Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy and selected members of the Cowboy football team met with media Thursday at Boone Pickens Stadium to preview OSU’s season-opening football matchup against Southeastern Louisiana. Some of their comments:
Gundy’s Opening statement:
"We're a healthy football team and practice has been going very well. We're excited about playing a game. The offense and defense have gone against themselves so much that I think they're ready to play a game. So we're looking forward to it and we still need the next four or five practices to get ready. We've got a number of young players that we expect to play. Those are the guys that we've shared with you over the last couple weeks. We're not 100 percent but we feel pretty good that we'll have six freshman that will play for us in the first game or should play for us early in the season. We just continue to move forward. We've got heavy days the next few days. We'll be light on Sunday, take Monday off and then be in a game week."
On running back Justice Hill and the depth at the running back position:
"He's done very well in camp and were trying to make some adjustments in the running game. We think that the group that we have now, the three or four, is better than what we were using last year with really two to three. So he's part of that group that we think makes us better."
On Marcell Ateman:
"Well I don't know that we ever feel good about losing a player the caliber that Ateman should be for our team, but that's one of those areas we talk about. We control what we can control. We certainly can't do anything about it so we move the next guy in. We'll know a lot more in a month at that position. We use a lot of receivers in a game and wear and tear on their bodies is always a factor. That's as much a concern for us as anything when it comes to losing a quality player with the experience he has, but we have other guys and our coaches need to use the strengths of the players we have and make up for the area where we lost his experience."
On Barry J. Sanders possibly returning punts and kicks:
"So far he's done really well. We'll have a group that will return punts and kicks. We feel like we have more depth there than we did last year. So we're going to use a few different guys early in the season and try to see who works best for our team."
On what the next challenge for the team is now:
"We have a bunch of challenges. We need to improve on gap responsibility and facing different styles of offense that we're going to see. For example, the first game. This offense will be completely different than what we see when we get in conference play. As we move through nonconference play, we'll see three different types of offenses and then we get into what we see in this league. So the flexibility of the speed we have at linebacker and adjusting to the different offenses will be really important for our team, and as Robert mentioned, the adjustments we can make at the wide receiver position to use Mason's strength which is to throw the football."
On the team's greatest strength right now:
"I'd say that our overall maturity at key positions should help us early in the season compared to where we were at last year.”
On if Mason Rudolph could be the biggest strength:
"Well that was the maturity at the key position I was referring to. We all know there's really one key position in football at any level. You can go out this weekend and watch a pee-wee game and if their quarterback is a good player, he's going to make everybody score and they have a chance to win. Same thing in high school and college and in the NFL."
Defensive Coordinator Glenn Spencer
On the final details before the first game:
"Every practice there are glitches and you're trying to still get some guys going and find out who your play-makers are and who can be reliable. I love it, I really do. Of course, it just seems like this preseason has gone on forever. I don't know if it's the way the calendar is set up or because of school and all, but it's been great competition against our offense. I love the change of pace and the tempos and the time allowed for all the option we're going to see in the first game. That's extra stress for us as a defense, so to have that opponent the first game is great for us. I'd hate to have had something like this in the middle of the season, so that's been an advantage and we need all the extra time we can get on Southeast Louisiana."
On if he has determined his starting 11 for game one:
"I think so. There are a couple of spots where some guys have rolled in and out, but there will be a couple of positions where we'll put in some different guys and not have that big of a drop-off, which is good right now. Everyone is healthy and fresh and Coach has done a great job in camp of working us and stressing us out, but we're going into the season with the healthiest team we can have."
On the linebacker competition:
"It's been good. That's a spot where we've been able to rotate some guys in. In the weak side linebacker, there are guys without great separation, and there have been two guys who have done really well so that's good to have. Two guys who can go in and play for you is a luxury we haven't had in a while. You're only a play away from getting back to a stressful situation, but there's some good competition in a couple of spots."