Spring Football: Where Do The Cowboys Stand?

With basketball over for the Oklahoma State Cowboys and spring break concluded that means spring football is up and running again. That also means inquiring minds are back to inquiring about football.

I strongly suggest Cowboy fans get on board with Josh Holliday's baseball team and catch a game in the Texas series this Thursday, Friday and Saturday against the Longhorns. The Cowboys are ranked 18th this week in the baseball polls and this is a major success story. But with the weird schedule and the 26-game homestand coming to an end there will be only a few opportunities left to catch baseball at Allie P.

As for football, OSU fans will have to wait until April 20 at 1:30 p.m. for the spring game. I know that's frustrating but realize up to this point you haven't missed anything.

The Cowboys have had four practices, and three of the four have been in shorts and helmets including Monday's chilly practice with sweatpants and helmets.

"We were in shorts with no shoulder pads, so it's not always easy," head coach Mike Gundy said on Monday. "We got a lot of mental work done. Intensity was really good and our effort was good. We're looking to getting back out here on Wednesday."

Yes, Gundy is looking forward to getting back on the field for the final 10 practices and the spring game because all of those practices are slated to be in full pads.

Gundy is smart like a fox on many of these practice decisions. He needs time for the new coaches, especially new offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich, to get a feel for his players and the practice routine. It was the same to a lesser degree for the new position coaches.

New defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer knows the practice routine but he had some install work he wanted to do with the defense. It is not a wholesale change but there are some new schemes and new techniques. It's better to teach those in shorts and then perfect them in pads.

The mental part of the game is always present, but teaching is better done in a calmer environment. With the pads about to come on for the remainder of the spring, Spencer and his defensive staff, including some high intensity guys like new defensive line coach Joe Bob Clements, new defensive line graduate assistant Eric Henderson, cornerbacks coach Van Malone and new safeties coach Tim Duffie, are all set to apply a greater emphasis on attitude and intensity, playing with a chip on the shoulder.

"No doubt. Yes. No doubt, no doubt," Spencer said recently of increasing that aspect of the player's and the defensive personality. "Our side of the ball ... we've got to start with that, the emotional aspect. It's between their ears and it's in their heart.

"The technique part is going to come with reps and everybody coaching hard. The coaches are really straining in meetings and drawing all that out of them. If we don't have that intensity and toughness, nothing else matters. That's definitely something that by practice 15 I want to sit back and say ‘Hey, we're ready for camp. We've got that taken care of.' We'll just keep working on the other things."

There is so much left to be done during spring practice. There are key competitions at quarterback (duh?), inside and wide receiver, several spots on the offensive line, defensive end, corners, and strong safety.

There is competition everywhere, but it would be an upset if Jeremy Smith did not start at running back. It would be surprising if Parker Graham, Brandon Webb, Daniel Koenig and Devin Davis did not start on the offensive line.

I think you can write Calvin Barnett in ink in the line-up at defensive tackle. It also looks pretty certain for Shaun Lewis, Caleb Lavey and Ryan Simmons to start at the linebacker positions, but many will play. In the secondary, you can bet that Daytawion Lowe will be at free safety.

There are many positions where starters are undecided and with three of the first four practices in shorts and helmets nobody has won a position yet.

The install work is in and the groundwork is set. The team even had a taste of contact the first week on Thursday before they left for spring break. Now the flag drops and the competition begins.

If you want to earn a starting berth, show up each day, do your job right, and make plays. On defense, be physical, be extremely physical. The other method to Gundy's genius, all the remaining practices are in full pads and can be very physical.

Gundy wants a physical football team, and this squad will have some veterans but also will have some young players in key roles. The next 10 practices and the spring game will be about becoming a very physical football team. That is what it takes to win in the Big 12, to compete for a championship beyond the Big 12, and what it will take to start with in beating Mississippi State on Aug 31 in Houston.

Gundy would much prefer to pound that into this football team's personality now with a quick refresher course than before the opener with Mississippi State.

In the words of Hannibal Smith from the old A-Team, "I love it when a plan comes together." Mike Gundy does too and the next four weeks of spring football will let him know if that plan has come together.

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