“I went to see a kicker once and he was just terrible. His coach told me he was nervous because I was there,” says Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy, remembering a recruiting trip.
“Well someone needs to tell him I’ll be at most of the games.”
When Gundy is relaxed and loose he’s a great interview. He’s funny and engaging. He’s intelligent and insightful. He tells funny recruiting stories. He’s also easy to get off topic if you want to know his opinion on anything outside of football. He’ll discuss the job market, his kids pool parties, movies, whatever you want. Want to know about his hair care products? “The cheap stuff, I think it’s even 2-in-1 stuff.” According to him, his wife Kristin buys expensive brands but he’s not allowed to use any of it.
Oklahoma State was a winner at Big 12 media days this year. Between Gundy being in full on charm mode and Zach Sinor pumping his campaign to be the first punter to win the Heisman Trophy, the Cowboys were a popular topic of discussion.
And that’s good news for OSU. Great anecdotes and stories from the head coach with a hilarious show being put on by the punter (animals love him!) means a lot of exposure for the Pokes. And in today’s world being recognized is almost as important as being good. Any amount of air time on the major networks for eyeballs to see helps build the Oklahoma State brand. The countless posts and tweets, shares and retweets do the same. The Million Dollar Mullet and the H29smanSZN Campaign created a buzz that any marketing department would’ve been proud to be a part of.
For the record, the head coach enjoyed every minute of it. It’s great news for the Oklahoma State Cowboys, and bad news for the rest of the Big 12 conference.
Don’t misunderstand me, the Longhorns aren’t worried that Oklahoma State will become the powerhouse athletic department in the conference. The Sooners aren’t scared of media day shenanigans all of a sudden making the Pokes the most popular school in the state, because it will never happen. In fact I almost guarantee that all the coaches and players from the other teams have already forgotten about all the attention OSU received.
No, nothing will change in the long term because of one brilliant press day in July of 2017, but for the short term all those other teams should be concerned. You see, Mike Gundy is terrible at hiding what he’s thinking, how he feels. I’ve mentioned before that I’d love to play poker against him because he’d be so easy to read.
If his team has issues that need fixing, he’s visibly concerned. If his players aren’t progressing like he thinks they should he gets short when asked about it, if he gets asked about anything. If his Cowboys are unfocused, playing poorly, acting up, having academic issues, whatever it may be, you can tell just by listening to him speak. It’s obvious.
Do you think if he was losing sleep about his offensive line, a serious question mark the last few season, he’d be all smiles? Does a man seriously worried about his wet behind the ears cornerbacks in a pass heavy league discuss in depth the marketing value of his unconventional hairstyle? If he had any inkling that maybe his team was reading about how good they were supposed to be and losing focus he’d let his goofy but lovable punter hand out campaign pamphlets, launch a website, and wear a shirt with his own face on it?
Of course not, and that’s why it’s bad news for the rest of the Big 12 next season. He hasn’t been this relaxed in a long time. He was cautiously optimistic before last season, aware of the holes his team had but confident they’d be okay. Before the 2015 campaign he was straight up pessimistic, and became a total bear by the end of a disappointing season that needed a miracle in Bedlam just for his team to go bowling. He said the 2013 squad might surprise some people and it did, winning 10 games and earning a Cotton Bowl berth.
This year’s squad is drawing comparisons to the 2011 Big 12 Championship group for good reason. Both teams returned a strong armed senior quarterback, an All-American receiver, and a high level running back. Both teams won 10 games the year before. The comparisons are fair, but the parallel that matters the most is barely being discussed: the last time we saw Mike Gundy this relaxed was that offseason. He knew that team was good. He knew they had a shot to be great. He knew if they played well the could beat anyone.
He was right, and he feels that way again.
The games still have to be played, of course, and once the teams are on the field any number of things can happen. But Mike Gundy has the look of a man who isn’t too worried things won’t go his way. The current group probably has better offensive potential with the depth at receiver, but Mason Rudolph and offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich have yet to show the same aggressiveness that Weeden and then-OC Todd Monken did in 2011. This year’s defense is a better group overall, but that team six years ago created turnovers at a historic rate. This year’s schedule is definitely friendlier.
Everything is in place for OSU to make a run, to win the conference, and to make the College Football Playoff. Gundy knows it. Sure, he needs his young corners to play well, and he needs to find a back up running back to help out Justice Hill, but he’s apparently not all that concerned about either.
No, Mike Gundy is carrying himself like a man holding a full house. And we only have to wait a few more weeks to find out if he’s bluffing.
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