Gundy brings new attitude, ideas to Cowboys

Updated: March 4, 2005, 5:31 PM ET
Associated Press

STILLWATER, Okla. -- Mike Gundy wants to turn Oklahoma State's football program into a perennial national contender, and he's pretty sure the way to do it is by building strong relationships and good, old-fashioned hard work.

Gundy, the former star quarterback and offensive coordinator, holds his first practice as a head coach Saturday when the Cowboys line up for spring drills. He's spent the past two months preserving the incoming class that Les Miles started recruiting and assembling a staff of assistants.

"I'm looking forward to getting out of this office and going out there and being around the players," Gundy said, sitting at his desk in a spacious suite overlooking the field at Boone Pickens Stadium.

"The point of what I do here is build relationships with the players and continue those relationships over a period of time and then follow and keep in touch with those people after they leave here. That's what I look forward to doing."

Surrounded by flat-screen televisions and other gadgets, he's had little time to focus on Xs and Os. There have been other decisions to make. Decisions about summer camps. Decisions about recruiting. Decisions, decisions, decisions.

"I didn't expect that everything that came through this building I would have to deal with," Gundy said. "I'm learning every day that I don't get to do much football."

So spring brings a refreshing change. A move to the football field. A chance to be with his players. A chance to start over.

"Everything is totally new," Gundy said. "Other than my relationships I have with the current players, it's just like bringing a new staff in here."

But those relationships are absolutely crucial to Gundy.

"The most important thing in my situation is that this is a people business," he said. "The opportunity that I have to develop relationships with our players and coaches, to treat them right and be respectful to them, and they will in turn do the same thing for me.

"Our players will know that our staff and myself care about them as people. For that reason, they'll practice hard and they'll play hard on Saturdays. That's ultimately what my job is."

As he heads into his first year, Gundy will face a number of challenges. He'll have to find a replacement for running back Vernand Morency, who rushed for 1,478 yards last season before leaving for the NFL draft. He'll also have a competition for the quarterback spot between incumbent Donovan Woods and Bobby Reid, who returns healthy after an injury to his right, throwing shoulder.

On defense, he wants his team to be more effective against the pass on third down and to get more pressure on the passer. He'll be switching from a 4-2-5 defensive alignment to a more conventional three-linebacker set.

"I didn't take the job over whether we had a finished product," Gundy said. "I don't think it'd be as fun. I think we have some challenges on hand, but we've got players that will work hard and we've got coaches that know what they're doing."

Whoever emerges as the starting quarterback will be in charge of a new no-huddle, spread offense brought in by offensive coordinator Larry Fedora.

"I like to be the aggressor," Gundy said. "I think when you're in a no-huddle offense, you're trying to take control of the game."

Gundy said that doesn't mean he's forsaking Oklahoma State's "Tailback U" background and the likes of former teammate Barry Sanders and Thurman Thomas.

"We will run the ball differently than we have in the past, but we're still gonna run the ball," Gundy said. "There's a great spot for tailbacks here. I think that the system that we'll be in now will be more of a steppingstone to the NFL for players that come here and want to ultimately graduate and play in the NFL."

But Gundy -- who set a school record with 7,997 passing yards during his playing career -- said he won't just be focused on the NFL types.

"I enjoyed my college career, and I was fortunate enough to have success doing it. But I want every player on this team -- whether they're a starter, a part-time starter or never get to play in a game -- to have a good college experience and enjoy their four years here of football," Gundy said. "That's important to me."

In fact, it's the basis of Gundy's approach as head coach. More than a no-huddle offense or a three-linebacker set. More than a 1,500-yard rusher or a 2,000-yard passer.

Every player counts -- and not just on the football field.

"We have to be a factor in their classrooms, we have to be a factor in practice, a factor on game day and in society. And we have to care about them in whatever they do," Gundy said.

"If we have a good plan and we work hard, the rest of it will take care of itself."

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press