How Cowboy Football Coaches are Spending their Extended Spring Break/Quarantine
STILLWATER -- I started my interview with Oklahoma State running backs coach John Wozniak with a simple question. I asked how his family was doing knowing he has a daughter that is still a toddler.
"We're doing good, we're just on lock down here and I've got my laptop here watching Oregon State (game video) getting ready for the season and the little baby was sitting in my lap watching, so we'll see if she comes up with any good ideas."
Like so many Americans with the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for all of us to stay separated and away from each other to stop the spread of the virus, Oklahoma State coaches, in this cae the football staff, are working at home. Thanks to technology they are able to do a lot more draw up plays and read recruiting evaluations.
"We really don't have a choice, if we were in the office today we'd be getting ready for tomorrow's (spring) practice, so we obviously won't be doing that for a long time and we might as well get ready for the season and control what we can control," added Wozniak, who has the enviable job of coaching college football's leading rusher in Chuba Hubbard. "It's a weird time and something we haven't been through before, and everybody is going through it, so the staff that handles it the best will be in the best shape in the fall."
Making good use of time. It is important in any business, but especially college sports and college football. Thanks to XOS, the video platform that the Cowboys use along with many NFL, college, and high school programs they can watch on their smart TV, computer, tablet, even their phone any opponent game video, their own game and practice video, and video of prospective recruits.
"That is how I generally spend my afternoons," defensive line coach Joe Bob Clements said of his isolating and social distancing schedule. "I try to keep a schedule, mornings is for drinking coffee and breakfast with the wife and then anything on my to do list. Some of those things that have been on the list for an eternity while being a coach, so I'm trying to chip away at those. In the afternoons, a little bit of opponent prep and watching some film. Then evenings there's PE class and get a little workout in before dinner. Recruiting in and out of all of that."
"I think I've told you Robert, I have relatives that ask me what I do in the spring when football is over," safeties coach Dan Hammerschmidt relayed on Tuesday. "Well, we're fortunate in college football there are always things to do. We've got game planning and we could game plan the whole season, but we are working on the first three or four games right now."
This is normally something the staff does in May, in and around being on the road for recruiting evaluations and in June before vacations, so they can finalize game plans and be ready for fall camp. No spring practice, the Cowboys have sprung ahead with game planning.
The coaches can also meet as a staff or by offensive, defensive, even recruiting groups. Although they are scattered, the recruiting staff led by Todd Bradford met earlier this week through the Team app. The app allows meetings on the internet. Zoom is another outlet that accomplishes that. Dan Hammerschmidt told me he was going to meet with his safeties using the Team app.
So far, Wozniak said he has simply used the phone and group calls and texts to stay in touch with Hubbard, L.D. Brown, Dezmon Jackson, and the rest of the running backs
"I've called a couple of the guys and texted others just to make sure they are okay after the break, staying safe, staying inside, and all that stuff," Wozniak said. "Now with academics starting up, they have all had online classes before. Now, everything is online and the communication with their professors is huge. They need to check their email and emails may end up going to their junk folder. Maybe they have an online tutoring session and some other things that they may not have been through before, so you want to make sure they keep on top of their school more than anything."
The phone, both incoming calls and texts going both ways, along with social media are the tools for the other major task that the coaches are doing, recruiting.
"We could do that all the time," Hammerschmidt stated about looking for that next top signee that could help win games. "You can never do that enough and we have time and so do the kids. Sometimes you'll text them to call you and they will text back, 'Hey coach, can I call you after practice?' Now you ask them to call and they text back, 'Coach can I call you right now.'"
"I'm on the phone all day with these guys, so you have to keep grinding away at it and keep trying to build relationships with these guys," Wozniak added and he is looking for as many as two running backs in the 2021 class. "You check on them and their families and hope they are staying safe. That part of it keeps going."
However, nothing else has really kept going. The coaches wouldn't be on the road right now. There would be a large number of prospects coming to campus for unofficial visits to check on spring practice. In April they could have taken official visits. That, as of now, is off until April 15 as mandated by the NCAA and all major conferences.
No sports, no practice, little going on outside the home quarantines due to coronavirus makes for some interesting conversation starters.
"It makes it challenging to come up with new conversation. 'How's the inside of your house today, mine's good, how is your's looking. (laughter) How's quarantine life? Are you practicing social distancing?'" The topics of conversation have become limited, so you really have to get creative about what you talk about," Clements explained.
One recent staff addition that has been a superstar in recruiting is offensive line coach Charlie Dickey. Dickey recruited a solid class last cycle and is off to a good start this one.
"I try to be myself and I hope that is good for them, and most of the time it is," Dickey said in general. "I'm sure there are some kids that maybe it isn't, but you have to be yourself and fortunately, I've been able to connect with a lot recruits."
Phones may be a huge part of this. Those relationships and the digital graphics that Oklahoma State has become famous for. Peyton Aufill and Olivia Ramirez have become noted for the recruiting material they produce promoting Cowboy football. Everything in the recruiting vein may become magnified because limited travel and movement really changes the process.
"We'll see what happens with recruiting travel and I will be surprised if we get out (for evaluations) in May," Wozniak said and something head coach Mike Gundy is in agreement with. "Nothing has changed a whole let yet, but the early signing day and the early recruiting visits we're just going to have to adjust and figure the best way of going about it. This is a special place here and a lot of kids want to come here, so we'll make it work."
They already are. It would seem that Oklahoma State football may not be working in the same building, but they are all working and they are all on the same page.