A rolling blog from the Omni Hotel deep in the heart (heat?) of Texas, where you can barely get through an interview without a Wildcats mascot hugging up on you …
DALLAS, Texas — Oklahoma State isn’t backing down from its lofty expectations.
The Cowboys were picked first in last week’s preseason poll, but as receiver Josh Stewart noted: “We already planned to be No. 1 even before that.”
Context warning: Stewart wasn’t sounding cocky—even though coming off a 101-catch season resulting in 1,210 yards, he had reason to be.
“It’s cool to have people noticing your hard work, but you can’t let that get to your head as a player,” he said. “Some players might slack or feel like they’ve already arrived, but we won’t have big heads.”
GUNDY WANTS TO PLAY FASTER
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy, whose rapid-snap offenses have symbolized uptempo football, wants to play even faster. And he thinks the eighth official will help.
“It allows one person to get the ball, get it set and get out of the way,” Gundy said.
While coaches such as Alabama’s Nick Saban and Arkansas’ Bret Bielema have questioned whether more plays equates to higher injury risk, Gundy wasn’t buying it.
“It would be a huge mistake for somebody to be convinced that that would have in any form or fashion or reason to cause any injury,” he said.
“We’re spread out. We’re throwing it around and catching it. There’s not as many collisions compared to putting everybody together tight and ramming everybody up in there and being a pile.”
Give Gundy credit for a bold offseason move in hiring offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich, who spent the past seven seasons at two Division II schools in Pennsylvania—Shippensburg and Edinboro.
How Yurcich adjusts to Big 12 football will be scrutinized, especially in light of the fact he’s following in the footsteps of Dana Holgorsen and Todd Monken, both of whom springboarded to head-coaching jobs. Gundy seems to be a trusting fellow, claiming he won’t dabble in play-calling this year any more than he has with the previous coordinators.
“It’s been a number of years since I’ve really been involved in play calling,” Gundy said. “I have an opinion each week on what I think gives us the best chance to move the ball and score points, and then usually by Monday I’m out of that room.
“I have a lot of confidence in the coaches on our staff and the decisions they make, and at the end of the day, they’re the ones that have to instill it in the players in meetings and get it across to them on the practice field. They have to get them to perform on Saturday.”
SNYDER AT MINIMUM WAGE
Make all the Depression-Era jokes you want regarding 73-year-old coach Bill Snyder, but Kansas State’s coach has made quite a climb up the wage scale since starting as a high school assistant coach in Gallatin, Mo.
“I was an assistant football coach and assistant basketball coach and assistant women’s basketball coach, assistant track coach, drove the school bus, taught four units of Spanish—which I knew nothing about—and I made $6,000 a year,” Snyder said. “And I thought I’d died and gone to heaven, in all honesty, because I’d never had a paycheck worth very much prior to that.
Snyder will earn $2.75 million this year, enough to buy his own school bus and a Rosetta Stone language kit.
PATTERSON ON PACHALL
TCU has the preseason All-Big 12 quarterback, but coach Gary Patterson didn’t bring Casey Pachall to media days, delaying for a while longer the flurry of questions sure to confront the player over his substance abuse that led to last year’s suspension.
For now, Patterson said, Pachall “just wants to be a student, just wants to be a football player.”
In his absence, teammates will be left to answer plenty of questions about Pachall’s state of mind, but Patterson has seen encouraging signs.
“When he came back in the spring, to see the color back in his face, the conversations we had that we weren’t having when he left, to me, told me right away that we’d done the right thing,” the coach said.
When Pachall was suspended and subsequently withdrew from school after last October’s DWI arrest, Patterson sought a behavioral fix.
A short-term suspension of a few games “wouldn’t have fixed the problem,” Patterson said.
And what about slamming the door completely? Patterson said that would have nullified “everything we told (Pachall) in recruiting about how we cared about him, how we did something for them in their life, and how we wanted to graduate them.”
DIVING ON KLIFF
At age 33, Kliff Kingsbury is running a major Division I program. And if you think this is the culmination of some grand design to become a head coach, you’re mistaken. Only five summers ago when Kingbsury’s NFL career ended, he was on the verge of a life outside football.
“I was thought about going back to school to get my MBA,” he said.
Instead, he was lured to the University of Houston by head coach Kevin Sumlin and offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen. Kingsbury climbed from quality control assistant to quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator. Then last season he joined Sumlin at Texas A&M where he unleashed the Johnny Manziel Experience on college football.
Now, he has been entrusted as the head coach at his alma mater, Texas Tech.
“I know how fortunate and how blessed I am to be here at this age,” Kingsbury said. “That’s not lost upon me.
“You have to have a lot of good things happen in order for that to happen so quickly. It’s not often that somebody can move up that quickly.”
Aside from the X’s and O’s, Kingsbury has been calling on Sumlin for administrative advice—but not so much Holgorsen.
“We’re in the same league, so I don’t want to call him and try to pick his brain when we’re playing against him,” Kingsbury said.
His offense isn’t quite as pass-happy as the one he operated under then-coach Mike Leach at Texas Tech from 2000-2002, when he threw for 88 touchdowns and more than 11,000 yards. That’s also where Kingsbury learned under Holgorsen. And in the years since, Leach disciples have spread out across the country like receivers finding holes in the secondary.
“Everybody that was there with Coach Leach kind of took (the system) and ran with it,” Kingsbury said.
“We’ve all kind of expanded from then. But the base principles are still Mike Leach principles, and all those offenses you see with all that success, everyone has put their own bells and whistles to it.”