Cowboys Working On Offensive Line Depth

STILLWATER - Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy called up the squad at the end of practice. About as soon as the defensive players and coaches had made it over and Gundy started his post-practice address the doors opened wider on the south end of the Sherman Smith Training Center and the OSU Marching Band drum line came marching in playing loudly to wish the head coach a happy 47th birthday.

Band director Wayne Bovenschen was standing nearby with a huge grin on his face. That grin became wider when the band broke into a rendition of "Happy Birthday," and then Gundy gave the band members props.

"That is very much appreciated, I really appreciate you guys coming out here," Gundy said after the performance and then he took a picture with the drum line. "I know you put a lot of time and effort in and we really appreciate what you do."

The Cowboys put plenty of effort into the two-hour practice that was fast paced and up tempo. There were two team periods with the good-on-good period with the ones and the twos earlier in the practice and then the later team period with the top units versus scouts. Gundy felt it was a good practice coming off Monday's two-a-day practices.

"We had a good practice and it started out a little slow and I had to chew on them a little bit and they did very well from that point on," Gundy said when asked if the practice was deserving of the crescendo it received from the drum line performance.

"They are so eager and it is enjoyable to be around them. They are very eager to learn and I see the look in the young guys eyes and they are already considerably better than they were when they showed up here. So in a very, very short time they have improved.

As coaches, we certainly want to win all the games we play. Coaching is about being around young people that want to improve and be a part of a team. That is what is enjoyable for me and the staff as coaches and this team seems to be heading in that direction."

In these practice reports we have talked about positions groups and units and how they have progressed. We've hit on the strong groups like defensive line on Monday and receivers, both wide and inside, on several occasions.

Two areas of concern that we really haven't hit on much are offensive line and linebackers. Special teams is another area that is critical in showing improvement and we've seen that, at least in the special teams period in practice and in the scrimmage last Saturday.

Just before camp started we talked with offensive line coach Bob Connelly. Connelly got some good news on Monday in the form of the verbal commitment from offensive tackle prospect Josh Jones of Richmond (George Bush), Texas, and he still seemed to be in a good mood today.

Before camp Connelly said he thought his line to start the fall would be redshirt freshman Zach Crabtree at right tackle, Zac Veatch at right guard, Paul Lewis at center, Chris Grisbhy at left guard, and two-year starter Daniel Koenig at left tackle.

Connelly hasn't seen any change to this point.

"Today, if we had a game tomorrow I could tell you that," Connelly said after practice. "Honestly, I don't ever want these guys to think they are not replaceable. Obviously, we know competition makes us all better and we have to work every day to make us all better.

"Right now, I think we've done that. We had one day where we got a little loggy this fall camp and this is practice 13 today, so I'm very pleased and the maturity is coming on and we are getting better."

Veatch is one of those starters, and his experience is one-year as a back-up and duty in games as a blocking tight end. Veatch would slide on another jersey on the sidelines and go out with a number in the 80s and do his duty blocking on the edge.

Now as a real offensive linemen, he has the motivation to show that this line, one that is made up of a freshmen and one that has a total of 32 starts and 22 of those belong to Koenig, has something to prove.

"I guess we could think of it that way, but we personally think that it doesn't matter what other people think or who the next opponent is," Veatch said. "We're going to go out to practice every day, get better and be the best that we can be for the game and whoever lines up across from us. To me, it doesn't matter who thinks what."

Connelly has a lot to think about, and he does it a lot. Offensive line coaches generally have two types of depth charts. When they are granted the riches of having plenty of talented, capable, and experienced linemen then they will have a two-deep. However, often having a third tackle, a third guard, and a back-up center constitutes their depth chart.

"From lack of maturity, lack of returners we are very, very, young and very inexperienced, so we obviously have to practice with two units across the board but I'm looking for, as you said, the next best guy to put in there at the guard and center positions and the next best guy at a tackle," Connelly confirmed.

"I feel very good about that. I think I have a third player at the guard and we have a third player at the tackle and we will continue to work to get a second-team center and a third-team center in case something happens to Lewis."

Yes, Lewis. We have featured the starting center several times this camp because he is that important.

"He's responsible for the offensive line," Connelly said with urgency in his voice. "The quarterback behind us doesn't necessarily affect who we are or what he has to do. Obviously, schemes might change a little bit with the ability of whichever quarterback is behind us, but we have an offense in place. We're going to do what we do. We might do a little more of one thing with certain guys in and a little more of something else with other guys in, but we're going to do what we do. We're going to be who we are."

Connelly is a hard critic and he needs to be and has to be. If you ever truly want to know how the offensive line or the defensive line is doing then it is simple. Ask the opposite side and they will tell you straight, at least you hope they tell you straight.

"They're coming along great. They're strong, smart and can move their feet," defensive tackle James Castleman said. "(Zac) Veatch is strong. He's a dog. He's not scared to go against anybody. (Daniel) Koenig has been here for a while, so he knows the game.

"Paul Lewis is doing his thing. He knows the plays. He knows how to get on people, so he's doing well. (Chris) Grisbhy's hands have gotten ridiculously better. Once he grabs you, it's going to be hard to get away. I'm there all day trying to get away from him.

"Everybody's getting better. We've got a redshirt freshman, (Zachary) Crabtree, who has came along so far from last year. I feel like this year he's gotten so much better and this year he is going to get even better."

That sounds good. It needs to because a pretty good defensive front awaits with Florida State. The work continues Wednesday morning as Wednesday is the second two-a-day practice day of the week.

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