Cowboys Are More Physical, More Enthusiastic

STILLWATER - Wednesday's practice may have been the best test so far this spring for the Oklahoma State football squad. After Monday, the helmet, jerseys and short practices are done. So Wednesday it was full pads with temperatures approaching the mid-80s and with a warm south breeze, the Cowboys workout turned into the most physical practice so far of the spring.

There was more work and a much better opportunity for the offense and defensive linemen to be evaluated. The two-hour, 15-minute practice was high energy and the tempo was fast in the second half of the practice after what the head coach told the media was a sluggish start.

"We had a good day and we started out slow," said Gundy. "After individual we brought the team together. We didn't really have the enthusiasm that we should and from that point on, the last hour of practice, we did.

"Our skelly (skeleton) period and our team period were good with a lot of competition. We are getting a lot of young players a lot of work in our team period, and our three quarterbacks are splitting reps three ways.

"It is good to be back out here and back from spring break. We have a lot of young players on both sides of the ball that are showing signs of giving us a chance to win games next year. Now we are going to go root the Cowgirls on (WNIT) and get a victory."

Gundy added that he is happy with the progress of the quarterback Clint Chelf, J.W. Walsh and Wes Lunt, and still hopes to make a decision on a starter, with maybe as many as three practices to go before spring.

Offensive coordinator Todd Monken wasn't quite as confident, but did say the quarterbacks are doing well. Monken sounded more critical and seemed to want to see more out of the receivers. He did say he thought Tracy Moore was doing well in his move outside to the "Z" position in the Cowboys offense.

The defense is playing well and cornerback Justin Gilbert was a popular interview after practice on Wednesday.

With all the competition at various positions there are just a few places on defense where there is a certainty as to who will line up for the opening game against Savannah State in the fall. Cornerback is one position we see as being locked down with returning two-year starter Brodrick Brown on the boundry side and Justin Gilbert handling the duty at the field corner.

Gilbert is listed at 6-0, but maybe closer to 6-1 and is close to 200 pounds and extremely fast. We have discussed with various experts, including Gundy, the prospect of Gilbert being one of if not the best athlete in college football next season.

Gundy feels Gilbert likely won't be around after next season as he would be a candidate to go to the NFL. There is no doubt the light came on last season as he finished with 59 tackles and five interceptions on defense and was the Defensive Player of the Game in the Fiesta Bowl.

"I want to pick up where I left off during the season; working hard and making the most of the opportunity I had the last couple years in working with and competing against Justin Blackmon every day," explained Gilbert.

"Now, the role is going to switch a little bit with me and the receivers, as far as them working with and competing against me. Really, we all just want to get better. You really can't cheat the system. You have to show up every day and work hard. When you're out there working out, you can't take it for granted. You've got to go all out because if you don't, you're just cheating yourself and the team."

In case you are wondering how Gilbert can get better, he has lots of ideas. However, speed is not an area where he needs to improve a lot.

"The first 40 I ran this spring was a 4.38 and the second was a 4.32. I can't remember exactly my vertical, but I believe it was 35 or 36 inches," said Gilbert.

His interceptions came at key times in ball games, like it did in the Fiesta Bowl against Stanford. But as a kickoff return specialist who will likely add punt returns this season, Gilbert also has a knack for making the big play at the most opportune moment. He understands the value he brings to the team in that sense, but he really wants to become known more for those defensive contributions.

"I would most definitely want to be known as a great cornerback because it's my primary position," answered Gilbert. "Kick returns and punt returns are something that I do to help the team, but I really want to be known for what I do as a corner. I'm not sure I'd say I'm a big hitter, but I'm a pretty good tackler. I'd like to be considered as a shutdown corner."

Shutdown corner? The Cowboys may have a pair of shutdown corners, and when you have that it becomes a lot more fun to call defenses and blitzes for defensive coordinator Bill Young and his staff. You have to hope it works out as well as it appears it could.

It is also obvious that Gilbert has matured off the field. He was a leader in the off-season as his voice was a constant in workouts as he pushed himself and his teammates to go harder. The voice that propelled Gilbert was that of departing safety Markelle Martin, and now Gilbert is taking an extra interest in a pair of the younger Cowboys on the team.

"Jonovan Griffin and Miketavius Jones are two of the corners who I find myself working with, and they have the potential to be great," added Gilbert. "Miketavius watches a lot of film and does a lot of things to make himself better. Jonovan is a good player and is pretty athletic. He'll make plays for us in the future."

Gilbert and the rest of the Cowboys will finish up their second week of spring football with a full pad practice on Friday afternoon.

The Cowboys will then have nine practices remaining including the final practice and scrimmage, which will be on Saturday, April 21, with a 12:30 p.m. start. Admission will be $5 and will include a 30-minute "meet and greet" for fans with the team afterwards and a ticket to the Oklahoma State-Texas Tech baseball game that afternoon at Allie Reynolds Stadium.

Two Guests Attend Practice
Colorado head coach Jon Embree was at the Cowboys practice on Wednesday. He spent a lot of time talking with both head coach Mike Gundy and offensive coordinator Todd Monken.

Also, at the practice was standout tight end prospect Charlie Reid. The 6-4, 220-pound tight end from All Saints Episcopal High School in Fort Worth, Texas is one of the best at his position in the 2013 recruiting class, and he has the Cowboys attention. He looks good in person and was there with his father and some other friends or family members. Reid earned All-SPC honors in Texas with 41 receptions for 637 yards and five touchdowns last season as a junior.


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