Gundy prefers play­ers play in bowl games

The Oklahoman - - SPORTS | BUSINESS - Scott Wright [email protected]­la­homan.com

STILLWATER — The list of play­ers skip­ping bowl games to fo­cus on pre­par­ing for the NFL con­tin­ues to grow, and it hit Ok­la­homa State for the first time with the news ear­lier this week that Jus­tice Hill and Larry Wil­liams would not play in the Lib­erty Bowl on New Year’s Eve.

“It’s be­come very pop­u­lar now,” OSU coach Mike Gundy said. “I hate to see that hap­pen, but as I’ve said be­fore, we live in a so­ci­ety to­day where things are con­sid­er­ably dif­fer­ent than they ever have been be­fore, and (if) young peo­ple feel that there’s a bet­ter op­por­tu­nity for them some­where else, then they’re gonna make that de­ci­sion to move on, and so we do the same.

“The one thing that I am con­cerned about is the longevity of the bowls and the fact that I would hate for it to be­come so pop­u­lar that bowls aren’t im­por­tant any­more, be­cause I think that’s a great re­ward for a team.”

Gundy thinks the trend will get worse, not bet­ter. Could a player whose team made the Col­lege Foot­ball Play­off skip the post­sea­son to pro­tect his fu­ture?

“You could have a team that’s in a cham­pi­onship and a guy not play,

if some­body told him, ‘You could be worth this amount of money,’ and I’m guess­ing that play­ers do it if they’re con­cerned about their dura­bil­ity to stay healthy for the spring, for the draft,” Gundy said.

“Like with Jus­tice, we pro­tected him as much as we could early in the sea­son, and he got hurt in the lat­ter part of the sea­son and I would guess that he wants to make sure that he stays healthy so he can test and run and do all the dif­fer­ent things for the draft.”

OSU de­fen­sive end Jor­dan Brail­ford an­nounced his plan to skip his se­nior year and en­ter the NFL Draft, but he will par­tic­i­pate in the bowl, see­ing it as one more op­por­tu­nity to show NFL scouts the type of player he is.

“It’s an­other game, it’s against an SEC team,” Brail­ford said. “They have a pretty good of­fen­sive line. Hope­fully we can do some things to dis­rupt them, and have a good game and end on a win.”

Gundy said he kept con­ver­sa­tions with Hill and Wil­liams brief once they told him they wanted skip the bowl to pre­pare for the NFL.

“I don’t ask ‘em why and I don’t have dis­cus­sions with ‘em and I don’t try to talk ‘em into com­ing back,” he said. “I feel like if a young man is gonna move on with his ca­reer, if I have to try to con­vince him to be here, then in most cases, it’s not gonna be good for ei­ther side.

“I just said, ‘hey, I’m dis­ap­pointed and hate to see that hap­pen be­cause I don’t be­lieve in that,’ but I re­spect their opin­ion, and it’s their ca­reer and their fu­ture.”

Note­wor­thy: Three Ok­la­homa State play­ers were se­lected to The As­so­ci­ated Press All-Big 12 team. Re­ceiver Ty­lan Wal­lace was a first-team pick, with Hill and Brail­ford land­ing on the sec­ond team.

OK­LA­HOMAN] [PHOTO BY NATE BILLINGS, THE

Ok­la­homa State’s Jus­tice Hill an­nounced ear­lier this week that he would not par­tic­i­pate in the Lib­erty Bowl to fo­cus on pre­par­ing for the NFL Draft.

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