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October 4, 2011

Q-and-A: Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy

There is nowhere Mike Gundy would rather be than Oklahoma State.

Gundy is home, a native of Midwest City, Okla., and a former star quarterback at Oklahoma State (1986-89) who went on to become the school's leading career passer en route to guiding the Cowboys to three 10-win seasons.

Now, Gundy's coaching career is mimicking the same success he enjoyed as a player.

He began his career as receivers coach at Oklahoma State (1990-95) before ascending to offensive coordinator. Gundy then took jobs on the staffs at Baylor (1996) and Maryland (1997-2000). Gundy returned to Oklahoma State in 2001 as offensive coordinator under Les Miles before being elevated to coach after Miles left for LSU following the 2004 campaign.

Gundy has built on the success Miles started, guiding Oklahoma State to a 47-29 mark entering this season, with five bowl bids in six seasons.

Last season was Gundy's best; the Cowboys were 11-2 and claimed a share of their first Big 12 South title. This season is shaping up perhaps to be even better.

Oklahoma State is off to a 4-0 start and ranked No. 7. The Cowboys were off last week following a 30-29 victory at Texas A&M that ranks as perhaps the biggest triumph in Gundy's seven seasons in Stillwater. Oklahoma State rallied from a 20-3 halftime deficit to notch the win.

A super-charged offense led by quarterback Brandon Weeden and receiver Justin Blackmon fuels the Pokes, who play host to Kansas on Saturday before a tough run of games (trips to Texas, Missouri and Texas Tech loom, as well as visits from Baylor and Kansas State) that will determine if Oklahoma State is a legitimate challenger for the Big 12 title.

The season could come down to a de facto Big 12 title game on Dec. 3 in Stillwater, when Oklahoma visits.

Gundy spoke to Rivals.com about a variety of subjects.

What impact has new offensive coordinator Todd Monken had since arriving from his post as quarterback coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars?

"He has been really good for us. He is a very smart coach, extremely dedicated and understands the throwing game. Coming from the NFL, I hadn't seen him in a few years. He's really knowledgeable about everything on offense. The transition has been very smooth."

What NFL concepts did he bring with him?

"Just the thought process in protections and how to handle blitzes. There is a little bit of an NFL twist integrated into what we do here. And he brought some two-tight end and fullback [sets]. ... We probably are averaging six to eight plays a game in those sets. We didn't have [that] last year. And I wanted to bring that back to give us a better chance for success on short yardage and on the goal line."

Are you involved with the offense much?

"I called plays for two years. I didn't with [former offensive coordinator] Dana [Holgorsen] or now with Todd here. My only suggestions come in-between series. I know it's better for our football team and it's better for me [not to call plays] because it has taken six hours out of my work day from being in a film room, which creates a lot of fatigue and things. I can talk to the team and do all those things that are important, devote more time to that and recruiting. I'm out of the offense now."

Is there a type of defense that poses the most problems for you?

"The 3-4 defense, blitzing off one edge and dropping into coverage off the other edge ... that style of defense has given most spread offenses a difficult time and it did us vs. A&M. A&M almost stuffed us last year offensively. But there was a period of time against them this year where we just went up and down the field. We didn't do that against A&M last year."

What's it like to have a 28-year-old quarterback?

"It's a luxury. The maturity. We all know there's a huge difference between a male who is 20 and 28. The maturity level, just settling down. He's a student of the game and all those things you hear about good quarterbacks. He has a good demeanor and never really gets riled up too much. We get behind or have some bad plays, and things don't bother him."

How has the sport changed since you played?

"The game has changed completely. We are throwing it 60-65 times a game. We are averaging over 90 plays. We had 95 against A&M. It has changed considerably with all of the blitzing, zone-pressure defenses, the spread offenses. The game is now played on the perimeter. Our receivers caught 41 passes vs. A&M, and about 20 of those were caught behind the line. Everything that used to be played inside the hash marks and inside the tackles is now being played outside the hash marks. Everything is in space."

Big 12 realignment talk has been incessant. Is anyone asking the coaches for input?

"I'm powerless. I don't know about anyone else. They inform me about what is going on and they ask my opinion, but whether that gets to anybody who actually is making a decision, I don't know. It's a helpless feeling because I think I have a good idea of what is best for this part of the country and Oklahoma State and the Big 12. And I'm sure some of the other coaches do, too. But I know I'm not in on those conversations.

"In my opinion, and I'm probably overstepping my boundaries a bit, but the presidents should just give the authority to the athletic directors and say, 'Listen, you need to make a decision on what's best for your school, our school and the Big 12. Here's why: Because you deal with it every single day. You deal with league play, you deal with TV negotiations, you deal with it in budgets, you deal with it in the amount of money we receive from bowls, you deal with how money is divided up.'

"Presidents have other things going on. The ADs deal with it every day. That would be my recommendation. We are going to give our athletic directors authority to sit in, make a decision, and I bet if they sit in there three or four days, they'd have the whole thing worked out and the Big 12 would be as strong as ever."

What has T. Boone Pickens meant to the program?

"He got us off the ground. Oklahoma State always had been at the bottom of the leagues it was in until he came along and stepped up. And others have stepped up and followed suit. But he's the leader, he's the guy who got it started. I don't know if you can compete at a high level if you don't have facilities and money anymore. Whether we like it or not, you have to have money to function, to play at a competitive level. You can't do it without money. And we hadn't had it until he stepped up and changed the way people look at Oklahoma State."

Is the Big 12 the best place for Oklahoma State?

"No question. The Big 12 is the best place, in my opinion, for the teams that already are in the league -- from a recruiting standpoint, from a student-athlete standpoint, from the parents of the student-athlete and the fans. The people who are being lost in the shuffle, in my opinion, are the current student-athletes because they came here to play for us, for this staff in the Big 12. I'm guessing that played a part for most of them coming here. And the fans can get to the games. Our fans can drive to most of our games in four hours. And the players we are recruiting in this part of the country have an option to play in a league that is somewhat geographical to where they grew up and went to high school. I don't know if anyone has taken into consideration that part of it. And that disappoints me a little bit."

What's one good thing and one bad thing about coaching your alma mater?

"One good thing is you are here where you graduated. My wife graduated from here and loves it. We are happy here. The bad thing is I think people take you for granted. I think they think he's just a guy who you can take for granted."

Do you regret your now infamous "I'm a man. I'm 40" rant from 2007, or have you accepted that it has become part of your persona?

"I don't regret it at all. I did it for a guy who was on our team, and I would have done it for any of my players who I felt was attacked unfairly. If your coach doesn't take up for you, who is going to? I don't regret any of it. I actually have had fun with it and kind of embraced it as part of my identity. Some of it has faded away. You don't hear about it that much. But it is something we have had a good time with. We joke about it and sometimes it will be brought up.

"I have a son who is about to turn 10 and he can mimic it to almost a 'T.' I've seen him do it around the house with his buddies. But it has been huge for us in recruiting. Very seldom do I go into a home where there won't be a parent or grandparent that brings it up in a subtle matter. They'll say, 'Coach, I know you may not want to talk about it, but I saw you on YouTube and that's one of the reasons we are sending our son to your school.' "

Tom Dienhart is a national senior writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dienhart@yahoo-inc.com, and you can click here to follow him on Twitter.

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