It's Back To Work For The Cowboys

STILLWATER - It was back in Boone Pickens Stadium on Monday for head coach Mike Gundy and his Oklahoma State football team in practice 10 of the 15 allowed in the spring. The heavy winds made it necessary to be in the stadium instead of the practice fields east of Gallagher-Iba Arena.

As Gundy mentioned on Friday, the squad will not have another full scrimmage until the Orange-White game on Saturday, April 16, at 2 p.m.

However, he said the team would have plenty of "thud" work in elongated team periods and the Cowboys had one of those on Monday dealing with various situations.

While on the offensive side of the ball each day it is smooth with virtually all of the players, starters and reserves, having significant playing time, or at least significant time in the program.

It is the defensive side where the inexperience in areas like linebacker, defensive tackle, and in some other backup roles has the light flickering. Sometimes the coaches can see players get it and move at regular speed and make plays. Other times the light is off and the defense is behind.

"That is a great analogy, it really is," said defensive coordinator Bill Young. "Football now is so much more difficult than the average person would think. We have so many adjustments and our offense goes at such a fast pace that it is easy to make mistakes.

"What we're hoping for is each day getting better. We have some pretty good talent on the first group and just have some inexperienced players on the second group, and we have to find a way to get them better. They need to make a drastic improvement between now and next fall, and hopefully they will," said Young.

Last Wednesday's scrimmage was a great example as on the defensive side the standouts were generally players with experience.

LInebacker Tyler Johnson had some success early before suffering a slight concussion, linebacker Shaun Lewis was mentioned for his play-making ability, and Young said defensive lineman Nigel Nicholas was a standout for making several big plays behind the line of scrimmage.

"He is and he needs to be because he is one of the veteran players with a lot of experience and we expect big things from him," added Young about Nicholas.

"It felt good, but I felt like I could do a lot more," said Nicholas of his scrimmage performance last Wednesday. "The first half of the scrimmage I was in my gaps and I felt I could have made a couple of plays that I didn't. But the second half of the scrimmage I was making those plays."

The other question about the speedy Nicholas, who had 13 total tackles last season, 11 unassisted along with four tackles for loss and two sacks, is whether he can keep his weight up. A Hotel and Restaurant Admnistration major, Nicholas loves to cook, but right now it is more important that he eats well at the training table.

"Trying to put that weight on. (I'm at) 287 right now," said Nicholas.

Nicholas and the Cowboys defenders will be back at it Wednesday with another practice.

Before Monday's practice, at 11 a.m. in the training table area upstairs, the coaching staff, football support staff, and a group of family, friends and former players gathered to celebrate Oklahoma State football administrative assistant Sandra Swank.

Known for years by Cowboy football players as Mrs. Sandra, Swank has worked in the football office for 35 years. She was coaxed into the job by Joyce Robbins, her good friend and former administratvie assistant to the head coach.

Sandra has seen more Cowboy football and behind the scenes of the program than just about anybody alive. Flanked by her family, it was her turn to hear the cheers Monday.

"I can't believe this whole day," said Swank. "It is (hard to put into words) because I told them I didn't want anything or need anything. They didn't listen. (This is) very, very very special."

Danielle Clary, current administrative assistant to Mike Gundy, and director of football operation Mack Butler spearheaded the planning of the get together. Besides the current staff, including Mike Gundy who gave Swank and Robbins a vacation trip as a gift, former players like Rusty Hilger, Calvin Miller and Adam Edwards were among those who honored Sandra. Former OSU head coaches Jimmy Johnson, Pat Jones and Jim Stanley sent flowers.

The current staff presented Swank with a framed jersey with the number 35 and her name on back.

"The relationships have always been very sincere," explained Swank. "When you are in this type of atmosphere you just get a closeness with everybody, the players, with the coaches, with the staff. It is always there, always there."

Of course, one of the great things about being involved with Oklahoma State football theses days is the success on and off the field. When Sandra Swank came on board in 1977 the football office wasn't much, and while Oklahoma State had some success they weren't the nationally prominent program that they are right now. Sandra really appreciates how far the program has come and that as she retires the program is at a height.

"Yes, I sure can. When I first came in it wasn't anything facilities-wise. We were in a little room with five of us in there," described Swank of her first year in 1977. "It is an honor for me to get to see this develop the way it has. It has been wonderful to watch. Yes, we've won a lot of games lately and that has been fun."

Tears and cheers and everything in between, but Sandra Swank wouldn't trade one day in the Oklahoma State football office. She is one of those people the many of the fans don't know that has contributed greatly to the success of Cowboy football.

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