, they get hurt. They’re like 10-year vets in the NFL. You know, they come over, smoke a cigarette, and they go back out and play 10 more plays. That’s what they do. Just like the guy that played first base back in the day for the Cubs. (Keith) Hernandez, right? Don Mattingly, you know, they’d burn one in the dugout and go back out and hit a double to opposite field.”

On Brendon Evers being like former Oklahoma State offensive lineman Ben Buie

“It would be a battle that you would have to turn the lights on for because neither one would give in. Buie’s like the guy that you fight in high school and if you end up winning the fight, the bad news is you have to fight him tomorrow. And then he probably wants to fight again the next day. You know, that’s Buie. He came to practice about two weeks ago and we were kind of reminiscing a little bit about — you know, when he walks in, he doesn’t really look like a guy that could block (former Oklahoma Sooners defensive tackle) Tommie Harris. And then that one game out here he dominated Tommie. No business doing it. He said (former Oklahoma nose guard Dusty) Dvoracek was the problem. He said Dvoracek was the real issue there. But he’s a throw-back guy and Brock and Evers fall into that same category.”

On Preston Wilson working into a role as a leader on the offensive line:

“He’s doing good. Preston is learning to navigate that particular position, which is not easy. You know, they kind of control everything. So, you’ve heard me say a lot of times that this offense is simple, except for the quarterback. And it’s simple somewhat except for the center. Those two guys really thrive on experience and he’s not had as much at that position. But I’m pleased with where he’s at at this point and not having a lot of experience navigating the offensive line, because we rely on them to do a lot. So I’m pleased with where he’s at. He studies all the time. Like when I walked the halls yesterday and today, he’s there studying, watching tape on his own. He’s dedicated to the concept.

“But he also is similar to the communication that Jenni brought up about who’s responsible on defense for that communication. It’s the same thing. He’s communicating to everybody, including the quarterback at times. And the defensive guys are communicating with each other, and there’s youth in those spots, and that’s why it’s not where it needs to be. But I’m pleased with where he’s at now, compared to the first game.”

On a grade for the offensive line

“Yeah, I give them every bit of a B this week, because in the second half, they were physical and covered guys up in the run game. And I might have said this after the game, but our defensive line took the game over in the second half and our offensive line and running backs took the game over in the second half. Much different than what we did in the first week.”

On whether he learned anything new about the offensive line

“They just covered guys up. So, when you have the style of backs that we have with the exception of [Jaden Nixon], he’s a Kendall Hunter kind of guy, once he grows up and gets mature and stronger — the other guys are going to run through arm tackles. So we need to cover guys up. If we cover defensive linemen and linebackers up we can run through arm tackles. You throw no hitters and you have missed assignments and turn guys loose, these guys aren’t gonna make it. Like last year, Jaylen Warren made guys miss for no gain and then got yards because he had that side to side ability. These guys aren’t there yet. So if you don’t cover a guy up, then you’re probably going to have minimal yards. You’re probably looking at 2-yard gain. So, we just need to cover guys.”

On whether the center position has changed in recent years

“Yeah, you know, I never thought of it that way, but we see so many different looks now. We see four-down, we see three-down, we see three-down with bug backers. We see four-down with walked-up backers. We see three-three stacked. And nobody stands still anymore. It’s become somewhat complicated for centers, just like it has for quarterbacks. I mean, I never really thought of it, but I would say it might be just as complicated now for them over the last five, six years as it is for quarterbacks with the different designs and defenses.”

On Reid Sigmon

“So Reid has been fantastic. And I mentioned that we have a really good chain of command, in my opinion. You know, we have a a president who is very supportive, we have an athletic director that runs this department. And he’s learning on the run. Chad (Weiberg’s) been fantastic, but you can’t just show up as an A.D. and be an A.D. It takes time. You can start somewhere, but it takes time. He’s learning. Reid has been huge for him, because Reid works directly with football. Reid’s a football guy. He’s been at football schools, he understands what it takes. So, that’s been a huge lift for us. And he communicates directly with Chad, and 95%, maybe more than that that ever goes on, doesn’t come back on my desk. Because they handle it, make good quality decisions. It’s not always been, ‘Yes, coach.’ But there’s a good decision made for whatever reason, even if it’s not something that maybe we want. And he’s been huge because he understands in the big picture, what it takes to be successful in football.”

On Reid Sigmon being analytical

“So most people we come across in life, if they’re talking a lot and going really fast, they’re trying to convince you that they’re smart, intelligent. Smart people sit and listen and don’t have to cover themselves. Reid just sits and listens. He’s very intelligent. He’s very analytical, and he has a lot of experience in what he does. So, he gets it. So all he’s doing is gaining information and spitting it back out if he needs to at some point, or he’s already made a decision in his mind. He’s just going to clear it through the boss and then bring it later. That’s what he does. He sits and thinks and listens. What was the what was the cartoon guy, the mad scientist cartoon. Dexter’s Laboratory. That’s kind of like Reid. He figures it out. He’s smart. He’s like all this, and he comes up with a plan. But he’s been fantastic for us, again, for two reasons. One, he’s a good communicator. Two, he’s been at big time football schools and he gets it.”

On whether there is one particular area Sigmon has improved

“Communication. The president is going to do whatever she wants to do. We all report to her. Then in order for us to function, we need good communication from the head football coach and athletic director and then who’s ever charge of football, which is basically Reid. If we have good communication and we’re all on the same page, right or wrong or different, we can accomplish things. When there’s not a good line of communication and things get stopped and then the factory doesn’t produce anything because there’s no engine in the car because the factory is stopped. So, he’s really good at communication. That keeps things going.”

On Samuela Tuihalamaka

“He’s growing up, maturity, experience. Last year we had so many guys. He didn’t get as many reps as what he would have. We had a really, really good, deep defensive line last year. So now he’s playing more. He’s learning to push through a little fatigue. His technique is better. His shoulders stay square. He’s not getting turned as much. He’s flat backed. He’s staying low. What you’re seeing is right. He’s improving and getting a little bit better. He should be considerably better in a month.”

On Tuihalamaka playing more as a freshman than he did the past two seasons

“Just guys, you know. [Israel Antwine] was here. He’s on the practice team for one of those pro teams. I mean, we had good players here, guys that were just playing in front of him.”

On defensive tackle depth

“I mean we’re not quite as deep there as we are at the end. That’s why we play Lacy some inside and outside. I would always like to have another 300-pounder. Can’t ever have enough of those guys, but I’m not going to complain because we’re far better from a depth standpoint than what we used to be. Dave and I were talking last week on a radio show. Shane Jarka was playing 65 plays a game for us at one time. I mean, he could have filed charges against us for that. He wasn’t prepared for that. We didn’t have anybody else, but fortunately we don’t have those issues now. So I’m not gonna complain too much.”

On Tyler Lacy watching tape from NFL players

“We talk about that quite a bit, particularly pass rushers because the other night, whenever that game was, Von Miller was playing against somebody and I came home and watched it in the fourth quarter, and you can watch his pass-rushing, his technique and his path and his shoulder dip, getting his pads down and ripping under and then bending around and grabbing the quarterback’s legs. That’s the one position, defensive rushers, that you can learn from watching, in my opinion.

“Twenty-something years ago, I was visiting with Coach (Mike) Holder about teaching golf. And he said, in his opinion, the best thing a young kid can do until he’s 12 is turn the TV on and watch those pro guys on TV and watch their sleep. He said you can learn from that. And then once you get to be after 12 years old, maybe we can teach you a little bit of golf. But you should just watch TV all the time and just watch these guys swing. Now, obviously, I don’t know anything about golf, but I think it’s the same at the defensive line position that if I was a defensive lineman, I would watch the cut ups — I say cut ups, that shows how old I am — watch the videos on Twitter, I guess is where they find them, of these guys as pass rushers because you can learn a trade and techniques from those guys.”

On whether he can show the edge rushers film from Emmanuel Ogbah’s time in Stillwater

“I think it’s some of the same. They watch guys that have been here. But I think they’re more infatuated with the NFL. I mean, that’s what they like to see. They dress like them on game day. They turn their pants into shorts. I saw Lacy, I don’t know how many sacks he had Saturday, one time he [mimed hitting a baseball]. Somebody in the NFL does it. I don’t know who it is. I’ve seen it, so I’m for it. I’m all for it, but they like to pattern themselves after NFL guys.”

On why Hunter Woodard and Joe Michalski split reps at right guard against Arizona State

“Just trying to keep guys fresh. There’s two positions on the field that we don’t play anybody other than the starters — it’s offensive line and quarterback. That’s just the way it’s always been. So, we’re trying to facilitate guys that have practiced, and have shown in practice they’re good enough to play, the question I’ve had to the coaches is why don’t they play? So let’s see if they can play. They’ve shown us in practice that we think they can perform. One, we can rest a guy. Two, we can get a guy some experience. So why wouldn’t they play? I think it’s interesting what (Jim) Harbaugh is doing at Michigan with quarterbacks. I don’t really think about it. Don’t know anything about the quarterbacks. don’t know anything about Coach Harbaugh. All I know is what I read, where he said ‘I have two guys that both look like that they’re good enough to play. I’m gonna play them both.’ And I think sometimes with offensive line, we just don’t ever think about doing that. But we have other guys that can play, so why not play them? That’s where that came from.”

On the four-game redshirt rule and playing FCS opponents

“I think it’s a good rule from the standpoint of it was put in because if you had a player that came in late in the year because of injuries, you didn’t want him to burn a year playing two or three games or whatever. So it’s a good rule. When the portal came in, and then that was a part of it until they got a grasp on the portal, it wasn’t a good rule because then it became free agency with no restrictions, which is not good in my opinion for college football for anybody. Now we have a better grasp on the portal. So I think it goes back to being good rule again. If we play well enough and get to a point there’s players that we have, we’d like to get in see them play. We got to get to that point to start with. But if we do, historically here, we’re going to pull our guys off the field as fast as possible if we’re lucky. It’s been unusual. We had games last year, early in the year, that we thought that was going to happen and it was all we could do to win the game. And then we got into conference play and we played much better and we had games where we could do that. So we haven’t been fortunate enough to really predict a lot of that around here, but if we do, there’s guys that will get on the field. In particular, we’ll use a lot of early entry young freshmen that have walked onto the program. We’ll use them on special teams and give them a chance to go out and play on a college football field and show them our appreciation for them being a part of our team. We’ll do that as soon as we can. If we feel like we have the game in hand, we’re gonna get guys off and we’re gonna let everybody else play.”

On what Tyler Lacy has done this offseason to get him off to the start he had

“I’m seeing another year of maturity. I’m seeing his practice habits. I’m seeing him train in the weight room. I’m seeing his leadership skills. And the guys that play at that level, if you watch they’re grown men, 330-pound, physical men. And so for him to have another year of maturity, and experience, and strength, and speed, and technique development gives him the best chance, in my opinion, to help us be a really good defense. And it gives him the best chance to make an NFL roster, in my opinion. That’s the one position, whether they see him as an outside guy or not, I don’t know, but if he slides into being an inside guy, those are really big, strong guys, and I can’t imagine another year of maturity wouldn’t help him.”

On Collin Clay

“We need to get him more plays, and it’s nobody’s fault. It’s just the way that it worked out. But he’s been fantastic from the standpoint of coming back from a traumatic injury and working his way back in practice. He’s practicing hard. He’s getting back into the flow. He gets a little better each week. We need to get him on the field more. And then same thing with Trace Ford. You guys watch it. [Ford] was different in this game than he was in the first game. So I think he’s starting to clear his mind a little bit, and Collin is in the same category. We’re gonna work to get him on the field more.”

On whether Collin Clay is outspoken like his little brother and his preacher father

“It’s interesting is just like I always say with my [kids], I have three of them, and they’re supposed to be from the same mom and dad, supposedly. They’re all different. Collin is the complete opposite of them. Never says a word. Unless I speak to him, I don’t think I’ve ever heard him talk. The young one has talked more in one day than he’s talking his life. And obviously his dad’s a preacher, and he loves to talk. So, it’s interesting Colin is just as quiet as they come. Great kid.”

On whether he saw Malcolm Rodriguez’s hip toss

“I did not. I have not seen anything on any of that. I’ve heard great things about him, but I did not see anything. I didn’t see anything on Malcolm. I saw Jaylen Warren pick up a twisting lineman a benchpress him to the ground. Somebody sent me that. That’s one thing I saw.”

On whether any scores from the weekend shocked him

“I didn’t really watch much. I was up here most of the day. I mean, obviously there’s some surprises out there, but they don’t really surprise me much. You guys know how I feel about it. We live in a time where 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23 year olds are easily distracted and they don’t focus, and if you don’t focus you don’t practice well. Turn it over a time or two, the other team makes a couple of big plays, you get in the fourth quarter and before you it, things get tight and you don’t play well and you can lose. That’s what can happen. None of us focus well. We’re all the same. We don’t get something we like, we swipe our phone and go to something else real quick. That’s what we all do. That’s the world we live in. It’s a huge, huge factor. People discount it, saying that it’s just coaches talk. It’s not. If you don’t focus, it’s like I told the team last night, ‘You guys got a choice to focus and understand our game plan and practice hard this week to play the best you can Saturday, or you don’t. You can think that you’re playing a team that’s not as good as you, you can think that you’re trying to get ready to go on a open week and maybe you’re gonna play the next team. And the truth of the matter is, you won’t play very well.’

“So I think a lot of times, people don’t put enough into if you can’t keep them focused, it’s really hard for them to play well every Saturday. And certainly that’s what we have to do at Oklahoma State. We don’t have the luxury of rolling our helmets out on the field and saying we’re gonna win. It’s never been that way.”

On whether a weekend like this past weekend is evidence of him saying polls don’t need to come out as early as they do

“I don’t think there should be any polls until Oct. 1, just because how do we really know? We don’t know. I don’t even know who’s ranked really where. I know where we are because y’all tell me, but I don’t pay much attention to it. It’s good conversation, right? It’s good social media stuff. That’s why we do it. That’s why somebody does it. But Oct. 1, you usually have a pretty good feel for where everybody’s at. I think that’s probably a fair estimate. There’s teams that are going to be ranked in the Top 15 of the country that don’t deserve to be rank in the Top 15 of the country to. And there’s teams that are in 25 to 35 that probably deserved to be in the Top 15, we just don’t know it yet. But it doesn’t hurt anything. I don’t put any stock into it. And I tell our team, ‘I hope you don’t put any stock into it because you’re really only as good as tomorrow’s practice. Period. We don’t have the luxury of taking many days off.”

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