Cowboys Prep For Saturday's Scrimmage

STILLWATER - Saturday's practice will be mostly team competition, meaning put the ball on the turf and calling out the offense and defense and go at it. There will be officials and a chain crew with coaches upstairs on headsets and communication going forward as it would during a real game. In my opinion, this scrimmage on Saturday will be a lot more about players than it will be about plays.

The meaning is the coaching staff is still trying to size up which players are ready and what are they ready to do. Once you determine those answers then you can plan out what you are going to do. Before diving into Saturday, the Cowboys had to go through their first day of two-a-days with a morning workout in full pads.

"I'm pleased with the progress we're making," offensive line coach Bob Connelly said after the morning workout. "It was good to see, with me being new and the offensive line being young, when we started day one, I feel like we started day 16 from spring practice, which was good. We had a lot of retention.

"The guys are working extremely hard, and I think they're starting to come together as a unit. I thought today was a good day. It was obviously a little short, but today's the first day of two-a-days, so we've got two practices today. I thought our mindset was good coming for our first two-a-days practice."

With Connelly commenting on practice, which finished with a shorter session early in the evening in helmets and shorts, we might as well start our evaluation heading into the first scrimmage of fall camp with the offensive line.

The starters from the spring still seem to be in place with Zach Crabtree at right tackle, Zac Veatch at right guard, Paul Lewis at center, Chris Grisbhy at left guard, and senior leader Daniel Koenig at left tackle.

The biggest chore is deciding the rest of the depth chart for Connelly. He has a competitive situation at tackle with returning starter Brandon Garrett ready and working to earn time at right tackle. There are several young players wanting to challenge at guard. Michael Wilson seems to be improving, and it would be great to find a solid second center.

"You know, I think that we're a very good run team right now," Connelly said. "We've got to continue to grow and develop, and we're young, as we stated. We're going to continue to get better each and every day. Obviously, that's a goal of mine for them and a goal of coach Gundy for the football team.

"As long as we take baby steps and show improvement each day, we're doing that. As we develop mentally and understand the scheme structures both offensively and defensively, I think we'll continue to progress.

"Right now, there's still a little too much thinking going on. As they learn and the concept gets better, we're going to be able to increase our level of play because less thinking allows us to play faster. I really do expect, each and every day, to see progression as we move forward toward our first game."

Connelly said he thinks the offense is a better run team at this stage, and that is not a bad thing as that plays along with having backs like Desmond Roland, speedster Tyreek Hill, and Rennie Childs. Hill is fun to watch and has to be fun to block for because he doesn't need much. Gundy thinks he may be better now than in the spring.

"Well, he's still fast, and he seems to be more durable," Gundy said and he said in a teleconference this week that Hill is fun to draw plays up for because he is so fast. "You're always concerned when you have a really talented track athlete who plays football, but he has made strides. His attitude is really good, and that's important at that position. He's considerably better now than he was in the middle of the spring."

Hill is so good that you likely don't need to see him too much in a preseason scrimmage and the same likely goes for Roland too. Childs and the other backs should see solid time in the scrimmage.

The receivers are playing really well ranging from experienced holdovers like Jhajuan Seales, David Glidden, and to a degree Brandon Sheperd. That is the trio that Jason Ray complimented on Thursday. James Washington is a freshman that has wowed everybody including the head coach.

The Cowboys are deep at receiver but the importance in the scrimmage is for the quarterbacks to continue to progress in the passing game and for the receivers to show where they belong in the rotation during games and what they do best to help the offense move the chains and get into the end zone. The receiver group is one of the most talented and one of the deepest on the team.

Head coach Mike Gundy said the quarterbacks reps are being divided 50 percent to J.W. Walsh and 25 percent each to Daxx Garman and Mason Rudolph. Until that changes that is a sure sign that Walsh is the starter and the competition is for second. I would doubt that Gundy pulls the protective green jerseys for Saturday's scrimmage, but he likely will at some point. Saturday is to see execution and how efficient each can be.

Along with the wide receivers, defensive line is another very solid position group with talent and lots of depth. The biggest issues would be the young backup defensive tackles in Vincent Taylor and Ben Hughes continuing to improve and deciding the rotation at defensive end with at least five really talented ends ready to go.

Linebacker is another story with Ryan Simmons solid in the middle and a decent battle going between Demarcus Sherod and Seth Jacobs at weak side linebacker. Earlier in the week defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer was happy with what he was seeing out of Jacobs.

"He put on a lot of weight, and he's going to be a much more physical player," Spencer elaborated. "He has made some great strides in the offseason, and he's really playing well in camp so far. Mentally, he knows what to do. He's going to play a couple of different positions for us, and I'm still going to dual-train him, as well. He's going to be playing some star, also, kind of depending on the situation."

The star for now is Michigan "super senior" transfer Josh Furman. Furman is seemingly on a daily roller coaster as he learns the hybrid position in the defense.

"He's had his highs and his lows," Spencer said. "It's a different position for him. He's got some abilities against the passing game, just as an athlete. You've got to bring him along in some run fits with his aggressiveness in the run game. It's more of him not having done it and not having been involved in that role before, so there's got to be sense of urgency with continuing to bring him along."

In the secondary, young safeties Tre Flowers, Jordan Sterns and Deric Robertson are competing and playing alongside fifth-year veteran Larry Stephens. That is a challenge, but the corner positions are more solid with Kevin Peterson back and poised to be the best cover corner in the Big 12. He has a classmate in Ashton Lampkin who wants to earn the same moniker.

“He’s got a long way to go, but we’re excited to have him, because just like Kevin, he’s a guy who has an incredible amount of intensity, who is always working; always to determined to (say). ‘You’re not going to beat me two times,’" cornerbacks coach Van Malone recounted.

"We’re excited about having him in there. They’re actually the same in many ways, but then again they’re different. The fact that Ashton is getting an opportunity, it’s much deserved because he had a great spring, had a great offseason, had a great summer, so we just want him as well to continue to get better."

If special teams are a part of the scrimmage, I would guess you will see PAT/field goal and punt. The punting and punt returns have been the special teams work featured during the week.

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