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The Rundown: Gundy Talks Spring Game, Young Playmakers and Transfer Portal

Plus a promising quote about Brennan Presley.



Mike Gundy met with reporters Tuesday night for the final time before the spring game.

Here is everything he discussed.

Opening Statement

“We had another really good practice, long practice. We practiced and then had another 100-play scrimmage today. Plan on doing the same thing Thursday. Knock on wood, we’ve been very fortunate. We’re able to keep so many bodies healthy. We’re getting a lot of really, really good work. Their attitudes are good, effort’s good, the coaching’s good. I like where we’re at in three phases. Again, we have a number of young guys that are getting really quality work that, hopefully, in the middle of August can help us in some games this year, moreso than ever in my 17 years here, just based on having the extra 25 guys here for spring ball. So I’m excited about that. We have one more day of really good work.

As I mentioned earlier in the spring, that I was hoping that we would be in a position that we could play a real football game for the spring. First time in I don’t know how many years we’ve been able to do that. So we divided the teams equally, divided the coaches and we’ll have a short practice, a little bit of 7-on-7, some passing, a little bit of individual to start. Then we’ll play two 20-minute halves or quarters with the clock running like it would be on game day, instead of using the running clock. We reduced it a little bit because we don’t quite have the depth to play 60 minutes, and we also want to have a half where, in case we need to get into two minutes situation, we can. So, it’ll look like a football game. We’ll keep score like a football game. There’ll be a break after the first 20. We’ll have a five-minute break, and then we’ll turn around and play at another 20. We think that’s what our fans want to see. They want to see football. They want to see it played the way that it’s played during the season. And then we eliminated the halftime because we felt like when we went in at halftime and you come back out 20, 25 minutes later, it’s kind of a downer.

“The fans just want to see football and they want to see everybody play. So that’ll be our goal. Hopefully we can put a good show on for the crowd. Supposed to have great weather, and we got enough players to do that. So everything’s gone really well up to now. We’re just looking forward to another practice Thursday and then finishing up with, what I would call, a real spring game.”

On if the quarterbacks will be in an off-colored jersey and what the tackling situation will be like

“Something other than green. I think we’re going with gray now.

“And as much I would love to have live tackling. We’re going to go what we call ‘full thud,’ but it’s just … as I’ve moved forward during my career as a coach and in rare instances, seen a young man get hurt in that game, and he’s out for six months, I just, I can’t deal with that anymore. So we practice this way. We did go live quite a bit last Friday, probably about 50 plays, and we’ll go live Thursday, probably about 50 plays. We’ll control it a little bit Saturday just because I don’t want to do some live and some not live. It’ll confuse them, and the game will look clean.

“Anything that’s in front of you, then they come and they thud up and wrap up. We try not to go to the ground, but sometimes they do. Anytime you’re going at an angle, you’re going to come and play like you do in the front yard. Knees are bent, and you’re going to tag off because at an angle, that’s where you get people tangled up. That’s what we’ve done this spring, and we’ve been really good at it.”

On how the teams are picked

“I don’t have any idea. I asked the defensive coaches to evenly divide up their defense and the offensive coaches and evenly divide up their offense. I don’t even know who’s on the roster. This is the first I’ve seen. I had them give it to Sean [McGuire] and them and media, and they split it up. I didn’t even pay attention to it. I just told him to make it even to where we could have a competitive game.”

On if he could tell if some teams were more out of shape than others last season because of COVID

“I didn’t think anybody was in shape in September. The teams I watched in college football, I thought everybody was out of shape.

“Defensive linemen, instead of being in some sort of a ready position, they had a knee down on the ground. Then anytime guys had their hands on their knees in the back end on defense, and then you can see wideouts that are like this until they know they’re getting ready to go. Then when plays are over, guys aren’t moving back quick enough and getting lined up and then defenses don’t run to the ball. So, we were out of shape. I don’t remember seeing anybody in September, or maybe even halfway in October, that I felt like it was really a good condition.”

On young corners

“Korie Black is getting a lot of reps and is showing what we thought we had with him, showing athleticism. [Jabbar] Muhammad is the same way. You’re seeing them make a lot of mistakes, but they’re making them athletically and they’re being coached, which allows them to improve and get better. OK? Demarco Jones, same category. Guys that have been around a little bit, but haven’t had as many live reps in 11-on-11 as we’re getting now. So it gives them a chance to, I know this sounds funny, but make mistakes, be corrected and then do better in the next practice.

“That’s why I’m so encouraged because we haven’t had that luxury here in my other 16 years because we didn’t have enough players to get the threes work 11-on-11. They worked a lot in individual, and they worked a lot in 7-on-7, but that’s just like shooting horse in basketball. You may be real good at horse, but you’re probably not as good in 5-on-5 and 1-on-1. Those guys are getting really quality work, and those young guys are making mistakes and getting corrected.”

On if everyone getting work in practice has helped the team galvanize and perhaps stay away from the transfer portal

“I think there’s two things there. It’ll be interesting to see how people react with the portal based on the total number of availability of scholarships and numbers on the portal. That’s not going to change. What I’ve learned this spring is with all the young players, and even walk-ons, the excitement they have knowing they get to practice, and what I mean by practice is 11-on-11, they don’t just get to do the drill work, and then when you play 5-on-5 pickup hoops at the Y, they get to get in now and play.

“I can’t imagine that when some of these young players or the walk-on players, who you really don’t know how good they are when they don’t get reps, when their parents say, ‘What are you actually doing in practice?’ And they’re saying, ‘Well, I’m doing everything, and I got 22 live snaps today.’ I can’t imagine that won’t help the cohesiveness of the unit and the players. I mean, let’s face it, some people aren’t as athletically gifted as others, some of us might want to play in the NFL worse than anything and you genetically don’t have an opportunity. But if you’re here, and you’re getting to work in the spring and in August prior to getting into an in-game season routine, and you’re getting a lot of work, you would think you would feel more committed to the organization because you’re getting out there and getting to play. You’re being coached. Every one of our reps, all 144 scrimmage plays last week were graded by each coach at each position on every player on the field. And I can’t imagine that wouldn’t help a young man feel good about himself.”

On if splitting the roster for the spring game gives the younger guys more of an opportunity to play this weekend

“So, there’ll be some guys that we have that are almost like an NFL veteran. I don’t know that Malcolm Rodriguez will get more than a couple series, LD Brown, Spencer [Sanders]. There’s some guys that have put their time in, they’ll get a couple of racks, and then they’ll come out. Then other guys that are in their spots at the twos that haven’t had as much work, they’ll get more work. There should be about 14 possessions, or so, per unit. So that would give just about everybody, like three series to get out there and play. Most of these guys on our team, their parents are going to come watch them, and they’re going to get to see them go out for two or three or maybe even four series and watch him play.”

On what about Dillon Stoner’s game would make him stand out at the NFL level

“He’s what [Julian] Edelman was when he first started. I think Edelman just retired. He had maybe 12 years in the league. He’s a lot different now than he was seven, eight years ago. Eventually, your body, you slow down. Even though I think he won the MVP of the Super Bowl a couple years ago. But [Stoner] is that type of player because he can do all the different things like he could, and he’s gonna run 4.5. If his health stays, I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t hang around the league for six or seven years.”

On young guys who could impress in the spring game

“We have a few young receivers that were early high school players that could show up some in the spring game because they’ve had a lot of reps. Because of the pace that we use with our offense, we have to play so many receivers that those guys have had, I joke with them, more reps than they wanted. Their tongues are hanging out when it’s over. There’s a few of those guys that could make some plays and could show up. Some of those high school, I call them high school, but early entry guys.

“I think you guys will enjoy, he’s not an early entry guy, but he’s a transfer, I think you’ll enjoy watching [Jaylen Warren], the transfer running back. I think you’ll enjoy watching him. He’ll show up out there, as he’s learning our system. I’m really excited about our young linebackers that I think you’ll see them show up out there. And I go back to the two 20-minute halves where the clock’s running in a game situation should allow for a lot of reps to where you’re going to get to see a lot of those guys make plays. You’ll be looking at your numbers. You’ll be wondering ‘Who 11 is, who’s 46? Who’s 36? Who’s 85?’ These are guys nobody knows about because they haven’t played here, and they’ve started to show up a little bit out here only because they’ve been allowed for many more reps.

“[Black] and [Muhammad], those young corners that we talked about, you’ll see them show up a little bit. I’m trying to think safety-wise, all those guys are veterans. Rawls will show up some. He’s like the other high school kids. He’s just trying to figure out what to do, but he does run and make plays. I think he’s 17 isn’t he? Is Rawls 17? Yeah, he’s 17. So, those guys could show up some, and you don’t really know about them but you’re going to get to see some of them. I’ll tell you, another one that can show up out there is 39, a transfer, Trey Rucker. He’s shown up a bunch in practice. And there’s so many new ones, I think I know most of the numbers, but not all of them. Jake Schultz, he was on special teams last year a lot. He’s making a lot of plays on defense now. These reps have helped him, and he’s showing up more. His motor runs all the time.”

On Brennan Presley

“He’s a big part of what we do. I didn’t bring him up because everybody knows who he is and how he showed up, particularly in the bowl game last year. He’s the guy in there at our slot position, and he’s made a bunch of plays out here. He’ll continue to make a bunch of plays. He’s put on 18 pounds. He went from when he turned sideways, you couldn’t see him, to now there’s at least a shadow. But he will make a lot of football plays.”

On defensive line depth

“You know, what’s interesting? We’ve had several young kids, now I’m repeating myself, but we’ve had three players that have walked on and have gotten reps they would have not ever gotten if it wasn’t for Trace [Ford] and [Tyren)] Irby and Collin [Clay] and Brock [Martin]. They would have been hard-pressed because we’re pretty deep at that position, which is rare for us during my career here, which is a good feeling. They’re getting a lot of work. So again, I go back to there’ll be some numbers show up, like [Nathan] Latu that transferred in, he’ll start to show up out there. They’re just some different numbers that you guys will have to look into who they are because they haven’t played here, but should make some plays.”

On special teams

“They’re all doing good. This should be a really good year for us on special teams because of the speed and the athleticism we have at the linebacker, safety/corner spot. All the other skill guys that play that position, kickers and snappers and punters and holders, they’re all back. I expect us to be really good at special teams this year. We have all our returns back with the exception of Stoner, but we have the young guys that are back that will give us a threat at the return position.”

On if he has gotten to interact with soon-to-be OSU president Kayse Shrum

“Only through electronics. We finish up this week, and I’m going to have a chance to get together and visit with her. Obviously I know a lot about her, haven’t had an interaction with her. But I’m excited about what she brings, excited about her pedigree, excited about her athletic background. People that I’ve talked to speak very highly of her and a lot of areas that I think are important in leadership and being well versed and willing to step out there and lead, which she did with the medical center. They’ve come a million miles over there in the last six to eight years or so and been very innovative. I would expect her to do the same thing here. So I’m excited about developing a relationship with her and pushing forward over the next few years.”

On if it will be strange for him after working with Mike Holder and Burns Hargis for so long

“I guess at some point you get to where you move on, but we have OSU people filling those spots. One thing that we’ve been very fortunate here for a long time is we have a lot of OSU people filling leadership roles in different positions, and I think that’s always helped. Oklahoma State is different than a lot of places for a variety of reasons. With us having the ability to replace them with OSU people, in most cases we all think alike, so I think that benefits us down the line.”

On if seeing this change ages him

“There’s a lot of things that age me: my knees when I walk, the times I have to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. I’m seeing aging, don’t kid yourself. I’ve been very fortunate. I have my health. I’m energetic. I’m excited. Being around these guys keeps me young. But, the years are stacking up. With President Hargis and Coach Holder being where they’re at in their careers and moving to a different time in their life, you start to see things like that. I guess that’s just part of it. In the big picture, I feel confident with our leadership. I think we’ll be able to sit down, put our heads together, come up with a plan to keep Oklahoma State football at a point it’s been for a long time now, which will help carry the athletic department financially and keep everything running.”

On if Gunnar Gundy’s mom, Kristen Gundy, is excited to see Gunnar play Saturday

“I’m sure. She doesn’t really talk much about athletics. She’s been to so many of them and done so many things. She’s in Bartlesville tonight watching Gage. She’s mentioned very little. Now, I don’t know what conversations she has with him, but he doesn’t talk much either when it comes to that.

“I’m probably speaking a little out of turn for her, I think she’s excited about him being in a organization that he’s always wanted to be in. Ever since he’s been little, that’s what he’s wanted to do, he’s wanted to play football at Oklahoma State. I think she’s happy for that and that he’s getting an education. It’ll be a fun journey for him. I’ve been able to enjoy it, just at times watch and enjoy it.”

On what LD Brown and Jarrick Bernard-Converse have meant to the program

“In college football, in my opinion, there’s no substitute for experience, there’s no substitute for toughness and there’s no substitute for leadership. We can’t coach that. Now people say, ‘Well you can practice a certain way or you run a certain amount,’ but in order for us to instill discipline and toughness and leadership, it takes time. It’s something that takes years. And the things I talked about earlier about the young players making a bunch of mistakes and until they figure it out, well, they don’t have that yet. Those guys have that. They’ve played on big stages. They’ve been in games. They play on national TV. They played in big bowl games. They compete, and they understand what it takes to be successful.

“Those are things that you can’t replace as a coach in college football. And that’s what you get from those two guys. And we’ve got a number of those guys. If you look at our roster, we have guys that we expect to give us that. Tyler Lacy needs to give us that. Rodriguez needs to give us that. Spencer needs to give us that. Tay Martin, if he continues as he’s progressing right now, he’s finally in shape and working, he can give us that. Logan Carter can give us that. [Josh] Sills needs to give us that. But what those two guys can give us, we can’t replace that. You just can’t replace it as a coach.”

On managing roster numbers with new rules making it easier to transfer

“So what happens, speaking for us here, is it actually affects you a little bit financially as an athletic department because now in July, as we start to move forward here and our athletic department get back on our feet from COVID, we need to hire somebody in football that’s in charge of portal. I mean there’s 1,245 people on it right now. It’s not as easy as just looking at a tape. You have to weed through all the different things that you need to before you bring somebody in your organization, in our opinion. Trying to control it, you can forget that. Everybody is going to be able to move and go as they want. So we need to establish that as over, and then how do we handle it the best way moving forward to try to not really negatively impact college football. I think that we’re not quite there yet from people making decisions on how we do this. They’re getting there, and that number management you’re talking about is how do we handle the 25 and the 85? It’s just that simple. We just don’t need to make it hard.

“For example, if you have a school that’s down in their numbers, they’ve come off probation or they’ve had head coaching changes three of the last six years, whatever’s happened, and they’re at 74, and they should be at 85. That’s a big disadvantage. And then after spring ball this year, all the way up to July 1, you can roll out of here. You could go through June here, roll out here and go play for Kansas State if you wanted to and be eligible to compete in September. So let’s just say that school I was referring to has six players leave, now I’m at 68 out of an 85 scholarship, and it’s July and I got to play in September. That’s a problem. I don’t know how you fix it fast, or you’re going to cut the legs out of some teams. So you’ve got to make a decision, I say them, whoever’s doing it, on the 25, 85. Otherwise, how do you ever balance the numbers if you have a bunch of players jet out here on any given summer. Two years from now it could happen. So, that’s where they’ve got to go in my opinion, somebody’s going to have to balance it out. We’ve already said what we’re doing. OK, it’s over. How are we going to balance it out and make it work? To me that’s the answer moving forward.”

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