's Spring Awards

STILLWATER - Dressed in full pads, the Oklahoma State football team practiced Wednesday for the last time before Saturday's Orange-White spring game. The practice was held in breezy conditions on the grass practice fields adjacent to Gallagher-Iba Arena.

With it being the last regular practice where coaches could see offensive and defensive units together, they took some time to get to see everything they wanted to in the two and a half hour practice that also included officials. There was plenty of scrimmage or team period work, including different scenarios, during Wednesday's practice.

With this being the last regular practice for the spring before Saturday's Orange-White game most of the developments, successes, failures and discoveries of the spring have happened and we can look back on them.

Count this as our beating some others to the punch with our spring football awards. As we all know there are no real games and no real recognized awards in the spring. It is all pointing toward the 2011 season but there was plenty discovered and worth noting in our make-shift spring awards.

2011's Spring Football Awards
Biggest Surprise: The Cowboys return 290 of the 357 receptions that were made last season and 4,335 of the 4,496 receiving yards from last season. That is a bunch and you wouldn't think that they would need a whole lot more, but they have more. The spring revealed even more depth at wide receiver than head coach Mike Gundy, offensive coordinator Todd Monken, and receivers coaches Doug Meacham and Kasey Dunn could have imagined.

The spring showed that Tracy Moore, Charlie Moore, Justin Horton should all be better. Hubert Anyiam, healthy again, appears ready to finally play as well as the coaching staff has thought he would. Redshirt freshman Kevin Johnson has shown that he has speed, can catch the ball, and has added some maturity in his first year of college.

Throw in a walk-on or two, and one of those is Christian Schroeder, a 5-11, 178-pound redshirt freshman out of Grapevine, Texas who has show the ability to make some plays. The Cowboys have ample numbers and talent to catch Brandon Weeden's passes this upcoming season.

Biggest Disappointment: Defensive coordinator Bill Young and co-defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer would love to have the middle and weakside linebacker spots mostly settled going into the summer. Instead the depth chart has turned over this spring. At middle linebacker, Caleb Lavey started the spring on top and he is still very much in the mix, but former minor-league baseball player Tyler Johnson is now topping that position on the depth chart.

At the weakside position, Georgian LeRon Furr started spring on top. The competition has been good with Furr, sophomore Chris Dinkins, and new freshman Kris Catlin battling. However, Joe Mitchell (6-3, 210) was moved late in the spring from the "star" linebacker position and Spencer calls him the best option right now because of how hard he plays. The coaches want to see Blinn Junior College product Alex Elkins in camp in August.

The "star" linebacker position is settled as two of the best players on defense, freshman All-American Shaun Lewis and standout leader and senior James Thomas, hold that down. You can expect to see them on the field at the same time a lot as they are both are experienced and good. As for the middle and weakside there is a lot left to decide at linebacker.

Thank Goodness!: A tie here with Todd Monken's return and the fact that pro baseball doesn't always work out. As for the baseball, Oklahoma State has enjoyed some baseball bounce-back success before with running back Vernand Morency but quarterback Brandon Weeden has taken that good fortune to a new level.

The former second-round draft pick by the New York Yankees has gone from being a nice bonus to putting himself in the position of being the best quarterback to have ever played at Oklahoma State. Weeden's numbers last season were monster with a 66.9 completion percentage, 4,277 passing yards, and 34 passing touchdowns.

Based on what he has shown in spring practice, Weeden is better and that could equate to an even better season this fall. But he is not the only old man coming from baseball on the team. Tyler Johnson out of the Angels organziation is 25 years old and is a good bet to play a lot, even start, at middle linebacker.

Head coach Mike Gundy went with the known candidate for offensive coordinator to replace the departed short timer Dana Holgorsen as Todd Monken had worked with Gundy before and they are friends. Sometimes it is not good to hire a friend, but this was not one of those times.

Monken's personality matches up well with this offense and the personnel running it. His NFL pedigree brought instant credibility with the players especially Weeden and Justin Blackmon, who both skipped the opportunity to go to the NFL to play in Stillwater one more year. In spring practice the offense did not skip a beat. In fact, it may be better. Monken's hire allows OSU to take every advantage they should have from this offense and the players in it.

Leadership Award: Blackmon does a lot of things and has brought All-American honors and the Fred Biletnikoff Award to Stillwater, but this spring he brought to the practice field an infectuous enthusiasm to work hard, improve, and get better. It surely had an impact across the board but it was very noticeable at wide receiver where Blackmon wore his camouflage undershirt out to battle every day.

You could see the competition breaking out throughout the receivers, and then it spread to the secondary and the corners and safeties. Blackmon took Justin Gilbert on as a personal project to help the young corner improve and he did. It wasn't highly vocal leadership, but it was strong leadership coming from Blackmon.

Experimental Success: The move was made late but moving Joe Mitchell from the "star" linebacker position to the weakside may prove to be the mast stroke that solidifies the depth chart at that position. Mitchell has the size, the speed, and as identified by the coaching staff plays very hard.

Back to the Drawing Board: Offensive line coach Joe Wickline is the mad professor when it comes to experimenting. Wickline likes to move his guys around up and down the offensive line when he has enough talent, and he has it stacked right now. This cross-training doesn't always take hold, but at the minimum allows players to know what is going on at each position on the offensive line.

An early move was Nick Martinez down to guard with Levy Adcock going to left tackle and Michael Bowie to right tackle. It could happen, but as spring practice closes the five returning starters all appear to be back in the same spots they finished the 2010 season in the Valero Alamo Bowl win over Arizona.

Whare Has He Been?: Justin Horton. I've been excited about this guy ever since he was signed out Henderson, Texas. He is big, strong and explosive, and this spring Horton has caught the ball better than ever and showed the ability to make something happen after the catch. A defender doesn't want to have to put his body in front of Horton when he is going downhill with a full head of steam.

Feel Good: Kye Staley, Hubert Anyiam and Daytawion Lowe are all "feel good" stories.. Staley is really the "feel good" story of the spring as he was given permission to try again, and the 5-10, 213-pound Staley was labeled a fullback to begin spring. He moved so well, cut good, and showed explosiveness that Gundy re-evaluated and labeled him a running back and a threat to be the Cowboys third back for next season.

Anyiam was supposed to be the flagship receiver for the Cowboys in Holgorsen's spread offense last season but a foot injury kept him from making that kind of impact and Justin Blackmon seized the moment. Now Anyiam is healthy and has a chance to make sure the Cowboys are every bit as strong on each side at wide receiver. Anyiam has size and speed. He will need to get it done in games, but he is feeling good again and looking good in practice.

Lowe was done before the Cowboys even reported to camp last August. A summer shoulder injury and surgery ended his year early. He had a redshirt so he ends up not losing any eligibility. Lowe is back lighting people up again this spring. With Markelle Martin needing shoulder surgery it was great to have Lowe available.

Feel Bad: The great thing is that there were not many injuries this spring and nobody appears to be ruled out next season. Safety was the hardest hit position as starter and leader Markelle Martin had "clean up" surgery to his shoulder early in spring. Shortly after that the Cowboys lost Lavochya Cooper to a knee injury. Cooper was out for the rest of the spring and there have been other injuries. Jerimie Gunnells suffered a dislocated finger that broke skin. That will get your attention in a hurry. Unfortunately, these ae reminders that these players make sacrifices to play this game.

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