Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy knows Dez Bryant is a longshot for the Heisman Trophy. But Gundy still says the OSU receiver belongs in the discussion. "At his position, it’s difficult to win,” Gundy said. "I don’t know how many guys at that position have won, maybe two or three. If you’re looking for the best college football player ... he’s a pretty good player. I think he deserves to be in that class. "If you call around and ask teams we’ve played how they feel about him and the way they try to defend him, they’ll let you know that they give him a lot of respect.”
Tailgate tourGundy said he and his wife, Kristen, will continue their tradition of touring postgame tailgate parties. "It’s a lot of fun when you win,” Gundy said. "Get out and see people ... shake hands with alums, or their son or daughter goes here. A lot of strong ties here.”
D-tackle shortageGundy said OSU has four defensive ends but is "sitting at 2 1/2” defensive tackles: Derek Burton, Shane Jarka and Swanson Miller. "They’re hard to find,” Gundy said. "Everywhere I’ve coached, it’s been hard to sign.” Gundy said most teams will try to put 15 defensive tackles on their recruiting board, bring in three of those 15 and sign two. The hardest assignment, Gundy said, is finding those 15 to put on the board.
Cowboys excited to open at homeOSU has opened the season on the road six of the last eight years. This year’s seniors, many of whom began seeing significant playing time as sophomores, are excited about the prospects of opening the season at home. "Being at home is totally different on the field,” senior Perrish Cox said. "You have all your fans and you’re in comfort mode.” With the renovated Boone Pickens Stadium and a sea full of orange-clad fans in the stands, the Cowboys should be raring to go against Georgia. "There’s a real comfort in playing at home,” Gundy said. "Knowing where your locker is, knowing the way to the field, when you warm up, your surroundings, the surface. All those things are important and can affect your game when you play at home.”
Causing problemsBryant will continue to return punts. He returned two punts for touchdowns in 2008 and ranked third nationally with 17.9 yards per return. Gundy said Bryant causes opponents multiple headaches in the return game — adjusting coverages, extra practice time, directional punts that take away yardage. "We’re always trying to find a way to get him the ball,” Gundy said. "Every time he touches the ball, good things happen.”
Mr. Tough GuyWho is OSU’s toughest player? Gundy provided a surprise answer: Wide receiver DeMarcus Conner. "Conner’s pretty tough,” Gundy said. "Probably pound-for-pound the toughest.” Said Conner, "I’m glad he thinks of me like that. I work through pain. I’ve got the mentality of being physical.”
Big crowdA crowd estimated at 7,500 filed through Gallagher-Iba Arena for autographs during OSU’s Fan Appreciation Day. The players were divided into four groups. Kyle Wray, OSU’s Associate Vice President of Enrollment Management/Marketing, said in years past, fans could work their way through all four groups. Not so Saturday. Wray said fans generally made it through only two groups. Bryant and a few other players stayed after the 7 p.m. deadline to accommodate fans who were upset about the possibility of missing out on autographs.
Huge senior classThe Cowboys have 22 seniors on the roster, 19 on the two-deep chart. It’s one of OSU’s largest senior classes in years, led by 13 starters, including quarterback Zac Robinson, Russell Okung, Andre Sexton, Patrick Lavine and Cox. These seniors will be among the last classes that can recall arriving on campus when Boone Pickens Stadium was in the early stages of a six-year renovation project. "The locker rooms, stadium, weight room, everything has changed from since I first got here,” Lavine said. "I talked to guys who left last year and they wanted the opportunity to play one last season when everything was completely done. The new locker rooms are unbelievable.”
Replacing PettigrewYou don’t replace a player like Brandon Pettigrew. The Detriot Lions’ first-round pick had 42 catches for 472 yards and was one of the Big 12’s top blocking tight ends. His versatility will be hard to replace in 2009. Sophomore Jamal Mosley appears to be the heir apparent at the position along with fellow sophomore Wilson Youman. Redshirt freshmen Justin Horton and Cooper Bassett could be in the mix as well. "I feel confident,” Mosley said. "I gained confidence last year when he (Pettigrew) went down with an injury. Me and Wilson both played last year so I think our confidence level is up quite a bit. "I was nervous at first, then I started making plays and I was like... ‘Aw, this game is for me.’ ”