STILLWATER, Okla. -- When longtime special teams coordinator Joe DeForest left to take charge of West Virginia’s defense, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy took advantage of a new NCAA rule to help replace him.
Gundy brought in graduate assistant Ty Linder from Texas Tech and gave him oversight of the Cowboys’ punts, kickoffs and field goals. It was a move made possible by a new NCAA rule that allows football programs to have four graduate assistants -- instead of just two -- starting this season.
Linder, an ex-linebacker for the Red Raiders, had worked with tight ends and special teams for four years at his alma mater before Gundy picked him to come to Stillwater. He had to wait in limbo for a few months until the rule took effect in August, in time for training camp.
"I knew we were going to need some help," Gundy said.
Oklahoma State also hired safeties coach Van Malone from Tulsa to fill DeForest’s duties, keeping the number of allowed assistant coaches at nine.
Gundy ended up giving Linder a good deal of responsibility, along with some help. Another graduate assistant, Andrew Thacker, assists with the punt team preparations. Running backs coach Jemal Singleton aids with kickoff return plans, and Gundy works with the kickoff unit.
"He’s not handling the workload like Joe did, but he’s taking the lead on most of it and I’ve been involved in it a little bit more. I wasn’t involved in the Kansas State game, but I was involved in the other ones," Gundy said, joking, after Kansas State got a 100-yard kickoff return TD from Tyler Lockett last week.
The Big East proposed the new GA rule as a way to provide additional opportunities for those with coaching aspirations, including minorities. As the title implies, GAs must be pursuing a postgraduate degree. The positions are intended for people who have finished school, or their athletic eligibility, within the previous seven years.
"More than anything, it allows you to bring them along as coaches, so there’s a bigger pool when opportunities come for guys that are prepared for other jobs," said Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops, who started his career as a GA at Iowa. "It also just allows you to have more people, whether it’s working with scout teams or hands-on with your players. The thing is, we deal with a lot of players. It just helps getting more eyes and people in their ears."
Oklahoma State’s GAs have been high-profile this season. Beyond Linder, Jermial Ashley was pushed into a bigger role when defensive coordinator Bill Young had to miss two weeks early this season because of medical issues.