Practice Report: Frosh Daniels Impresses

STILLWATER – It is hard to believe but it feels like fall camp for the 2015 Oklahoma State Cowboys is flying by. In a way it is as following the upcoming weekend there will be just one week to go before two days off in a row Aug. 16-17 for the first day of classes. In the meantime, head coach Mike Gundy has used the heat from the last two days to turn up the heat for his team.

As I walked out of practice with about 45 minutes to go Friday morning I saw safeties coach Dan Hammerschmidt drenched with his dri-fit shirt anything but dry and defensive tackle Motekiai Maile looked like he had stood under a shower nozzle.

As for the practice it was solid with plenty of work on special teams and an emphasis on punt block and punt return. The offense seemed to be focused on the short passing game and the defense on suitable coverages and fronts to defend the run and short passing game with plenty of work on technique especially with the defensive line.

I spent a lot of time watching defensive line coach Joe Bob Clements working with his group from the slde to inside work and pass rush.

"You know, I think our second day in pads went pretty well. The enthusiasm is still there, and the guys are still working hard," Clements said after practice. "They’ve started to get bogged down with the attention because we’re putting in a little bit more every day. We’re starting to challenge them a little more mentally. As a whole, I think we’re doing pretty well for where we’re at right now."

Clements has a major chore in August and that is to work with the six scholarship defensive tackles that include spring sensation Vincent Taylor, the aforementioned junior college transfer Maile, lightly experienced veterans Eric Davis and Ben Hughes, and freshmen Darrion Daniels and Taaj Bakari. He's hoping to build a solid rotation built without having expected starter Vili Leveni, who went down with the Achillies injury this summer.

"It’s probably not where we want it to be," Clements said of the depth at defensive tackle at this stage, and honestly it would be hard to expect it to be. "I’ve got some experienced guys, but they’re backed up by a lot of youth. That always makes you a little uncomfortable.

"As long as we keep working and keep improving, we’ll be able to put a product out on the field. Losing [Vili] Levini obviously hurts the depth a little bit, but the next guy has to step up. The games are still scheduled. They’re not going to change, and we’re not going to push them back.

"We’ve got to be ready to go. That’s throughout the entirety of training camp. I tell my guys all the time, if they can get a little better at each practice and a little better at each meeting, we’ll be where we need to be when the season starts."

During team period, Daniels got some second team snaps and it was Daniels that Clements identified as a guy that is pushing hard in the first four days of camp.

"I wouldn’t say surprised. I’m pleased with their effort, and I’m pleased with what they’re doing," Clements said of the group as a whole. "I’m pleased with what Darrion Daniels has done so far as a true freshman. He plays with a higher level of maturity than you’d expect from a true freshman. I’m not surprised, but I think they’re doing well."

Of course, Clements also has a defensive end that every defensive line coach in the country would love to have in their group in Emmanuel Ogbah, last season's Big 12 Defensive LIneman of the Year.

"I think so. Ogbah’s a professional at this sport," Clements said of a player that truly could be a professional in the NFL by this time next year. "Ever since I’ve been here and with every phase we’ve gone into, he’s been better than the last phase. When we get into spring ball, he’s better than he was in the fall. When we get into the fall, he’s better than he was in the spring. So, I would say he’s playing at a higher level than he was last season."

Other than defensive tackle the answers don't all seem to be there but at running back, punter, punt returner, and on the offensive line answers sure seem like they will be there.

The answer at quarterback is Mason Rudolph as the starter with lots of experience and lots of athletic ability coming from backup J.W. Walsh. In team period both have success in moving the football. You can see the offense has confidence in both and you can see both get along.

Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Mike Yurcich expects excellence from both.

"Day one was rusty, no question" Yurcich said as the first week blends into the first weekend of camp and full pads go on for the first time on Saturday morning. "There was some mental mistakes and some coverage recognition issues, but today was much better. It’s going to be a process, but we’re going to gradually get better every practice. That’s why we have practice."

Walsh told me he really likes Rudolph's mental makeup and that is what he always stresses when he is advising his younger protege.

"The one thing I told him when he was getting his first start at Baylor, I wasn't traveling but I told him the day before sitting at his locker that 'remember, it's the same game you've played your whole life. Just go play ball,'" Walsh recounted. "Since then I mainly tell him just be concerned with what you can control and don't worry about those things you can't."

A former Cowboys quarterback that knows all about being thrust into tough situations on the fly and all about dealing with the mental aspects and ups and downs of playing quarterback sees a lot of good things in Rudolph. Clint Chelf understands why Gundy has named him the starter and did it as early as before spring football started in March.

"One thing Mason does really well is he is very accurate on his deep throws," Chelf said. "I think we saw that with Brandon Sheperd and then we saw it in the bowl game with James Washington and that is something we will get used to seeing throughout the year.

"Another thing that also makes a quarterback special is pocket presence and the ability to move around in the pocket and that is something that Mason does better than most people give him credit for. Daxx (Garman) was more stationary and Mason can move around and extend the play and that will help him against different fronts and blitzes he is going to see. That will help his development as a quarterback."

Pressed on what makes Rudolph that good pocket mover and allows him to keep pass plays going that might break down with other quarterbacks, Chelf stays with the compliments.

"It is a combination of footwork in the pocket and when I was playing Coach (Dana) Holgorsen had us watching other quarterbacks. We watched players like Drew Brees and Tom Brady that weren't necessarily all that athletic but could move around in the pocket. You need to have that mindset that 3-4 seconds have passed and you need to move around because that defensive pass rush is closing in," Chelf added.

Four practices in and the Extreme Campers that are now in town and others at practice were buzzing about a pass reception and run late in practice on Friday by freshman running back Jeff Carr. You always love when the young pups make a big play. The plays on Saturday will come in full pads as the acclimatization period ends and the progression is toward the first day of two-a-days on Monday.


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