Because of a bye week, Oklahoma State did not have its regular media luncheon on Monday. But Cowboy coach Mike Gundy still did his weekly spot on Sirius’ College Football show.
Here are his comments. Not surprisingly, none of them are about the five-part Sports Illustrated investigative series on the Cowboy program that concluded Monday.
On the improvements he wants to see in the bye week before getting into conference play:
We really want to just work on our basics: Offense, defense and special teams. We’re off to a pretty good start and, as you mentioned, now we’re gonna get into the meat of our schedule. You get into the point where you’re playing conference each week, traveling on the road, playing in front of big crowds. Now’s the time that really starts to count. We want to keep our players fresh and healthy and get ready for just our basic fundamentals in all three phases.
On how they utilize the bye week to keep players fresh and healthy:
I think it’s our responsibility as a coaching staff. We gave them, really, yesterday off—they did just a little bit last night. They have all day off today. So that’s two days, really, so they have 48 hours to recover. We (practice) Tuesday, Wednesday, light Thursday. And then they’re off Friday, they’re off Saturday, really light practice Sunday and then they’re off Monday. So for the most part, five to six days off over the next 10 days before we start to get into West Virginia on a Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday practice (schedule) is how we keep our players fresh. Because in our opinion, they don’t really recover unless we give them like 48 hours off.
On the biggest challenge he thinks his coaching staff faces after three games:
We still have to continue to tackle better in space. We’ve taken care of the ball. We’ve done a good job of avoiding turnovers. We’ve forced some turnovers. We were better in our coverage units and covering. Obviously, (Lamar’s) talent wasn’t the same level as ours, but fundamentally we were better in those areas. If you look out there in college football, I see four or five teams that, in somebody’s opinion, may be great football teams. And then I see about 40 or 50 teams that are just about all the same. On any given day, if you turn the ball over and if you don’t play well in special teams that you can get beat, or the opposite, if you take care of those two areas, you can win the game. I think it just comes down to the chemistry, the discipline, the structure of the organization and our team. We have to work on that as much as we do the Xs and Os.
On how he can move his defense into the upper echelon of college football:
We challenge them each week to study tape on their own and do everything possible to prepare themselves to play well on Saturday, because there’s not enough hours in the week for us to coach them. We get four hours a day, we don’t take all that time. We get 20 hours a week, we don’t use all that time, because we don’t think we can put that much on their bodies. Physically, we’re gonna drain them, and the end of October and November we’re not gonna have anything left. So with that being said, we ask them to spend a considerable amount of time on their own studying tape, and we then test them and challenge them at the latter part of the weeks on game week on what they’ve seen and ask them to tell us. We think the mental preparation gives us the best chance to have success.
On how players getting a chance to watch other teams during the bye can be beneficial:
We have the luxury of a pretty mature team and we have good leadership on both sides of the ball that can explain to the young players how much work, and really, actually, how precious a football season is. I talked to the team about this: In college baseball, you get 50 or 60 games, in basketball you get 35 or 40 games, but in football you get 13. We don’t have that many opportunities, and it’s so precious to take advantage (of it), and each season and each game is an opportunity they can’t get back. There’s no question they watch the TV and they compare this and compare that, and that’s what makes college football so great. That’s why everybody wants to watch it—it’s March Madness in September and October, because the way the system is set up now, in most cases, if you lose one you have an outside shot, but if you lose two, you’re out of it.
On how a team takes on personality of coach:
I think it’s a natural order, the ‘Cat’s in the Cradle’ song. When I turn on my music when I run and I listen to it, because I’ve got three kids at home, and I think ‘Boy, I hope I’m doing a good job of being a dad.’ I don’t think there’s any question that in a business — a high school, a college football team, any athletic sport — that the team is going to take on the demeanor of their leader and whoever that guy is and what he stands for … they start to act like their coaches. We talk a lot as a staff about high-energy teaching and coaching and making them want to come back for more the next day. One of the best examples … is when Mike Leach was at Texas Tech—he’s far out there in the Pacific, he’s almost in Siberia now that it’s hard for me to ever watch him anymore—but when he was at Texas Tech, they took on his personality. Their team kind of acted like he did, that very mad scientist personality and it’s OK if it’s fourth-and-6 on our own 30, we may just go for it. And they did, and they got a lot of them. They just kind of emulated him.
On if there’s pressure as a coach because of that:
No question. There’s a lot of pressure on you. I think it comes back to a few things. Young men at that age, and, really, all ages, they want discipline and structure. They want to be told what to do, and they want to know that it’s for the right reasons, and that’s what we try to do here. And then they want to be told the truth. They want you to be upfront with them. And if you’re upfront with them, and then they see it and they see results, then they think, ‘Hey, this works.’ Because 95 percent of the people that walk the face of the earth don’t want to be out front. They want to be behind somebody and they want to follow and they want to be led in the right direction.
On if this week is actually busier for coaches:
I would say it’s busier. One thing that we do is we finish our work, the majority of our planning for practices, on Wednesday. And then I told the coaches yesterday, I said, ‘You guys need to go home Wednesday night and you need to go home Thursday night and be with your families.’ Because they’ll travel on Friday and recruit, so they won’t get to see their families on Friday. Most of them will get Saturday afternoon and then be with them Saturday and Sunday. So it’s still really busy for us, because of the recruiting opportunities. It’s so important for us to get out there and try to find out as much as we can about these young men.