Spring Practice: Childs Accepts The Challenge

STILLWATER - The last two weeks the practices have been short and sweet as head coach Mike Gundy admits he has seen the answers and the improvement that he wanted to see out of his Oklahoma State football team. In fact, the usually reserved Gundy told the media after Wednesday's practice that he enjoyed the spring more than he has in a long time.

"Just finished the spring. Really excited about our football team," said Gundy at the completion of an hour and a half practice that finished with a 30-minute scrimmage complete with game officials.

"I can't remember a time over the last 14 practices that there was anything that I was disturbed about. Their attitude, enthusiasm and effort and their ability to accepting coaching, absorb information, is really good. I'm as excited now about our football team for as long as I've been here."

As an observer, honestly, I can't remember a spring practice that I felt was as strong and impressive as the last 14 practices by this group. That is not to say this team is without concerns.

The depth is getting better, but it is still thin on the offensive line, and running back is a concern if they were to take on injuries to the top players there. You still need to see Chris Carson arrive from Butler Community College and see if Jeff Carr, the smallish, but talented back out of Temple, Texas can help at all.

Players can always improve, but the defense is deep, fast and experienced. The quarterbacks certainly haven't taken any backwards steps with Mason Rudolph and veteran J.W. Walsh both capable of guiding the offense to success. The receivers are better, and in addition to James Washington and Brandon Sheperd keep an eye on 6-3, 205-pound redshirt freshman Keenen Brown.

In the short scrimmage on Wednesday both quarterbacks played well. Washington caught several impressive balls from Rudolph. Walsh and Childs both ran well. Seth Jacobs was really active for the defense and linebackers Gyasi Akem and Devante Averette both recovered fumbles. More of defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer's #WTIB (we're taking it back) initiative with the fumble recoveries. Darius Curry had a good day at corner with some passes defended.

I really believe that Gundy, the Cowboys staff, and the players are excited and anxious to show the fans the state of Oklahoma State football at 1 p.m. Saturday in the Orange-White spring game in Boone Pickens Stadium.

"We are looking forward to the game on Saturday. I know that you guys have rosters that we released," Gundy said going into game details. "We split the teams as even as possible right down the middle like we did a few years ago.

"We're going to play a game. We're going to play fast and we're going to run our plays. For us, it's going to be a real game. Mason's going to get in there and play. J.W. will play and we'll have his package in. There's not anything that we are going to try and hold back.

"I'm guessing that it could be in excess of 75 plays. At one point we didn't know much to talk about that because you really never know where you are going to be at that point in the spring. We're in a situation where everyone is going to play, and I'm looking forward to watching the guys. We'll play with tempo and there will be a couple guys we protect at times, but for the most part we are going to go out and play a game."

A perfect example of what Gundy is talking about and the opinions that I've thrown out there is running back Rennie Childs. Childs was challenged coming into the spring to show that he could be the flagship running back and hold onto that spot before Carson arrived to challenge him in fall camp. Childs has done that and now we'll see what Carson brings knowing all the time that you'll need them both and more to survive the Big 12 season.

Childs has proven himself to the coaches, his teammates, and a few observers this spring. He's craving a bigger audience on Saturday.

"This spring worked out pretty well for me," Childs, who is a little more trim and a lot faster, said after the Wednesday practice/scrimmage. "I took advantage of it every single day. I worked my butt off every single day. I'm ready to showcase my skills in this spring game in front of the fans and show them what I can do. I'm ready to show them that I can take on this role as a starting back."

Childs will be teamed with Rudolph on the white offense. There are plenty of good matchups and the staff did do a good job with splitting the teams. Now if they can do something about the weather.

The forecast calls for rain on Saturday, although I've seen one forecast that calls for the moisture to be concluded by noon. That would be nice, but Gundy said rain or shine -- as long as there is no lightning -- the game will go on.

"We can't fit everybody in the indoor (facility), so we will go with it, and there's so many other things around them, you’ve got to go with it," the head coach added. "You can't change it. If there's not a threat of lightning, we'll go play, and these guys understand that. It may not be fan friendly, but there's not anything that we can do to control that.

"For the game, for the fans and for the team we're going to play a game," Gundy continued. "We hadn't been able to do that for the last couple years because we were just too young and we just didn't have the players to do it. Now we do. I'm excited to watch J.W. play. We've got all of our stuff in for him and let's run his plays and see what he can do. It should be a great day for us."

Gundy is fired up, the players are fired up, and provided the team stays healthy on Saturday, which will be goal number one, then everybody should stay fired up through the summer and right up to Thursday, Sept. 3, in Mt. Pleasant, Mich., when it comes time to kick off against Central Michigan in the season opener.

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