OSU Football: A Summer To-Do List

It was an interesting site at Oklahoma State's three-day camp for high school age players Friday. There side by side with the offensive linemen was Oklahoma State offensive line coach Greg Adkins instructing and running the group, while Zach Crabtree, Victor Salako, and Junior Galea'i working one-one-one with individual campers.

Down where the quarterbacks were throwing to receivers and tight ends was Cowboy back Blake Jarwin yelling encouragement, while his brother, a junior-to-be at Tuttle, was out there in the group. Players can now by NCAA rules work summer camps with a limit on what they can be compensated. It's good work if you can get it.

The more important work for the Oklahoma State players is what they can get done with Rob Glass and the strength and conditioning staff and then what they can accomplish with each other during the evening metabolic practices that are run by the players.

College football is a very competitive game and judging by the teams that were in contention last season for the first ever College Football Playoff or judging by Oklahoma State's season that saw a close loss to eventual unbeaten ACC champion Florida State followed later by losses in five games in a row only to see a recovery that led to a bowl game and a win over a talent laden defense and the Washington Huskies the difference between winning and losing is a fine, slim line.

In other words, don't stop moving forward because standing still is as good as a cornerback's back pedal.

I've looked at this team and decided in my mind there are five aspects of situations that the Cowboys could really move forward in during the summer. That progress would lead to a smoother start to fall camp and a more successful start to the season. I haven't asked the coaches up and down the West End Zone offices but I've tested my theories enough to know that some of my ideas were in place for this summer way before I thought of them.

1. Get Chris Carson Welcomed
Coaches, teammate and observers could not quit talking about Chris Carson (pictured above) on the day he showed up to report to campus for orientation. Carson is a weight lifter and a heavy work-out fiend and that bodes well for him.

Rennie Childs has been around long enough to know how this works and he needs to be right in there with Carson. Childs had the strong spring and is in great shape and faster than he has ever been in his career. The Cowboys will need him and Carson to be successful this season.

Those two need to get to know each other, and Childs needs to help acclimate Carson. Sure, one is going to get more carries than the other but both players will be needed and they will need each other. The offense will be much better off if those two have a good summer, learn from each other and do their best to push each other in a friendly way to get better.

2. Rob Glass Magic with the Defensive Tackles
It's not just feaux compliments that Mike Gundy is throwing around when he calls associate athletic director for strength, speed, and conditioning Rob Glass the most important coach he hired and the most important member of the staff.

Glass has performed a long list of miracles during he return to Stillwater and most of those have been instrumental in helping the Cowboys achieve on the field. Glass is always the first one to tell you that the better the raw product, the better he can turn that player from a strength, speed, and conditioning standpoint into a player that can help you win a Big 12 Championship.

On defense, the Cowboys are loaded with veteran players that are big, fast, and strong. However, both defensive tackles graduated. You knew that with James Castleman and Ofa Hautua done. The newbies aren't exactly brand new with third-year sophomores Vili Leveni and Vincent Taylor ready to go.

There is also big Ben Hughes, who has been a project, junior Eric Davis, and junior college transfer Motekaii Maile all ready to get loaded in a stance and attack middle of the offense. The got all over each other in spring. Now comes the Glass finishing touches on a lot of these guys.

All of these guys in addition to freshmen Darrion Daniels and Taaj Bakari are strong. My guess is Bakari and Daniels will need to focus a little more and catch up on strength as rookies in the program but to me the key will be flexibility and quickness, such as a blazing first step off the ball. Glass has his guys using yoga and they have also been involved in the past in martial arts. I'm not sure what will be on tap this summer but Mike Gundy trusts Glass and his staff to do what it takes to make these players better as athletes and he hasn't let him or the Cowboys down.

3. Get Michael Hunter Acclimated
It's not as crucial as settling in Carson at running back but bringing in "super senior" Michael Hunter out of Indiana is important. You remember last summer when Josh Furman came in from Michigan and couldn't make it through a workout. The intensity, the workload, and the hot and humid summer in Stillwater got to Furman.

I'm going to guess that Hunter could have some problems. My guess is Indiana doesn't have a program as tough and work intense as that of Glass and company. However, the weather situation shouldn't be as difficult to acclimate to as Hunter is originally a Louisiana high school product so he is used to the heat and humidity, actually it is worse in Louisiana. Hunter will give the Cowboys a fourth cornerback that has extensive (two years) starting experience and in the Big 12 that is a beneficial luxury to have on defense.

4. Mentally Prepare
This is an every year inclusion on any team's "to do" list, but the Cowboys have more years than not handled it better than other teams and this is a veteran and very experienced Oklahoma State team.

Even some of the younger players that are instrumental such as quarterback Mason Rudolph and sophomore receivers James Washington and Chris Lacy or junior college transfer Jordan Burton have leadership qualities and act like they have been in the program longer than they have.

For this team to be at its best they need to be tough and that adds up to being willing to push and work harder, to understand the difference between being hurt and dealing with some pain, and every player doing their best to create an atmosphere where all players, all support staffers such as student managers and student trainers feel vested and the team operates as a family. I truly believe in talking to my friends that cover other schools that feeling is something that separates Oklahoma State from other football programs.

5. Continue Pass Relationships
Every quarterback is going to throw the ball a little different and the receiver corps at Oklahoma State understands that as well as any at any school. Last season J.W. Walsh threw 36 passes, then Daxx Garman threw 277 passes, and Mason Rudolph came on to throw 86 passes. In the 2013 season, Walsh threw 190 passes and Clint Chelf tossed 291. In the 2012 season the soon-to-be departed Wes Lunt opened the season as the starter and threw 131 passes, Walsh threw 163 passes, and Chelf threw 197.

What I'm I trying to prove is Oklahoma State hasn't had a single quarterback hold down the role most of the season since Brandon Weeden in the Big 12 Championship season of 2011. I've knocked on wood for quarterback health and I actually believe the bigger, stronger, and, to a degree, wiser when it comes to unloading the ball and avoiding a number of hits, Mason Rudolph will be more dependable. But I also know that J.W. Walsh with his abilities and his loyalty will be rewarded, and should be, with a major role this season.

Rudolph is the starter but Walsh is the potential difference maker. Imagine a defensive coordinator having to prepare his defense for what Oklahoma State does with Rudolph at quarterback as air raid spread meets play-action and power run with Cowboys backs making the formations that much more explosive and tough to predict.

Now in the middle of the game here comes the offense with Walsh at quarterback and he's throwing on the run and using zone read concepts to stretch your defensive ends and outside linebackers, freeze the rush, and cause indecision in the secondary. That is tough. Add to the equation a receiver corps that is comfortable with the habits, the delivery of the footballs, and can also mentally know what the quarterback is thinking and vice-versa with the quarterbacks.

The foundation and the improvement of that relationship is born on hot summer afternoons of throwing route trees and option routes. Another beautiful aspect of all this is that Walsh and Rudolph really get along and work really well together.

Finally, this team needs to have fun together, but you know they seem to be able to do that even when they are working.


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