STILLWATER – As Mike Gundy strolled into the Boone Pickens Stadium press box, his dog, Kenzie, followed closely behind him for the second time in as many weeks.
Gundy had his weekly news conference ahead of Oklahoma State’s matchup against South Alabama at 7 p.m. Saturday. The Cowboys (1-0) are coming of a 58-17 thrashing of Missouri State while South Alabama dropped its first game under new coach Steve Campbell.
Here are some takeaways from the session, including injury updates on Zach Sinor and Tanner McCalister.
Video board impresses
When Gundy walked onto the field for warmups, he thought something was wrong with OSU’s new video board.
The 6,160-square-foot behemoth wasn’t turned on, leaving the coach scratching his head to whether there was some sort of problem.
Of course, when the Cowboys’ paraded out of the tunnel, Gundy and the players got to see the board in action.
Gundy joked with reporters that when he heard the video board come on before kickoff, he thought OSU athletic director Mike Holder was just trying to save some money and not have it on during pregame activities. He said the atmosphere during the game was one of the best he has ever seen, dating to his time as a player.
“It’s a heckuva place to play a game,” Gundy said.
Plan to keep running backs fresh
Justice Hill didn’t play past the first quarter on Thursday, and he doesn’t get many reps in practice, either.
Gundy said it’s essential to keep the Cowboys’ All-Big 12 running back healthy for the duration of the season, so he doesn’t see a point in exhausting him during practice and in this early stretch of games.
In a perfect situation, Gundy would like to limit Hill to 15 touches per contest. With the four valuable running back options the Cowboys have, it’s possible.
In practice, Gundy said Hill gets the least amount of reps in practice because he knows the system and he wants to save his body. J.D. King gets the most snaps while LD Brown and Chuba Hubbard split the remaining touches.
Gundy calls Pickens after opener
In the morning after OSU’s season opener, Gundy gave a call to Boone Pickens.
Pickens released a statement Wednesday saying he hoped to make it to the home opener and each game this season, but he didn’t make it to Stillwater because he felt “exhausted and unsteady.”
Gundy didn’t get Pickens on Friday, but the two talked Sunday and discussed the new game-day experience inside the stadium.
“That was the reason that I called him, was to tell him that I knew that he couldn’t come, but I wish he could’ve been here to see the stadium and the proximity of (the video board), the crowd, the sound,” Gundy said. “It was just really the final touch.”
Sinor, McCalister close to returning
He once was a self-proclaimed Heisman Trophy candidate, but Sinor is just trying to get healthy.
In early August, Sinor had hernia surgery and has been out since. Gundy said he doesn’t expect Sinor back this week, though he isn’t 100 percent sure on when he could return. Sinor started doing light activities during the weekend.
The senior punter averaged 43.1 yards per punt on 38 attempts last season.
McCalister, a true freshman corner from Heath, Texas, is dealing with a thumb injury but could return this week. McCalister was one of seven freshmen on the depth chart before the season opener.
“We’re further along than we were last year at this time (at corner depth),” Gundy said. “McCalister will be in that mix. We liked where he was before he had a little thumb injury.”
Backup quarterback battle
Starting quarterback Taylor Cornelius gets the bulk of the reps in practice, but what about the backups?
Keondre Wudtee was the only quarterback to play Thursday after Cornelius left the game. Wudtee wasn’t on the two-deep roster ahead of the contest. Senior Dru Brown and true freshman Spencer Sanders were on the depth chart with an ‘Or’ between them for the backup quarterback spot.
Gundy said Cornelius gets about 60 percent of the reps in practice while Brown and Sanders get 10 to 15 percent each. Wudtee gets the remaining 10 percent, and Gundy said he doesn’t need as many reps because he knows the system.
On this week’s depth chart, Brown is listed as the second quarterback and the or is gone between he and Sanders’ name.