Big 12 News

Mike Gundy Focused on Improving Run Game Ahead of 2023

Oklahoma State had a turbulent 2022-23 season under long-time head coach Mike Gundy, and while the majority of Big 12 pre-season poll voters pegged the Cowboys as a middle-of-the-pack team, there are still some questions needing to be answered in Stillwater. The Cowboys finished off last season in fifth place in the Big 12 Conference with an overall record of 7-6, 4-5 in conference play.

Offensively, the Cowboys return seven starters including Brenan Presley who finished off last season as an honorable mention for the All-Big 12 team and earned several votes from preseason voters for Big 12 Player of the Year. Multiple pieces on the offensive line are back in Stillwater including seniors Jake Springfield, Preston Wilson, and Joe Michalski, as the Cowboys look to have one of the better units in the Big 12.

 

That offensive line is going to play a huge role for the Cowboys this season. Last year, Oklahoma State was ninth in the Big 12 in rushing offense as they averaged 125.6 yards per game which was a huge drop-off from the 2021 season where they averaged over 185 yards per game. It’s no secret that the run game has to get better this season and Mike Gundy knows that. “Last season we played with inexperienced quarterbacks the latter part of the season and our inability to run the football put the game on their shoulders. I wasn’t comfortable with that.” Gundy said.

Despite losing longtime starter Spencer Sanders to Ole Miss, the Cowboys were able to bring in a veteran quarterback in Alan Bowman who spent time at Texas Tech and Michigan. And for the quarterback competition (if there actually is one), Mike Gundy said that he plans to announce a starter halfway through fall camp. But what does Mike Gundy look for in his starting quarterback? “They have to be able to lead the team and make us feel comfortable with their ability to match our style of play.” Gundy said.

Defensively, Oklahoma State returns six starters including pass rusher Collin Oliver who ended his 2022 campaign with five sacks and nineteen total tackles, earning him a spot alongside teammate Kendall Daniels who earned a spot on the preseason All-Big 12 team at the safety position. Daniels snagged three picks, five passes defended, 45 solo tackles, and a forced fumble on the season.

 

But the big change was hiring a new defensive coordinator in Bryan Nardo from Gannon University. “We had to go find a guy that understood the odd front.” Gundy said about his new defensive coordinator. “I feel like his relationship with our staff gives us the ability to play with an odd front and an even front. I am excited about getting started up here in a few weeks and excited about the direction of our defense.”

While Mike Gundy has a love/hate relationship with the transfer portal, the Cowboys were heavily active in the portal this offseason.

They added some new faces to the depth chart on both sides of the ball, the team also lost its fair share of players to the portal. I mentioned quarterback Alan Bowman, but they also added a total of two four-star transfers in the portal with Texas State offensive tackle Dalton Cooper and Tulsa linebacker Justin Wright. The duo head to Stillwater to add some much-needed depth at key positions that were thinned out due to graduation and offseason departures in the transfer portal.

 

Oklahoma State will begin its 2023 campaign at home against Central Arkansas on September 2. Then, Mike Gundy and the Cowboys will hit the road to begin the Big 12 slate against Iowa State before taking on the defending champion Kansas State Wildcats at home. Of course, they will also play Oklahoma for the last time this season and Mike Gundy once again made it very clear to everyone at Big 12 Media Days about his thoughts on that.

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