STILLWATER - The Oklahoma State football team opens spring practice on Monday. Now in his 10th year at the helm of his alma mater, head coach Mike Gundy discussed where the team is entering spring drills.
On what excites him the most about spring football:
"Well, it's always one of the most fun times of the year for us, which would be spring football and August when we actually get back on the field with our players. I'm excited because we have so many new players. We obviously had 28 seniors last year. Some of our players won't go through spring ball because they had an injury here or there during the season and we'll protect them. So, there will be a number of new players and I'm excited about watching those guys get out there and compete in the spring."
On which players have emerged as leaders:
"Well, we've had a number of guys who have really stepped up. Jhajuan Seales is competing, Sam Wren is competing, Ryan Simmons, Ashton Lampkin is competing and Daniel Koenig. We've had a number of players that have really given us a lot of effort and provided leadership for us in the offseason."
On Ryan Simmons:
"Caleb and Shaun were good because they got those reps early in their career. Caleb was a different player not physically, but mentally in his last two years than he was early in his career. Now, Ryan should benefit from that experience. There's just no substitute for actual game experience, when you have a senior-dominated team you have your best chance for success. That's why we were able to win 10 games last year, because we had a number of seniors who had played and competed, understand the environment and the competition at our level."
On having to replace so many players:
"I was telling the staff the other day that I've only been in this situation one other year where we had so many seniors and such a turnaround with our team. It's really important that we understand that so we can teach and coach, we are going to go through a bit of a learning phase. We have quality players in our program that will compete and their attitude will be good. It's going to take them a little longer to turn the cycle. I think we're going to go through this every three or four years now where you accumulate such a large senior class because we have so many players in our program that are here for a number of years. Our junior college signings have been reduced considerably - we take a couple a year. When you do take more high school players then the classes become larger. I've only been in this situation once before but it will be a little different. The kids will be fine, we teach them, coach them and we control their reps. Practices may have to run a little shorter because we can't run the guys ragged. I think that's important as a coach that we understand the correct way to teach and coach and get them to perform at a high level without completely running them out of energy and out of gas."
On Tyreek Hill's success with the OSU track and field program:
"Well, he's fast. He was advertised as fast and he's legitimate fast. I watched him run online the other day and was encouraged with his competitiveness. We have spent just a little time with him because we can't really have them that much. The track coaches are really fond of his work ethic and his willingness to allow himself to be coached and to compete. We're excited about him. One thing we can't coach is speed and he certainly is fast."
On redshirt freshmen that physically look different:
"The offensive linemen look different. Zachary Crabtree is developing some and Vili Leveni is developing on the defensive line. You see a few guys that you think have developed enough that you feel like might be able to help you out early in the season. Others might take a little longer and you talk about them helping you in games six through 13."
On what fans should know about this team:
"The core values of Oklahoma State football are strong. I've been here for 10 years now and we believe in our system. I say that a lot. We believe in the family, our chemistry and the leadership. The faces change but we don't. We're in great shape. We have some young players that will be competing early in the season."