Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy celebrated with students after the Cowboys upset ninth-ranked West Virginia last season in Stillwater. BILL HAISTEN/Tulsa World

Excerpts from a Q&A involving Oklahoma State football coach Mike Gundy, the Tulsa World’s Bill Haisten and The Oklahoman’s Berry Tramel:

Haisten: What are the early reports on the summer work of quarterbacks Spencer Sanders, Dru Brown and Brendan Costello?

Gundy: “The reports that I can hang my hat on is that their work is good (and) their leadership is good. They’re focused. They’re studying the game on their own. Doing things to help themselves, which (helps) our team. Until we put it together and they go out and play a game, you don’t have any idea. ... It’s just different when you turn the lights on.”

Tramel: There has been no announcement on which of the quarterbacks is your starter. Last year, Taylor Cornelius was named the starter long before preseason camp. What is different this year?

Gundy: “Any time we have a quarterback that’s clearly the best guy as a starter, we’ll name him the quarterback. I think that’s better for the organization and the team. Different coaches do it different ways. Some guys like to play it right until (the first game week). I would prefer for the team to know who their quarterback is, but that would only take place if we knew who that quarterback was going to be.”

Haisten: The stadium renovation was completed 10 years ago and the indoor facility was finished in 2013. It’s been six years since there was anything of significance developed for football. What does the program need now?

Gundy: “We’re still trying to raise money to enhance recruiting — facilitate manpower, (raise) money for private air (and) things of that nature. We’ve pushed hard over the last year for that. ... Two, we had a 1,000 on the APR a year ago — a 100% graduation rate. Every player in the organization, based on their classification, was at percentage towards their degree program. Only five schools in the country did that. So, we need a new academic center. We’ve got a terrific academic center that was built, I want to say, about 15 or 20 years ago. Our athletic department in general — approximately 530 athletes — we’ve outgrown it. ... And I’m just starting to push right now toward a player recreation center in our end zone for our team.”

Tramel: Mike Yurcich was at OSU for six years. Now, there’s a new line coach (Charlie Dickey) and a new offensive coordinator (Sean Gleeson). How is the dynamic in the offensive meeting room?

Gundy: “Any time you bring in new coaches, there’s a danger for issues. Most coaches at this level have egos. They have agents now. They all want to be a coordinator. They all want to be a head coach. I understand that. I say that respectfully because I was one of those guys. (In 2013), we hit a home run. Mike Yurcich was every bit as good as (coordinators) we’ve had here in the past. I’ve been very fortunate to have good coordinators here, and Yurcich — (with) his leadership and knowledge as a play-caller — was as good as anyone we’ve had here. That’s why (other programs) were chasing him for two years.”

Gundy on receivers coach Kasey Dunn: “We were extremely fortunate to keep Kasey Dunn. (Athletic director Mike Holder) did a fantastic job of building a contract and a package — a long-term deal — and, essentially, recruiting him. Kasey wanted (a promotion). He wanted to be the coordinator, so I wasn’t the most popular guy with him at that particular time. That’s life. That’s the way it is. So, coach Holder basically did a fantastic job of keeping him here.”

Gundy on Charlie Dickey, who succeeded former Cowboy offensive line coach Josh Henson (now at Texas A&M): “(Henson) wants to move up and be a coordinator. He felt like that path was best for him. I was really concerned about (the offensive-line job) if I couldn’t get coach Dickey in here. I have been pleasantly surprised in going into (the offensive-line room). Coach Dickey wants to coach the offensive line. I think he’s 56 years old, maybe. He’s a veteran of many years. No ego. Loves what he’s doing: ‘You take care of me. I’ll take care of you, and I’m going to coach my guys up.’”

Gundy on Sean Gleeson: “Sean is a young, up-and-coming, high-energy technician with great ideas that we can implement in our system. I just hope we can have it all ready by the first game. Yurcich needed a few months to adjust. Dana (Holgorsen) came in with Brandon Weeden, Justin Blackmon, Kendall Hunter, Joe Randle and those guys. I’m not knocking Dana. I’m just saying, when you have a potential first-round NFL pick at quarterback (Weeden), you just need to put them out there and not screw it up.”

Gundy on his offensive staff: “When I leave the office every day, I feel really good about that room.”

Haisten: If you hadn’t become a football coach, what type of career might you have pursued?

Gundy: “I’d like to say a farmer, but I’m not making any money farming. I would definitely be working outside. I wouldn’t work a desk job. (At one time), I was going to teach and coach in high school. I would be working outside, (like) mowing and weed-eating yards. I’d rather work around the house and clean pools than go inside and work.”

Tramel: Defense — is it a problem that just can’t be fixed because of the culture of offense in the Big 12? You can get better, but this idea that anybody in the Big 12 can play great defense — is it even possible?

Gundy: “I think it is, but it has to be (measured by) points per possession. Todd Monken’s cousin up there at Army (Black Knights coach Jeff Monken) — they did a fantastic job of coaching, but you can’t compare their defensive coordinator’s points-allowed to the coordinators in our league. Army’s defense is on the field for nine possessions a game. Our guys are out there 14, 15 or maybe 16 a game. If you go by those numbers, you’re going to get a fair statistic.”

More from Gundy on defense: “The (Big 12) defensive players, starting in the middle of October and going through November, they’re tired. They’re fatigued. They’re chasing running backs and wide receivers, and chasing the deep ball, all season long. . . . Last year and the year before, Oklahoma got into (the College Football Playoff). They didn’t have any problem with scoring points (against Georgia and Alabama). They were playing against pretty good SEC coaches. (Before the 2016 Alamo Bowl), Colorado had a top-10 defense and we hung 38 on them. Other people are struggling to stop teams in this league.”

Gundy on the 2018 OSU defense: “We were not a disciplined defense. The coaches and players know that. I’ve told them that. Part of that (blame goes) to the head coach. We need to be fundamentally sound and we need to be more disciplined. That would be a good starting point.”

Haisten: You had a 50-yard line vantage point to see Kyler Murray in the Bedlam game and you’re very familiar with Kliff Kingsbury. How will their partnership look in Arizona?

Gundy: “I’ve never been in the NFL, (but) I know that Kliff is an extremely intelligent football coach. He gets offense. (Murray) had the single greatest season I’ve ever seen for (a one-year starter at the college level). You couldn’t touch him. You couldn’t tackle him. You couldn’t stop him. He played with a very good supporting cast and a fantastic offensive line. That was evident in the draft. It will be very interesting to watch whether they turn (Murray) loose – let him run around and make plays – or if it’s a little more structured to fit the NFL style. . . . All I can go on is what (Murray) did in college. He was fantastic. I couldn’t believe it, watching the guy live.”

Tramel: If someone had told me in November that Kliff Kingsbury was about to become an NFL head coach, I would have called them crazy. You can’t say that anymore. If someone told me now that Mike Gundy is going to coach in the NFL, I’d say you weren’t leaving Stillwater, but we’ve seen evidence that it can happen. When you hear about Kingsbury going to the NFL, do you ever think, “I’d like to try that.”

Gundy: “If I ever decided to do it, I would probably be too old for it. It’s something that’s intriguing, but I’m really driven here. The culture part – I read about (NFL players) not showing up for practice or (organized team activities), and I don’t know if I could deal with that. I’d have a problem with things like that, so I’d lean toward no at this time.”

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Bill Haisten



Twitter: @billhaisten

Sports Columnist

Bill joined the Tulsa World in 1990. Prior to having become a sports columnist in 2016, he was the only sports writer in Tulsa World history to have covered OU, OSU, the University of Tulsa and Oral Roberts sports on an everyday basis. Phone: 918-581-8397