There was a special guest at the morning practice as well with Boone Pickens having flown in about the time practice started. The ESPN crew that is here as part of the "Year of the Quarterback" show being filmed at Oklahoma State was at the airport to greet Pickens and they wired the OSU supporter for sound. Pickens was accompanied by, among others, his good friend, attorney, and University of Texas Board of Regents member Bobby Stillwell, and his publicist Jay Rosser. Oklahoma State athletics director and Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Mike Holder was there, as well.
You could tell the coaching staff was feeling pretty good as they had all day Sunday to digest and grade the video from the Saturday scrimmage and then share their thoughts with the squad. One coach said the scrimmage, as good as it was in person on Saturday night, was even better in review on video.
"It is a moving week for us. There are 10, 15, 20 guys that need to have eight more good practices before we start school," said Gundy, talking about young players that drew some attention with their play on Saturday in the scrimmage. "If that takes place, it will give us a great chance to compete and win and play well early in the season. If not, then you're going to rely on the guys that carry the load all the time and at some point, you can get them run down prior to October or November. That's why it takes a group effort. We're at that point right now. Fortunately, we're healthy and guys are competing."
In the spirit of the scrimmage, we'll eat up this practice report with a little review and status report of our own coming out of the first week and a half of camp.
Brandon Weeden has been every bit as good as last season and even better as he has had more time to work on mechanics and little things with new offensive coordinator Todd Monken and with some NFL quarterbacks at the Manning Camp and with others at the Elite 11 Quarterback Camp where Weeden was a counselor. Weeden has performed well and has complete control of the offense. He also seems to be in even better physical shape as well.
Clint Chelf is improved and also has a better understanding of the offense and more poise. He looked good in the scrimmage on Saturday and made good throws and good decisions.
"I feel a lot better than I did at this time last year, which is to be expected," said Gundy when asked about Chelf. "I feel better about him now than I did when we started on the fourth or fifth. He has a long way to go but I like his demeanor and I like his work ethic."
J.W. Walsh loves to move around like he did in high school at Denton Guyer, but Walsh has to improve his throwing mechanics. He is a heady guy and the third-team offense runs much smoother than in years past because of his mental capacity to run the offense.
This position is very solid as Joseph Randle is having a great camp and so is Jeremy Smith. This is the tag team at the position that coaches and fans were all hoping for, Now add to the mix Herschel Sims, who has been solid. He has run strong and not turned the ball over. He has not been able to open up and get out of traffic and into the open field. The other night in the scrimmage, Desmond Roland, who had fumbled a few times previous, turned it on and had a good scrimmage as he ran the ball tough and held on. All four look like they will play.
At fullback, Kye Staley continues to be a huge story. He is a blocking machine and took out two defenders on one play in the scrimmage early on.
You can start with Blackmon who is playing like he did last August in preparation of an All-American season. This position is so deep with Blackmon, Hubert Anyiam, Tracy Moore, and Josh Cooper as starters. You have Isaiah Anderson, Michael Harrison, Colton Chelf, and Josh Stewart on the second team. Add in David Glidden, Justin Horton, and Charlie Moore. Brandon Weeden said it after the scrimmage, he wasn't sure Oklahoma State has ever had this many quality targets at receiver and I think he may be right. The competition alone at this position makes it better. Four different players caught scoring passes in the scrimmage and I think, including running backs, 14 different players caught passes during the scrimmage.
"We worked hard and got better. It's our first scrimmage and the first time we ran a lot of those plays live," said Blackmon of the team overall. "It's a building block and we've got the speed of the game down. I would say it was a good first step, but we've got a lot more to go."
The only change from last season is Michael Bowie at left tackle and Nick Martinez is able to play at either guard or either tackle to be somewhat of a utility player for offensive line coach Joe Wickline. The second team line played well and really, the third team did fine too. Wickline really does have a stair step depth chart for the offensive now and in the future.
"I really think that when you have experience back that has suited up and played a lot of football plays, that's very important," said Wickline. "You really can't replace that. You'd rather not go into a year and say ‘Well I have to replace all five guys and then next year hopefully we'll have two or three guys back.'" The depth is good here now; they're doing a nice job."
I grouped this together, tackles and ends, because they are so reliant on each other and are working well together. First, the defensive tackles and line coach and defensive coordinator Bill Young is smiling nearly ear to ear because he has six, maybe seven defensive tackles he could play in a game today. Nigel Nicholas (DT) and Christian Littlehead (nose) are on the first unit and playing well. James Castleman (freshman) and Anthony Rogers are doing well on the second unit and then Maurice Hayes, (freshman) Mike Mustafa, and Davidell Collins are set to go as well. You will also have a good share of snaps get eaten up by the speed personnel. The tackles are playing at a higher level than expected and that is helping linebackers and defensive ends Jamie Blatnick and Richetti Jones, who both did well in the scrimmage. Cooper Bassett and Ryan Robinson back those two up. He'll likely redshirt, but freshman defensive end Jimmy Bean is also playing well.
Like defensive tackle, linebacker has been a pleasant development. The only negative is that former baseball pro Tyler Johnson is dealing with a minor knee injury, but Caleb Lavey is playing really well in the middle and freshman Ryan Simmons of Cibolo Steele in Texas is showing OSU the same kind of maturity and talent that his sister showed Tennessee in earning a starting spot on their women's basketball team as a freshman last year. At weakside linebacker Blinn J.C. product Alex Elkins has moved up to first team and Joe Mitchell and Kris Catlin are also playing solid there. Shaun Lewis and James Thomas are as expected, smart and very good at the star position.
"I tell my guys every day, ‘You're going against one of the best offenses in the nation every day," said co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Glenn Spencer. "'They're explosive, they make plays, they spread the field.' So we get disappointed because it takes them a while, but I said, ‘Guys, just believe and keep working and keep getting better.'"
Do you need to hear much more than the foursome of Mike Gundy, Bill Young, quarterback Brandon Weeden, and wide receiver Justin Blackmon believe the secondary is as good as it has been in a long time. Gundy said the best in his head coaching tenure, Young loves the first group of safeties and corners, while Blackmon and Weeden talk of how they are challenging the offense and the passing game more than a year ago.
"It's exciting to be out there," said junior cornerback Brodrick Brown. "We need to force more turnovers as a defense. We came out physical and aggressive today. We were running around. Even when we got tired, we were still grinding. That's the thing about our defense. We're tough and we're going to fight until the end."
At corner the trio of Brown, Justin Gilbert (much improved) and Devin Hedgepeth are really solid with Andrae May and Larry Sanders picking it up. At safety the trio of Markelle Martin, Johnny Thomas, and Daytawion Lowe are really good and Zack Craig is one of the top developments in camp. Craig is bigger, more mature, and really more advanced in the defense than even in the spring when he made huge strides. Craig will rock your world if he hits you. Deion Imade is also playing well.
"At safety, Deion Imade, Zack Craig and Andrae May were all young guys that looked good today," said Brown. "When those guys get on the field, I get excited and yell their name."
With Bobby Stonebraker a little gimpy and freshman Matt Green working on getting acclimated, all of the kicking and punting looks to fall on Quinn Sharp, but he looks like he is ready and wants to handle it all. Special units are still forming but this is where you may see freshmen like Isaac McCoy, Nico Ornelas, and others earn the opportunity to play and not redshirt this season.
Herschel Sims and Desmond Roland are likely to get looks at kickoff return along with incumbents and standout Justin Gilbert and Johnny Thomas. Punt returns will likely go to Josh Cooper and Colton Chelf.
Biggest Day of Scouts
On a day where The Sporting News identified the Cowboys Markelle Martin as the best pro prospect among the senior safeties in college football the Cowboys had their biggest group of pro scouts in so far this August. Teams present for one or two workouts on Monday included the World Champion Green Bay Packers, Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens, Indianapolis Colts, New York Jets, New England Patriots. Washington Redskins, Miami Dolphins, and Buffalo Bills.
Half and Half
Give credit to the Oklahoma State equipment staff as they came up with a new look for practice that even Nike couldn't come up with in the Cowboys new uniform selection. You know that Wilson Youman has been splitting time playing some tight end and some defensive end. The offense has been wearing orange practice jerseys and the defense white jerseys in practice. This afternoon Youman came out in a specially sewn jersey No. 86 that was half white and half orange.