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The Cowboys look to be the most improved team in the Big 12 from last season, and it reflected in head coach Mike Gundy’s Big 12 Media Days session.

“As always, we’re very excited about the season. Our players have had a good summer. Coaches are just finishing up vacation, and attitude’s really good. I’m excited about our conference, the teams, and I think it’s going to be really challenging for all of us.” 

ON MAINTAINING OFFENSIVE STRENGTH

Oklahoma State has been known for high tempo offenses that light up the scoreboard, but last season was a hiccup. Coach Gundy was asked about what steps he’s taking to continue innovating his team’s progressive offense.

“We study a lot of tape from other football teams, watch a lot of NFL, watch a lot of high school, and try to gather ideas and see how they fit in our system.

“When I was playing in high school, I had a coach that I thought did a great job of using the talent that we had in the best way possible, and we try to do the same at Oklahoma State. We’ve been very fortunate we’ve had good players, and we try to put them in a position to have success.”

ON NAMING MASON RUDOLPH THE STARTING QB

Since Brandon Weeden’s time in Stillwater, Gundy has been reluctant, no, stubborn to not reveal who’s going to lead the offense before the season starts. So even though most people expected it, it was surprising that Rudolph has already been labeled as QB number one. The reasoning is simple though, He provides the characteristics Gundy looks for in a leader.

“The way we ended the season — each situation is different each year with the players. We felt like it was best for our football team to name him the starter. His ability to lead, the toughness. Obviously, we had success at the latter part of the season with him.

“We’re very lucky to have J.W. Walsh on our football team. J.W. is going to play. He’ll be a factor in the success of our football team this season. But at that time, we just felt like it was best for Mason to understand that he needs to be the leader on our offense, and the players need to start rallying around him as their quarterback.”

Coach Gundy also stated that he’s been very impressed with the development of Mason Rudolph as he becomes more comfortable in his second summer of preparation with the Cowboys.

“I like where he’s at at this time. And if he continues to work, be a student of the game, distribute the ball the way he needs to, the way we ask him to, depending on what style of defense we’re going against that week, toughness and leadership are very important, in our opinion, at the quarterback spot.

“So I guess the answer to the question would be I like what he’s accomplished this summer, and we look forward to him continuing to grow.”

ON THE DEFENSE

The Cowboys placed three players on the preseason All-Big 12 Defensive First Team. When asked about the rising expectations for Oklahoma State on that side of the ball, Gundy indicates that improving the defense has been a priority.

“We put a lot of importance in planning in our defense about four years ago. We felt like we needed to be more competitive on defense, and we built up our numbers. We allotted more scholarships on that side of the ball than we did on offense. I think it’s paying off for us now at this time.

“We have a good group on defense. I think we have some young players that should show up this season that most people are not aware of. They’ve been in our program a couple years, and we feel good about what they’ve done up to this point.

“So we’ll see how they start in September. We’ll see if we can bring them along and get them ready to play, and for that stretch during the season in conference, where usually determines which direction teams go.

“But that second group of guys on our defense that we’ve stressed over the last three or four years should be the ones that help us this season.”

ON STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE IN REGARDS TO THE BIG 12

Despite Gundy’s public dislike of playing high-profile opponents at the beginning of the season, Oklahoma State has opened up the last two season against Mississippi State and Florida State. Faced with a relatively easy year in the non-conference, Mike was questioned as to whether or not he’s changed his opinion on scheduling.

“I think that we have a good plan at Oklahoma State. I’ve put a lot of thought into what our coaching staff thinks is best for Oklahoma State, and I’m comfortable with the schedule that we have over the next five or six years. I think we’re scheduled all the way up through maybe six years.

“I think it’s really good for our football team and good for our school. I still am a strong supporter of Big 12 Conference and each school plays each team, and I think that’s a sign of strength in our league. I think right before Ohio State beat Wisconsin by a large margin, we had a good chance to get two teams in.

“So I don’t know that we need to overreact. I think that our conference is strong. I have a lot of confidence in our league office, Commissioner Bowlsby and the staff and the direction they’re taking us and that we’ll make the right decisions. For that reason, Coach Holder, myself, we need to make the right decisions in our scheduling, and I think that we’ve done a good job up through the next five or six years.”

WHY NOT THE COWBOYS?

Although TCU and Baylor appear to be the prohibitive favorites to win the Big 12 in 2015, the Cowboys are seen a popular dark horse by many pundits. Mike Gundy noted that he believes his team has the pieces needed to win the Big 12.

“I think, if we played well and take care of the ball, that we’ll have an opportunity to win the league. We have good young players. We’ve got some depth. Like most years, we have to stay healthy at certain positions.

“But we’ve certainly worked toward that goal from winter conditioning through spring ball and summer conditioning. We like our football team. I like our coaching staff. I like how the team cares about each other. And as I said, we get good quarterback play, take care of the football, force some turnovers on defense, and we should have an opportunity to win the league.”

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