The Oklahoma State football team practiced for approximately two hours Tuesday morning. Afterward coach Mike Gundy, who celebrated his 47th birthday on Tuesday, and selected members of the team visited with media following practice:
Coach Mike Gundy
On Tuesday's practice
"We had a good practice. We started out a little slow and I had to chew on them a little bit, but they did very well from that point on. They're so eager. It's enjoyable to be around them. They're very eager to learn. I see the look in some of the young guys' eyes. They're already considerably better than when they showed up here, just in this short period of time. It's a lot of fun to be around them. In coaching, we certainly want to win all the games we play, but coaching is about being around people that want to improve themselves and be a part of a team. That's what's enjoyable for us. This team seems to be heading in that direction. Six weeks from now, we'll be talking about it. It's called team chemistry. That's what makes our profession fun."
On the biggest difference he's seen in Mike Yurcich compared to last season
"He's taken control in practice. He's involved in every step in the huddle. He's coaching everybody on the field and he's just different now than he was. If you think about it, he all of a sudden went from the local hometown newspaper to USA Today, so it's a little different. We all go through that. He did a good job last year. We had a couple of issues last year that kept us from being as good as we needed to be, but as the season went on with his presence, you could tell we got better on offense. He's more comfortable now, and I expect us to play very well."
On when he started to sense Yurcich getting more comfortable in his role
"Games four, five, six. He started to get a feel for exactly who we were. We went through a little bit of a transition from a personnel standpoint, and I think he grew with the team."
On receiver James Washington
"You don't really recruit that many players from that level. He's had great leaping ability and hand-eye coordination. I was just talking to one of our coaches today. The most pleasant thing about him is that he just plays hard and never says a word. He's a great person, up to this point with the time I've been around him. In recruiting, you aren't around him very much. He's a good young man and comes from a good family that has instilled some good values in him. I've never heard him say a word. He just keeps going. He's got a chance to be a pretty good player."
On the young quarterbacks in the Big 12
"The young quarterbacks have developed a little bit, so they'll be a little bit better. At one point, we had five NFL quarterbacks playing in our league. I don't think we're to that point. We've got some guys that could potentially play in the NFL. Right now, Baylor's leading the charge with their guy. He's mature, he's experienced, he understands. He's put up big time numbers and he's a senior now, I believe. He's a guy that is leading the charge, but there are some young up-and-coming guys. Two of them are in this state. Texas Tech's got one. There are some guys that are coming up in the program right now."
Defensive Coordinator Glenn Spencer
On younger players adapting to the collegiate game
"They've got to understand that it's got to come faster. I said, 'Don't get upset if you get coached hard, because you've got to get ready to play, and you're not ready to play yet.' Are they trying? Yes. Is their desire to be good there? Yes. They've just got to learn a few things, so we've got to find a way to make it happen faster."
On inexperienced members of the defense gaining consistency
"That's what bothers me. There's no consistency. Even the older guys have struggled with being consistent. We've got a lot of guys who might have played some in the past, but they haven't been consistent starters. Their expectations are a little higher now. The bar isn't going to get any lower. The bar is going to be high, so we've got to just keep demanding that they get it down and they get it down fast. There's a sense of urgency out there right now. By all means, we're not pleased yet with what we're getting, but they're coming out every day wanting to get better. It's good to know that they've got that attitude."
On if he believes Big 12 defenses have been overshadowed in the past
"I feel like the defenses in the league got a little more respect last year than in the several years before. One reason is that we didn't have five NFL quarterbacks that everybody was facing in the league, so that's a big difference. Secondly, every year we kind of learn to catch up with what we've seen. I think defenses are like that all across the nation, and I think that the league is recruiting some pretty good defensive players right now. I don't think you can broad-stroke it and say it's one thing, but I do believe it could change again this year. Right now, I think you've got to give it a better reputation than it has had in the past several years. I also think people are becoming more educated on what really is a good defense and what kind of defense works against a spread offense. It's not about yardage, it's about winning the game and knowing how to win the game. The fact is, they're going to get the ball. We've had a lot more possessions to defend than a lot of the teams across the nation. You have to defend the whole field when you're facing playmakers, so you're going to give up yardage, but as a defense, you've got to get yourself off the field and let your offense score points."
Offensive Line Coach Bob Connelly
On Paul Lewis learning to play with multiple quarterbacks
"He's responsible for the offensive line. The quarterback behind us doesn't necessarily affect who we are or what he has to do. Obviously, schemes might change a little bit with the ability of whichever quarterback is behind us, but we have an offense in place. We're going to do what we do. We might do a little more of one thing with certain guys in and a little more of something else with other guys in, but we're going to do what we do. We're going to be who we are."
On his thoughts on Paul Lewis and the development of the offensive line
"He's maturing. He was a little immature when I first got here, obviously due to his lack of experience. I think he has come light-years from spring to now. He's a different guy starting in fall camp than he was in spring camp. A lot of that just comes from gaining confidence in who he is. The relationship process I've been trying to build since I got here in February has engrained some confidence in them, I think. As long as they respect who I am, understand that I have their best interests in my heart and know that the information I'm providing them will help them become better players, I think we'll get there as a unit. They're starting to buy into who I am. It's a language change and a philosophical change as far as being an offensive line coach, but I think we've come a long way from day one of spring to day 13 of fall camp."
Defensive Tackle James Castleman
On how he feels about the offensive line
"They're coming along great. They're strong, smart and can move their feet. (Zac) Veatch is strong. He's a dog. He's not scared to go against anybody. (Daniel) Koenig has been here for a while, so he knows the game. Paul Lewis is doing his thing. He knows the plays. He knows how to get on people, so he's doing well. (Chris) Grisbhy's hands have gotten ridiculously better. Once he grabs you, it's going to be hard to get away. I'm there all day trying to get away from him. Everybody's getting better. We've got a redshirt freshman, (Zachary) Crabtree, who has came along so far from last year. I feel like this year he's gotten so much better and this year he is going to get even better."
On throwing young guys in and letting them develop on the fly
"Sometimes that's what it takes. When you get thrown in there and are forced to play. That will make you grow up really fast. That's all it takes sometimes."
On the concept of a playoff in college football
"I like it. I'm excited to see what it's going to be like. I've never had to have that part, so I'm excited to see where it puts us and what it makes for this new year."
Offensive Lineman Zac Veatch
On if the offensive line is out to prove a point this season
"I guess we could think of it that way, but we personally think that it doesn't matter what other people think or who the next opponent is. We're going to go out to practice every day, get better and be the best that we can be for the game and whoever lines up across from us. To me, it doesn't matter who thinks what."
On Florida State
"You can't be more hyped. We're playing the defending national champions. It's a great opportunity. We go to bed thinking about it every night and wake up thinking about it every morning. We're practicing for that."
Linebacker Ryan Simmons
On the team celebrating Gundy's birthday
"This is the first time I've ever seen anything it, as far as the whole band coming in and celebrating. It's not really announced, but it's the first time I've ever really seen any type of reaction for his birthday."
On being thrust into a leadership a role this year
"I love it. A lot of guys are hungry out here and are trying to get better each day. All we can worry about is controlling what we can control. As far as the effort, the effort is all the way there. Everybody is working hard. A lot of the young guys are working, especially with knowing that they have to play this year. They know we are counting on them, so they're coming in here and trying to learn the speed of college football. The learning is always going to go on. You can always learn a defense, and we'll be a much better defense the more repetitions we get."
On younger members of the linebacker group practicing well
"There are a lot of young guys out here. As far as the linebacker crew is concerned, Josh Mabin, Kirk Tucker, Gyasi Akem and Justin Phillips have been in the rotation, and those guys have been doing a great job. Those guys have been coming along extremely well with the learning aspect, and they're all working hard."
Fullback Teddy Johnson
On getting more opportunities at fullback
"I've been here for a while, so I've watched a lot of great fullbacks come through, like Bryant Ward, Kye Staley and Jeremy Seaton, who is still here. I've been able to learn from them and kind of learn their tricks of the trade. To be able to participate with them, which I believe will happen this year, is a great feeling."
On OSU's use of the fullback position
"Over the past few years, I believe the fullback position has brought a few more assets to the team that we hadn't had before. We're a lot quicker and a lot faster than the traditional fullback, and with that on our side, I think defenses will have to take that into account and open up the field a little bit. With a strong running force and more tight ends, I think we have a good offensive scheme this year."
Offensive Lineman Paul Lewis
On playing a bigger role last year and building on that this season
"I kind of thought I had it down at first, especially with me being a young guy and having a lot of confidence. I would study my playbook and feel like I was ready for it, but it actually happens, it happens really quick. Going against big guys like James Castleman, Hughes and Simmons is like going against game speed. All those guys have game speed, and everything's a lot quicker against those guys. Going in, you've got to kind of get your mind right and know that you've got to come off the ball and make a hole. There was definitely a learning curve at first, but I'm starting to pick up on it. It'll get better throughout the season."
On choosing to primarily focus on playing center
"Last spring, I played a few different positions. I've always played center here, but when Coach Connelly came in and asked about who all played center, it kind of clicked with me that that was where I wanted to be."
On his role at the center position
"Coach Connelly put it in great perspective. He basically said that I'm the quarterback on the field for the offensive line. I have to know what everybody has to do, I have to know the front, I have to know what the play is and I have to know what the defense is doing."