By Jason Elmquist
CNHI News Service
DALLAS – There’s plenty to be excited about with the Oklahoma State football program these days.
From the opening of the new indoor practice facility across from Boone Pickens Stadium to being picked to win the Big 12 Conference crown by the media, the first time in the conference’s nearly 20-year history.
“The program is on an incline, so it’s great being a senior and seeing all the things develop on my way out,” OSU linebacker Shaun Lewis said. “I can’t put into words how excited I am to try to end the season the right way.”
Monday Mike Gundy and members of the Cowboy football program met with members of the media for the Big 12 Football Media Days in Dallas, hosted at the same hotel the Cowboys stayed for its Heart of Dallas Bowl victory over Purdue in January.
The buzz around the Cowboys was apparent on the opening day of media days. As one of five teams to meet the media on Monday, the Pokes pulled most of the media throughout the afternoon breakout session with players, sitting through interviews well after the four other Big 12 teams participating had left.
“It’s always motivation knowing that people are watching,” Cowboy defensive tackle Calvin Barnett said. “When everybody is watching, you know that if you mess up that everybody will know. The day, God forbid, we lose, everybody is going to know.”
With the Cowboys in a slightly unfamiliar situation as the league’s favorite heading into the season, Gundy said he plans to talk with his players about the obstacle ahead, even though some of the players were a part of the Big 12 championship team in 2011.
“I think it’s certainly something that we’ll address and make comments the same way that I have here today in that it’s a tribute to a lot of players that have come before these guys that have worked hard,” Gundy said. “... I don’t know what the exact number of years to go back, but being picked No. 1 certainly doesn’t guarantee you the conference championship, we all know that. We’ll mention that to our players and be very vanilla, they’ve still got a lot of work ahead of them, but we’re very proud of how far they’ve come and that they have the opportunity."
The Cowboy coach admitted the product of the program’s first-ever preseason No. 1 pick is a result of how the program has grown over the past few years.
“I think it’s a tribute to the players that have been before this group, the young men that are on our team now, and the ones in the future,” Gundy said. “They’ve got a lot to look forward to. I know that it won’t have any effect on our season, but I do think it means a lot to Oklahoma State that people feel comfortable in saying that we’re good enough to have the opportunity to win a conference championship.”
Gundy didn’t budge on his stance in regards to who will be OSU’s starting quarterback for the Cowboys’ season opener against Mississippi State at Reliant Stadium in Houston.
“I think that we’ll continue to work like we have,” Gundy said. “We’ve got two young men that we feel very comfortable with, and they’ve worked, and they’re extremely dedicated to our program. They’re great team players. They’ll get equal reps.”
But that appeared to be the norm for the first day in Dallas. The only quarterback to make an appearance was University of Kansas junior transfer Jake Heaps. Even Texas Christian University coach Gary Patterson didn’t hail Casey Pachall, who returned to the team, as the undisputed starter.
“I think it just depends. We’ll see how two-a-day scrimmages and going into the first ball game – when I say that, it won’t be a 50/50 thing, I don’t think, but I do believe there’s a place for both of them,” Patterson said. “If it is Casey as the starter, you have a Trevone (Boykin) that really can beat you with his legs. He really developed. He had an unbelievable spring, to be honest with you, which bodes well for us because he’s only going to be a sophomore for us in the future after this season.”
The Big 12 Football Media Days conclude today with conference teams Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia, Baylor and Iowa State slated to meet the media.