This has been a week where NFL scouts have been welcomed at practice. Among the teams making it to Stillwater have been the Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, New York Jets, New York Giants, New England Patriots, Carolina Panthers, Tennessee Titans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, San Francisco 49ers, Houston Texans, Dallas Cowboys, Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Green Bay Packers.
The scouts had to be on their toes Friday as even a roster wouldn't help when it came to identifying the Cowboys receiver corps. The receivers like to mess around every once in awhile and switch jerseys. They did it on the last practice in the spring before the spring game and they did it last season during Bedlam week. They were back at it Friday.
Charlie Moore was wearing No. 85 instead of freshman Blake Webb, who was wearing Moore's No. 17. Tracy Moore was wearing No. 18 which typically belongs to newcomer Blake Jackson. Jackson wore Moore's No. 87.
Josh Stewart had on No. 89 which normally is worn by new scholarship receipient Nick Rockwell, and Rockwell wore Stewart's No. 5. You get the drift, and the scouts had to take time to figure out who was who.
The cornerbacks didn't seem to have a problem during one-on-one, seven-on-seven, and team periods. They know their targets by sight, shape, and speed.
The battles in practice have been great. The corners line up with the outside receivers and sometimes on the inside guys. Cornerback coach Jason Jones said this group of defenders, led by Brodrick Brown and Justin Gilbert, is really good.
"It is. We have a good group of quality young men who are going to do the right things on the field and do the right things off the field," said Jones, a former corner at Alabama. "All of them can run. They vary in size, where some are bigger than others, but it is a deep group. They come in and they'll make mistakes, but they'll watch tape and ask questions to try to correct those mistakes. I'm pleased with the group that I have."
The real leaders are Brown and Gilbert. Both are physically gifted, and both have a good mind for playing the position. Last season they each had five interceptions. They play together, but they are competitive when it comes to turnovers and spectacular plays.
"His size is one," said Jones first talking about Gilbert. "He's 6-1, 205 pounds or so. The speed that he has – he's a 4.3 and you don't see that every day. The speed is what makes him special. He's so athletic. It's just his third year playing corner, so he's still learning the position. Once he gets it and understands it, the sky is the limit for him. Of course size, athletic ability and speed is what sets him apart.
"Brodrick is great. If a guy doesn't understand (something), he'll bring him in and watch tape with him," continued Jones. "Even over at the apartments, he'll coach them up. He comes out every day and works his tail off. That's what they respect the most about him.
"He's sort of a quiet guy, but he leads by example and that's huge because I coach them on the field, but now I have a guy in my meeting room who also helps me. He gets on to them. When you have your leader in the room getting on the guys when they may take a play off or so on and so forth, that's always huge.
"He's a great leader. That's why the guys that I have, for the most part, they're mature and we don't have a lot of problems out of those guys because of the leadership and the way he talks to them and tells them what the expectations are," added Jones.
Devin Hedgepeth is working hard to fight his way back from an Achilles injury suffered first against Texas A&M last season. Jones is estimating that Hedgepeth is operating at 50 percent.
Two players that are operating at a much higher clip are freshmen Kevin Peterson and Ashton Lampkin. Both defensive backs are doing really well.
"Both of them are smart," said Jones. "They come in and watch tape and ask questions. They pick up on things pretty quickly. The one thing that caught everybody's attention was the first day in pads when it was the first time they got a chance to really thud and things like that.
"Both of those guys are physical guys. They came down and were making tackles on the tailbacks and tackling wide receivers. Both of them are physical guys and that's what caught everyone's eye. Both of them are bigger corners and they can run, so that's good.
"With Kevin and Ashton coming in, it's created some competition. Between those four guys (Lampkin, Peterson, Miketavius Jones and Jonovan Griffin), they're battling to see who is going to be in the two-deep. Competition always makes you better. It's good. Now, after practice, I see guys working harder. I see guys competing harder and things like that. With Kevin and Ashton being thrown into the mix, it has created some competition, and it's pushing Miketavius and Jonovan."
Now don't for a minute think that the competition in camp is limited to the secondary. At middle linebacker, Glenn Spencer reports that incumbent Caleb Lacey is playing well but so is back-up Ryan Simmons.
On the defensive line, the foursome of Cooper Bassett, Nigel Nicholas, Ryan Robinson, and Tyler Johnson are keeping things very competitive as in, anything you can do, I can do better.
It is really fun to watch the defense, and Bill Young and Spencer up front, and Jones and Malone on the back end are having about as much fun as coaches can have in camp. It is fun to watch defense again in Stillwater. We'll see how much fun at the scrimmage on Saturday as that is first reports card date.