Cowboys Scrimmage For First Time In Spring

STILLWATER - The Oklahoma State football team held its first scrimmage of the spring Wednesday in Boone Pickens Stadium. Head coach Mike Gundy said that his overall impression of the scrimmage was that it was clean and it worked out well.

"I thought we had a good day. Everybody competed in all three phases," Gundy said. "We got about 115 plays in our scrimmage today. We do need to get more intensity from some of our young players."

As has become a recurring theme during the spring, Gundy praised the work of the second-team offensive line, along with others.

"Josh Cooper made a couple good plays and Nigel Nicholas showed up a few times," Gundy said. "I thought that both of the young quarterbacks in Clint Chelf and Johnny Deaton made some good plays. J.W. Walsh showed some progress. The young offensive linemen made some progress and the backs ran well."

On the defensive side, the improvement has been noticeable. It comes every day, and the best part about it is that the defensive players, both young and veteran, are showing a lot of competitive fire.

It has spilled over and even Gundy on his Twitter has confirmed that he has had to break up some fights in practice. They never go very long and they are generally involving just a couple of players, maybe three or four with the rest assisting the peace process.

However, nobody is backing down in practice on either side of the ball and it is not out of ill will, but out of pride in winning each play, each day in practice. The defense gained a nice advantage when the decision was made just before the start of spring practice to split up veteran defensive ends Richetti Jones and Jamie Blatnick, both were at the weak side defensive end position, and now Blatnick is at the strong side "Leo" end.

"It's working pretty good," said the always expressive Richetti Jones. "Me and Jamie parted our ways and I feel it is better because I can talk to him and he can talk to me and we are seeing the same thing at the same time. It has been going pretty good and we have to get the back-ups going and get them ready to play on Saturdays."

Defensive coordinator Bill Young was never really worried about the defensive end position, but up the middle of his defense at both tackle positions and at middle and weak side linebacker the Cowboys are looking for new starters to replace Donaldson, Jarka, Lemon, and Gent. That sounds like a law firm, but it was the foursome accounting for almost 200 tackles last season.

Jones and Blatnick are seniors sandwiching a lot of youth.

"There is always room for improvement and us being seniors, me and Jamie, we have to get them ready. Big 12 ball is hard," said Jones. "We have to build them up, coach them up, and get them ready because it is a man's game out there."

More than pleased with how things are progressing on the offensive side of the ball with the smooth transition of new offensive coordinator Todd Monken, Gundy spends a lot of time watching the defensive line in all of its drills and eyeballing a lot of young defensive players battle some offensive line graybeards. It's a great way to help them grow up in a hurry.

"It is still a little early, but I was really encouraged in our inside drill, live drills, one on one blocking drills," said Gundy of the process of getting better up front defensively. "I see guys fighting competitively. There is something to be said for that and if we continue to fight like that, we'll be fine.

"We've done that around here for a long time. We need those guys to stand tall this year and we have a number of freshman coming in here for the first time that will give us some depth for the future and the next few years. Bill Young has done a great job with them. Rob Glass has done a great job with them, and they've just gotta learn to toughen up and make some plays."

Young sees the same things and he is positive in his assessment of the situation.

"Anthony Rogers and Chris Littlehead have gotten better and better, much faster than we would have anticipated," said Young in giving a state of the defensive line answer. "We think Nigel Nicholas will be a heckuva player. We have to get somebody to be his backup and that would be an issue right now.

"(Incoming freshmen) it all depends on how fast we can get them to play. Physically they are okay, but mentally it will be who can pick it up the quickest. It will also be an issue of how many reps we can get them. James Castleman (Amarillo) and Ashaad Mabry (San Antonio MacArthur), those are two really good high school specimens and we look for big things out of them."

Castleman and Mabry should come in and play right away, but there will be growing pains. Nicholas is a veteran and with a few extra pounds from really eating strong on the training table, he needs to compete at a high level.

The real key is Littlehead, who Young has high hopes for during his career. The Tahlequah Sequoyah product came arrived last fall and weighed nearly 360 pounds. His progress has been a group effort including a lot of dedication from Littlehead himself.

"I think you always do when you have a young man that comes in that heavy, but we have a lot of confidence in what Rob Glass can do and he has done an unbelievable job with him," explained Gundy of the process of getting Littlehead ready to play from a physical standpoint.

"He is a long ways off right now, but what he has done is he has lost a lot of weight and he is playing hard and keeping his pads down. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, the replacement for (Chris) Donaldson and (Shane) Jarka will have to be four players playing 30 or more snaps a game at a higher pace than those two guys did playing 60 plays a game. He is one of those four. He needs to continue to lose weight and get in better shape. I know his body has changed a lot. He has to grow up and play fast."

Littlehead, Rogers, Joseph Okafor, Maurice Hayes, Castleman, Mabry, Mike Mustafa, Alex Villereal, and junior college walk-ons like Caleb Thyer and Josh Thompson all need to develop and Gundy, Young, Jones, and Blatnick all need to have about four or five really bring it to where they can form a solid rotation at both tackle positions. If that happens then the Cowboys will be that much closer to competing for all the honors that are out there in college football. In other words, a lot of honors.

The Cowboys are scheduled to practice again Friday and the Cowboys coaching staff will host its annual spring coaching clinic with a record turnout of coaches expected..

(OSU's media relations office contributed to this report.)

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