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OSU Notebook: Cowboys during Big 12 media days

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Mike Gundy

Mike Gundy talks with kid reporters from Dallas

Coach Mike Gundy walked with bravado into AT&T Stadium on Thursday

Sporting a perfectly pressed gray suit, with a paisley maroon tie accompanying it, Gundy turned heads as he patrolled the sidelines. 

Not just because of his attire, but rather his new haircut. His mullet, a staple to his look for the past several years, and something fans of Oklahoma State have continuously hoped to replicate, was no more. 

"When I went to Kathy -- she has cut my hair for 20 years now -- and I love her company, but I said I've got a lot of things going on, so let's try and cut my hair to where I don't have to cut it until the season is over."

Gundy said having the mullet has been fun, and hopes it will grow back by the end of the season. 

It was one of the lighter moments during Gundy's Big 12 media day press conference, interjected between questions about Spencer Sanders development, the running back group and the offensive line's health. 

Here are some other smaller notes from OSU's day in Arlington. 

Sam and Ben Hutchens recap Day 2 of Big 12 Media Days in Arlington, Texas.

Gundy comfortable with the defense 

2020 was a historic year for OSU's defense. 

The Cowboys led the nation in third-down defense and defensive touchdowns, as well as ranked in the top 10 nationally on tackles for loss and forced fumbles. 

Gundy said he has been impressed with defensive coordinator Jim Knowles and his willingness to adapt to the Big 12. The team has simplified its defense instead of trying to out-coach other teams, which he said has paid off. 

"I feel more comfortable with our defense going on the field than I have maybe in my first 12 to 14 years as a head coach," Gundy said. "I think Jim is very innovative in his blitz packages."

Gundy said the defense is the fastest he has had at OSU. Combined with the improved tackling from this past season, Gundy has confidence in the defense. 

He has confidence in the defense, and the defense has confidence in themselves. 

"Our defense is starting to develop a little confidence in themselves and it makes us a better football team," Gundy said. 

Martin could fill Wallace's spot

Like the running back spot, OSU enters the season without a bonafide superstar at wide receiver. 

Tylan Wallace has moved onto an NFL career with the Baltimore Ravens and Dillon Stoner the Las Vegas Raiders. Both were quarterback Spencer Sanders' favorite targets in 2020. 

OSU is high on Brennan Presley, who scored three times in OSU's Cheez-It Bowl victory, but Tay Martin is a name garnering attention. 

Martin, a transfer from Washington State, caught 15 passes for 149 yards in 2020 as Wallace's backup. Gundy and Sanders spoke highly of Martin on Thursday. 

"Tay does very well at everything, but one thing I would say he does very well at is just getting the ball at high point," Sanders said. "His vertical is unbelievable."

Sanders said Martin can step in and assume Wallace's 'Z' spot in the receiving corps with ease. Both Gundy and Sanders said Martin's development is only going to improve this season. 

"We feel good about his development, after getting into our program," Gundy said. "He is in really good physical condition now."

Defense, Gundy, excited about Harvell-Peel's return

Kolby Harvell-Peel was expected to follow teammate Rodarius Williams.

After 2020 ended with a 37-34 victory for OSU in the Cheez-It Bowl, Harvell-Peel was one of the Cowboys expected to enter into the NFL draft pool.

But, on Jan. 18, Harvell-Peel took to Twitter to announce his career decision. He wouldn't follow Williams to the NFL, instead choosing to return to OSU for another season. 

Added into a veteran secondary comprised of Tre Sterling, Jarrick Bernard-Converse, Christian Holmes and Thomas Harper, the Cowboys have one of the most experienced secondaries in the country. 

Gundy and linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez, who also chose to return to OSU this season are excited about the talent the defensive backs have. 

"In the Big 12, having experience in the secondary, particularly at the safety positions and/or outside backers, are very important," Gundy said. "The experience allows those guys to not get their eyes violated a lot in run-pass situations and certainly helps our defense make more plays."

Rodriguez said having an experienced secondary is always good to have behind the linebackers. He said it makes his job easier. 

"It is a tremendous help (having Harvell-Peel)," Rodriguez said. "You've got offenses that don't want to throw it toward his side because he is a playmaker. It is always good to have him behind my back."

sports.ed@ocolly.com