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Top 5 Quotes from Mike Gundy’s Pre-South Alabama News Conference

On the offensive line, running backs and finding a way to win.



[Devin Wilber/PFB]

STILLWATER — Snap share is sort of the theme of Oklahoma State’s 2023 season to this point — whether that be at quarterback, running back, defensive line or nearly anywhere else.

Mike Gundy held his weekly media luncheon Monday in Boone Pickens Stadium ahead of the Cowboys’ Week 3 matchup against South Alabama at 6 p.m. Saturday. Many of the topics Gundy discussed involved snap distribution at a variety of positions. If you want to read what Gundy said about his three-way quarterback competition, you can do so here, but here are five more topics Gundy hit on with a link to his full news conference below.

1. On Why Offensive Linemen Aren’t Rotating Like the Other Positions

The Cowboys are sharing reps seemingly everywhere — but not on the offensive line.

OSU’s run game was a struggle for three quarters against Central Arkansas before getting going in the fourth. Then the Pokes put a goose egg in the rushing-yards column in the first half of Saturday’s win against Arizona State before getting going in the second half.

According to Pro Football Focus, there were 65 offensive plays for the Cowboys on Saturday. Cole Birmingham, Jason Brooks Jr., Joe Michalski and Dalton Cooper each played all 65, while Taylor Miterko played 22 and a returning Preston Wilson played the other 43.

The group was missing Jake Springfield because of injury, but when three quarterbacks are playing, three running backs are playing and players are rotating seemingly everywhere else, it begs the question — why aren’t offensive linemen doing the same?

“Well, we were down a couple guys for a while,” Gundy said. “Hopefully we might get one back this week. Preston’s back with us, so that should allow us to do a little bit of it. They’re the guys that traditionally don’t — we’ve talked about this in here — they don’t rotate a lot. But when you go into a game with three centers, three guards and three tackles that you feel comfortable with, you can rotate them some. Then if you have a chance to bring a young kid in a little bit and play, it’s a better deal. But we haven’t had that luxury now because of the situation we were with. We might get back to that this week. We’ll see.”

2. Finding a Way to Win

The optimistic group of OSU’s fan base has answered doubts about OSU’s struggles against Central Arkansas and Arizona State with mentions of the 2021 Cowboys.

In 2021, OSU didn’t win a nonconference game by double digits — beating Missouri State 23-16, Tulsa 28-23 and Boise State 21-20. But then the Cowboys went on to lose just once in the regular season before falling in the Big 12 title game just to beat Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl.

It was an unconventional route by OSU’s standards of historically being a team that wins via offensive firepower. But that 2021 team just found ways to win by any means necessary. Could the 2023 group be of a similar mold?

“You see it recently because of the transfer [portal] and the parity that’s out there,” Gundy said. “TCU found a way to win three or four games last year they could’ve lost. Now, Georgia dominated everybody — different ballgame. But there’s teams that have done that.

“I worked with a guy a long time ago that said at the end of the fourth quarter, if we’re up by one point, then we win. He said, ‘I just wanna win by one point.’ That’s an exaggeration, but you just gotta kinda find a way to stay in there and finish in the fourth quarter and win until you can get hitting on all cylinders if that ever happens.”

3. The Other Three-Way Position Battle

As far as three-way position battles go, the OSU quarterbacks are getting all the headlines, but something similar is happening at running back.

Through two games, the trio of Ollie Gordon, Elijah Collins and Jaden Nixon have combined to rush for 238 yards and three touchdowns on 5.3 yards per carry.

Gordon: 16 carries, 96 yards, two touchdowns, 6.1 yards per carry
Collins: 16 carries, 71 yards, one touchdown, 4.4 yards per carry
Nixon: 13 carries, 70 yards, no touchdowns, 5.4 yards per carry

Gordon and Collins are tied for 20th in the Big 12 in terms of carries. For reference, there are already six Big 12 rushers with at least 30 carries.

Among OSU’s trio, Gordon has stood out with the most rushing yards, most touchdowns and most yards per carry. In Saturday’s win in Tempe, OSU scored in every possession Gordon had a carry.

But the other two are playing well, as well. Collins has been dynamic with the ball in his hands, and Nixon’s speed makes him a gamechanger out of the backfield. Nixon is the Cowboys’ fourth-leading receiver with six catches for 45 yards.

“[Running backs coach John Wozniak] is doing a good job of trying to keep an idea of where they’re at and some guys may be better than others at doing certain things — not a lot, but maybe,” Gundy said. “So he’ll be smart in making those decisions and then just try to keep them fresh. That’s the one position where if a guy gets rolling, he’s hot, then maybe he stays in a little longer. I don’t know.”

4. South Alabama’s Physicality

A 1-1 Group of Five team might not be the scariest matchup for the Cowboys from a broad scope, but Gundy spoke highly of South Alabama.

The Jaguars lost a Week 1 tilt to a ranked Tulane squad before rebounding last week with a 35-17 win against Southeastern Louisiana. South Alabama received votes in preseason polls, and the Jaguars have a bunch of returning talent.

What seems to stand out most about the Jaguars to Gundy is their physicality.

“This is the most physical team we will play; this is the best team we’ll play up to this point,” Gundy said. “They’re physical. They’ve done a nice job. They’re a very aggressive defense. They want to hit you in the mouth. Their linebackers are aggressive. They have undersized D-linemen in somebody’s opinion. They’ve got some 6-1, 6-2, 300-pound guys that are explosive and powerful. Play hard, they run to the ball and tackle. This is the most physical team we’ve played.”

5. Too Much Rotation?

I floated the idea out in my 10 thoughts from Saturday (Sunday morning) that OSU might have overcorrected after last season’s transfer portal exodus.

Gundy got asked Monday whether it worries him if players will transfer because of limited playing time with all the rotating going on. Gundy pointed out that the alternative is they transfer because one guy is getting all the playing time.

It’s an interesting dilemma that is new to college football with the still somewhat recent addition of the portal.

“We’re doing what we think is best for the players we have that we brought in here — giving them a fair opportunity to play,” Gundy said. “We’re not really worried about the portal because if a player is gonna transfer, he’s gonna transfer.

“… We can’t keep everybody happy. It’s impossible, so we have to do what we think is best for the team and the longevity of the season. But I will say this: when we have brought mature players in the program — (Anthony) Goodlow, (Alan) Bowman, (Elijah) Collins, (De’Zhaun) Stribling, (Justin) Kirkland — we are somewhat obligated to play them and see what they can do if in practice they perform well enough to earn that right or we shouldn’t have brought them in, in my opinion. That’s just my personal opinion. Because when we brought them here, we told them we were going to give them a chance to play, so we need to kind of follow through on what we said. That’s the best answer I have for that.”

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