Gundy Comfortable at Pep Rally Talking 2020 Run Because He's Seen It Before
STILLWATER -- Mike Gundy is feeling pretty good right now. He was introduced by Larry Reece while standing on the stairwell landing looking over the Student Union Atrium and the stage below where three of his top players, All-Big 12 linebacker Amen Ogbongbemiga, 2018 All-American wide receiver Tylan Wallace, and college football Division I leading rusher and All-American Chuba Hubbard, were waiting to talk to the crowd of teammates, students, faculty, fans, and media. Looking down on this scene Gundy had to be thinking of 2010 when he was in the back of the room watching a news conference in Gallagher-Iba Arena where then quarterback Brandon Weeden and wide receiver Justin Blackmon announced they were coming back for the 2011 season.
You see Gundy has been here before. Here is when you have NFL-talent, bonafide NFL talent on your team and coupled with other good players and experience then with hard work and some luck then you can make that run. The run program like Alabama believe is their birthright and program like Oklahoma State once a school with little chance of that experience has been transformed by Gundy's organization and coaching, the late Boone Pickens' gifts of huge donations turned into facilities, talented players that have built a football culture never seen before in Stillwater, and the hard work of coaches like Rob Glass, Kasey Dunn, and the entire coaching staff into a program that can every 8-10 years.
"If you want to make a run then you've got to have guys that are good enough to play in the NFL," Gundy said. "I don't care what school you are, it is very difficult to make runs at conference championships without guys on your roster that can play in the NFL. They give us a chance. You work hard, do what's right, the culture stays the same then we'll have a chance."
Gundy knew what was coming, at least he had an idea when he bounced into the locker room in NRG Stadium moments after the loss in the Texas Bowl to Texas A&M. Normally, Gundy would have been a combination of down, frustrated, and tired after a 24-21 loss in a bowl game. He was none of those. He spent minutes on what had just happened on the field to finish 2019 and quickly moved to 2020.
"We struggled at the end of (last) season with health, we juggled quarterbacks, Tylan went out, Chuba was beat up the last part of the season and didn't practice very much, so we struggled with some things," Gundy said. "I felt our team played extremely well and we coached extremely well in the bowl game and we came up a little short, so I wanted to move on from that point and I wanted to talk about the future."
He has and now the track he hoped his program would take coming home from Houston is exactly the path it is on.
"I had a really good feeling that Tylan (Wallace) was coming back and I thought it was 50/50 that Chuba would come back," Gundy said. "And then we had a bunch of returning starters. I felt that Coach (Jim) Knowles had conformed our defense to fit the style of this league. I thought that we had played better defensively. You can look back and I thought that when we were somewhat healthy and we didn't turn the ball over that I thought we could have played with anybody in the country at any particular time."
Gundy has a dream and he had it in 2011 too. He is also not discounting the kind of competition he is talking about his program stepping up to.
"I don't know if anyone wanted to jack with LSU (this season)," Gundy continued with a huge grin on his face. He knows LSU was a beast of the decade type of team. "Any of the rest of them I think you could stand toe-to-toe, so I'm excited about moving forward."
Again, no guarantees. The work has to be done. The luck of staying healthy in a game that typically grinds away at your team is still critical. The ifs are out there, but next season Oklahoma State is a team and there are generally only a dozen or so, that if things fall into place they have a chance.