For the second straight year the Oklahoma State Cowboys received a lot of attention at the Big 12 Football Media Days. A year ago they were coming off their first Big 12 Championship in school history. This year the Cowboys are the media's pick to win their second conference title. OSU head coach Mike Gundy, defensive tackle and Tulsa native Calvin Barnett, linebacker Shaun Lewis and wide receiver Josh Stewart met with the media Monday in Dallas at the Omni Hotel for Big 12 Media Days.
Here is a question and answer session between Coach Gundy and the Big 12 Media.
COACH GUNDY: Thank you. We've very excited to be here ready to go. We've had a good break. The players have worked hard. Coaches have been away, as you guys know.
We're excited about the season. We have a great group of young men. Back to work for a week, and players will be in here and get started.
I'm really excited about our conference. I think we continue to grow, come together as a group, an opportunity for great games. I think that it will be a very exciting season. We're very proud of where we are, our football team, our coaches, our organization. Couldn't be more excited about getting started here in a week.
Q. Mike, you came into this deal last year as the reigning Big 12 champs. You come in this year as the preseason pick to win it. Are you getting used to this? Just what does that say about the growth of your program?
COACH GUNDY: I think what you said really is the way we look at it. I think there's been some growth in the program at Oklahoma State. I think it's a tribute to the players that have been before this group, the young men that are on our team now, and the ones in the future. They've got a lot to look forward to.
I know that it won't have any effect on our season, but I do think it means a lot to Oklahoma State that people feel comfortable in saying that we're good enough to have the opportunity to win a conference championship.
Q. Mike, got any desire to tell us who's going to start at quarterback?
COACH GUNDY: I think that we'll continue to work like we have. We've got two young men that we feel very comfortable with, and they've worked, and they're extremely dedicated to our program. They're great team players. They'll get equal reps.
The one advantage we have in our offense is in practice and even in games we get a number of reps because of our tempo. We expect to play very fast this year. So we'll work both guys. We feel very comfortable with them.
Won't say much until after the first game. We play a very quality opponent the first game. So we'll need to use every advantage we have to give ourselves the best opportunity to win that game.
Q. Regarding the favorite issue, how much do you address that with your team, and how do you kind of talk about that, if at all?
COACH GUNDY: I think it's certainly something that we'll address and make comments the same way that I have here today in that it's a tribute to a lot of players that have come before these guys that have worked hard.
There's been a number of situations that gave us the opportunity to have success at Oklahoma State, and they've taken advantage of it. And the young men that are on this team right now worked extremely hard. We all know -- I don't know what the exact number of years to go back, but being picked No. 1 certainly doesn't guarantee you the conference championship, we all know that.
We'll mention that to our players and be very vanilla, they've still got a lot of work ahead of them, but we're very proud of how far they've come and that they have the opportunity. They've got to go out and play well.
Q. With an offensive coordinator who doesn't have any D-I experience, how much do you have a hand in the offense this year?
COACH GUNDY: Not very much. It's been a number of years since I've really been involved in play calling. I have an opinion each week on what I think gives us the best chance to move the ball and score points, and then usually by Monday I'm out of that room.
I have a lot of confidence in the coaches on our staff and the decisions they make, and at the end of the day, they're the ones that have to instill it in the players in meetings and get it across to them on the practice field. They have to get them to perform on Saturday.
So very little. I have a lot of faith in the guys that are in that room.
Q. Mike, can you just talk about the balance that you've had on offense the last seven years, averaging five yards a carry most of those years and scoring a ton, throwing it well. And now it seems, from what I've read, that you're just bringing in coaches who will continue to operate the offense that you've established there. You don't have any interest in bringing in guys who are going to try to bring their offense to Oklahoma State. Just talk about what exactly your philosophy is.
COACH GUNDY: We've been very fortunate that we've had good players. We hit on quarterbacks, a couple of them that weren't very highly recruited who had come in our system and had success. We believe in our work ethic. We believe in the way we handle our players once they walk on campus as freshmen, and we develop them into -- put them in a position to have success on Saturdays in all three phases.
You had asked about offense. We have approximately 35, 45 players or so that have played for our offense each year, each season, and when we've lost a coordinator to become a head coach, I felt like it was an advantage to continue to run the offense and keep our terminology. So we would bring in one new coach or two new coaches, and they would learn our system instead of 35 or 40 players trying to learn a new terminology or a new system from the outside.
For that reason, we've had success. So we don't see any reason to change. Our players have also been recruited there, and we told them that this was the offense we were going to run. We would be up tempo. We would throw the ball. We'd run play action. We'd run the football. We want to be consistent in our recruiting.
So the players that are currently on our team will continue to recruit. They've always been the best for us, and I know that's somewhat broad, but those are reasons for staying with the system. It's difficult to bring a young man in that's made a commitment to our program for certain reasons, and then a couple years later things change. It can certainly affect him. So we try to stay as consistent as possible in that area.
It's never perfect, but by bringing a coach in and having him adjust to Oklahoma State, we've had success. So we'll continue to move in that direction.
Q. Your name has come up for a bunch of jobs over the last few years. Curious what your level of happiness, contentment is at Stillwater, and is that a destination job?
COACH GUNDY: I'm very happy in Stillwater. To a certain extent, at times you wish that -- or I wish that my name wouldn't have come up or I wish that it wouldn't have been as much smoke or fire. At times I'm to blame for that.
But I'm very happy, always been very happy in Stillwater. And the honest answer is is that from day one when we took this over, our coaching staff going into nine years now, we felt like the most important thing that we could do for the players on our team is make a commitment to them, if they would buy in, that we would have a chance to have success.
For me personally, I have to feel comfortable knowing there's a commitment to the young men on our team to give them the best opportunity for success in the classroom and on the football field, and if there's not, then it's hard for me to sell.
So at times, whether we all like to admit it or not, there's a business aspect to this profession, probably more so than we would like to think. But I have to feel comfortable myself personally -- and I don't use "I" myself very often when we talk about Oklahoma State football -- that there's a commitment in all different areas for our young men to have success.
So when we go in those homes, the very most important thing we do is recruit young men who want to get a degree from Oklahoma State and be a part of that team, and that commitment has to be from both sides.
So I'm comfortable with that. It doesn't mean I always agree with the decisions that are made, none of us do, but I do understand a chain of command, and at the end of the day, I say, yes, sir, and move forward.
Q. Coach, allegedly you want to go faster on offense than ever before. Can you talk about the value of going faster.
COACH GUNDY: We feel like we can stretch a defense. Rob Glass, our strength and conditioning coach, in my opinion, is the best in the country, getting our players in great cardiovascular shape, and we just feel like it's an advantage.
I'm sure that other coaching staffs have a method of ways that they train and develop and schemes that they use to give them an advantage. We think speed is an advantage on offense.
We also feel like that young men who are in high school that have an opportunity to touch the football, have an opportunity to be part of an offense, want to play in that style. They look forward to it. We thought years ago, when we made a change, that there was a benefit in recruiting in this part of the country. For the most part, we recruit within a four or five-hour drive of Stillwater.
The young men that are in this part of the country are in that style of offense for the most part. So from a marketing standpoint, a chance for success on Saturdays, and also from a recruiting standpoint, we think that playing fast gives us the best chance to have success in the long run at Oklahoma State.
Q. You're going to start the season against the SEC in kind of a big challenge for an opening game of the year, and also playing in an area like Houston that's a metropolitan area apart from where you're normally from. Just talk about your philosophy of playing that game and also such an early challenge like that.
COACH GUNDY: Well, it certainly changes our approach as a coaching staff. The truth of the matter is we know that, when you play an opponent that on paper is going to have as good a players -- we could debate SEC versus Big 12, and we could start lining them up and going head to head on paper, but we all know the parity that's in the Big 12 and the SEC that when you play an opponent that's in the category that Oklahoma State's in and Mississippi State's in, that you have to play well in the first game to win. I think we would all agree on that.
So it changes our approach as a coaching staff and what we do in preseason practice. I have not always been a big fan of it, but we make adjustments. In life, we don't always get what we want. So it changes how we approach preseason practice. That really is the easiest answer for your question.
My concern is whether that affects us in November because we really need to be strong in the last week of October and up through November to make that run.
We've had a formula at Oklahoma State over the last really five, six, seven years that we feel like gives us the best chance to be strong, be in great shape, and be fresh at the end of the season so our teams can perform at the highest level. We have to alter that some when we play teams early in the season, particularly the first game, that are very capable of having success against your team if you don't play well.
Q. Talk about playing in Houston.
COACH GUNDY: Houston is a great venue for us. I think that, obviously, Dallas, Houston, and the Texas area, there's -- we recruit in Oklahoma and Kansas, and there's, give or take, 350 Division I players in the state of Texas. So it's a tremendous advantage for us to be here. We've had tremendous advantage in Houston, Texas, central Texas, and this area. So that's an advantage for us.
But there are some adjustments we have to make when you play an opponent like Mississippi State.
Q. Coach, back to the tempo subject, do you think the extra official in league games is going to help you play even faster?
COACH GUNDY: I think it's good for college football. The majority of the teams are playing up tempo, and the game changes over time. They added an official years ago because of more forward passes, I believe. They had to have an official to where they could see down the field more because people start throwing more passes.
Well, now a number of teams are up tempo. And this allows the officials to get the ball set where an offense can play and a defense can play, and they can still officiate the game.
What that does, it allows one person to get the ball and get it set and get out of the way instead of a person trying to do that and also look at what he's supposed to be looking at to officiate the game.
Q. You're not the only coach here today that was a quarterback at your school and now is the head coach. Can you kind of talk about that experience you've had evolving in that and maybe what Kliff Kingsbury is going to face, especially as a young guy at Texas Tech.
COACH GUNDY: I've been very fortunate to be at Oklahoma State. I've said that, and I mean it. They took me on as a young player when I don't think most coaches would have. Now in 20 years, if I would have walked through the halls of the high school and looked at myself, I don't know that I would have recruited me.
They gave me an opportunity, and it worked out well. And obviously as an assistant coach and been fortunate enough to be the head coach. For me personally -- and I think it's different for everybody -- it means more to me to be at Oklahoma State. Again, everybody's personal opinion.
Kliff is a smart guy. He's had success. He's obviously got good pedigree. He's been trained by one of the best in the game, and I'm sure that he's very excited to be back in Lubbock and will definitely bring more excitement for you guys and for the fans to Big 12 football.
Q. Could you talk about Josh Stewart and how he's progressed as a player from his freshman year to now and on field and also just any extra leadership role he's going to be taking on this year.
COACH GUNDY: Josh is a great example of what we really strive for at Oklahoma State. He came in and had some class misses, and he always loved to play football, he's very competitive.
We felt like -- we use the term -- guys will ask about a Josh or a Joe Randle or other players that we've had, and our comment is they really love to play the game. They would play it for free, and Josh loves to play football. He's very competitive.
He plays through pain, plays through injury. Cold weather, hot weather, doesn't affect him. And he's really developed. We've been very fortunate to have a number of great receivers at Oklahoma State over the last few years, and each year, as one moves on, as a coaching staff, we see young talent, but you're always concerned about whether that guy's going to step up. Josh really stepped up for us last year in a big way. He had over 100 catches, and he ran the ball some, and he's been a really good team leader.
Over the last couple of years, he excelled in the classroom. He doesn't show up on class missed list. He's been a great worker in the weight room for Rob Glass, and we're as proud of that as anything because he's a quality young man that's come in, and he's developed both on and off the field, and he's turned into a leader for our football team.
Q. Mike, you talked about tempo in college football. There has been some criticism from a couple SEC coaches about potential injury concerns from high tempo offenses. What are your thoughts on that? Is that a legitimate concern?
COACH GUNDY: Well, in my opinion, high tempo and spread offenses have been the single thing that's created parity in college football. And over the last eight or ten years, when coaches have essentially started playing basketball on grass is really what we're playing now by spreading the court and getting the ball to young men that years ago wouldn't have an opportunity to play because they weren't maybe as big or as strong or as fast, and maybe even a Josh Stewart, if you were in a traditional style of offense, where does he play? Even though he's a really, really good player, does he get 100 catches, and do we know who he is across the country? I would say no.
So I think it's the very best thing that's happened to college football. It's the reason that we've gone away, in my opinion, from a top 15 teams in the country, when I was growing up -- and some of you, some of you are a lot younger than me -- but even in the late '70s and '80s, you had your top 15 tradition-rich teams in the country that were going to be that way in the first polls that came out at the year, and it would end that way. Well, that now has gone to the top 40 or 45 teams in the country for the most part that have a chance to win on any given Saturday.
I think it's tremendous for college football. I think that's why college football has gone through the roof, and there's so much interest. There's been so many different people that are involved in college football now because of tempo and spread offenses.
It would be a huge mistake for somebody to be convinced that that would have in any form or fashion or reason to cause any injury. We're spread out. We're throwing it around and catching it. There's not as many collisions compared to putting everybody together tight and ramming everybody up in there and being a pile. So I certainly don't agree with that. I think it's great for college football.
The Oklahoma State Cowboys begin fall camp with Fan Appreciation Day in Stillwater on Saturday August the 3rd. The open the season on August 31st against Mississippi State in Houston, TX.