Simmons Is An Example Of A Tutor

STILLWATER - The Oklahoma State Cowboys got practice underway early on Friday with a 3 p.m. start and the Cowboys went through a near two hour practice with a date set on Saturday morning for a mock game inside Boone Pickens Stadium.

The Friday practice in the heat was a full pad get-after-it session, while the mock game is a glorified walk thru that will feature game uniforms, coach's headsets, and a script that contains all kinds of crazy possibilities that could come up during the opening game or any game this season.

That mock game could come in handy, as could the walk thru inside AT&T Stadium next Friday, as the Cowboys have a number of young players. The head coach counted eight that will play in the season opener against the top-ranked Florida State Seminoles. You don't want your players gawking at the stadium because ti will be enough that they may be gawking at the opposition.

"You know, it’s kind of double-edged there," Gundy said of dealing with so many young players in the two deep and going in and out in practice. "You have times you get a little frustrated because there’s so many young players out there, but then also it’s very enjoyable to watch them progress and develop.

"It’s a different year for us. We have a lot of players that are inexperienced and they’re learning on the run, so we bring them along just like we did the last group."

Part of one of those groups is linebacker Ryan Simmons. The stout and athletic middle linebacker came to Oklahoma State fresh from a state championship at Cibolo Steele, oddly enough over current Cowboys quarterback J.W. Walsh and his father with their team from Denton Guyer.

Simmons came in and played some behind Caleb Lavey at middle linebacker and then eventually moved to weak side linebacker to improve the overall personnel situation at linebacker. Last year was his last with Lavey and "star' linebacker Shaun Lewis beside him.

"It''s a different situation because last year I was still trying to come into my own in the defense and guys around me knew what they were doing," Simmons said. "For me, right now, it's just trying to make the guys around me know what they are doing. Just make sure everybody is on the same page. Everybody has to know their job and have to go about it at 110 percent and hold themselves accountable."

Just like playing linebacker, leading is another task Simmons comes by naturally as his sister Meighan was a leader and a point guard the last four years for the Tennessee Lady Vols. At least two freshmen will play at linebacker in Justin Phillips on the weak side and likely Gyasi Akem at the star and maybe Kirk Tucker. They will need a steadying influence.

"This is what I love to do and I've been in this position since the eighth grade," Simmons added. "I just love being to have that control level and make sure everybody knows the calls and just how to go about things. I'm definitely in the position that I want to be in."

Defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer, who also coaches the linebackers, hasn't had anything to say but all good for Simmons.

"Ryan hasn't disappointed me one day throughout camp," Spencer said. "His preparation for the game, his preparation for camp and his preparation for practice, they're all what you want to see in a leader. We've even tested him a few days out there, but he's consistently been a guy who gets the job done. He has earned that distinction with the rest of the team."

However, while he sees himself as a coach on the field, Simmons, who has played in 29 games in his three previous seasons and has a team-leading 93 career tackles and 15 tackles for loss, feels he can observe on the field and help players make the kind of plays that can make a difference.

"The speed is very different for them and when they are first going through it and it is moving as fast as it is, it really is an eye opening experience for them," Simmons added while discussing his interaction on the field. "For awhile it's something they really can adjust to."

Simmons and Spencer were asked if it was hard to avoid making mistakes on the field when you are also wrapped up in trying to coach up other linebackers from making mistakes. Simmons said he tries to help but has to handle his assignment first. That was were Spencer drew the line a little bit.

"Ryan is not a coach," Spencer said. "He makes mistakes too, but the difference is when he makes a mistake he usually realizes it before I can even say anything to him. I don't have to continue to hammer him and what he needs to do to correct the mistake like I do the younger players.

"Then when I'm running guys after practice because we had too many busts he can tell the players, 'Coach Spencer isn't doing this because he doesn't like you. He's doing it to make you a better player.'"

Simmons may have the heat on him but another defender in defensive tackle James Castleman sees the entire situation and pitches in. He needs to as the two backup defensive tackles are redshirt freshmen Vincent Taylor and Ben Hughes. Not true freshmen, but still dealing with first times in a college game.

"I try to help with the pressure," Castleman said. "I know what it’s like, with them being so young, to get thrown in the mix. I just try to push them along and help them out. I try to lead by example and do my things right."

The best news out of Friday's full-padded and physical practice was no injuries. That is always good news. The mock game has been moved up to 9 a.m. in Boone Pickens Stadium and for accuracy, I've been told the coaches have already tried out their game day wear and will be in coach's practice attire. The team will try their game uniforms. Oklahoma State is the home team for the game on Aug. 30.

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