DALLAS – Oklahoma State’s rebuilding football team will enter as a significant underdog in the opener against defending national champion Florida State.
What does that mean for the Cowboys? Motivation.
Monday at Big 12 Media Days in Dallas, OSU coach Mike Gundy confirmed the challenge in taking on the Seminoles down the road in Arlington on Aug. 30. Welcomed it, too, even with the task of replacing 28 seniors and more.
“It's going to be a big challenge for our team, but they're very excited,” Gundy said. “One advantage to an opener against a very good football team, much less the national champion and returning Heisman Trophy winner, is motivation is there.
“They've worked hard this summer. I can't imagine we'll have any issues motivating them in practice in the month of August when it gets really hot and they get fatigued they'll be able to push through it.
“They're obviously a great football team,” Gundy said of the Seminoles. “They've got a number of players other than the quarterback that are some going to be playing on Sundays. But our responsibility as coaches is to come up with a great plan. Players, to learn that plan and execute and play with effort. So we're looking forward to the challenge, and as I said we've got a lot of work ahead of us, but we'll show up on Saturday and be ready to play.”
Gundy touched on the Seminoles and other pressing topics during his time on stage:
On the status of running back Devon Thomas, who is facing five felonies in Tulsa, and who has recently been removed from the roster:
“The roster that we handed out today are the players that will report next week. And if there's a player that's not on that roster, then he's not a part of our team.”
On how he’ll approach the NCAA-imposed loss of practice time, due to the program’s lacking APR:
“We didn't use the total allotted time. We haven't used the 20 hours in a number of years. And when you put it down on paper, we end up being about 45 minutes short. And so we'll come up with a plan for that.
“We'll incorporate a few new things in two-a-days prior to school starting, when we don't have any limitations, and we'll move forward. I've challenged the players with accepting responsibility to make up for that time during the week, and I have a lot of faith in the leadership in our team and that they'll be able to execute and come up with a way to manage the amount of time that we're not available to use during the week.”
On the move of Ryan Simmons from the outside to middle linebacker:
"Ryan is an experienced player. He's one of the few players we have at that position that brings a lot to the table from an experience standpoint. And he's very intelligent. He understands several positions.
“We feel like he's a really good fit in our defense, in our style of play at that position. And he'll do really well. Ryan is very committed and puts a lot of time and effort into the game, and we expect him to play very well this fall.”
On the possibility of the blueprint for using Tyreek Hill resembling what West Virginia did with Tavon Austin and with what the Cowboys did with Joseph Randle at times:
“I think those examples you used would fit what we're looking for. It could change each week. One area that our coaches have done a good job with over the last few years is trying to put our players in position due to a matchup that gives them the best chance of success. And we're hoping that Tyreek gives us the ability to use him as an inside runner or put him on the outside and use his speed in the receiving game.
“I mentioned earlier we're learning more about him each day as we go through August and see what he brings to the table and how much he can handle mentally. We'll know more. So I'm not sure that we have a polished and finished blueprint. But we do have a pretty good idea of how we want to use him this season.”
On if the defense might consider mixing up alignments, to offset the lack of depth at linebacker:
“We've looked into some changes on defense from a personnel standpoint. And I wouldn't say that that's out of the question based on the depth that we have with the defensive line position. We're not really deep at the safety position either. So bringing them into the equation wouldn't factor in as much.
“But we have to look at finding a way to put the best 11 players on the field on each play based on the team we're playing and trying to take away what we think the strength of their offense is each week.”
On the comfort level of offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich entering his second season:
“I think he's like – like any other coach or player, experience is invaluable and the comfort level of settling in and really understanding Oklahoma State's offense and the direction that we want to go. And we've taken pride in trying to develop an offense each year that fit what the strength would be of our quarterback play and also the ability we have to get the ball to players to make a play on the perimeter.
“So I would say that he's more comfortable and has adjusted to being and competing at this level.”
On reflections of his first 10 years as Cowboys coach:
"It's gone really fast. It seemed like that we were just getting started. But very thankful to be at Oklahoma State and the support that we've had from all the fans and administration and had great players.
“And I've said all along that Oklahoma State football has been built on our players and their commitment to the game and the people that have stayed with us through and through. So from a personal standpoint, I couldn't be any more proud of who we are and the direction that we're going. But it has changed considerably, just like walking in right now, I felt like Britney Spears walking in here with all the cameras and the pictures. And when I walked in the first year, I'm not sure that a lot of people didn't think I wasn't just working at the hotel.
“So it's changed considerably, but the players have made it happen and I couldn't be more proud of them and what they've been able to accomplish.”
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