Before the 2017 season kicked off I had a post discussing Mike Gundy’s Oklahoma State as a program with a keen mind for creative solutions to what’s basically the “scarcity problem” applied to college football.
The problems facing OSU in 2017 were pretty substantial. They’d made considerable investment into that season, convincing the Mason Rudolph-to-James Washington combo to return while adding grad transfers Aaron Cochran (Cal LT) and Adrian Baker (Clemson CB), making it a major season for contention. Their obstacles included Baker Mayfield and OU (always), a strong year overall in the Big 12, and then some personnel deficiencies that would require creative solutions to solve for.
One problem was the need for more “Cowboy backs” to help OSU get into some “total football” looks and also just to get blocking on the field to block and set up play-action. Their FCS coaching hire Jason McEndoo figured that out by snatching up a Polynesian fullback from the Utah JUCO ranks and coaching up a walk-on to serve their offensive system’s needs for lead blocking.
The other main problem was figuring out how to stop B12 offenses well enough that their own offensive firepower could be brought to bear. Glenn Spencer’s MO at OSU since he took over from Bill Young has been to address B12 offenses by being as multiple as possible. His LBs are always very well coached and OSU tends to do pretty well along the DL considering their place in the big man recruiting pecking order, but they just haven’t been able to get the job done here.
Gundy reloads the think tank
So the Mullet decided to make a couple of big moves this offseason to try and boost the brainpower of his staff in sussing out solutions for the fact that OU just always seems to have bigger, stronger, better football teams.
The first move was removing Glenn Spencer from his post at DC. I’ve heard all kinds of things about what’s next for OSU and I have no idea how much of it is real and how much of it is speculation. One of the things I heard was that Gundy wants to move towards more of a three-down solution for handling B12 offenses, but we’ll have to wait and see how this plays out.
The second move was doubling down on FCS offensive minds by hiring the legendary Bob Stitt. I wrote about how “Stitt happens” not too long ago, he’s an Air Raid guy who’s not too far away from Dana Holgorsen or anyone else in the school but he’s a particularly creative mind who was responsible for some innovations like the forward pitch sweep that counts as an incomplete pass if muffed and also the trend to teach the QB and outside WR to nail down the back-shoulder fade as a cure-all for multiple defensive schemes.
He was fired from Montana and may be best as an offensive analyst (where Gundy hired him) cooking up ideas in a lab, but he may also be a solution for the inevitable moment when someone hires current OC Mike Yurcich (another FCS hire) to be a head coach somewhere.
Oklahoma State didn’t really need any more creativity on offense but I guess it can’t hurt to get it. Anyways, if you’re not evolving you’re fading away.
What will be interesting to see next is whether Gundy will go back to the FCS ranks to make a defensive hire. I saw it rumored that he might chase North Dakota State’s DC, no idea what the basis was for that speculation, although the Bison are an amazing defense and figured out Stitt. They’re also not that far from what Spencer was doing, just more simple, more precise, and more four-down save for when facing more extreme Air Raid squads in their three-down dime package.
The year 2018 is going to be one where OSU is considered down and reloading after losing Rudolph and co…but the fact that everyone else in the league is also getting weaker means there may be more of an opportunity next year for the ‘Pokes than many are assuming. You can be sure Gundy is going to dedicate as much brainpower as possible to figuring out how to take advantage.