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The Rundown: Mike Gundy Talks Bowl Prep, COVID Spikes

On how his defense is shaping up, Jaylen Warren and COVID messing with sports schedules.



STILLWATER — The Cowboys are less than two weeks out from a highly anticipated clash with Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl.

Mike Gundy met with reporters in the Sherman E. Smith Training Center ahead of his team’s Monday practice. He is a transcript of what he said, with a video on the news conference below.

On Malcolm Rodriguez

“So the majority of the guys that are playing on defense have a really good feel for what we do. That’s one of the reasons we had success this year. Obviously, Malcolm (Rodriguez) and even Devin (Harper), he didn’t have as many game reps, but he’s been here for a long time. And Jim (Knowles’) system takes a little time. So, every year they’ve continued to get a little better. Jokingly, I had close friends of mine that said, ‘Why don’t you just let Malcolm call the game from the field?’ You know, the old Joe Namath days, but it’s a little more complicated than that, but it certainly helps to have those guys like Malcolm that are playing.”

On Devin Harper

“Well, again, he’s been here a long time. He gets it, he just couldn’t get on the field last year with Amen (Ogbongbemiga). Obviously Amen was good enough to make an NFL team, so he didn’t get a lot of reps, but he’s really kind of a throwback from, ‘I’m just gonna stay here and keep pushing forward,’ and it worked out well for him this year, being a key contributor. He’s made a lot of plays for us.”

On status of running back Jaylen Warren

“Jaylen will be fine. I mean, we’re not letting him practice as much as the other guys, but he’s doing fine.”

On any young players that have stood out during bowl practices

“Well, we’ve practiced — our young guys have scrimmaged between 30 and 40 plays every day in practice, so they’re getting a considerable amount of reps. If you put a pencil to it, by the time we finish bowl practice, the young guys will have got a spring practice, and they’re doing fine. I mean, there’s a number of them out there, they all make mistakes and then they all make some plays, which is what’s going to happen, but they’re getting really quality work.”

On how the process of divvying up defensive responsibilities among the coaches has gone

“Great. I’ve, I mean, essentially I’ve switched from offense to defense. I haven’t watched offense at all live, and I’ve done defense everyday, and I’m very pleased. I don’t think the players even have noticed [Jim Knowles] not being here the way that we’ve divided up responsibilities and I think they’re practicing very well.”

On if he still plans to wait until the team arrives in Arizona to decide who will call defense

“That’s correct.”

On benefits of having veteran position coaches like Joe Bob Clements and Tim Duffie

“Continuity is important, right? I mean, it is for Oklahoma State, let’s put it that way. So, if you look on that side of the ball Joe Bob’s been here 10 or 11 years, [Dan Hammerschmidt] has been here six or seven, (Duffie’s) been here eight or nine, maybe. Greg Richmond is new, he’s been here a few years and just brought him in, so all those guys have been here a while. So it helps. When Jim (Knowles) left, they were able to go in the room and divvy up responsibilities and know what to do.”

On who takes over lead coaching for linebackers

“Koy (McFarland). He’s been coaching them all year. Yeah, I mean, he coaches them in practice every day and meets with them. Jim (Knowles) doesn’t coach a position. Jim is not a position coach. He’s a walk around coordinator.”

On what stands out about Koy McFarland

“He’s bright, energetic. Understands the game, has good relationship with players. He just needs — in order to get a start at this level. He just needs age and experience. But, he’s coached them all year long. He met with them last spring. As soon as Shane (Eachus) left, Shane was our [graduate assistant] that coached our linebackers. Jim’s never coached a position. So, the transition from the players wasn’t that big of an issue, because the players met with Koy everyday anyway.”

On prospect analyst Jordan Burton

“He’s in recruiting, and he’s around and watches, but you know, he’s not on the field coaching. But he’s a former player that’s done really well and as I selfishly stockpiled in, you know, in our organization, he’s one of those guys.”

On Notre Dame’s elevation in the last decade

“Well, from a distance, obviously I don’t see them much, I don’t cross paths with them much, we don’t go head to head with them in recruiting much at all. I only know what I see, like you guys, when coach Kelly came in, I think that, and this is hearsay, and in our profession, he really built up their athleticism and their roster. As I said a couple of weeks ago, he unfairly and non-justified took some hits by being in the playoffs and getting beat by three touchdowns or four, whatever it was. And he’s continued to get better and better and better. And as I said on Day 1, I have seen several of the top eight teams in the country in detail and they deserve to be fifth in the country and you can only get the fifth in the country if you have good talent. And he’s done a good job there. They have good players.”

On challenges of navigating this time of year with the players and keeping them focused

“So, they don’t have a lot of free time even to this day. They have training in the mornings. We practice, meet mid-mornings, practice here, afternoon, late afternoon. Then they have responsibilities. Then they get time at night and then go do anything they want. We just don’t have any issues here. The system runs itself. I’ve said it and I’ll say it again. I can walk away for a month and they’d be just fine without me. And, we have good young men that understand responsibility. Not saying they can’t make a mistake. That can happen, okay, but 138 of them, and we don’t really have issues. So, they understand the importance of nutrition, sleep, proper hydration, training, all the things that give them the best chance to play well, they do. We don’t really, we don’t have bed checks. We don’t police them. They police themselves.”

On bowl game results being dictated by which team wants to play in the bowl and where his team is at with that

“I think that’s fair, and these guys have practiced really well. By the time we get to the middle of next week, we will have had 10 heavy practices, which would be six to seven on a normal bowl cycle. These guys practice hard every day and they go on two and they’re off one, and they go back and they practice hard again. Between the small distraction we had with Coach Knowles and what would be out of school, I don’t really see an issue.”

On the bowl practices being beneficial to younger players

“They will have had what would be close to an entire spring ball scrimmage total number of reps by the time we get to the middle of next week. They’re getting between 30 and 40 a day. Take that by eight, 250ish, somewhere in that number of reps. In a spring, when you’re talking about scrimmage reps, there’s not any young guys, which would be your threes, that get 250 reps.”

On Todd Bradford’s impact on OSU’s recruiting

“Todd’s been fantastic. The best hire I ever made was Rob Glass. Now with the transition of the portal, open transfer, potentially NIL, whatever that is, the recruiting position that he holds might be the second-most important position on our staff, that’s just my opinion. He’s been fantastic. He’s a former coach that’s recruited on the road for 30 years, so he understands. And he can evaluate talent. He has his staff that he governs, controls them like he’s the head coach, and he does a great job.”

On The Athletic saying OSU hits on as many “diamonds in the rough” as any program:

“That’s true. I don’t know that anybody’s had as much success with the (Malcolm) Rodriguezes, the Brock Martins, guys like that that we have. Todd understands that and understands our philosophy of staying within a four-hour drive of Stillwater, is kind of where we want to be. It’s our decision we make. We’ve done it now for 15 years, and he gets it. We give him a plan, and he pushes forward.”

On the players policing themselves

“Started about two years ago. Well, longer than that, but we still used to have bed checks preseason and bowl season. I stopped it a couple years ago, and then this season I don’t have any bed checks. I just think they’re old enough now that if they want to play here, they take care of themselves. If they don’t, then that’s their business. It’s almost like coaching in the NFL. If you play hard, you get a job. If you don’t, we cut you.”

On if he has had discussions about the recent spike in COVID-19 cases

“We’re all trying to do the best we can to stay away from each other, as you can tell [points to a crowd of players waiting to take pictures]. I mentioned it to them, I tell my own kids. I don’t get around my own kids because that’s where I got it last time. Kids are … they don’t pay attention to these kinds of things. I’m concerned with what’s happening right now, I’ll be honest with you. Very selfishly, we hit a home run with getting through football because we all know that that needs to happen to keep people afloat financially. But I’m a little concerned with what’s going on right now with these numbers that you’re hearing about. I read yesterday 220,000 new cases in one day – that’s a lot. I’m trying to stay away from people. We’re talking to [the players] about it with our staff. There’s a certain percentage now that have already had a shot and already had a booster. We just do the best we can.”

On if there is hesitation for letting them go home for the holiday because of COVID

“Yes, but not really. I don’t get many calls from moms anymore. If I tell them that I’m not sending their kid home and then I get to go home, I have a hard time with that.”

On Collin Oliver

“I’m shocked that he was physically as ready as he was, to be in that box. It’s a tough man’s game down in there. Mentally, I’m even more surprised because he’s never flinched. He should be tired. He practices hard every day. His motor runs. I don’t know that we’ve ever had a freshman perform as well as he did this year. I know we’ve had different positions, but he’s in a different world down there, and he’s not slowed up at all. He’s been really good.”

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