Head coach Mike Gundy was asked his thoughts and what stood out as spring practice reached the one-third point with practice number five.
"It went good. I thought there was a lot of enthusiasm," Gundy said. "The defense played very well today. I thought some of the young running backs competed. They're starting to kind of feel their way and understand our system. I like our young defensive linemen. I think that they're getting up the field and putting pressure on the quarterback. The attitude of the team is good."
Monday we featured Cowboys cornerback Kevin Peterson, who is the only returning starter coming back in the secondary and represents the primary leader in that are of the team. Peterson and the "litter of young pups" at both the corners and the safety positions get quality work every day in both drills, seven-on-seven, one-on-one, and team periods with the number of more experienced and in some cases established play-making receivers.
As young and inexperienced as the defensive backs are the receivers are more experienced without being long in the tooth. There is more widely varied experience.
Jhajuan Seales, Marcell Ateman, Brandon Sheperd, and David Glidden all caught at least 10 passes or more last season, and Seales and Ateman qualify as primary targets. They are all still young.
The Cowboys have Austin Hays back after a year of fighting a hamstring injury. Hays caught 29 passes for 394 yards and two touchdowns in 2012 as a freshman.
There's more experience than in the secondary but it is still developing.
"I think so. (Jhajuan) Seales is coming along and (Marcell) Ateman, when he decides to play hard, he's a big, physical body; and mentally he has to come around and understand the important of practicing hard every day," Gundy answered when asked if he felt the position was developing well this spring.
"The other guys are doing well. (Austin) Hays is doing well. (Blake) Webb has done well. Some of those young receivers are starting to make a few plays, so it's exciting that we have talent on our team that can make plays in the future."
Getting Hays back is a plus because you can see easily by the catches he makes in practice what he adds to the position. The barely recruited receiver out of San Antonio (Reagan High School) was actually offered, committed, and signed on signing day 2012 as his choices before Oklahoma State were primarily FCS and Division II schools.
Little did anyone know that he would be the top receiver in the class as a true freshman. Losing him in the scrimmage before the start of last season was a bigger blow than anyone realized at the time.
"I'm feeling pretty good right now, so we're just going to take it easy. I'm excited," Hays said of his return to practice duty full-time, which did not take place until Monday. "It's frustrating not being able to do a whole lot during the year.
"It's a new year and I've gotten healthy now so I'm looking forward to it. It just gets old because you want to be out there so bad, but at the same time if you can't do it, you can't do it. It was tough watching them (games last season) on TV since you don't get to travel or suit up. It's frustrating," Hays added.
Some new and some "been around" guys are jumping up too as the offensive staff observes and begins to decide on who can be counted on to make plays for next season.
Of course, the speediest of the new players is Tyreek Hill but Ra'Shaad Samples is another great option. Of the "been around" guys, bigger bodied C.J. Curry started showing up more and more in practices in the final month of the regular season last year. Curry is still making plays and getting reps.
"We're very athletic and young and we have a lot of people who have played, but not a whole lot," Hays added. "I think Jhajuan [Seales] is the only one who started every game. David [Glidden], Marcell [Ateman] and Blake Webb started a little bit and we've got Ra'Shaad [Samples] coming on so we're excited."
"It's great to come into spring and see all these new players," Seales jumped in. "It is great to get around with the DBs and run around and do drills. We're all learning even though some of us have some experience, but everybody is trying to help everybody and we need to keep it going that way."
It was certainly going that way Tuiesday as there were some terrific plays. Seales, going head to head with Kevin Peterson, made a diving grab and came up with the catch even though the coverage was as good as it could be.
Another highlight was a catch made on Monday by Hays, who caught the ball between two defenders in tight quarters. That is the kind of work the young receivers and young defensive backs are getting going against each other. Of course, the defense had its share of plays too, and Darius Curry had a pick during seven-on-seven. It cuts both ways in the spring.