The scrimmage is closed to the public. Following the scrimmage the Cowboys will get two days off from practice to coincide with the start of fall classes. The team will practice next on Tuesday in the afternoon and get in to the regular season routine. While Mike Gundy departed from one normal camp occurrence with the scrimmage time, he did stick with another camp tradition as the Cowboys following a near three-hour morning practice in full pads on the grass practice field with a night at the movies.
Gundy usually has rewarded his teams in camp for the hard work with one second practice on a two-a-day work day being a surprise trip to the movie theater for popcorn, Gatorade, and a new flick. The Cowboys skipped the evening practice and went to the Carmike Theaters for the 6:55 p.m. showing of 30 Minutes or Less. The head coach usually takes it in as well, often with his three boys in tow, but maybe not for this one.
As for the workload, the final practice of the camp was solid. It finished with plenty of contact and a lengthy team period. One aspect of camp has been the solid improvement on the defensive side of the ball.
We have noted the play at defensive tackle with as many as seven players being identified as players that could share in rotations at the one and three technique positions. The middle linebacker has been in good hands despite the minor knee injury and subsequent arthroscopic surgery on Tyler Johnson as Caleb Lavey has played at a high level and true freshman Ryan Simmons has come along quickly. At weakside linebacker, Blinn J.C. transfer Alex Elkins has moved on to the first unit but Joe Mitchell and Kris Catlin have also played well.
Those were all question marks heading into fall camp. The expectation was the defensive ends, star linebackers and the secondary would hit the ground running and they all have. You really want to know about defense? Ask the offense as they have found competition more stiff that in the past.
"Our secondary shows up. You have the most experience back there with guys like Brodrick Brown, Justin Gilbert, Markelle Martin and Johnny Thomas," said offensive coordinator Todd Monken, who can only compare the the defense he left at both OSU in 2004 and at LSU in 2006. "Those guys show up a bunch. Shaun Lewis at linebacker and Nigel Nicholas at defensive tackle as well. Those are the guys that seem to show up the most."
The group that sees the defense up close and personal the most is the offensive line with inside drill, pass pro and pass rush, and, of course, team periods and scrimmages. Two-year starting offensive guard Lane Taylor passed out some compliments.
"The defensive line is starting to become a solid group," Taylor said. "Before, guys weren't necessarily together, but they're really starting to learn their stuff and become a solid unit. Nigel Nicholas does well consistently. He challenges me and makes me a better player by having tough competition to go against. They'll step up and rise to the challenge this year. I expect this defensive line to be able to stuff the run."
Mike Gundy has always said he would prefer the defense win the battles in practice everyday. If that happens then we all winners.
So it was Rise of the Planet of the Apes tonight and now it was be Rise of the Cowboys on Boone Pickens Stadium in the morning. Get through the scrimmage in good shape health-wise and this could be considered and excellent camp.