Spring Practice Report: The First Day

STILLWATER - Oklahoma State head football coach Mike Gundy looked excited and happy to be out in what he characterized as "great baseball weather" but it was also great weather for the start of spring football. Monday was the first of 15 days the NCAA allots teams in the spring to work on the field with their teams under real football conditions.

Okay, the real conditions will start later this week after the Cowboys clear the mandatory non-contact first workout and the prescribed easing into contact.

It was a beautiful day with temperatures in the high 70s. In case the quarterbacks forgot how to navigate it, there was a brisk Oklahoma wind that swirled around on the outside Astroturf practice field adjacent to the Sherman Smith Indoor Training Facility.

"We're back at it. It's a fun time of the year for us to be able to get back out on the field for 15 practices with our players," Gundy said earlier Monday at his spring football news conference.

"We've had good winter conditioning. Obviously, we have some new guys out there with 28 seniors. We've established some leadership and a little bit of team chemistry. I like the attitude of our team. We've got a long ways to go and a lot of work ahead of us."

As the Cowboys started with players going through drills both inside and outside across the street from Boone Pickens Stadium, the media was allowed to photograph or video the first several periods.

The expanded group of specialists went through their paces, but the photographers and videographers were congregated toward several groups on offense with the quarterbacks including veteran J.W. Walsh and celebrated freshman recruit Mason Rudolph.

Gundy spoke more about the quarterback position than you might have thought he would when he stayed reserved and said it would be a very limited topic as he addressed the media on the day after signing day in February.

Monday he was open about saying that J.W. Walsh, a veteran of eight starting assignments and the quarterback that earned the starting role heading into last season, would be the first quarterback to take snaps in practice with the first offense and start the spring on the top line of the depth chart.

"J.W. always has had great leadership and we want him to have a great feel for what we want to accomplish on offense from a read standpoint, footwork fundamentals, things that he can control," Gundy said when asked what he was expecting from Walsh.

"That's with all of our quarterbacks. There is a number that are going to be out there in the spring, and J.W. brings experience to the table. J.W. will be the guy that goes out there first this year because he has the most experience, but those other quarterbacks will get a chance.

"They have to bring leadership and toughness, and we want the other players to rally around them. We have a lot of work ahead of us as an offensive football team at that position. We also have a plan in place and I feel comfortable with that plan and we know which direction we want to go and we know how to get there. It's just going to take a lot of time."

Offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich understands that with five quarterbacks and limited practice time that the reps can't be divided among the five throughout spring practice and the narrowing down process began immediately today.

"It's difficult because there are only so many reps to go around. You can't get all five guys significant reps. You have to make sure you're doing a good job of selecting the top guys and making a run of it," explained Yurcich. "Everything is important. From individual drills, to our seven-on-seven, to team drills, everything is evaluated and will all factor in to who gets the reps and how the depth chart changes."

Yurcich is more familiar with Rudolph than any other coach on staff, including Gundy, as Yurcich was the coach that recruited him. Remember, Yurcich liked him before he threw Rock Hill Northwestern to the South Carolina AAAA state championship and before he had that awesome touchdown-to-interception ratio of 64 touchdowns to 8 interceptions.

"It's just an it factor for the most part," said Yurcich. "It's hard to describe but you know it when you see it. He had that leadership ability on the sideline with his team. When he throws the football it was apparent the physical side of it was impressive. Getting to know him off the field, his mentality, his make up, and what kind of character he has inside."

He can really throw the football too. However, the Oklahoma wind may have been a little curve for him to get over as he seemed to have some problems adjusting to that stiff swirling breeze around the Smith Center, although inside in front of the photographers no problem at all.

Gundy said he will let the competition make the decision. He is not harboring a hangover from the last freshman quarterback and how Wes Lunt ended up leaving.

"When I look back at that with Wes (Lunt), the only thing that would be of concern was he didn't play because of injuries he suffered," Gundy theorized. "The truth of the matter is if you have a freshman that comes in and he's the better player, you probably play him. Everybody watches the same practice. We owe it to our team to give them the best chance to win."

That is what Gundy expects to do this time and the Oklahoma wind will serve as just one trial and adversity that will help the coaching staff, Gundy and Yurcich, make that decision.

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