Spring Practice: Fast And Furious For Pokes

STILLWATER - It was fast and furious inside the Sherman Smith Center on Monday as Oklahoma State continued a spring football trend that has to be popular with players. The work was rapid with the head coach deciding the hay was in the barn and practice concluded in roughly an hour and a half with the team period that focused on red zone offense and defense concluding at 4:30 p.m.

"It was good. We’re getting to the end of spring ball here with a couple left before the spring game and so you’re always trying to see if you’re maximizing every rep you’ve got and making sure you get all the stuff on tape that you want to get on tape for training," new running backs coach Marcus Arroyo said after the practice.

"I’ve been happy with it. It’s been a good ascension of camp. It’s not anywhere we need to be yet, but they’ve done a good job. Obviously our room is new and I’m new, so it’s exciting. It’s an exciting time for me just getting the chance to get these guys to develop in spring and they’re doing a good job."

Make no mistake in that defense has had a heavy hand in this spring. The speed and the experience on the defensive side of the ball is, as we've reported in nearly every practice report, making the offense a lot better by challenging that side of the ball.

As for Monday's practice, running back Rennie Childs continued to play well and was running tough in both the inside drill and in the team period. Childs has stayed healthy and shown both head coach Mike Gundy and Arroyo that he can be counted on to carry the load.

Gundy wants backs that are capable of 20 to 25 carries a game and getting better throughout the game with each carry. A quarterback that handed the ball to the likes of Pro Football Hall of Famers Thurman Thomas and Barry Sanders, Gundy has coached a number of good ones and his expectations are very high.

"We challenged Rennie (Childs) to start the spring and up until this point he's met that challenge," Gundy said of his junior runner that has missed time each season with various injuries. "What we needed him to do was that he needs to be physical, needs to get hit, needs to get up and when he is fatigued he needs to do it again.

"Good running backs can carry the ball 20 times in this league and they are stronger in the fourth quarter than they are in the first, but it takes a lot to do that. The good ones we've had here – Kendall Hunter, Joseph Randle and Keith Toston – those guys were all strong backs and they could take some punishment.

"Rennie has done better this spring and I'm excited about watching him in fall camp and seeing how he handles himself in the upcoming season and if he could take the practice and put it into the game because he hasn't done that to this point, but his attitude has been good."

Arroyo knows that Childs is one answer at running back but the offense will require several, at least. The Oklahoma State way in recent seasons was to have several running backs and operate on a committee basis.

"We’re not going to be a one-back committee. That’s not our plan," Arroyo confirmed. "Obviously, you’d like guys to show up. We’ve got two guys coming into camp that we’re really excited about. I’ve got a few guys here that we’re exciting about to see them develop when we get into fall camp, and I think competition will bring out the best in all those guys.

"Each guy, I think, has developed a little bit more every day. Obviously there’s the small little things that we need to get better at before that first game, and I think that’s what we’re going to work on each practice we’ve got left.I’m excited about Wednesday, first of all, and then Saturday’s game and then a chance to get those new guys into camp and continue to see if the cream will rise."

The second back would be Todd Mays, who showed up well early but is a little nicked up now and not fully practicing. Gundy talked about Mays, a multi-talented player that due to need ended up being totally used at running back this spring.

"Todd's first four or five practices he looked lost and his last four or five practices he was a lot better because he was adjusting to the speed of what we do, being a full-time running back for the most part," Gundy said.

"He has a sprained knee so he's out right now and it really hurt me for him because his last three of four practices he got a lot better. He learned to take care of the ball and learned to be in a mobile offense, learned to get hit, learned to get up and the one thing that Todd Mays has done is his attitude has been tremendous. He's said, ‘Yes sir,’ he's hustled from drill-to-drill and he's done a good job in the classroom. He started out slow. We tracked him and he's recovered in those areas. He's going to be fine. We may get him back out here sometime next week it just depends, but he's done a good job adjusting to being a player at this level."

Now playing right along with the running backs are the Cowboy backs, yes, a new term that Gundy threw at the media last week. It is his term for the guys that new assistant coach Jason McEndoo is coaching. It's the group of tight ends and fullbacks.

Now, some like injured starter Jeremy Seaton play both tight end and fullback. Blake Jarwin is the same as a dual player, but others like Jordan Frazier may be more tight end. Zac Veatch is an interesting prospect to convert as a tight end to lining up some in the backfield.

At 6-3, 260 pounds that is a good load of power in the backfield. Veatch lost weight after playing guard to get there, but the spring starter Blake Jarwin has gained weight to get there and be more effective. He also did a great job of re-shaping his body this off season to get stronger and quicker. He also is sporting a six pack in the abs, impressive.

"I definitely tried to put on a couple more pounds of muscle and just push myself every day to be the best that I could," Jarwin said. "Credit to Coach (Rob) Glass, because he pushes all of us and makes us so much better. It's incredible."

Those Cowboy backs are so crucial to Childs, Mays, and the rest of the running backs including Chris Carson when he arrives this summer. Their success will be determined in part by how strong that group blocks on the edge as tight ends or blows up defenders in lead roles out of the backfield.

"As a tight end group as a whole I feel like altogether we've learned to play each position at a decent speed and pace," Jarwin added and that should bode well for the backs that will be dependent on their performance this fall.

The Cowboys have one more practice on Wednesday and then it will be time to show off a little in front of the fans on Saturday in the Orange Blitz Spring Game.

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