What to Expect from the Cowboys Offense, Gundy and Sanders with Ideas
STILLWATER -- It's not like the Oklahoma State offense was stagnant, but we documented after the end of the season the drop off on offense following the injury to wide receiver Tylan Wallace and then the thumb injury to starting quarterback Spencer Sanders.
The pep rally earlier this week inside the Student Union on the Oklahoma State campus reminded us that when spring football begins, that trio will be together on offense with a reunion of sorts. Hubbard, Wallace, and Sanders will be joined by a stout offensive line and even more threats in the backfield and in the passing game. They will also be joined by a new offensive coordinator in Kasey Dunn.
Dunn is not like the past two Mike Gundy hires for the play caller of the offense as he went outside the program for younger minds that had shown some smarts for offense and might not be as quickly hired away as a head coach or coordinator at another school. That strategy worked with Mike Yurcich, although after leaving for a season at Ohio State, Yurcich is now calling plays for Tom Herman at Texas. Sean Gleeson is gone after one season back to New Jersey to Rutgers.
Dunn is an internal hire that has nine seasons of experience in the offense and a few samples of calling plays. One last season in the opener at Oregon State when Gleeson was stuck in an elevator at the start of the second half. The others have been late in wins when the coaches would head down from the booth.
Quarterback Spencer Sanders has kept mental track of those instances.
"I'm really excited and we have had a couple of encounters with him calling plays and we did good, so I'm really excited to get to it," Sanders said when asked about working with Dunn. "Right now, it is all about us and we need to focus on this team and the best things that we can do."
The head coach agreed with the quarterback. Gundy said the offense would stay the same. The same plays, but as we wrote about earlier on Pokes Report, our thoughts are Dunn will change things some. A change that will be easy to see and one that Gundy mentioned on Tuesday is Chuba Hubbard catching passes.
"We need to have Chuba (Hubbard) involved more in the throwing game because it makes us a better offense and second, it helps him (prepare for the NFL) which we want to do," Gundy explained. "We want to do everything we can to help our players improve their draft stock inside the team concept of winning games. It was just different this year and after week five or six, we understood what Spencer was. We experimented with so many things that we were limited in so many things that helped us in the past. One of the things that we need to do more in the future is throw the ball to Chuba."
That answer was really wordy, but the Oklahoma State offense is much more sophisticated than you think. If you think of the offensive playbook, there are chapters going back to Mike Gundy as offensive coordinator and plenty of power run and play-action pass material. Larry Fedora brought early spread and RPO material. Gundy incorporated that and quarterback run game when he called plays with Zac Robinson at quarterback. Then came Dana Holgorsen and spread, air-raid material derived from Hal Mumme and Mike Leach. Todd Monken added some NFL concepts and pass game. Yurcich brought a new set of RPO and quarterback run. I'm not sure if Gleeson left much that will stick.
"We were a little bit different last season for a variety of reasons, but this season, we will be different because Spence can rush the football," Gundy said on Tuesday. "There are things we want to do, basically throw the ball over the top more than we did this last year. We want to stretch the field side to side, and we have weapons on the perimeter. Then we can allow Spencer and Chuba to control the middle of the field."
Hubbard is known, Wallace is known, some of the rest of the offense is known too. I think Sanders is known, but in year two, his learning from year one as a starter could make a big difference. Look at LSU and the previous national champions, and even the multiple OU teams winning Big 12 Championships, the quarterback is a absolute key to getting it done.
"Can he get to the level of those guys in one more year? I'm not sure, but can he get a lot better? Yes, he made a lot of improvement before injuring his thumb," Gundy said of Spencer, who will likely be backed up by new freshman quarterback and four-star prospect Shane Illingworth, who is already on campus.
"We had to make a lot of adjustments and there was a lot going on for him," Gundy continued. "His ability to rush the ball and make plays on his own, at times, hurt him because it kept him from going through his progressions."
Gundy suggested that they will encourage Sanders to use the powerful arm he possesses more this season.
"He has always been able to take off and make plays, but we are going to work very hard this season to influence him to stay in the pocket more," Gundy analyzed. "Then let his feet make a play if he has to at the last second. I think that will give him a better chance.
A better chance to be the quarterback Oklahoma State needs him to be in order to win a championship, Big 12 or more.