Spring Football: Cowboys Get Physical

If Tuesday was a warm-up practice with full pads then Wednesday was the full blown impact of having full pads. There seemed to be more contact and it was a physical practice that had the defense showing up fairly strong, which head coach Mike Gundy explained afterwards is good for the offense as they have a challenge awaiting them every day going against the experience and speed of the defense.

"We had a good practiced today and we're excited about our players," Gundy said following the over two-hour practice held inside the Sherman Smith Training Center while the wind roared outside the indoor facility. "They are playing with a lot of speed and a lot of effort.

"We have a really good group of young men and I'm really excited about our coaches. Spring football gives us a chance to play some old-fashioned football because we aren't getting ready for a game. We're a good group of guys and our players are giving great effort. I told them after practice I like standing back and watching and just blowing the whistle."

Gundy complimented the entire team and mentioned newcomers like offensive tackle Victor Salako, defensive tackle Motekiai Maile, and new "star" linebacker Jordan Burton.

Now as far as the offensive line, Gundy was asked point blank if he feels that they will have a solid eight-to-nine players coming out of spring ready to play offensive line in a game.

"By the end of spring ball we're going to have eight guys that we're comfortable with putting in a game," Gundy answered.

One of those he is comfortable with is sophomore offensive tackle Zach Crabtree, who started eight games at right tackle as a redshirt freshman and would have started more if not for an ankle injury suffered against Iowa State.

You may have heard about or seen the pictures of Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph and former quarterback Daxx Garman on spring break with OU quarterbacks Baker Mayfield, Cody Thomas, and Trevor Knight. Come to find out that was not a chance meeting but a bunch of players from both schools shared a spring break house in Florida and it was all started by high school teammates Knight and OSU wide receiver Austin Hays.

While the skill players took pictures, come to find out those same skill players kept urging the linemen to do some beach wrestling and at least two did. One was Crabtree and while he was modest about it. He was a big winner.

"We're boys and we were all in the same house for spring break and it was the skill guys that were mouthing off and they were all saying we have to have a wrestling match to see who is going to win. It kind of escalated from that. It's all in good fun and we're good," Crabtree said of the unidentified OU lineman that he body slammed on the sand.

I had seen Crabtree a few weeks before at the Oklahoma State HIgh School Wrestling Championships supporting a girlfriend's brother. I asked him if he picked up anything at the event.

"Just that leverage is everything," Crabtree said with a grin.

Winning in the sand and looking good on the beach with the guys is cool but having this offensive line really continue to blossom and develop as they did late last season is a lot more critical.

"If you look at what we were last year at this point to what we are now, it is unbelievable the progress we have made," Crabtree said enthusiastically. "Last year we barely could do a drop back without the quarterback having to scramble for his life. He was catching the snap and getting his feet hot and running, but now we're giving him time and they're getting a chance to make the plays.

"That is due in part to us in the offseason with Coach (Rob) Glass and learning a lot. On top of that it is Coach (Greg) Adkins working on a lot of new things."

Adkins is the new Cowboys offensive line coach straight out of the NFL from the Buffalo Bills and bringing to the table over 25 years of college experience including stops at Georgia and Tennessee. Crabtree said he came in with instant credibility and it has only grown with his new players.

"Not just the Buffalo Bills, but before that if you look at his track record, he was a good guy and knew what he was doing," Crabtree said. "At the same time, when you get in the film room with him and you listen to him talk about a player or break something down, he knows his stuff and knows it really well. It's great to have the opportunity to get to work with a guy like that. It's an honor and you have to be thankful for those opportunities and you make the most of it."

Work is the key word there as there is very little idle time around the offensive line these days as they really get after it in practices.

The Cowboys have Thursday off and then practice six of the spring will be Friday afternoon.

There were a few guests at practice on Wednesday too. Watching were Buehler, Kansas quarterback/safety Jace Williams, along with his parents. Williams (6-4, 205) led his school to a Class 4A state championship as a sophomore quarterback throwing for 1,163 yards with 16 touchdowns and just 8 interceptions. He ran for 383 yards on 84 carries and scored five rushing touchdowns. Last season in a battle of 5-0 unbeaten teams he out-performed Kansas State signee Alex Delton as Buehler won. Williams had 321 rushing yards and 168 passing yards in the contest.

There were two members of the Class of 2017 at the OSU practice with sophomore guard Creed Humphrey (6-4, 301) and sophomore quarterback/safety Jack Diamond (6-0, 170) from Shawnee, Oklahoma.

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