OSU football: Mike Gundy faces offseason uncertainties that have nothing to do with Chuba Hubbard or Tylan Wallace
HOUSTON — Mike Gundy strode off the NRG Stadium turf and into the darkness of the tunnel.
The uncertainty of the offseason, too.
Of course, the Oklahoma State coach does not know what's next for his two biggest stars. Chuba Hubbard and Tylan Wallace must decide in the coming weeks if they are returning to the Cowboys or leaving for the NFL.
But the question marks for Gundy go beyond that.
He has one spot on his coaching staff to fill, and it’s a big one. Kasey Dunn, master recruiter and talent developer supreme, is leaving to be the offensive coordinator at UNLV. He was the longest-tenured assistant on the staff, and his departure is significant.
It might not be the only one.
Gundy might've avoided this upheaval had he made one different choice.
A year ago this week, OSU offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich left to take the same job at Ohio State. That opened one of the top assistant’s jobs in all of the Big 12, and Gundy had lots of quality candidates, including two already on his staff.
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Both Dunn and offensive line coach Josh Henson wanted the job. Henson had been an offensive coordinator, calling plays for three seasons at Missouri, and Dunn sought the opportunity to call plays after coaching receivers in the Cowboy offense for the better part of a decade.
But Gundy did what he often does, hiring from outside the program.
Soon after, I wrote that Gundy had taken a risk, and it had nothing to do with Sean Gleeson’s youth or his lack of major-college coaching experience or his limited time as an offensive coordinator. It had everything to do with the message Gleeson’s hiring sent to Dunn and Henson.
If neither was getting the job then, why would they think they’d ever get it?
(Truth be told, if Gundy was hot to trot for Gleeson, he might've been wooed to OSU by the quarterback coach job and the chance to learn the Cowboy offense.)
Soon after Gleeson was hired, Henson left for Texas A&M — he was on the Aggie sideline Friday night — and suitors came hard after Dunn, too. Gundy wanted to keep Dunn, a guy who bought into the Cowboy Culture long espoused by Gundy and recruited players who fit the program’s mold, then developed them into game changers.
Gundy convinced Dunn to stay in Stillwater last winter with a business-card-filling title and a six-figure raise.
But it was only a temporary stay.
Now, Gundy finds himself without both assistants he bypassed a year ago.
He might well be without the man he hired instead of Dunn and Henson, too. Gleeson has been rumored to be a candidate for jobs at a couple other schools, and while he told our man Scott Wright after the game Friday “I’m with these guys right now,” the pull toward the East Coast may be strong. Gleeson had never lived outside the eastern seaboard before this year. Ditto for his family.
Would he move to Rutgers, one of the programs rumored to be in hot pursuit?
Seems a significant step down for Gleeson, but Rutgers' New Jersey address is something OSU can’t offer.
Even if Gleeson stays put for now, he might not be a longtimer like Yurcich was. When Gundy plucked Yurcich out of Shippensburg after the 2012 season, he was an unknown. He had to prove himself, and over six seasons in Stillwater, Yurcich did.
But Gleeson arrived at OSU as more of a known commodity. He had been the offensive coordinator at Princeton, and the Tigers’ success had drawn attention. It wasn’t a matter of if he’d get a major-college job but rather when.
He doesn’t need to use OSU as a proving ground like Yurcich did.
Does that mean he’ll be gone in a couple years?
Of course not. He might decide to raise his family and grow old in Payne County. But it seems more likely he will be at OSU for a shorter time than Yurcich.
Maybe Gundy could hire Dunn or Henson back if Gleeson leaves.
For his part, Gundy seems unfazed by the unknown of this offseason. Then again, he’s had to replace assistants pretty much every offseason. If you hire good people, other programs are bound to want to steal them.
Uncertainty is part of college football, though Gundy sounded Friday night like he hadn’t given such things a moment’s thought.
“I’m so excited about the future of Oklahoma State football,” he said. “I can’t wait to get started. … We’ll fly home (Saturday), and I’ll probably go to work the next day because I’m so excited about the players we have coming back and where we’re at, the improvements we’ve made in all areas.”
That enthusiasm may come in handy as he starts the process of replacing arguably his best assistant while trying to retain the rest of his staff, all uncertainties with roots stretching right back to Gundy.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 405-475-4125 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK or follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok.