It's difficult to give up something you love, to relinquish control of something you cherish. But that's what Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy has done: He has gone cold turkey on play-callling.
"It's difficult," Gundy says. "I really enjoyed the last few years being back involved calling plays. But it got overwhelming for me to put in 6-8 hours a day preparing to call a game, along with recruiting and all the other duties involved with being a coach.
"I felt like it's better for our team and program to not call plays. But it is difficult because I enjoy that part of the game."
Oklahoma State's 2009 season ended with a thud in a 21-7 Cotton Bowl loss to Ole Miss that saw Oklahoma State gain just 259 yards. A season of great expectations ended 9-4.
It was a fitting punctuation on the season, as Oklahoma State's offense lagged throughout. The Cowboys finished seventh in the Big 12 (367.2 ypg) in total offense, with the passing game ranking 10th (179.5 ypg). An injury to tailback Kendall Hunter and the suspension of wide receiver Dez Bryant played big roles in the unit's ineffectiveness,
Entering his sixth season on the job, Gundy felt it was time to take a step back with the program at a crossroads of sorts. Shortly after the Cotton Bowl, Gundy hired Houston offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen for the same post in Stillwater.
"That's what it really boiled down to," says Holgorsen, who oversaw the nation's top offense with the Cougars. "Coach Gundy really wanted to pay more attention to his entire team. And that's important because a head coach has to wear a bunch of different hats."
Holgorsen pushed the buttons on one of the nation's most explosive offenses the past two seasons at Houston under Kevin Sumlin. Gundy got to see it up close last season in 45-35 loss at home to the Cougars, who gained 512 yards behind quarterback Case Keenum.
"I have known Dana for a long time," Gundy says. "I wanted to bring in a coach who could implement a system we all could learn. I feel the way this system is set up, it will give us a chance to grow on offense.
"There are some pros and cons. We really had been good at running the ball the last four or five years and we won't be able to control the end of the game like we have."
Last season, Holgorsen's attack ranked No. 1 in the nation in total offense (563.4 ypg), passing offense (433.7 ypg) and scoring offense (42.2 ppg) en route to finishing 10-4 and knocking off Texas Tech and Mississippi State in addition to Oklahoma State.
In 2008, Houston's attack was No. 2 in the nation in total offense (562.8 ypg), No. 2 in passing (401.6 ypg) and No. 10 in scoring (40.6 ppg).
Holgorsen's arrival means more passes for Oklahoma State. There will be a mix of short passes, shovel passes and screens, with the occasional shot down the field. But it won't be all about the pass.
"You have an unbelievable player in Kendall Hunter," Holgorsen says. "OSU always has had a tradition of being able to run the ball. [Gundy] didn't want to give that up. And I didn't want to, either. And if I could do anything differently at Houston, I would have tried to run the ball more."
Gundy has had some prolific attacks during his tenure in Stillwater. In 2007, OSU ran for 3,161 yards and threw for the exact same number, finishing seventh in the nation in total offense (486.3 ypg). In 2008, the Pokes finished sixth in the nation in total offense (488.o ypg) and set a school record by scoring at least 50 points in four consecutive games.
"I am going to try to be more involved with defense than I ever have been," Gundy says. "I always have been very involved with special teams.
"With our offense, I will be in a learning phase this year, like it was my first year as a head coach and Larry [Fedora] was coordinator. I understand this offense somewhat but certainly not enough to give much input when it comes to Xs and Os."
Former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach has been a big influence on Holgorsen; their ties go back to when Holgorsen played receiver at Iowa Wesleyan from 1990-92, when Leach was on the staff of head coach Hal Mumme. Holgorsen later served on Mumme's Valdosta State staff with Leach, who was the offensive coordinator. Holgorsen then assisted Leach for eight seasons at Texas Tech, serving as coordinator the last three years, before leaving for Houston in 2008.
"[Gundy] is familiar with what I do," Holgorsen says. "He's familiar with what Coach Leach did at Tech, competing against him. And he competed against me when I was at Houston. He always has been intrigued with what Coach Leach has done. [Leach's] ability to beat teams like OU and Texas, that's something that interested him."
Now, Holgorsen must sift through an offense that has myriad questions. Four linemen are gone, including first-round tackle Russell Okung, as is Bryant. There's a big hole at quarterback with Zac Robinson gone. Junior Brandon Weeden is a 26-year-old former minor league baseball player who has potential, but he has played only four games and thrown 27 passes. He started the second half of last season's Colorado game and rallied Oklahoma State to victory by hitting 10-of-15 passes for 168 yards and two touchdowns.
"Zac Robinson was a good quarterback," Holgorsen says. "He ran the ball very well. The guy we have coming in now has two years and is a typical 6-4 pocket guy who can throw the heck out of the ball.
"Regardless if I ended up here, they were going to have to throw the ball more based on what Brandon Weeden's abilities are. Unlike Zac, he isn't much of a runner. We are going to let him toss it around."
It could make for a more exciting brand of offense in what again should be an ultra-competitive Big 12 South.
"I think we'll be able to score a little bit easier with this offense," Cowboys center Lane Taylor says. "I think we can bust one open on any given play. The tempo is the same as we have been running. Things are more open up, like the splits on the line.
"The biggest difference is we have more firepower. This is going to be fun."
Hey, there's the new guy
Here is a list of the new offensive coordinators this season, listed by league. One important note: Coordinators at schools with new head coaches weren't included.
Minnesota Out: Jedd Fisch, to quarterback coach of the NFL's Seattle Seahawks
In: Thomas Hammock, promoted from running backs coach, and Jeff Horton, from quarterback coach of the NFL's Detroit Lions, to become co-coordinators
Arkansas State Out: Doug Ruse, fired (now coordinator at Western Illinois)
In: Hugh Freeze, from San Jose State, where he was to be coordinator (he was coach at Lambuth College last season but left for San Jose State after the season)