Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy has built a successful, high-flying Okie program and now might entertain some offers across the country — most notably from Tennessee, who tried once before on the 50 year old. His current team sits at 8-2 and ranked in the AP Top 25 at No. 18.
Gundy may be a little tough to sway, having spent his college career and started his coaching career as an assistant in Stillwater, but if Tennessee were to pull the so-called Arkansas waterfall, it could mean big things for the Vols.
If there’s one thing Gundy can do well, it’s coach up recruits who aren’t the highest rated players. Over the past three seasons, Oklahoma State has been well outside the top 25 in recruiting class rankings, and the team has over achieved in each of the last three seasons, going 10-3, 10-3 and 8-2 so far this year.
He also is a pretty great offensive mind. Gundy likes to use the air raid attack on offense — when he has the athletes to do it, it can be pretty impressive. This season, Oklahoma State is averaging 45 points a game. Star quarterback Mason Rudolph has already thrown for 3,690 yards and 30 touchdowns.
This isn’t to say that the Cowboys’ ground game is lacking. To add to the offensive fire power, running back Justice Hill has run for 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns this season.
Finally, just look at the Mullet. Tennessee fans swooned over Dooley’s perfect hair, so I’m sure the Arkansas waterfall will be received kindly. ‘Les’ not forget to mention he was an offensive coordinator for another big name some have been shouting for, Les Miles. Under Miles, Gundy was instrumental in two upset victories to rival Oklahoma, who was ranked in the top five in both seasons.
Since succeeding Miles in 2005 to become the head coach, he has posted an impressive 112-52 (68% winning percentage) record in 12-plus seasons, though he holds an underwhelming 68-41 (62% winning percentage) conference record. Through Les, you can trace Gundy’s coaching tree back to Vol great Johnny Majors, though he never coached directly under Majors.
Oklahoma State has been spotty on the defensive side of the ball, in true Big 12 fashion, The Cowboys prefer make any game an old-fashioned shootout (44-31 loss to TCU, 41-34 win over Texas Tech, 50-39 win over West Virginia, 62-52 win over Oklahoma State, 49-42 win over Iowa State, 45-40 loss to Kansas State… that’s just from this season).
One of the biggest factors working against Tennessee is Gundy’s connection with Oklahoma State. Because Gundy played and started his coaching career with the Cowboys, it would be tough to lure him away. He’s only had five seasons away from Stillwater — he was the passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Baylor in 1996 and from 1997-2000 he was passing game coordinator and wide receiver coach at Maryland.
By 2001, though, Gundy was back in Stillwater as associate head coach and offensive coordinator. That connection may not seem like much of a negative, but it wouldn’t be easy for Gundy to just leave somewhere he’s called home for a long time. Another strike against Gundy is his inability to get over the hump against rival Oklahoma, who he’s just 2-11 against.
Gundy could be a good fit at Tennessee. The lack of offensive production this season has made fans hungry for some offensive fire power, which is right where Gundy’s expertise lies. As a head coach, Gundy has led the Cowboys to some of their best seasons ever, and probably the best 10-plus year stretch in football the school has ever seen. As long as he has someone in Knoxville to tighten up the defense, this is a home run hire. If Gundy could get help to not only out-pace teams, but get a lead and then pull away from them, he would be an elite coach.
HIRE RANKING: 7/10