Oklahoma State's post-Signing Day press conference Thursday was also coach Mike Gundy's first media availability since the Cotton Bowl.
Which means it was the first time he could be asked about the departure of former offensive line coach Joe Wickline, who left OSU after nine seasons to take the offensive coordinator job at Texas.
“Joe and I had a great relationship here … very instrumental in what we accomplished here,” Gundy said. “Joe has to speak for himself, but he made a decision based on his career and where he was at in his age and his life.
“Sometimes when you're at a place as long as he (was) — 10 years, give or take — guys move on. We had a great relationship, and I'm very thankful for what he did for us the time he was here.”
When asked if Gundy ever considered Wickline for the Cowboys' offensive coordinator post when it came open multiple times during Wickline's tenure, Gundy did not directly answer the question.
Instead, he used that as a chance to describe the “delicate issue” of managing a staff, even admitting that many coaches have “big egos.”
“There's guys now on our staff that could be coordinators,” Gundy said. “But I have to determine what I think is best for Oklahoma State football, for whatever reasons. It's not as easy as just moving a guy into that spot …
“The management of a staff of men who are all good enough and they're all qualified and they all have personal goals, in my opinion, is one of the most difficult things to do as a head coach. To keep the right people, the quality of people and the chain of command in order to have success (is a challenge). And it's never perfect.”
Gundy noted that Wickline's Stillwater home is near Gundy's. So Gundy hopes they can have a discussion soon, now that Signing Day has passed.
“For the most part, it's all water under the bridge, anyway,” Gundy said. “But I will take time to thank him for what he's accomplished here. We came in, just, with not a whole lot and have grown to a lot now. And he's been a part of that.”
Gundy said he hopes to hire a new offensive line coach in the next few days, noting that he spent part of Signing Day on that search process.
GUNDY ADMITS TO BEING ‘OUT-COACHED' DOWN STRETCH
Almost in passing, Gundy made a key admission Thursday.
While addressing the talent the Cowboys have built up in past recruiting classes, he added that his staff got “out-coached” down the stretch of a 2013 season that ended with two heartbreaking losses to Oklahoma and Missouri in the Cotton Bowl.
“The teams here have been able to compete for a conference championship basically every year,” Gundy said. “This year we failed to do a good job of coaching. We got out-coached at the end of the year …
“This class, (combined) with the last class, should keep us on track to be talented enough, if we do our job as coaches, to compete for a conference championship each year.”
TIGHT END FRAZIER GIVES COWBOYS ‘EXTRA OPTION'
Gundy is trying to stay ahead in the offense-defense chess match.
He feels Big 12 defenses have improved against the spread offenses they see practically on a week-to-week basis in the conference.
To counter, Gundy hopes the Cowboys can reintroduce the tight end as a true threat in the passing game, as evidenced by the signing of Jordan Frazier from Springfield (Mo.) Lighthouse Christian Academy.
“A tight end gives us a different option. It's not gonna change what we do,” Gundy said. “I've said this every year — we're gonna run the same plays. We ran them this year and we ran them last year with three different quarterbacks and we'll run them next year.
“But a tight end allows us to be a little more flexible in some of the things that we do on offense.”
GRADUATE ASSISTANT ERIC HENDERSON A KEY RECRUITER
Gundy called his current crop of assistants the best recruiting staff he's had during his time as OSU's head coach.
That should include graduate assistant Eric Henderson, who was a crucial part of the Cowboys making inroads in Louisiana and the Southeast with the 2014 class.
Among the players Henderson helped land are cornerback Juwan Offray and defensive lineman Joyan Williams, who currently attend Henderson's alma mater of New Orleans' Edna Karr High, and linebacker/safety Kirk Tucker of Tucker High in Georgia.
“He's walked those streets. He's walked those halls,” Gundy said. “He's lived their life. He can speak their language … He got a lot of players up here to camp in the summer.
“He has buddies he grew up with that are coaching down there. They get (their players) up here because they're (Henderson's) buddy. They let you get your foot in the door and get started.”
FOUR COWBOYS JOIN TRACK AND FIELD TEAM
Four Cowboys get to skip out on Rob Glass' winter conditioning program.
But the reason is valid, as they've all joined OSU's track and field program.
Receivers Tyreek Hill and Blake Webb are sprinters, while defensive backs Tre Flowers and Jerel Morrow will participate in jumping events.
Gundy and first-year sprints coach Diego Flaquer have collaborated to construct a way for those players to balance the two sports. And Gundy sees that being a future selling point for recruits.
“A lot of players like to run track, so we've been able to incorporate that into what we do now from a football standpoint, Gundy said. “That's gonna also help us in recruiting.”
All four players will rejoin the football team for spring practice.
THREE WALK-ONS EARN SCHOLARSHIPS
Fullback Teddy Johnson, linebacker Steve Sumpter and receiver Cameron Graville, who all originally joined OSU as walk-ons, were all recently put on scholarship, the school announced Thursday.
Johnson, a key special teams contributor, has 20 tackles and two forced fumbles during his career. Sumpter, an Edmond Santa Fe product, also became a regular on special teams down the stretch. Gravelle is known for his scout team work.
“Teddy, Steve and Cameron have been in our program for several years,” Gundy said.
“They're good students. They've contributed on the field. They're great team players. They're true Cowboys. They love Oklahoma State football, and this gives us a chance to reward them for all their hard work.”
Gundy on the speed of junior college transfer Tyreek Hill: “They say when that one guy runs, you have to move your face. Like a tennis match.”