Both Sharp and Gilbert will be back in 2012, but who will coach the Cowboy special teams? And what about the safeties?
How Gundy decides to fill DeForest's multiple roles becomes his main offseason priority. A hire will certainly be made, but someone already on staff could take on special teams coaching duties.
DeForest's absence could also have an impact on the Cowboys' current recruiting class.
At least seven 2012 prospects that have either committed to OSU or are still being targeted by the Cowboys were recruited by DeForest, according to Rivals. That includes five-star running back Trey Williams and four-star prospects LaDarrell McNeil and Bralon Addison, who have committed to other schools but are still being pursued by OSU before Signing Day.
Emmanuel Ogbah, a defensive end from Richmond, Texas, who was recruited by DeForest, said in a text message Thursday that he is still committed to the Cowboys. But he added that DeForest had a big impact on his decision to come to OSU and was the Cowboy coach he committed to.
“He was straight forward,” Ogbah said. “And he explained to me about the school — mainly academics and football — and also what the school has to offer for me. He explained to me like a mentor.”
Gundy has shown he has a great eye when hiring assistants. Larry Fedora. Tim Beckman. Dana Holgorsen. And Gundy undoubtedly already has a list of potential candidates ready to go.
But finding a special teams guru who already has a firm recruiting presence in Texas' Gulf Coast? That won't be easy. Finding a coach with those attributes that also has the deep roots in Cowboy Country over the past decade only rivaled by Gundy himself? That will be impossible.
Because the only coach with all of that is Joe DeForest.
Staff writer Jason Kersey contributed to this report.