Friday, October 31, 2014 · 5:06 a.m.
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Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy (Photo: Associated Press)

With Tennessee's search for a new head coach ongoing, Nooga.com is taking a closer look at some of the potential candidates. Click here for Nooga.com's complete list of potential candidates. 

Mike Gundy, head coach, Oklahoma State

Overview: There are only 10 coaches at the FBS level of the NCAA who currently coach at their alma mater. Gundy is one of them.

The former quarterback has been at Oklahoma State for 24 seasons as a player, assistant and head coach. He served two separate stints as an assistant for the Cowboys, once from 1990-95 and again from 2001-04. He had stops as an assistant at Maryland and Baylor in between.

He was promoted from offensive coordinator to head coach at OSU in 2005. Since that time, he’s compiled a 66-35 record with a 4-2 mark in bowl games. He’s steadily improved the program since taking over. The Cowboys have either matched or improved their win total every season of his tenure until this season. Coming off a 12-1 campaign in 2011, the Cowboys had a 7-5 record this season and will play Purdue in the Heart of Dallas Bowl on Jan. 1. Gundy has been voted the national coach of the year (2011) and the Big 12 coach of the year (2010).

Off the field, he’s known as somewhat of an internet sensation for his antics in a 2007 press conference. Gundy had an animated almost four-minute rant about an article that ran in the local paper that he felt disparaged one of his players. The famous line that emerged from it was Gundy screaming, “I’m a man, I’m 40 – come after me!”

Recruiting: Gundy’s recruiting classes have hovered close to the top 25 in the last five years. The Cowboys currently have the 25th best 2013 class nationally (per Rivals.com).

Wide receivers Dez Bryant (2007) and Justin Blackmon (2008), safety Markelle Martin (2008), quarterback Brandon Weeden (2007) and running back Kendall Hunter (2007) are among some of the players Gundy has recruited during his tenure that moved on to the NFL.

Why he’d come: This was written about Gundy in the Oklahoman on Sunday: “Reports indicate the relationship between Gundy and OSU athletic director Mike Holder is not what it once was. Last year's contract negotiations dragged out and did not go as smoothly as everyone involved had hoped.”

That’s not concrete evidence that Gundy would want out from the school he’s been at for 24 years, but that could explain why the Vols might be interested in him. Volquest.com, the Rivals.com affiliate for Tennessee, reported that the Vols met with him Sunday, so it sounds like there’s at least some level of interest there.

Why he wouldn’t: He’s got a strong program, a $3.3 million contract and a team that fell just short of a shot at a national championship last year. The Cowboys’ athletic department has the financial backing of T. Boone Pickens, a billionaire who has helped finance many structural upgrades. Oklahoma State doesn’t have a long, rich tradition, but it’s been among the winningest programs nationally in the last five years, so Gundy has it heading in the right direction.

Chalk talk: Gundy has developed a balanced spread offense that finds itself near the top of the offensive rankings nationally almost every season. This season the Cowboys averaged 44.7 points per game and were fifth in total offense nationally with an average of just under 550 yards per game.

The defense hasn’t always been as good. The Cowboys were ranked 82nd in total defense in 2012, giving up an average of 426 yards per game. They use mainly a 4-3 scheme.

It’s unclear who Gundy would bring as a staff, but he does have two notable current assistants, offensive line coach Joe Wickline and offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Todd Monken, who have experience as full-time assistant coaches in the SEC. Monken worked at LSU, while Wickline was at Florida and Ole Miss. 

What he’s said: 

 • “I would never, just for everybody involved, never talk about any other job or (give) any confirmation of anything that's gone on … I would prefer not to talk about anything other than Oklahoma State or the bowl game,” -- Gundy told the Oklahoman Sunday night.

 • "I spent it around the house,” – Gundy’s response when asked what he did on Sunday, the day he reportedly spoke to Tennessee (also via the Oklahoman)

Grading the potential hire: Gundy has shown the ability to build a program to near the top. There are questions, though. He’s never worked in the SEC and doesn’t have any clear ties to this region. Who would he bring as his staff? Can he recruit the Southeast? Would his spread offense work against physical defenses such as Alabama and Florida? Those are the unknowns for Gundy. But there aren’t that many coaches out there who have his combination of success and experience in a major conference. Texas A&M has seen a smooth transition to the SEC with its spread offense, so there’s some evidence that it can work. Tennessee needs a winner, and that’s what Gundy has proven to be. We’d give the hire an A-.

Daniel Lewis covers Tennessee football for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @Daniel_LewisCBS.

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