Spring Game: Fans Get More Than They Expected

The captain of the good ship lollipop that is actually Oklahoma State football, Mike Gundy, has been in the best of moods lately. So much so that he kept his promise of a real live spring game, originally saying the Cowboys would go about 50 to 60 plays, but then increasing it to 75 to 80 plays. However, about 15,000 Cowboys fans saw 96 plays from scrimmage and 15 special teams plays on Saturday.

OSU fans got more bang for the buck, but the price was better than that as Cowboy fans got the preview of a team Gundy has been boasting about for free. In fact, it is my contention that the fans got to see more than they even expected, and I'm not talking about just plays. I'm talking about players.

"We have a lot of young players who are back from last year and we have some depth," Gundy said after the game while speaking to the media in the Cowboys plush team meeting room. "I really like the attitude of our team and I'm pleased with the coaches. I'm comfortable letting them coach while I stand and watch.

"We have good leadership and I talk about that a lot, and I think sometimes fans overlook the leadership part. It's just enjoyable for me."

We all know that the leader of the youth brigade for the Cowboys is sophomore starting quarterback Mason Rudolph, the South Carolina native who is 6-4 plus and 235 pounds with movie star looks is just working on his fourth career start, which will come on Sept. 3 at Central Michigan.

Rudolph is really good as he completed 12-of-17 passing for 178 yards and a touchdown and an interception. Even the ball that was picked by Ramon Richards was well thrown. But Rudolph is just the start.

The group that protects Rudolph and veteran quarterback J.W. Walsh and blocks for the running backs including Rennie Childs, who had 11 carries for 83 yards and a touchdown, is really young.

Right tackle Zach Crabtree is a redshirt sophomore, and so is the right guard next to him in Jesse Robinson. Brad Lundblade, the projected starting center, missed today with an injury but he is a true sophomore. The other two starters, Michael Wilson at left guard and transfer Victor Salako at left tackle are juniors.

"They've done great. With the addition of coach Adkins, he's emphasized protection," Rudolph said of the blockers and sounding pretty excited about the protection emphasis. "All of the guys love him and he has a lot of knowledge. Even before he came in, the offensive line had a positive attitude and was working hard. They've added some muscle and are really stout. We're ready to go."

"As coach (Adkins) says we have to look at the film first, but we're firing on all cylinders," Crabtree added. "We've got a lot of room for improvement, but we look better at this point than we did last year. There's definitely a swagger, and we're carrying ourselves a little different."

On the defensive line everybody knew that defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer had depth throughout his defense with youngsters that had been pressed into duty last season. But one position that was senior dominated was defensive tackle. James Castleman watched from the sideline Saturday and fellow tackle Ofa Hautau were both seniors a year ago. Those two are waiting on word to where they will head to try to become NFL rookies.

Meanwhile, Spencer has been pleased with Vili Leveni at defensive tackle. Junior college transfer Motekiai Maile is progressing, but sophomore Vincent Taylor was the key and the big sophomore from San Antonio Madison came through. In the spring game he had five tackles, three tackles for loss, and caused a fumble.

"He’s the guy we really needed to come on. If I had to give a most improved from the guys that were here last year it would be Vincent Taylor," Spencer said in front of the media. Spencer said that to Cowboys Network broadcast partner Dave Hunziker and myself in a meeting on Tuesday, long before he knew Taylor would bust it out today in front of the fans.

"That was a guy that we had to have come on to get in that rotation and show that he was a better player than he was last year," Spencer continued. "He might not have to play 40 or 50 snaps, but those 20 or 30 need to be legitimate snaps and Vincent did that. I told the whole team that, and I challenged him in the spring. I told him to go win the day and he did."

Now there were so many young players on display, getting things done, that you could talk or write a long time. But two that you may not have come expecting to see, to talk about, or even walked in the stadium knowing their names unless you are that person that memorizes the roster are Keenen Brown and Darius Curry.

Brown is a 6-3, 205-pound wide receiver who has really stood out making plays this spring. Gundy said he was lost last season as a freshman and while classmates James Washington, the king of impressive catches, and Chris Lacy played, Brown learned. He learned well.

Today, he had a chance for a long ball that might have been a touchdown but it was defended well. However the catch he made on the north sideline of a 28-yard pass from J.W. Walsh was awesome. He went up in the air twisting his body and then when it looked like he had no chance to land in bounds, he found a way to stick a toe down right in front of the side judge.

"I didn't see the catch, but I'll take your word for it," Walsh said. "He has made plays and catches throughout spring. We have a lot of receivers, more than I can ever remember, that can play. He is really big, fast, athletic, and getting better every day."

Remember, Walsh said there are a lot of receivers. In addition, there are also a lot of cover guys and Gundy reminded the media that another one is on the way with Indiana super senior Michael Hunter, who will arrive this summer.

Veteran Kevin Peterson had a pick six for the first touchdown, while Ramon Richards picked Rudolph on the first series. Then there was Darius Curry, a sophomore who sometimes gets forgotten, but don't forget him. Curry is 6-1, 195 pounds and talented. He will get really physical with an opposing receiver and he had two tackles, one for a loss, added to his interception.

"We've been working hard every day," Curry said of forcing the turnovers. "We try to get at least five turnovers every day during practice. Whether it's a strip, an interception or just a fourth-down stop. It's been a huge emphasis since day one. They said, 'we're taking it back this year' and everybody had been buying in and we're just looking forward to trying to make that happen."

Curry is the younger brother of wide receiver C.J. Curry. Their father, Felix Curry, is a high school defensive coordinator that played safety in college. Darius even sounds a little like his dad and this spring he is proving to be a chip off the old block, which in other words means he is developing into a pretty good player.

He is one of many and add them all up and now that's a major reason that Gundy gave you so many plays on Saturday. It's why you can expect more "selfie days" and why you may be entering the two-year window with the most potential ever for Oklahoma State Cowboys football. Youth is being served in Stillwater and it's a multi-course gourmet pigskin feast.

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