Tramel's ScissorTales: Why Derek Mason would extend an OSU football trend with Mike Gundy

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Mike Gundy has been OSU’s head coach for 17 seasons. That’s a long time. Almost two decades.

During that time, Gundy has hired 37 assistant coaches. Only two had head-coaching experience.

Those two were Glenn Spencer and Jim Knowles. And those two are Gundy’s most recent defensive coordinators.

Derek Mason would continue the trend. According to reports, the Auburn defensive coordinator has emerged as the front-runner to succeed Knowles, who left for the same job at Ohio State.

The Friday ScissorTales include a look at the Big 12’s best freshmen basketball players and a potential all-rookie Thunder lineup. But we start with Derek Mason, potentially OSU football’s next defensive coordinator.

Mason was head coach at Vanderbilt for seven seasons, 2014-20, during which his Commodores went 27-55. That seems like a bad record, which it is, unless you apply Vandy standards.

More: Sooners and Cowboys both in mix of early look at Top 25 for 2022 college football season

Former Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason spent the 2021 season as Auburn's defensive coordinator.
Former Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason spent the 2021 season as Auburn's defensive coordinator.

Vanderbilt has employed 11 head coaches since 1974. That’s a half century. Mason’s winning percentage of .329 ranks third on that list, behind only James Franklin (.615, in three seasons) and Gerry DiNardo (.409 in four years).

Vanderbilt is not a place you win. Just ask Fred Pancoast (13-31), George MacIntyre (25-52-1), Watson Brown (10-45), Rod Dowhower (4-18), Woody Widenhofer (14-50), Bobby Johnson (29-66), Robbie Caldwell (2-10) and Clark Lea (2-10), the Commodores’ other head coaches since Steve Sloan departed for Texas Tech after the 1974 season.

Mason, of course, has more coaching chops than just Vanderbilt. He was/is defensive coordinator at both Stanford and Auburn, two successful but wildly-different schools and conferences.

That kind of background seems to appeal to Gundy, who likes to bring in coordinators from out-of-the-box places. Gundy has hired offensive coordinators and/or quarterback coaches from the National Football League (Tim Rattay, Todd Monken), Princeton (Sean Gleeson), Division II Shippensburg (Mike Yurcich), Houston U. (Dana Holgorsen) and Florida (Larry Fedora).

Knowles certainly fit that description. Knowles was defensive coordinator at Duke when Gundy hired him away four years ago.

But Knowles had been head coach at Cornell of the Ivy League, where Knowles’ teams went 26-34 in six seasons, from 2004-09.

Spencer had been on Gundy’s staff for five seasons when he was elevated to defensive coordinator in 2013, but long before his Stillwater days, Spencer was head coach at Division II West Georgia, where from 1998-2000 Spencer’s teams went 28-7.

'This is kinda crazy': Oklahoma State's Collin Oliver wins FWAA Most Inspirational Freshman award

Assistants with head-coaching experience should be a plus to any staff. Gundy’s been at this a long time, and he mostly knows what he wants and how he wants things to run, but it never hurts to have colleagues who have been in the decision-making chair.

Assistants with head-coaching experience can offer their boss a sounding board, on everything from discipline to staff makeup to team morale. A head coach has a bunch of pots on the stove. Never hurts to have sous chefs helping in the kitchen.

Mason would provide that. Coaching at Vanderbilt is a lot different than coaching at OSU. Southeastern Conference vs. Big 12. Private school vs. public. Major metropolis vs. college town. Losing tradition vs. winning tradition.

But head coaches everywhere – from high school to the pros – have similar issues no matter the environment.

Gundy has mostly been on target with his defensive coordinator hires. Vance Bedford didn’t work out, but since then, Tim Beckman was fine, Bill Young and Spencer were good, and Knowles was great.

No reason to think Mason wouldn’t be a good hire, too. And his head-coaching experience would only help.

More: Here are the OSU football players in the transfer portal & those declared for the 2022 NFL Draft

The List: Big 12 basketball freshmen

The transfer portal and immediate eligibility have combined to make freshmen less relevant in Power 5 basketball. Big 12 teams now rebuild and reload with transfers.

Oklahoma State has zero freshmen on its roster. Many Big 12 teams have zero freshmen in their rotations.

Only six Big 12 freshmen are making impacts in games, and Baylor and OU each have two of the six. Here are the six, ranked:

1. Kendall Brown, Baylor: The 6-foot-8 wing from Woodbury, Minnesota, has made 18 starts for Baylor, averaging 10.1 points and 4.1 rebounds, while shooting 66.4 percent from the field and 35.7 percent from 3-point range. Brown is a future star, if he sticks around.

2. Tyrese Hunter, Iowa State: The 6-foot point guard from Racine, Wisconsin, is averaging 10.2 points and 4.8 assists per game. He’s started all 18 Cyclones games. Hunter scored 20 points against the Sooners. Hunter is a future star, if he sticks around.

3. Jeremy Sochan, Baylor: The 6-foot-9 forward from England (of Polish descent) has played 15 games and is averaging 21.9 minutes. Sochan’s value goes far beyond his numbers, 7.9 points and 5.9 rebounds.

4. C.J. Noland, OU: The 6-foot-2 wing from Waxahachie, Texas, has played in 18 games and is averaging 13.4 minutes and 4.8 points, with excellent shooting – 61 percent from the field, including 47.6 percent from 3-point range. Noland scored 10 points in the Sooners’ two-point victory over Kansas State.

5. Bijan Cortes, OU: The 6-foot-3 point guard from Kingfisher backs up Jordan Goldwire and has appeared in 17 games, averaging 12.1 minutes, 2.2 points and 1.8 assists. He was the star of the game in OU’s victory over Iowa State.

6. Kobe Johnson, West Virginia: The 6-foot-3 guard from Canton, Ohio, has played in 16 games, making one start. He’s averaging 10 minutes and 1.8 points a game. Johnson scored five points against Kansas State.

More: OSU's Terrence Rencher is making one last trip to UT's Erwin Center aiming for one more win

Could the Thunder play an all-rookie lineup?

On April 26, 2012, the Golden State Warriors made history. In their regular-season finale, the Warriors started five rookies. His roster wiped out by injuries, then-Golden State coach Mark Jackson started Klay Thompson, Charles Jenkins, Chris Wright, Jeremy Tyler and Mickell Gladness.

It was the first time in modern NBA history that a team started five rookies.

But the Thunder could do the same this season.

Mark Daigneault has four rookies in his rotation: Josh Giddey, Tre Mann, Aaron Wiggins and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl. Also on the roster is Vit Krejci, who was drafted in 2020 but didn’t join the Thunder until this season.

Daigneault has yet to use all five rookies on the court together. Heck, he hasn’t even used all five rookies in the same game. Krejci has played only three games, for a total of nine minutes.

But the other Thunder rookies are getting a good run:

'You can certainly feel it': Josh Giddey & young Thunder squad still adjusting to rigors of NBA schedule

► Giddey, a 6-foot-8 Australian matrix, has started all 39 of his games, averaging 30.7 minutes, 11.4 points, 7.4 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game. He’s a potential star.

► Mann, a 6-foot-5 guard from the University of Florida, has played in 31 games and has averaged 7.1 points and is shooting 35.2 percent from 3-point range. He looks like a keeper, despite being drafted 18th overall, territory where prospects bat less than .500 as NBA players.

► Wiggins, a 6-6 wing from the University of Maryland, has played in 26 games and made 14 starts. Wiggins has averaged 7.4 points and 3.4 rebounds. He’s already 23 years old, so Wiggins needs to be on the fast track, but he’s shown signs of being a Kenrich Williams-type player.

► Robinson-Earl, a 6-foot-8 center from Villanova, has made 32 starts in 40 games. He’s averaging 7.0 points and 5.8 rebounds. Robinson-Earl is undersized, and he’s shooting only 40.4 percent from the field, so his future is not set by any means. But he’s playing.

“It’s great,” Giddy said of all the rookies playing for the Thunder. “Being drafted here was all a blessing for us. We’ve all grasped it. Loved the team, loved the city. We all feel it.

“There's no outside pressure. We're all young, we're all developing. Kind of playing frequently.”

Wiggins, for example, was picked 55th overall. Most second-round draft picks don’t get the chance to play this much as a rookie.

Giddey figures to be a long-time NBA player. Mann certainly has shown the talent to be the same. Robinson-Earl and Wiggins? Who knows? Krejci is a longshot. Heck, that Warrior all-rookie lineup of 10 years ago included just one player, Thompson, who played much in the NBA. Only Jenkins (110) and Tyler (104) also played more than 32 games.

But that’s one of the benefits of a tanking season. The Thunder can trot out young players and see what it has. If the Thunder was in a pennant race, fighting for playoff positioning, you wouldn’t see Wiggins with 14 starts or Robinson-Earl playing 23 minutes a game.

And just for fun, Daigneault at some point could trot out all five rookies together. Maybe even start them, and join the Warriors in making NBA history.

'Perfect position': Why Aaron Wiggins is next in Thunder's two-way player to contributor pipeline

Mailbag: Russell Westbrook & Lakers

My recent ScissorTale on the Lakers’ benching of Russell Westbrook drew some interest. When nuclear winter has arrived, and only cockroaches remain on the Earth, there still will remain the faint refrain of Thunder fans talking about Westbrook.

Keith: “Fascinating article on Russell Westbrook. The little that I watched of his play last year, I could see he had lost a step. Couldn’t the Lakers’ office see that he was in decline? Which brings up a thought. You know how parents of small children have a harder time seeing or noticing how much their children are growing whereas someone who has been a while since the last time they saw them will be impressed with how much they’ve grown? Can there be some type of similar pitfall among those (coaches, general managers, etc.) who are constantly watching players? Could it be that someone who only occasionally sees a player will notice more easily his progress or decline in ability? I’m not anybody, and I could see Russ was fading, and that was before the Lakers sold the farm to get him!”

Tramel: I believe the teams that traded for Westbrook — Rockets, Wizards, Lakers — knew exactly what they were getting. Houston and Washington, at least, traded away what they considered problems (Chris Paul, massive mistake, and John Wall, good move, respectively).

But the real crux of the issue is that at least with the Rockets and Lakers, superstars demanded that their franchise trade for Westbrook (James Harden in Houston, LeBron in LA). NBA superstars are as good at talent evaluation as general managers would be playing NBA-level basketball. But superstars hold the power, so the deals must be done, and the franchises are left to make it work or pick up the pieces.

Tramel's ScissorTales: Russell Westbrook benching won't go so smoothly this time for Lakers

NFL predictions: Hard to pick against Tom Brady

Tom Brady has one of those careers like Wayne Gretzky’s or Wilt Chamberlain’s or Babe Ruth’s.

There’s just too much to comprehend, too much to process, so we don’t. We skip over it. Either just admit they were the greatest of all time (Gretzky, Brady) or dismiss the numbers as the product of the environment (Wilt) or write the whole thing off to prehistoric (the Babe).

But we shouldn’t. The careers of Gretzky, Chamberlain and Ruth were phenomenal. They stand the test of time and shouldn’t be dismissed.

Same as Brady.

The man is 44 years old and still among the best quarterbacks in the National Football League. That’s an achievement never before seen in American sport.

I guess Jack Nicklaus comes closest. He won two majors at age 40, then the 1986 Masters at age 46. Still a good player, but not a regular winner. From 1981-85, Nicklaus won two PGA Tour events. So the 1986 Masters was virtually out of the blue.

Brady’s Super Bowl wins at age 41 and 43 were not out of the blue. And if his Tampa Bay Buccaneers win again, no one will be surprised.

Sure, the quarterback-protection rules of the 21st century help immensely. Brady wouldn’t have lasted into his 40s if Aaron Donald was allowed to head-slap him on a regular basis, or T.J. Watt was allowed to tackle him via the knees.

But every modern quarterback is afforded those luxuries, and no one has succeeded like Brady.

Brady in his 40s has as many Super Bowl titles as Peyton Manning or Ben Roethlisberger had in their entire careers. Brady in his 40s has as many Super Bowl titles as Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, Matt Ryan, Tony Romo and Matthew Stafford combined.

Brady in his 40s has more quarterback victories (70) than Joe Namath or Sonny Jurgensen had in their entire careers.

Brady in his 40s has more regular-season passing yards (22,938) than Roger Staubach (22,700) had in his career.

Brady in his 40s has more regular-season touchdown passes (168) than Troy Aikman (165) had in his career.

Brady in his 40s has more playoff victories (10, in 12 games) than Bart Starr, Eli Manning, Kurt Warner, Jim Kelly, Brees, Steve Young, Johnny Unitas, Kenny Stabler, Dan Marino, Bob Griese or Fran Tarkenton had in their careers.

Brady in his 40s has more playoff passing yards (3,626) than Warren Moon, Dan Fouts and Otto Graham had in their careers.

Brady’s career is so outlandish, it’s like the New York skyline or Niagara Falls. If you concentrate on it, you will be so mesmerized, you’ll never get anywhere. So you put your head down and go on to something else.

But Gotham City should not be ignored. And neither should Brady’s career. Let’s get to the predictions:

Bengals at Titans: Tennessee 23-20. I’m flying the Bengal flag, but the Titans are a tough out. Cincinnati is ahead of schedule, and Cincinnati has the better quarterback, but defense and a running game go a long way in the postseason.

49ers at Packers: Green Bay 26-17. I like this San Francisco team, but frankly, anyone who picks Jimmy Garoppolo in single-digit temperatures really needs to rethink their decision-making process.

Rams at Buccaneers: Los Angeles 24-23. Stafford over Brady seems like a fool’s pick. But that Ram defense is the real deal, and Brady’s weaponry has been gutted.

Bills at Chiefs: Buffalo 27-21. The best football team on the planet last weekend was the Bills. Is there a compelling reason why that should change this weekend?

Last week: 5-1. Season: 175-99-1.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at btramel@oklahoman.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. Support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Derek Mason would extend a Mike Gundy trend with OSU football

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