Cowboys Football: Steamy Day On The Field

STILLWATER - The second straight day for the Oklahoma State Cowboys in helmets and shoulder pads produced a steamy morning practice that took its toll by zapping the energy out of the Cowboys. The good news is that they had the rest of Monday to recover in order to get to the first day in full pads on Tuesday.

You know there really is not much difference in how physical practices are based on whether the team is in helmets and shoulder pads or full pads. Head coach Mike Gundy discourages tackling to the ground or cut blocking below the waist, so most of the physicality is there either way.

So far in practices each side of the ball has had their moments as the defense looked pretty sharp in the first two workouts in team periods and in seven-on-seven work. Sunday the offense picked it up with a strong team period. The defense has had its highlights with a few forced turnovers.

The coaching staff felt that Monday's team session was pretty equal. Equal is not good enough for either side to truly be happy.

"We need to be a lot more aggressive and attacking and chasing the ball better than what we did today," said defensive coordinator Bill Young.

Young not only coordinates the defense but also coaches the defensive line and like his starting defensive end from last season that graduated in Richetti Jones, Young agrees that the defensive line has a chance to be improved.

"We're getting much better. Calvin Barnett is so much improved from last year and so much more confident in knowing his defenses and those kinds of things," explained Young. "We've got to pick up the tempo at the nose guard position and work a little harder.

"It's very difficult," continued Young on replacing Jones and the other starting senior defensive end from last season Jamie Blatnick, who is in the Denver Broncos camp as a rookie free agent. "What you've got to do is replace them by committee.

"We have a great leader in Cooper Bassett. Nigel Nicholas is playing well and Ryan Robinson is so improved that it's hard to describe. Tyler Johnson is coming. He's got to pick his assignments up a little bit better, but he's doing a good job. Victor Irokansi is really, really showing up," Young added.

Irokansi showed up big in Sunday's practice, first in shoulder pads and helmet and he played well in inside drill and one-on-one but displayed an explosive first step in the pass pro drill. He gave the older Cowboys offensive tackles a challenge.

"He's just so quick off the football," added Young. "The strength coaches say nobody outworked him during the summer program and that's carried right over to the field."

On the back end of the defense, coaches Van Malone and Jason Jones are both working the safeties and corners, veteran and freshmen. Both freshmen corners Ashton Lampkin and Kevin Peterson are looking good. Jones said they are competing favorably with the veterans.

One veteran back out there after injury is Devin Hedgepeth, who tore his Achilles last season against Texas A&M and then tore it again in December, and is back out trying to gain confidence in it.

"It feels awesome to be back out there and this is really my first time to be back out there with team in a practice scenario," said Hedgepeth. "It felt awesome to be back out there running around and yelling with the guys."

Hedgepeth is one of those "do right" guys on and off the field that coaches love. He played a significant role as a true freshman and has 33 tackles and two interceptions in his career that because of a medical red-shirt still has three years left to it.

He re-tore the Achilles just getting out of bed, but feels he is close to gaining the confidence in it needed to be effective again.

"The corner position you have to 100 percent," added Hedgepth. "You can't be 90 percent because at any time a player can run a route that has you back pedal and then come forward and then do a speed turn. You have to have confidence in it. I'm still working to get there as far as mentally 100 percent trusting it, but I think I am definitely getting to that point."

That will help because the Cowboys have two of the best cornerbacks in the country in Brodrick Brown and Justin Gilbert, but that's a position where you need a solid two deep and maybe at least five good players ready to go.

Practice resumes Tuesday in full pads with the workout starting with a walk through at 7:30 a.m. and stretch at 8 a.m.


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