The Quarterback Competition Continues

STILLWATER - Wednesday's schedule was a little staggered as Oklahoma State returned to the practice field inside Boone Pickens Stadium. Mike Gundy prefers to be on the grass practice field and the team had originally scheduled a scrimmage for the eighth practice. But due in part to weather conditions the Cowboys delayed scrimmaging and went through a comprehensive two-plus hour practice.

The practice included a lengthy team period at the end that also included some situations to put the quarterbacks through their paces in some game situations.

"We had a good practice today," said Gundy. "I just shared with the team that there was a lot of enthusiasm. Body language was good. Defensively, we did a better job of running to the football in our team periods.

"Offensively, we've taken care of the ball and guys have been in the right spot most of the time. We just have to continue with our enthusiasm level. Guys attitudes have been good and we're getting a lot accomplished."

As far as the quarterbacks, Gundy said he still believes that there will be some seperation for the coaching staff to pick up on in the upcoming practices. He also said freshman Wes Lunt has done enough to be considered a contender.

Quarterbacks Clint Chelf and redshirt freshman J.W. Walsh, the two quarterbacks that are allowed to speak with the media, both say they are doing what they can to show that they deserve to be the starter, which in the words of each is try to be the best quarterback they can be. "Each quarterback gets a chance. I'm seeing them make plays. Wes Lunt is starting to make a few plays now and is getting acclimated to the system. Our goal would be to name a quarterback at the end of spring. If it happened before that, we would certainly do it, but that's still our goal – to go into the summer with a starting quarterback."

There has been much more talk this spring, as expected, about the offense and the quarterback position, as well as finding a playmaker at wide receiver to replace Justin Blackmon. Defense has been a little off the media's radar. The truth is the defense is gearing up for a season where it will not only uphold the recent tradition of forcing record number turnovers but also show the ability to hold opposing offenses to fewer yards and points.

"We have eight starters returning. Last year, we lost eight starters, so the strength is in the numbers," said defensive coordinator Bill Young. "We've got some guys who played at a high level last year who have stepped it up this year and we'll need them to step it up in the fall. We've got a chance to be a very solid defense. We've got to continue to force turnovers, score on defense and give the offense good field position."

Young feels good about the defense becuase he has lots of speed. Returning cornerbacks Brodrick Brown and Justin Gilbert allow more freedom to create havoc in the middle of the Oklahoma State defense with blitzes and stunts.

All three starting linebackers return, and there is speed there. On the defensive line, all the tackles are back and plug in junior college second-team All-American Calvin Barnett. Over at defensive end where Jamie Blatnick and Richetti Jones graduated, Young has moved athletic defensive tackle Nigel Nicholas and linebacker Tyler Johnson. Returning backups Cooper Bassett and Ryan Robinson are there too. A lot of plays could be made by the guys on the edge of the defensive line.

"It's gone very well. Nigel is a very athletic guy," said Young of the move by Nicholas back to his original position. "We originally recruited him to be a defensive end. We plan on rotating Cooper in to stay fresh and play solid football for us. They play with a lot of emotion and they're really striving to get better. As a group, they want to be better and be a strong part of our defense and not a weak part.

"We get great leadership from both of them," added Young on the leadership of Bassett and Nicholas. "They make the checks, they get us lined up, they coach up the other players and get them ready to go."

Inside at tackle the Cowboys have lost Nicholas and gained Barnett. Young is not worried because he has numbers, maybe as many as three at each of the inside positions, which will allow plenty of rotation to keep players fresh.

"It's much better. Chris Littlehead and Anthony Rogers are so much better than they were a year ago," said Young. "The addition of Calvin Barnett has allowed us to move Nigel Nicholas outside and he is really playing well. Davidell Collins is also much improved over what he was a year ago."

Barnett has played well so far in the spring and Young likes what he brings to the table.

"He's got great leverage," explained Young. "He's about 6-2 and 300 pounds with tremendous lower-body strength. He uses his hands well and separates and just plays with good technique. He's done a good job picking up the system – much better than most junior college players that have come in. He has caught on a lot better."

"As far as fast twitch and competitive, Barnett is really good," chimed in a coach from the other side of the ball in offensive line coach Joe Wickline. "He is a good player."

Young is even happy with the young players up front.

"James Castleman and Jimmy Bean both are guys that need a million reps and they're getting them," added the veteran defensive coordinator. "They're getting better and better as time goes by.

"It's a little bit like Anthony Rogers and Davidell Collins and Chris Littlehead. It doesn't just happen overnight. Playing on the defensive line is such a physical position and then you have the mental aspect involved too with all the checks and adjustments. It's not easy to play there."

The Cowboys will be back at it on Friday with a scrimmage possible, although that will also be the day and evening of their annual coaches clinic.

One thing is for certain, they will be out there for practice number nine as spring football moves past the midway point. The spring football finale will conclude with a scrimmage on Saturday, April 21. Admission will be $5 and will include a meet and greet with the coaches and players after the scrimmage, and also include a ticket for the OSU baseball game with Texas Tech later that afternoon.

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