Spring Football: A Good First Week

If there had been one more practice there might have been a lot more to report and discuss coming out of the first week of Oklahoma State's 2014 spring football practice. As it is, two days in shorts, jerseys and helmets and one day in pads to get the ball rolling doesn't produce a lot of epic or next season defining copy. The first week served as a warm-up period.

Maybe the biggest development of the spring so far came with the one player that missed the first day in pads.

After a couple of days of primarily learning the routine of practice and showing the head coach that he was very capable of catching kickoffs, newcomer running back/slot receiver Tyreek Hill headed to New Mexico for the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships where he had qualified for the 200 meters.

Hill showed in practice he has good hands and can catch passes. Mike Gundy was very pleased with his ability to catch kickoffs, where the OSU head coach sees Hill being a huge weapon for the Cowboys.

He left Wednesday for Albuquerque and a one day schooling on how to run on a 200-meter banked track. Hill had never run on that configuration.

Hill showed he is a quick study as Friday night -- with the emphasis quick -- as he ran second in his heat to the eventual champion with a time of 20.68 seconds. He then came back with a 20.57 in the final to finish fifth.

Not bad for a runner that was running only his third and fourth competitive indoor 200-meter dashes in his life and his first competitive track events since high school. It's tough to get too fired up this early but Hill is the real deal when it comes to speed.

This week Gundy also pointed at a new running back as he told me that Broken Arrow High School mid-year graduate and new Cowboy Devon Thomas has made huge strides in conditioning and in daily discipline since arriving, and it shows on the practice field. Gundy liked the way he looked and pointed to him making some plays this week in practice.

Elsewhere offensively, the quarterbacks are schooling. There's no doubt about J.W. Walsh being the most ready and most prepared. Daxx Garman has really thrown the ball well and you get the sense that he realizes this spring is a major crossroads for him.

Mason Rudolph is what you expected physically and with his fundamentals and throwing ability. Like any high school grad, he is going through the process of adapting to the new level. For Rudolph, the week was a very educational experience. He'll soak it in and come back after the break more comfortable.

Running backs Rennie Childs and Corion Webster are both very different physically from last year. You can see the extra muscle and size, but it has been added in the right way. Running back will be a competitive position throughout spring.

Speaking of competition, wide receiver may be the most competitive position for the Cowboys. A lot of guys that can play there and Jhajuan Seales is really looking like the guy you saw emerge late last season, and Marcell Ateman is not a freshman anymore.

Neither is Ra'Shaad Samples, even though he didn't play last season. Like running backs Childs and Webster, he has really benefitted from the strength and conditioning program. It's good to see Austin Hays back as well.

Offensive line is the major project and you knew it would be. Bob Connelly is a different coach with a different style, but I like it and I think a change sometimes can be good.

He doesn't yell, but he means business and you don't have to stand around his group long as he is teaching to get that point. For bringing along young linemen very quickly out of necessity I think Connelly may be just what the head coach ordered.

Without pads, defense just isn't defense. We all know that the Cowboys have lots of young and athletic talent on defense. Lots in the secondary, and lots on the defensive line, including veterans.

There were not a lot of linebackers available on Friday and that forced Gundy to postpone practice. Ryan Simmons is a stalwart and Kris Catlin stayed healthy. They are the guys that know what they are doing. The good thing is all but one should come back rested and healthy off the spring break. Walk-on Dillon Rake had the more serious injury the first week. Youngster Dawson Bassett has been moved to defensive end and that move may need to be reconsidered.

There is little to derive from defense until the team really gets into a more physical routine in pads. The young players in the secondary -- like Taylor Lewis, Darius Curry and Jerel Morrow -- are really talented athletically. They have the same type of talent as starter Kevin Peterson and last season's back-up Ashton Lampkin. Sophomores Jordan Sterns and Deric Robertson will be fine at the safeties, and Tre Flowers is very promising.

The defensive linemen are definitely looking forward to more contact, although on the first day James Castleman was making plays and making them with an exclamation point. That is a really good sign. You have to love having a defensive tackle like Castleman as he appeared to learn good lessons from Calvin Barnett.

Spring football resumes on Monday, March 24.

GoPokes Top Stories