College Football America was at the Big 12 Media Days on Monday and Tuesday. You’ll see our photo galleries and story links here and on our Facebook page. But today we’re bringing you the Q&A for Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy, who spoke to the media about his team and the 2014 season. Check back here for the rest of the Q&As from the Big 12 media days and remember that we’re putting the final touches on the College Football America 2014 Yearbook and Encyclopedia and we hope to have it on sale by the end of the month.
THE MODERATOR: We’re joined by Coach Mike Gundy from Oklahoma State University. Coach, your thoughts about the upcoming season.
COACH GUNDY: Our players are really excited to get started. We’ve got another week or so. But we’ve had a good summer and there’s been a lot of young players start to develop some leadership, and as always we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us. But the team’s looking forward to it. And can’t wait to get into the first game.
Q. Can you talk about your quarterback situation first, please?
COACH GUNDY: Well, J.W. Walsh took the majority of the reps in the spring with the 1s and has had a good summer.
We have some inexperienced and young players behind him. Each one of them brings something a little different to the table in our offense. Based on the style of play or the plan of attack that we want to use, we have a little bit of flexibility with the quarterback that we put in the game at that time.
Q. How do you plan to address the loss of the practice day, Mike, as you go into scheduling your week this season?
COACH GUNDY: 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.
Q. Looks like Devon Thomas is off your roster. Can you give us an update about his status with the program?
COACH GUNDY: 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.
Q. Can you talk to us about losing Lowe and Shaun Lewis and all those guys that allowed you guys to be so aggressive and lock down the middle of the field in coverage last year?
COACH GUNDY: The good thing about having a mature class and a large group of seniors is they help you on game day with experience. But the bad thing is next year they’re gone.
But we have good, young players on our team who are not experienced. We’ve got a ways to go. And I’ve always felt like the only way that players could get good quality experience is game day.
So we’ll have a number of players that will be on the field for the first time and hopefully as the season progresses they’ll mature and get better in each practice and each game.
Q. Just wanted to ask you about your success in recruiting in the east Texas. You’ve had a whole lot of success finding a lot of gems in the region, mainly Dez Bryant?
COACH GUNDY: We’ve had success in east Texas, and then Texas in general we’ve got, give or take, a few 71 players on our team from the state of Texas.
And we’ve always felt like that Texas was in state recruiting for us, and it’s easy for the players in east Texas to get to Stillwater. They’re very comfortable in our community.
The high schools, the people in that region are a lot like the people in Stillwater. So I think they’re very comfortable in our environment. Our coaches have done a good job identifying players that may be overlooked by some of the other schools that we think have a good future. And we’ve been very fortunate to have success in east Texas.
Q. You’ve switched Ryan Simmons to middle linebacker. What went into that move and how do you feel like he’s taken to his new position?
COACH GUNDY: 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.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about what Tyreek Hill brings to the table?
COACH GUNDY: He’s very fast. We’ll play him at a running back position. We’ll play him at the receiver position, and we look forward to him helping us in special teams.
We’re learning more about him each day. We feel like that he needs to touch the ball at least 15 to 20 times a game, maybe more, depending on how he fits into our system each week. But I’ve been impressed with his work ethic, his ability to come in and run track and also be part of our football team. He’s very humble.
Our players like him. And so we’re fortunate to have him on our football team.
Q. Just your thoughts about having such a young team and taking on the defending national champion, Florida State Seminoles, right out of the gates?
COACH GUNDY: It’s going to be a big challenge for our team, but they’re very excited. 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. 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 and players, 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.
Q. You’ve been to Dallas Bowl and you came here for the Cotton Bowl against Missouri. How excited are you for the Oklahoma State fans, part one? And you’ve got Chris Lacy. Does he kind of give you a similarity of a Dez Bryant, the kid from DeSoto, No. 15?
COACH GUNDY: Dallas is a great location for us to play a football game. As I said earlier, we have over 70 players on our team from the state of Texas. The Metroplex area in Dallas is three and a half, four hour drive.
We consider it in state recruiting, so the location is perfect for Oklahoma State. And we’re hoping that Chris brings that type of play to our offense. He’s going to have size and strength and the ability to go up and make a play.
Very young, but we’re excited about his future.
Q. When you look at using Tyreek Hill and try to get him 15, 20 touches a game, is there a blueprint that you look for in exactly how you want to use him, like Tavon or Charles Sims or Joe Randle for you guys?
COACH GUNDY: 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.
Q. Can you reflect on your first decade as head football coach Oklahoma State how the program’s progressed and how you’ve changed as a head coach?
COACH GUNDY: 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 (laughter).
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.
Q. Is J.W. Walsh your starter week one, and how have you seen his game progress?
COACH GUNDY: Well, we have three quarterbacks that are playing. And I’ve said earlier that J.W. is the guy that’s been out there most of the time. But each quarterback brings something different to the table, and that gives us a little bit of flexibility on offense and what we want to try or how we want to try to attack a team each week.
Q. Between you guys playing Florida State and West Virginia playing Alabama first game of the season, how important is it for the Big 12 to show and represent you guys well against arguably two of the best teams in the country?
COACH GUNDY: I think it’s always important for Big 12 teams when we play out of league. I would guess that most teams or coaches feel very similar that we do; that our job as coaches and players, as I mentioned earlier, is the preparation and the hard work and everything that goes into getting ready to play on that Saturday.
And I don’t have any question in my mind that our team will compete and play very hard. And we’ve always taken pride in the preparation. And I’m looking forward to seeing our younger players develop in August and taking the leadership role.
Q. Considering your situation at linebacker with kind of a thinning corps there, any chance you might do things differently defensively maybe with more defensive backs, safeties on the field, that sort of thing?
COACH GUNDY: 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.
Q. Have you seen a new approach from your offensive coordinator after having one year at the Division I level?
COACH GUNDY: I think he’s 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.