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Oklahoma State Football

Play Callers vs. Scheme Setters Week One: What is that Man Thinking?

August 29, 2022

STILLWATER – This season we are starting a new regular feature with the coordinator match ups. Call it Play Callers vs. Scheme Setters. This week we really don’t have any previous match ups involved, but veterans on every side of the chess game between Oklahoma State and Central Michigan. Now on one side of the ball we will have two new coordinators as Paul Petrino steps in as the offensive coordinator for Jim McElwain at Central Michigan and former Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason is replacing Jim Knowles for Mike Gundy on the defensive side at Oklahoma State.

Petrino spent the previous nine years as the head coach at Idaho and prior to that was an assistant at Arkansas, Illinois, Louisville, Southern Miss and Utah State. He spent one year with the Atlanta Falcons as an assistant. That resume is somewhat similar to Mason as he was the head coach at Vanderbilt and overachieved there with the Commodores after serving as a defensive backs coach in the NFL with the Minnesota Vikings and then the defensive coordinator at Stanford before getting his first head coach job at Vandy. Last year before heading to Stillwater, Mason was the defensive coordinator at Auburn.

Both these men have coached some good football and Petrino will stay close to the RPO and pro-style principles that head coach Jim McElwain believes in. We have heard that Petrino may employ some different sets with running back serving as slots and opening up more with the passing game. Quarterback Daniel Richardson has proven he can sling it. Then there is 5-10, 220 bowling ball of a running back in Lew Nichols III.

My guess is the backs involved in the passing game and pounding Nichols plenty is the thought of attacking new linebackers at Oklahoma State. These guys come from Mt. Pleasant, Mich. They are aware that Malcolm Rodriguez now lives in their state playing for the Detroit Lions. Mason realizes that with the new OC in Petrino there will be some guessing early on.

Oklahoma State Athletics
Mason coaching the Cowboys linebackers.

"This is going to be a ball game where we're going to get in the first quarter and see exactly who they are,” Mason said. “It's one of those deals where you can guess and imagine all you want to, but they've got good running backs, they've got good tight ends and they've had some good transfer wide receivers come in."

Like we wrote, those skill players lining up across the field, maybe in some places not expected, could be unsettling. Mason asked specifically about linebacker shows some concern, but honestly, Mason feels pretty solid about his tacklers at that second level.

"I mean we're all new. We're all learning at the same time. Here's the thing. I think it is by committee,” Mason said with starters Xavier Benson and Mason Cobb along with Lamont Bishop, Nick Martin, and Na’Drian Dizadare in mind. “I think everybody has stepped into their roles and like there's guys that are playing extremely well, there's guys that are getting better as we go through the process. It’s Moneyball because at the end it is all about making tackles. It will be hard to replace those guys that left, but in the end, we have to replace that production."

Oklahoma State Athletics
Dunn during fall camp.

On the other side of the ball there are two other coordinators that also have spent time in the NFL. Most Cowboys fans may not remember because he has been here for so long, but before Kasey Dunn was cranking out Biletnikoff Award winning wide receivers at Oklahoma State he did coach under Mike Holmgren in Seattle with the Seahawks. Dunn is really good right now. His call in the Fiesta Bowl win over Notre Dame was excellent and he and quarterback Spencer Sanders are in sync.

"The first thing you would say is maturity, but all quarterbacks get more mature as they go through, and he's certainly been here long enough,” Dunn said of Sanders. “Right now, he's comfortable. It's kind of a word you don't want to use often, because you want guys to be uncomfortable in order to raise the bar all the time to higher levels. He's comfortable, so he's playing smooth and he's playing fast.”

Central Michigan
Robb Akey last season at CMU.

Robb Akey is a veteran with more than 30 years in the coaching profession, and last season he led a unit that finished fourth in the Mid-American Conference in total defense as CMU posted a 9-4 record and shared the Mid-American Conference West championship with a 6-2 mark in league games. The defense flexed its muscle in the Chippewas’ 24-21 Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl victory over Washington State, registering five sacks and limiting the Cougars to 25 yards rushing in delivering CMU’s first bowl victory since 2012 and its first win over a Power 5 opponent since 2017. Akey is a former assistant with Washington in the NFL. The man knows what he is doing and while there are a lot of new players on defense for the Chippewas, Akey has two stellar defensive tackles and two brothers in Donte and Ronald Kent.

Give a defensive coordinator two big tackles and two corners and they can create pretty well.

The Play Callers vs Scheme Setters is a good match up.


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Play Callers vs. Scheme Setters Week One: What is that Man Thinking?

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