Cowboys Football Notebook

Wednesday is a day off for the Oklahoma State players after putting in three days of work in a row for the Heart of Dallas Bowl against Purdue. The Cowboys have had six practices since the break at the end of the regular season. The team returns to the practice field on Thursday and Friday, and after another off day Saturday they will practice on Sunday before taking a break for the holidays.

The team will reconvene in Dallas on Thursday, Dec. 27, and have practices on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, a walk-through on Monday before playing the game on Tuesday, Jan. 1.

That will add up to 15 practices which is what is allowed for bowl game preparations, except for National Championship Game participating teams.

Junior College Players Sign with Cowboys
It is Junior College Signing Day for NCAA football schools and the Cowboys signed two players that we believe will actually count back to the 2012 recruiting class as you can count back with December signees.

The two players will give some added maturity to the offensive and defensive lines. Brandon Garrett is a decorated offensive tackle from Trinity Valley (Texas) Community College, while Sam Wren is a first-team All-Western States Football Conference defensive line selection.

Garrett is a 6-6, 285-pound tackle who originally came out of Deer Park, Texas, and he was honorable mention All-Southwest Junior College Football Conference this past season. He also had offers from Louisiana-Lafayette and North Texas.

Wren is a 6-3, 250-pound speedy defensive end who had a whopping 14.5 sacks for Arizona Western this past season. He went on to earn Defensive MVP in Arizona Western's El Toro Bowl victory. Arkansas, Arkansas State, Arizona State, Texas Tech, Oregon State, and Washington State were all offering a scholarship to Wren, who is originally out of Palestine, Texas.

"I have to give the credit to God for what I have done and for leading me to Oklahoma State," said Wren, who also told us that his father is a preacher in Palestine, Texas. "My father stayed on me about following God and it has been the most important aspect of my life."

Wren also told us that his best pass-rushing technique is to read the offensive tackle, and when he overcommits too deep to use an inside move or if he plays straight up, Wren said he often sticks with a bull rush and will get physical with the offensive tackle.

Either way Cowboy fans should like Wren and he should contribute early in his Cowboy career.

Thoughts on 2013 and 2014 Schedules
I have become pretty opinionated on scheduling and it is not just because of a connection with the head coach. I understand that the administration and athletic director have to be cognizant of the entire athletic department and making the money needed for budget, and that football greatly contributes to that. I also understand that television rules and that big matchups are in demand.

Oklahoma State, as of early this afternoon's announcement that OSU will kickoff 2014 at Cowboys Stadium against Florida State, has committed to playing big nonconference matchups to kickoff the 2013 and 2014 seasons.

The 2013 game with Mississippi State is purely a money game at Reliant Stadium in Houston. Next season is the final season for the BCS and there is no need to have a premier nonconference game with the BCS system. If you are in the Big 12 and go unbeaten, no matter what nonconference schedule is played, then you will get in the BCS national championship game.

However, that changes in 2014 with the start of a four-team playoff system in which a committee will be charged with selecting the four teams to participate. The game with Florida State or some other premier nonconference opponent is likely needed.

Here are my concerns with the Cowboys scheduling choices, and and my idea for perfect scheduling that gives a team the optimum opportunity for success when also playing a rugged Big 12 Conference schedule.

2013 - The game with Mississippi State had better be a huge money game for the school because it has several negative aspects to it. First, it takes away a home game from loyal Oklahoma State fans and cuts the home schedule down to six games.

I realize the level of support for OSU athletics in the Stillwater business community, which greatly benefits from home football games, is often debated whether it is strong enough. I am simply talking about fans, who have supported the program in record numbers the last three seasons. They deserve seven home games whenever possible. Mississippi State actually has all three of its other nonconference games at home, and with four SEC home games will have seven home games.

The schedule is finished, so nothing can be done about it but it would be nice to have had an open week after the opener to give the Cowboys maximum recovery time. The first of three open weeks is after games at UTSA and home with Lamar.

The hope is you get through that part of the season without injuries to give your team some recovery time before the league opener at West Virginia.

Mississippi State is another problem. The Bulldogs are a good team and with 14 returning starters including a senior starting quarterback for next season they will be formidable.

However, they are not one of those magic names. If OSU beats Mississippi State, that's a good win, not great. Meanwhile, TCU is playing LSU, and if the Horned Frogs beat LSU, that is a great win.

If you are going to step out on your schedule then my advice is step out big. Don't go kind of big. If you go big, go all the way big. The 2014 game with Florida State is all the way big.

2014 - Florida State is a big-name opponent, and that is great. But once again, with two other nonconference games at home and only four home Big 12 Conference games in even years the number of home games is again at six.

That's two years in a row of six home games for Oklahoma State fans. A plus is that the next scheduled game as of now is UTSA on Sept. 13, two weeks after the opener with FSU at Cowboys Stadium. It would be best to keep that Sept. 6 date open to give the Cowboys a break for maximum recovery coming off the monster opener with Florida State.

Scheduling Theories
1. Seven Home Games: Remember, in the future Oklahoma State will have five home conference games in odd years and four home Big 12 games in even years.

I would look to have seven home games each season for Oklahoma State fans to enjoy and for them to help their football team win and help for the opportunity to play for a championship and to be in a high quality bowl game. That means looking for three nonconference home opponents in even years and at least two home nonconference games in odd years.

2. Strength and Placing: With the new committee looking to decide on which schools will play for the championship each season, it will be important to play a high-caliber nonconference opponent.

I would do the best to get a big dog and look to play them at a neutral site. If you go big, then go big with the likes of Alabama, LSU, Florida State, USC, Oregon, Michigan, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Florida, Georgia, etc.

Those opponents would be best in odd years. In even years look for a good mid-level Division I team you can get to play in your stadium. Also, when scheduling a heavyweight, the most desired place on the schedule is not the opener where you have to push your team hard in August for preparation, but several weeks into the season.

When possible, have an open week behind a premier nonconference matchup to give your squad time to recover sufficiently and minimize the risk of injuries.

3. Schedule Championships: Many coaches have said it, "you schedule championships." I believe that you use wise decisions to put your team in a good opportunity. Open weeks are key on the schedule.

Defending Purdue
Mike Gundy said that his defensive players, particularly secondary players, have ben working hard in practice on coverage and being able to cover opposing receivers more aggressively.

"We have worked on that a lot in bowl practice, and during the season our corner and safety play was not real strong at the start of the season. We struggled with that in the early games such as Arizona," said Gundy.

"We got better at it in the middle of the season. We had a good stretch of that three, four, five games. Then against OU, we struggled covering their inside receivers with our safeties and nickel. We did not have good corner play in the first half against Baylor.

"We feel we are more athletic on defense and we are working to be better in coverage for the bowl game against Purdue," said the Cowboys head coach.

Purdue does run the ball well, but one thing that should help up front is that the Boilermakers quarterback is not real solid in running the football himself. Purdue does choose to use a lot of zone read, but it is not as efficient with the quarterback keeping the ball.

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