Cowboys Fighting Through The 'Grind"

STILLWATER -- Honestly, most of our practice reports contain little information from practice. It's whatever gets mentioned by players and coaches on media availability day like today, and then whatever information is given out through OSU Athletic Media Relations as Kevin Klintworth and Gavin Lang are at all practices.

I'm there too, often with Dave Hunziker, but the details are slim. Plays, formations, routes, personal groupings on offense, alignments, fronts, blitzes, coverages on defense are all information that head coach Mike Gundy and his staff would like to keep quiet.

Also, injuries and lineup changes or position switches are also items that Gundy and Co. would just as soon remain inside the Sherman Smith Training Center.

Some things invariably slip out, but in this camp it is few. The quarterbacks, off limits for interviews and discussion, have stayed out of the sports page for the most part. There really have not been any injuries to speak of (knock on wood).

After two-a-days on Monday, the Cowboys were out Tuesday morning for the one practice of the day in full pads. It was the longest practice of fall camp so far with a full two and a half hours. The workout left Gundy eager to talk.

"We had an enthusiastic workout this morning," said Gundy. "It was a better day than yesterday. Yesterday was pretty average but today was very good, very competitive. The players had a nice two and a half hour workout. They'll have walk thrus this afternoon and then back into two practices tomorrow."

Glenn Spencer, first to the meeting room to join the media after practice, gave out even more details from practice.

"We had a lot of periods to compete," said Spencer. "We had a live put the ball down session right in the middle of practice which is always good. Everybody has got to react and we did that right in the middle of fundamentals. Great calling on the sidelines and everybody (coaches) were off the field. We got on the goal line and had a great good on good against the offense and then a great scout period working on Mississippi State stuff."

Translated there were defensive fundamentals, a full-speed team session in the middle of practice for the second day in a row, a goal-line scrimmage at the end including kicking game. Before the goal-line scrimmage there was a healthy exchange period with scouts running the Mississippi State offense and defense.

It was a long practice and part of that hard week that Gundy talks about that shows the coaching staff whether the team is ready, including what young players are mature and tough enough to contribute early. Double sessions also are on tap for Wednesday and Friday.

"This week is a grind for them, and everybody in the country is going through it," added Gundy. "They've been going at it for a week and a half and fatigue sets in. Early morning wake-ups and getting to bed even though it is 10 (p.m.) you still have a full day and there is some wear and tear.

"These are the practices that I was referring to earlier that are the most crucial. Young players, who want to play in the first game, have to get through these next four or five days and then certainly the veteran players have to push through in order to practice at a high level and give us the best chance to win."

The players fully understand where the fall camp schedule is and seem to understand that it has to happen. It doesn't mean they have to like it.

"This is where you have to be mentally tough at this time because, of course, you are going to be fatigued and banged up and your body is starting to wear down," said defensive tackle Calvin Barnett. "This is where the mental toughness comes in because you can see the end, but you can't take anything easy."

This is also the week where you are apt to see more skirmishes or extracurricular activity, two nice ways to describe fights. They happen,but they have to be handled appropriately. Guys get tired of going against the same guys whether it is in the trenches or on the perimeter.

"When you're going up against somebody for so long, everybody is hot and tired and the competition and the tension rises," explained wide receiver Austin Hays. "We're all tired, it gets old, and we want to play against somebody else."

The problem is you can't, not yet anyway. You also have to deal with the adversity of the heat (not so bad), humidity (really bad), long practices (today was one), two-a-days, and a routine that lacks much diversion. The teams that handle all that the best, fight through it and improve while working through it will have the best chance of getting off to the best starts this season.

By the way, the Cowboys are back on the field for walk-thrus this evening and back on the field in full pads at 7:30 Thursday morning for the first of two practices.

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