First-Year Coaches Like What They See

STILLWATER - The Cowboys were back in full pads on Thursday morning as they went through a nearly two and a half hour workout that included all the fine staples of a fall camp practice including team period, which the staff has been in the habit of putting in the middle of practice. Mike Gundy commented the other day on how he liked jumping into team period fairly early in the practice session.

As for Thursday's practice, new safeties coach Tim Duffie liked what he saw and what was accomplished.

"Guys came out and worked hard again today," said Duffie. "We want to get more turnovers in the back end and compete for more balls. They pushed through a very tough practice this morning."

There was also plenty of drill work including an inside drill, pass protection, seven-on-seven, and one-on-one. That is the Cowboys only practice of the day as they fill the rest of the day with meetings, lifting, walk thru, and other fall camp activities.

Oddly enough, over in Starkville, Miss., Wednesday the Bulldogs head coach Dan Mullen cancelled the evening practice on a two-a-day practice day and took the team bowling. The Cowboys were going through their evening workout at that time.

Gundy has done that at times, changing an evening practice into a trip to the movie theater or a bowling outing or even a little work in the batting cages. Will the Cowboys do it on Friday, their last scheduled day of two-a-days?

For Gundy, the decision comes down to how he feels his team has pushed through the grind and how accomplished they are nearing the end of camp.

One interesting facet of this camp is that the Cowboys have one new coordinator to the staff in offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Mike Yurcich. We don't count Glenn Spencer as he has been on staff for five years.

Among the position coaches, Duffie is new as a Texas Tech grad coming to OSU from Wake Forest; Joe Bob Clements, coaching the defensive line, played and coached at Kansas State, and Jason Ray is a native Oklahoman from Broken Arrow who played at Missouri and coached most recently at Wyoming.

It's always interesting to get the point of view at camp from a coach that is experiencing Oklahoma State fall camp for the first time.

Duffie played against Oklahoma State when he was at Texas Tech playing for then head coach Spike Dykes. This is certainly not the Oklahoma State that Duffie remembered from college. The facilities are much different and so is that explosive offense.

"Consistency. They're good for one reason; they're the same every day, they bring it every day," said Duffie of what he's observed in practice. "You can't think about what you did yesterday, you'd better be ready to play and compete with them every single day they come out to practice."

Ray will tell you he would have loved to play in this style of offense in college. He did to a degree in that Mizzou was spread, but it was moderate in tempo and explosion compared to OSU, and what the receivers he is coaching are taught and experience.

"We're going to play fast, we're going to get lined up and we're expected to make plays," said Ray of the offense. "We're going to run the football, that's a given.

"But when it comes to playing receiver, you come here with the mentality that we're going to throw the ball all across the field. We're going to put the ball in the air, and we have to make plays. We have to beat man coverage and we have to make the tough catches.

"When we do that and when we can stretch the defense out, play fast and get on them ... and one of the things I realized when I got here was that culture of making plays is one that's been established here. Receivers will make plays, and that's what the culture is; they're going to be tough players and go hard to the whistle and that they're going to make plays," added Ray.

On the defensive side of the ball, that crew has not received the headlines or been the darling of the fans, although the turnover lottery in 2011 was given its due in helping secure the Big 12 Championship and BCS bowl win over Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl.

The Cowboys' defense may have a chip on the shoulder and that is okay.

"The experience that they have with the system, even though we've tweaked some things to be a little more competitive on every play," Duffie said is a reason to expect that side of the ball to be vastly improved this season. "These guys understand and know the terminology and the scheme of the defense. We're a more athletic football team than most people think."

Clements has seen Oklahoma State close up while coaching for Bill Snyder at Kansas State. Fresh off a Big 12 championship last season, he is set to make the Cowboys defensive line what it needs to be to return the trophy to Stillwater this season.

"First and foremost, I want them to be seen as a tough defensive line," said Clements, who has pushed that ideal going back to the spring. "I think it starts with toughness.

"Second, they need to be relentless. Third, they need to be fundamentally sound. We talk about that all the time. When everything goes, the last two things you have to hang on to are your fundamentals and your effort."

When hiring new coaches, as Gundy did last winter and spring, the Cowboys head coach looks for coaches that can adapt to the program and what it stands for and then add a little extra to build on it. That result will be revealed this season and beyond, but right now it seems to be working well.

Gundy and his entire staff will be back at it in the Sherman Smith Training Center on Friday morning and on the Astroturf field east of the Smith Center, weather provided. Two practices are schedule for Friday and the Saturday's scrimmage puts the finishing touch on fall camp.


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