What Do We Know After One Week?

Very few people are allowed to watch the Oklahoma State football team practice. It wasn't reported but the entire Perry High School football team was at a practice last week. The Maroons coaching staff wanted their players to see how the college guys worked and the energy and focus that was present in a practice at that level. The Cowboys are now a week into fall practice and here's what we know.

They are healthy. Head coach Mike Gundy knocked on what wood he could find on the stage of the team meeting room Saturday night in the West End Zone as he answered the question about "dings" or injuries.

Coaches and players say there have been the usual bumps and bruises but nobody has missed significant time at practice. That goes along with the theme of summer of having no distractions off the field. When you combine a healthy team with a smart team off the field, that can be a dangerous combination for opponents.

Offense
All Cowboys fans would love to know what is going on with the quarterbacks. While players have discussed Clint Chelf and J.W. Walsh in a general fashion, the two players have been held out of media sessions; just as Gundy proclaimed after the spring game, the coaches also have refrained from discussing the play at the position.

Judging from player quotes, both have done fine. There have also been some compliments about the play of the other two quarterbacks in camp as several players have talked about how talented Daxx Garman and Jake Hubanek are and that they throw the ball well.

The best way to sum up the quarterback position is "to be determined." The strength is that Walsh is 2-1 as a starter with a win coming off the bench against Louisiana as he played all but the first six plays until the game was clinched. Chelf is 3-2 as the starting quarterback with a bowl win and MVP award and an overtime Bedlam loss where the offense scored 48 points.

Overall on offense, the running backs seem to be improving at a good pace, according to Gundy. The offensive line is playing well, according to members of the defense and they should know. Both the head coach and offensive coordinator Mike Jurcich admit that the receiver position is jam packed with talent.

"We have some veteran guys that we know are experienced and have played in big games and then we have some young players that we know are going to play," Gundy said of the number of good players at the four receiver positions. "Guys that can go catch the football and make plays."

"Sure, I hate to say excess but we do have some players there," added Yurcich. "We have some talented guys and the nice thing about our receiver corps is we have experienced guys blending in with young guys all the way through. The older guys are doing a good job of helping the younger guys and showing them by example, and that is really important."

Overall, the offense is progressing said the Cowboys fifth coordinator on that side and play caller during Gundy's tenure,

"i don't necessarily have x amount of points or x amount of yards or anything like that," said Yurcich of his expectations after the first week. "You're just looking for good execution and looking for your guys to line up correctly, execute the play, and get the ball in the end zone."

He was happy with the start and finish in the scrimmage on Saturday night.

"We scored on our first drive, that was really important, and then we came back and scored on our two-minute drill," revealed Yurcich with the first touchdown being a Jeremy Smith dive into the end zone. "So those are two positives that are very strong things to do and I'm really pleased to see that."

Defense
You truly get the feeling that the defense is improved, but everybody has heard that before. That may be why defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer is reserved, almost non-committal about discussing defensive improvement.

Spencer is all about the journey to that end result, which is very much ongoing, rather than discussing the results, even partial positive results. However, the players are more positive. After Saturday's scrimmage, middle linebacker Caleb Lavey, defensive tackle Calvin Barnett and nickel safety Zack Craig said the defense feels better.

Craig went further to explain that a combination of attitude and scheme has pushed the aggressiveness to a new level.

Defensive line was a point of contention as going in defensive tackles Calvin Barnett and James Castleman and backups Anthony Rogers and Davidell Collins were veterans. The coaches, including Gundy, are happy with the progress of new junior college transfer Ofa Hautau.

Defensive end will have two new starters and there's only one real veteran at the position in Tyler Johnson, who has been a question mark after having offseason surgery.

"It's so demanding because it's so fast-paced and they got lined up faster than us a couple of times," said Spencer talking about the scrimmage play up front. "That's something they have to see on film to see how they need to care about it more. As far as physical play, we had good push in the pocket a lot. I've been pleased with how they ran against the pressure."

The linebackers are really a strength as Lavey and Shaun Lewis are three-year starters and Ryan Simmons is an athletic playmaker taking over at the weak side backer. The backups will be Joe Mitchell, a real veteran and having a good camp, Kris Catlin and Demarcus Sherod. It is really a good situation.

"I still have a long way to go," said Simmons with humility after the scrimmage. "There was so much from that scrimmage and so much stuff in the back of my mind to think about that I could have done better, but I'm doing okay.

"It helps a lot," continued Simmons referring to having veteran players around him. "Those guys know what everyone's supposed to be doing and they can make up for a lot of plays just by what they know. I just take it on myself to know those plays and to play at the same level as those guys."

Spencer said he believes the corners are a solid four deep with Justin Gilbert, Kevin Peterson, Ashton Lampkin, and Kansas transfer Tyler Patmon. But he is looking at the veterans and newcomers knowing he'll likely need a fifth wheel during the season.

It is the same at safety with Daytawion Lowe and Lyndell Johnson at free safety and Shamiel Gary and Zack Craig playing the strong. Deion Imade has moved up to linebacker. Spencer is also looking closely at younger players like Jordan Sterns, Deric Robertson and Tre Flowers for a fifth safety.

The focus on Mississippi State is still a week away as the second week of fall camp may get a little more work against scout teams but is still more about getting the Cowboys ready for the entire season than just the first game. It doesn't mean the players aren't starting to think about the Bulldogs.

"We're going to be excited," said Calvin Barnett. "Since I've played Division I football, I've never played an SEC opponent. The SEC has a great conference, they produce great players year in and year out, so we're very excited to play in this game."

But first things first. There's another week of fall camp and three days of two-a-days on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The Cowboys have to get through the grind before getting ready for the glory.


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