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Ithaca to Stillwater: Knowles not a typical Gundy coordinator

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Jim Knowles

A Philadelphia native, Ivy League graduate with more than 30 years as a coach.

Jim Knowles might be the most knowledgeable guy on the football field.

Knowles, OSU’s defensive coordinator since 2018, where the Cowboys finished 7-6, and allowed an average of 32.5 points per game and over 450 yards per game in Knowles’ first season.

Coach Mike Gundy didn’t panic.

“I wasn’t worried,” Gundy said. “I was waiting for him to come around and realize the things you realize in this league are true. The year he came in, the quarterback and receiver talent in this league were through the rough. One thing about Jim is he will tell you he was wrong, and he’s smart enough to fix it.”

The 2021 Cowboys are currently allowing only 20 points per game and 328 yards per game across the first three games of the season under Knowles, a drastic improvement statistically.

Knowles began his coaching career at his alma mater as Cornell’s defensive line coach in 1988, and stayed at Cornell until 1996. Knowles would later become Cornell’s head coach in 2004 after a stretch with Western Michigan and Ole Miss. Knowles joined Duke’s coaching staff in 2010, and left for Stillwater after the 2017 season.

Gundy credits Knowles’ intelligence and success on his background as a coach and a person.

“He thinks a little differently than other people,” Gundy said. “He is a ‘streets of Philly’ guy and an Ivy league guy. He’s on those guys all the time and more aggressive than what coaches are today, then he’ll come back and love them up and tell them they do a good job so they get it.”

Gundy said he has never seen a personality quite like coach Knowles’ during practice or on the sideline.

“Jim might go through two minutes of practice and say 400 words,” Gundy said. “He’s a different personality. The players have to understand what we’re trying to accomplish and how we’re gonna do that. I’m okay with however you want to coach your players, as long as you don’t belittle them and beat them down verbally. I don’t believe in that. He does a good job at that.”

sports.ed@ocolly.com