July 22, 2008

Gundy takes stage at Big 12 Media Days

Year four of the Mike Gundy era got underway earlier today in Kansas City as Oklahoma State took its turn in the annual Big 12 Media Days.

Coming off a 2007 season that saw another .500 record and a second-straight bowl win, the Cowboys are looking to improve on both their regular-season mark and holiday destination.

For his part, Gundy said he and the team are excited and ready for the new year, adding that they're "comfortable with where we're at."

"We feel very good about our progress in the latter part of the season," Gundy said. "Finished strong with a bowl victory over Indiana. We had a great recruiting class, our assistant coaches have done a tremendous job in that area. We have a lot of discipline and structure in our program and that's what we believe in, bringing in good people and working them hard, trying to make things better for them in the classroom and on the football field. It's the direction we're going."

Zac Robinson was one of the bigger topics on the day. Gundy was asked about his 2007 run from backup to starter as well as how important he became to the Cowboy offense so quickly. He finished the year as one of only three quarterbacks to compile over 2,800 yards passing and 800 yards rushing.

So this begs the question: what if he gets hurt this year? Well, one outlet has already simulated OSU to go 4-8 with an early season-ending injury for the junior signal-caller. Gundy admitted the thought of an injury striking Robinson is worrisome.

"Yes, I worry about that every night just before I take a sleeping pill to go to sleep," said a jovial Gundy. We feel confident with Alex Cate and [/db]Brandon Weeden[/db]. But we don't have any experience behind Zac. And Zac plays relentless. He runs the ball a lot and there are times when I would prefer that he would run out of bounds after a game of eight, 10, 12 yards and he's converted first down and he won't do that at times. He takes on the defender."

Robinson's bullish style does put himself out there for increased odds of injury, but that just comes with the type of player he is.

"I don't want to want to take the stinger away from him," Gundy said. "We don't want to chance the way he plays the game. But one of our concerns in the preseason is developing a back-up quarterback and naming him the No. 2 guy before we go to Seattle."

While the QB position might have a back-up controversy, the tailback slot could see a fight for the starting position vacated by Dantrell Savage. Kendall Hunter, Keith Toston and Beau Johnson will be going against each other to decide the top spot in the backfield. Or maybe sharing the role by committee?

"We feel like the combination of those three should give us the same productivity we were able to get from Dantrell," Gundy said. He added that the continued depth at offensive line will help the running game.

"For the first time probably since I've been there, even back to coach Miles, we're close to being two-deep on the offensive line instead of having a third guard or a third tackle," he said. "We feel good about guys that may have to go in in a back-up role."

Of course, the biggest question to many in Orange Country pertains to the defense. Most importantly, just how much has the unit progressed since last season?

"We've brought in some players at mid-term that have really jelled for our team," Gundy said. "We brought in some defensive linemen to give us some depth, a couple of linebackers to give us more speed at the position. Maurice Gray is a corner we brought in from the Kansas junior colleges. So we have more depth on the defense. We feel like we're a faster defense.

"And one thing I was most proud of as a coach is after the season the defensive guys got together and there was a lot of talk about what we had accomplished on offense. And they approached it in the right manner from the standpoint they said that if we want to earn any respect on defense, we've got to play better and we have stop somebody."

Today was just the start of the dance that Gundy, his staff and his players will have with the media all year long. OSU media day is set for Aug. 2. After that, weekly press conferences and post-gamers will be part of the norm for the team. The long summer of waiting is starting to come to an end.

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