Spring Practice Notebook

Oklahoma State fans already know a lot about Tyreek Hill. Like the fact that he will be in Albuquerque, N.M., later this week to run in the 200-meter dash in the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships. Hill will likely be one of if not the fastest player in all of college football next season.

We know that he came to Oklahoma State because he could run track and play football, and in football he could play running back and the slot receiver position.

On Monday, number 24, Hill's number, was with the running backs. In the spring media guide he is listed as receiver. He will play both. Head coach Mike Gundy said he will work out with football on Tuesday before leaving for New Mexico and then will be back with football after spring break.

Having a versatile Hill fits into to what offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich wants to improve most this spring on offense, and that is creating chunk plays, explosive plays that create monster momentum for the offense, an area the Cowboys regressed some in last season.

"I expect improvement and effort. We want to make more big plays," Yurcich said. "Those are all things we will talk about and stress. That's hopefully where we will see the offense evolving – production.

"The offense will look very similar to last season. I'm not going sit here and predict how the depth chart will look here on day one. That will all take care of itself. Production will be rewarded at every position and we will go from there. Every day will be evaluated."

Missing Players
After rumors started leaking on message boards and social networking over the weekend, one of the first topics addressed by Gundy was who wasn't going to be at practice. One of those names that may have been the most surprising was safety Lyndell Johnson out of Plano East.

It is sad because Johnson was pretty far along with his OSU career, but Gundy said it is over due to personal reasons. Johnson was one of the few veteran players in the secondary and now it seems certain that young pups like two freshmen last season in Jordan Sterns and Deric Robertson will be manning the two safety spots.

"We're really young with that position," Gundy admitted. "In fact, we're not too deep, so we've got young guys that we've got to develop and bring along. Hopefully, we'll have a player come in from high school that can help us out in the fall. Each year, you have positions where you go through that, and that's one of them this spring."

The offensive line is in similar shape in that it is full with youngsters. Not only did starting guards Parker Graham and Brandon Webb graduate as seniors but starting center Jake Jenkins and versatile backup Travis Cross are both graduating and moving on. "They have good jobs and have decided to move on and go out into the real world," Gundy explained. "In fact, one of them (Cross) is going to go to law school and the other one (Jenkins) has got a job, so they're moving forward. Lyndell Johnson is not with us anymore for personal reasons. Other than that, the roster is fairly accurate by position."

The center for the first day of spring was Paul Lewis with Zac Veatch and Chris Grisbhy starting out at guards. Tackles include returning starter Daniel Koenig and talented red-shirt freshman Zach Crabtree. Remember that veteran tackles Devin Davis (torn ACL) and Brandon Garrett (broken leg and surgery at Cotton Bowl) will sit out spring but are expected back for fall camp.

"We don't have a lot of experience, so we'll have guys that we'll have to get out there and give them quality experience in the spring and get them the work they need to develop for the fall," Gundy added specifically about center.

"When you're young at that position, you just want to fill it the best you can and get them quality work, the fundamentals, the technique and all of those things so we can run our best offense, and vice-versa on defense. You just don't have the flexibility in the spring.

"We had 28 departing seniors, so when you have a big class like that, you don't get guys in until the fall, so you run into areas where you're a little thin. As coaches we have to be smart. There's a certain number of reps you want to get. When practice is over, based on that, you can't keep them out there forever. You can't wear guys down that are healthy. So there are a few positions we'll have to be careful with during the spring."

Offensive Line Coach Working Well
There were several new coaches, mostly graduate assistants and quality control coaches. But the most noticeable new coach was working down with the offensive line in Bob Connelly.

This is the first spring the offensive line has had a different coach other than Joe Wickline since 2004. Connally is not a screamer, but he is intense and he won't accept anything other than full effort and he wants collisions. "Thud" doesn't seem to be something he is fond of. He likes loud cracks and banging.

"It seems to be going very well," Gundy said of working with Connelly. Gundy seems enthusiastic about Connelly's blocking schemes. "He's experienced in coaching at a high level and he understands our tempo, our style of offense. He has the same schemes and the same philosophy with what we think is best for Oklahoma State's offense.

"I like his work habits. He's from Texas and he's recruited from Texas. There were a lot of things that he brought to the table that really fit our program."

Yurcich also had good things to say about Connelly.

"We've worked together every day since he was hired, which is going on a month now," Yurcich said. "We've been working to get on the same page, talking, looking at as much film as we can and breaking it down. Those are all very important when you have any coach who is new to the program."

Practice, Not Spring Game, is Needed Most
Gundy didn't wait to be asked Monday and instead jumped in and volunteered his opinion on the Orange Blitz scheduled for Saturday, April 5, and why he felt they needed to invite fans to a public practice rather than split up teams and have a spring game.

"We need to practice. We're a young football team and there's not a lot of maturity," Gundy explained from the podium in the Boone Pickens Stadium press box. "We think it's best for our team, and I think it's best for the fans, in my opinion.

"That's why we established in that early stage what we wanted to do. We have to plan. We can't just decide one week out what we want to do. I have to make a decision. I listen to the staff, obviously, so at some point I have to make a decision based on what's best for our team first and then our fans and people that follow us second.

"When you take things into consideration where we're at, thin at some positions, you guys know. When you have a spring game, you've got to divide teams up and go almost two deep on each team. You start switching jerseys and it becomes not really a very attractive game for the fans.

"I thought what would be best for us was to have another practice. I know that that's best for our football team because we need the practice, and then it would give our fans the opportunity to see stuff they want to see, the new quarterbacks, the running backs, young receivers, the junior college transfers. That setting, in our opinion, is better than a watered down spring game."


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