The Oklahoman's Berry Tramel took questions from readers in his Power Lunch Chat today. The topics covered included OU, OSU, Mike Gundy and Mike Holder, the Oklahoma City Thunder, and more. Take a look at the recap of today's Q&A and join our Power Lunch Chats Monday-Friday at 11 a.m. on NewsOK.com/Sports.
ON THE OKLAHOMA SOONERS:
Is OU going to be able to contain Johnny Manziel? LB's are going to be key and that is probably the weakest part of the defense.
Great question. Mike Stoops will have to devise a good defense to corral Johnny Football. But he has a month to do it. Here's an idea. How about Tony Jefferson at middle linebacker as a spy for Manziel?
Will Jaz Reynolds play in the Cotton Bowl?
Jaz Reynolds? I hadn't thought of Jaz Reynolds in months. No, Jaz won't play in the Cotton Bowl. Not even with three more arrests of receivers for marijuana.
Will Jalen Saunders play for OU against A&M?
I would bet he doesn't, but I could be wrong.
After 12 games, I still don't have a good feel for OU. Was Barry Switzer right; that the team lacks talent? The results seem to indicate otherwise — co-Big 12 champs whose only two losses were 4th quarter losses to Notre Dame and Kansas St., two pretty salty teams.
Lacks talent for what? To be as good as the '73 Sooners? Sure. To be championship quality? No. OU is a very good team and could have had a sensational year. But the Sooners lost two tight games, so that's that. The talent always needs upgraded. Alabama would say the same thing.
OU now has Texas' number. Your guess as to how long it will take for UT to become competitive again.
Competitive with OU? One win. Competitive in the Big 12? Texas is largely there. The 'Horns have just become a solid program. Not a great program. Three straight years in which the 'Horns have at least four conference losses. But Texas has the resources to get back to the top and probably will.
Why do you think OU is having a hard time lately landing high caliber D line prospects?
I don't think OU has had a hard time landing top-notch D-line prospects. They are hard to find, and the Sooners have had more than their share. Including this year. OU's D-tackles are really solid this year. The OU d-ends are where the Sooners have fallen off. OU needs to get its passrushers back up top speed.
About OU's talent level: can you name one real difference maker on defense? Someone who reliably makes plays and the offense has to account for that player on most plays?
Aaron Colvin. I think he's a big-time corner. West Virginia rolled the dice and went at Colvin, and Geno Smith made some great throws. But most people stay away from Colvin. I think Jefferson is a difference-maker, too, although the last couple of games, he's had some tackling issues.
Let me rephrase the question. Most impact plays on defense are made by the "front seven" because that's where disruption of the offense starts. I think there is indeed a talent drop off in the front seven, and OU will not challenge for a NC until they upgrade the talent there ... do you agree?
Probably so. But like I said, OU is pretty good at d-tackle. The Sooners have fallen off at linebacker and D-end, where they've been pretty good over the years. That's what's strange.
In your many years in the business, who have been the most interesting sports figures for you to cover?
Howard Schnellenberger is No. 1, and everybody else is No. 2. Eddie Sutton was interesting. Barry Switzer — who I only got a small dose of, while he was at OU, in terms of my daily involvement, that was 24 years ago — was fascinating. I loved George Shinn. And Willis Reed, who was around the Hornets a lot. But Howard reigns supreme.
Quote of the day: "Howard reigns supreme." Not a phrase often heard around these parts. Any good stories to share?
Oh, I just love the Colonel. He not only wanted us at practice, he wanted to know where we were when we missed practice. He had a press briefing after every practice. Howard had nothing to hide. I miss that.
ON MIKE GUNDY, MIKE HOLDER AND COLLEGE FOOTBALL COACHING SEARCHES:
Doesn't Mike Gundy know who he is up against? He is a good coach and has done a very good job, but football coaches are easier to find than donors willing to give half a billion dollars to the university.
You just gave the best summation I've heard to the whole situation. The person who writes the checks calls the shots. That's the way the world works. Gundy should realize that.
If Gundy wants an easy schedule why doesn't he tell Holder he wants OSU in Conference USA? What do you really get out of playing cupcakes other than a false sense of how good you are with an inflated record?
Excellent point. I've said that before. Get the heck out of the Big 12 if you don't want to play anybody. Of course, what Gundy is saying is this. The conference is great, and tough enough. Let's take it easy in September. There's something to be said for that. Like I wrote, there are decent reasons to do that. But don't tell me it's the easy road to a championship.
You were tough on Gundy, does he need to put his big boy pants on?
I didn't think I was all that tough on Gundy. I don't understand all this big boy pants stuff. Gundy just needs to get along with his bosses and quit interviewing for jobs he doesn't want.
Let's play "What if...?" What if Gundy had taken another job after this season -- who would have been candidates to replace him?
I think Todd Monken would have been elevated and I think OSU would have tried to keep the staff together.
Even if Gundy repairs his relationship with Holder, is he now more likely to NOT finish his coaching career at OSU?
Probably so. The cards are on the table. We now know the schism. It's going to be difficult to repair the relationship.
In your opinion, was Mike Gundy's flirtation with Arkansas and Tennessee legitimate interest on his part, or simply a means of gaining leverage over his administration?
Leverage. If Gundy is interested in Tennessee, he can have the job right now. I think Gundy was pulling a power play. Poorly, but that's what he was doing.
We keep hearing about the fractured relationship between Gundy, Holder and Pickens, but where does Hargis fit into this equation? Do you believe he'll have to serve as mediator in this dispute or is he on the side of Holder and Pickens?
Well, I think Hargis is clearly a supporter of Holder and Boone, but I think you've hit on something very solid. I think Burns most definitely could serve as a mediator, because he's such a solid individual. He can bring people together. I think that's an excellent idea.
I find it interesting that no one has said anything about the Gundy situation. As in, no one in their official capacity has issued a statement saying that 1. Tennessee asked for permission to interview Gundy; or 2. That Gundy interviewed with UT; or 3. That an offer was made; or 4. That the offer was rejected by Gundy. Nothing. Everything is from the 4th Estate.
Schools usually don't issue statements on job searches. So that's not surprising. But everyone is mum, and here's why. They're embarrassed. They're embarrassed that dirty laundry hit the public marketplace. They're embarrassed that their coach is shopping himself, even though most everyone believes he wants to stay.
Has Gundy turned OSU into a destination job or is it a steppingstone job?
Well, I'd say it's both. OU has lost coaches to other jobs. Chuck Fairbanks went to the New England Patriots when his next-season defensive line would have been Selmon, Selmon, Selmon. So you never know. But I think OSU is a destination job for most. All kinds of coaches would love to come Stillwater. Here's one to think of. If Arkansas had hired Gundy, would have Bret Bielema have left Wisconsin for OSU? I say yes. On the other hand, OSU always is susceptible to losing a successful coach to a Texas or USC or somewhere.
Why wouldn't Gundy take the TN job? That job is a lot better than OSU. If you think Gundy will fail because the previous coaches had, then why didn't Bob Stoops fail after succeeding John Blake
OSU is a better job than Tennessee. You can win big easier at OSU now than you can at Tennessee. The Vols have fallen to No. 7 or No. 8 in the 14-team SEC. OSU is clearly the No. 3 program in the 10-team Big 12, and OSU is moving farther ahead from the pack than the pack is gaining on OSU. You can win a national title easier at OSU than at Tennessee, reach a BCS bowl easier at OSU than at Tennessee, win a conference title easier at OSU than at Tennessee. I suppose that could change, but there's no evidence to suggest it's going to change anytime soon.
Is Mike Holder the principal individual at Oklahoma State that developed the relationship with T. Boone? Who do you think T. Boone would prefer to leave the program, Holder or Gundy?
Holder and Boone are virtual best friends. Some have likened them to father and son. So does that answer your question?
How big of a giant middle finger to Holder was that meeting with Tennessee in Gundy's Stillwater house?
I thought it was fairly abrasive. I think it was a poor PR move by Gundy. Now, if he's really interested in going to Tennessee, fine. But if he's trying to milk something else out of OSU — power, this time — that's a bad move. I don't think Holder is in the mood.
Will Gundy's flirtation with other jobs bring some stability to the assistant coaching situation in Stillwater (especially Monken)?
I don't guess I understand the question. I don't see how the flirtation brings stability to anything. I think Monken, especially, will get some head coaching opportunities, and he might go. That would be a big loss.
Are you sure Gundy is wanting to play lesser foes on the schedule?
Yes. I know this because I've heard him tell me himself. In fact, Gundy gave an interesting take on what losing to Arizona this year did to the Cowboys, primarily knock them out of the top 25 and off the ESPN crawl. I pointed out that that game also put Arizona in the top 25 and onto the ESPN craw.
Could you see Gundy bolting Stillwater as soon as his youngest son graduates from high school?
No, I don't think that's a big deal. I mean, I think Gundy would like to stay in Stillwater, but he's still got what, 7-8-9 years? Who knows what the landscape will look like then. Odds are that all kinds of things will have changed.
Glad we don't have to consider it now, but does OSU even have another coaching option with OSU roots besides Gundy? I don't think so.
I think Todd Monken would be elevated and the staff would be invited to stay. That's what I think.
Will the Gundy-to-another-job rumors now commence after every season ends?
Depends on the relationship. The rumors didn't have to pop up this year, had Gundy not courted Tennessee and Arkansas for leverage.
You are crazy if you actually think that OSU is a better job than Tennessee. One draws over 100k, the other struggles to draw 50k.
No, OSU does not struggle to draw 50,000. And Tennessee no longer draws over 100,000. There are big patches of empty seats at Neyland Stadium, and that's one reason the job is not as good. Too high expectations. They will fire you quickly. Tennessee fired Phil Fulmer, who had won a national title. OSU has been in a BCS bowl more recently than Tennessee, has been in national title contention more recently than Tennessee and has just as good or better facilities and recruiting area than Tennessee. The only thing Tennessee has on OSU is tradition and a bigger fan base. And the latter is a curse.
Hasn't Mike Holder butted head with practically everyone in the program? I remember stories about Gary Ward and him from my college days.
Butted heads? Maybe. I don't know. He can be a difficult personality to deal with.
ON THE OKLAHOMA STATE COWBOYS:
Any insight as to why OSU fell in the bowl choices? Was it rumor of Gundy conflict, etc.?
No, I don't think so. I think it was a series of unfortunate circumstances. Let's go down the list. Alamo? Always likes Texas, when it gets a chance. Tempe? OSU was there last year and TCU was a good option. Holiday? Was really fired up to get a team that had never been there before. Baylor, WVU, ISU, somebody. Houston? There's the real question. Why did Houston pass on OSU for Tech? Might chalk it up to politics. Probably some Tech people on the board, although I suppose it's possible there were some OSU people. Pinstripe? No brainer to take West Virginia. If OU had made the Sugar, then you've got Texas in the Cotton, I'd guess TCU in the Alamo, Baylor in the Wild Wings, West Virginia in the Holiday, Tech in the Houston and maybe OSU in the Pinstripes. So Northern Illinois kept OSU out of New York City.
I think it's ridiculous that OSU has to play an awful Purdue team in the Heart of Dallas of bowl. The 3rd place team in the Big XII has no business playing a middle of the pack (at best) Big 10 team. Thoughts?
Like I just wrote, sometimes that's the way it goes. If OSU had beaten Baylor, everything is different. OSU at 8-4 overall and 6-3 in the Big 12, OSU probably is back in Tempe, at worst. The killer is this. Had Penn State and Ohio State been eligible, then a better team would be playing OSU. Let's see, the Big Ten's three Florida bowl teams would be Nebraska, Penn State and Michigan. So Wisconsin probably would be in Tempe, Michigan State in Houston and Northwestern in Dallas. That wouldn't be a horrible game. OSU-Northwestern.
OSU's best offensive coordinator in recent years? Gundy, Holgorsen, or Monken?
If someone wants to argue Holgorsen, I'd have to listen to the reasons awfully close. I mean, one year, transformed the offense into an explosive machine that is still humming along, even though Weeden is long gone.
COMPARING OKLAHOMA AND OKLAHOMA STATE:
What are your early projections for the 2013 OU and OSU football teams?
I think I'll say OU 2nd and OSU 3rd in Big 12 preseason projections. Behind TCU. I think both teams will be good.
Travis Ford and Lon Kruger seems to have their programs headed in the right direction. Do you think they can return to where they were under Sutton and Sampson?
I agree that the programs are headed in the right direction. But I don't see either program getting back to the salad days. The Sutton/Sampson era was very special in Bedlam hoops. Those were the days, my friend. Going to be very tough to get back.
Looking into your crystal ball, which coach would you guess will be the first to leave their respective universities, Stoops or Gundy?
Oh man, great question. Clearly, Gundy has the hotter feet. He's sort of looking. On the other hand, Stoops has been around a lot longer and could just walk away some day. I guess I'd say Gundy is more likely to leave, since he's opened the door to the possibility.
ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL ACROSS THE NATION:
The Big XII has become a much less predictable football conference than in the past. I think it is the most interesting conference in the country. Agree?
Most interesting? No. I'd say the SEC is the most interesting. But clearly the Big 12 has found some parity. Four schools have won the last four titles. That's pretty rare.
How do you see Notre Dame matching up with Alabama? I know we have a month to consider this but I'd be interested to know your thoughts. Thanks.
I think it will be a great game. I think Notre Dame's defense will stop Alabama. I don't think the Irish offense will do much with Bama, so I expect a low-scoring game. I'll take Bama in a close game.
ON THE OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER:
Does Kevin Martin actually fit the Thunder better than Harden?
I'd say no, but Martin is fitting just fine. The loss of Harden hasn't hurt the Thunder so far. It might not.
The Thunder is playing great. Your thoughts?
They are playing great. But one warning. The easy part of the schedule is early. The Thunder has played a bunch of home games and bunch of games against the NBA's dregs. The schedule will stiffen.
ON THE NFL:
What's your take on Greg Jennings? Do you think he's going to be the force that he was before his injury or is he still tender?
Great day. I don't know. I doubt Bret Bielema knows, and until Tuesday, he was a football coach in the state of Wisconsin.