Practice Report: Cowboys Get Physical

STILLWATER – Practice number six is in the books this morning. The players came out and immediately after stretch a majority of them were sent back across the street to the locker room by head coach Mike Gundy to add thigh pads in the girdle underneath their shorts to the days' dress.

The practice was scheduled to be conducted in helmets, shoulder pads, and shorts after Saturday's first day in pads finish to the NCAA acclimatization requirements that have teams gradually working toward full contact. It was obvious that Gundy expected enough physicality that he wanted the thighs protected.

In this practice report that essentially wraps up the first week we will cover Sunday's practice but also hit several topics that I have noted on the Cowboy Corner board.

You can consider a week into the books and camp will conclude next Saturday as classes start at Oklahoma State on Monday, August 17.

Gundy knew what he was doing in having the players, especially the offensive and defensive linemen, get the thigh pads on as the two-hour, 15-minute practice was physical. Longer periods for the inside work with the offense and defensive front seven hammering in the run game and a longer pass pro drill featuring one on one work between offensive line and defensive line.

Fans generally dismiss it as a reporter (in this case me) not wanting to give specifics but in most of the drills there is give and take and that is because the more intense motivation flips from one player and one side of the ball to the other based on who won the last rep and who is getting chewed on by their coach. Now Emmanuel Ogbah, Jimmy Bean, and recently Vincent Taylor are exceptions as they win a lot of the time.

In fact, one thing I noticed today during the first team period, which included lots of ones vs. ones, twos vs. twos, and threes vs. threes, was that Ogbah works as hard as humanly possible. He comes off the field sometimes looking like he might pass out only to be revived quickly by a student trainer with an ice towel and water bottle.

Ogbah, obviously, could coast and be okay, but he works as hard as any player out there. It's almost like he is proving himself all over again.

"When you have young guys in there like we do and they are watching you then you know you are setting an example," Ogbah said. "I had guys that set the right example for me. I look at it as they need to see me working as hard as I can, so that we depend on them and that someday they will be the guys looked at and they will set the example."

The defense dominated the first team period as cornerback Chris Hardeman forced a fumble downfield that the defense recovered. The defense also got a critical stop on a drive with a third- and fourth-down stop.

The biggest play by the defense was a pass over the middle by Mason Rudolph that safety Tre Flower picked off and took it back for what likely could have been a pick six. The defense is focused on causing turnovers with the #WTIB (we're taking it back) campaign from defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer. It is also a situation where with the solid two-deep of cornerbacks with starting experience the safeties don't get as much credit.

"I think definitely (we have a chip on the shoulder) because Tre (Flowers) and Jerel (Morrow) both have a chip on their shoulder and want to make plays. I'm ready to make plays," All-Big 12 free safety candidate Jordan Sterns said. "If you bring us together with those corners then this secondary could be something special."

Back to the offensive and defensive lines, those two groups really got after it and you have to at this time of the year because you have to sharpen both sides and make those two areas of the football team as good as they can be.

"It's a battle and last year it wasn't so much," right tackle Zach Crabtree said of the daily skirmishes with the defensive line. "With the maturity of our offensive line we put up good fights and there is a lot intensity and competitiveness going on with the offensive and defensive line. We won't see anybody as good as Ogbah and Jimmy Bean."

"They are definitely good and Victor (Salako) and Zach are big guys," Ogbah said. "The kind of guys I will go against in the Big 12. Victor helps me improve my game and I like to think that I help him improve his game."

The effort in the practice seemed really strong. I would think that has to be an aspect to this team that is really encouraging to the coaching staff. That is seen at running back too where there is strong competition going on. I bring that up because I read a post on the Cowboy Corner board from a fan that said some quote in a media day interview from Ogbah might be as close as it gets to finding out who will get the bulk of the carries in the opening game. I can answer that question right now. Barring injuries it will either be Rennie Childs or Chris Carson, but if both are healthy and you want both healthy, one will get 20 to 25 carries and the other likely gets 15 to 20 carries. Both will play and carry the rock.

"Chris Carson has showed up and he has been doing amazing and the two of us competing for that number one spot is making each of us better and making this team better," Childs said. "I think you should project me as the starter. I'm being honest and I'm going to take up for myself, but as a team we will both have to play."

The two-back philosophy is a staple of Gundy coaching and Gundy teams.

Finally, two more thoughts heading into the second and final week of camp. One is whether Gundy is happy with how the weather and extreme heat is testing his team because even with some slightly cooler temperatures expected this week there are three two-a-day practice days scheduled this week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

In Sunday's practice the first hour and 15 minutes was primarily outside and the final hour or some was mostly inside the Sherman Smith Center.

"They're holding up really well. We have an advantage with our facility," Gundy said. "We have them outside and really push them to the limit, then we'll bring them inside to finish practice. Myself and Coach (Rob) Glass, Kevin (Blaske), the medical staff, Bill Clay, Darrell Wyatt and some guys that are watching practice are trying to keep an eye on the players and get a good feel for where they're at.

"We've got the GPS system now where we're tracking them so we can get a feel for where their bodies are. We're going to have enough heat to push them to the limit. We had some two-a-days or some preseason practices before where it was a little cooler than we wanted because we weren't sure we could push them, but this is allowing us to push them and then bring them back inside and revitalize them with fluids.

"I'm really happy where we are. We've got two more days of this and then it's going to drop down into the low 90s, which will fine because it's a little cooler, we can leave them outside longer. We now have that flexibility with our indoor facility."

Also, in the fun topic of the day, I asked both quarterbacks expected to play in starter Mason Rudolph and senior second quarterback J.W. Walsh if they had thought about some imagination in drawing up any plays where they might both be on the field at the same time.

"We've got some dangerous guys on our football team this season and we can do a lot of things," Walsh said with a sly smile on his face. "If you want me to draw up some plays, well, I can get pretty creative."

"Trick plays are always fun to do," Rudolph said. "Especially with two guys like J.W. and I. I don't know if that is going to happen or not, but we'll see. I could imagine a lot and it would be really cool and really fun."

Practice continues on Monday with the first day of two-a-days and a morning practice at 8:30 a.m.


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