Cowboys Football: Five Areas That Need Work

Oklahoma State was back on the practice field Tuesday with a two-hour, 15-minute practice in full pads at the Sherman Smith Training Center and adjacent practice fields. The Cowboys have two more extra practices this week on Wednesday and Thursday before they slide back into their regular routine of a game week.

Friday becomes Sunday with a lighter practice, and then Saturday is a day off for the Cowboys just like any Monday would be. Sunday and Monday become the heavy work days of Tuesday and Wednesday. Tuesday becomes a Thursday run thru practice and Wednesday is a Friday day before the game walk through.

The Cowboys kick off with Texas Tech on Thursday, Sept. 25 for the Big 12 Conference opener at 6:30 p.m.

In this next three days of practice the Cowboys will get a jump on preparation for the Red Raiders (2-1) but they can also work on needed fundamentals and improvements in their own game. Here is our guess on what will get the most attention.

1. Run Game Basics
With the change in quarterbacks from J.W. Walsh to Daxx Garman, the Cowboys will obviously tweak their run game. The Oklahoma State playbook has a lot of chapters with contributions from Larry Fedora, head coach Mike Gundy, Dana Holgorsen, former offensive line coach Joe Wickline, Todd Monken, and current offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich. There is everything in there from the play-action chapter written by Gundy to the diamond and half-diamond runs originated by Holgorsen and Wickline to the NFL zone material from Monken. The best run plays change some from Walsh to Garman, and potentially Mason Rudolph. Responsibilities and fundamentals change from the backs to the offensive line to the perimeter skill players. Those plays and schemes get extra work over the next several days. Gundy teams are always going to have success running the football or work harder until they do. You saw the draw make a major reappearance in the UTSA game for example.

2. Passing Game Execution
The Oklahoman's Kyle Fredrickson did a nice job of breaking down and detailing Garman's first start and full game at quarterback in college. The numbers may have surprised some fans who came away thinking that Garman was simply a reincarnation of former Oakland Raiders quarterback Daryle Lamonica known as the "mad bomber." Yes, the Lamonica reference dates me. Just Google it. Actually, the breakdown showed that Garman threw quite a few intermediate passes. The entire passing tree will get practice and, again, like the running game nuances, there will be some things that change and are different favoring Garman's skill set over that of Walsh.

3. Mason Rudolph Quality Reps
Rudolph has not played in a college game and very well may not this season unless it is absolutely mandated. I think it is safe to say that redshirting was discussed and that despite the injury to Walsh, Gundy still is thinking it is possible. It may be as Gundy holds out hope that Walsh might make it back to duty before season's end and that Garman will stay healthy. However, Rudolph has to be ready as he is the next option behind Garman. That means practice reps must be used to have him poised for duty. The next three days you can afford to get him more of those reps before going back to the game week mode on Friday and beyond.

4. Defensive Depth Reps
Three games on defense and in two of those, Florida State and UTSA, the defense did very little substituting or rotations to keep players fresh other than in the defensive line. In the middle game against Missouri State, the defense subbed a lot, early and often with true freshmen back-ups getting time at both corners, two linebacker positions, and at safety as well. Gundy is concerned about the high number of snaps some defenders are seeing and has voiced his concern and determination to do something about it to defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer. These next several days is an opportunity to rep Gyasi Aken at the star linebacker, Justin Phillips at weak side linebacker, Juwan Offray and Ramon Richards at the corners, and Dylan Harding at safety. This is a great time to rest starters and rep freshmen.

5. Special Teams Execution
How about Ben Grogan? He is now the leading field goal kicker in field goals made and is tied with two other kickers for the longest (47 yards) in the Big 12. Grogan is not the main concern, but Kip Smith has to be more consistent on the punts. The coverage units on punts and kickoffs, which are filled with young players, need to get better. More work on getting it all done right and tackling in the open field. The same goes with blocking in the open field. Avoid penalties on special teams and execute well and with Tyreek Hill on returns you have a chance to really get things going.


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