Practice Report: Cowboys Coming In Waves

STILLWATER – Two things happen during fall camp while covering a college football team. If you are going every day and filing stories every day then it is easy to lose track of the days. They become numbers, and it is worse for the coach and players. Now having a radio show that I have done every week day during camp except on Thursday with the scrimmage I have been able to keep up with days.

The other aspect of covering a team in camp is that unless it is a really bad team, hard up for good developments or one side of the ball (offense or defense) is considerably worse than the other, then it can become hard to get a solid gauge on how good that team is. My answer to that kind of came Friday morning in the form of a comment from one of Oklahoma State's athletic administrators and a long time observer of college football teams.

"You know when the defense comes out during a team period or like yesterday with the scrimmage it seems like they are coming with waves of players," said OSU senior associate athletic director Kevin Klintworth.

That is a great way of putting it and as we pointed out in our scrimmage report even with the 80-yard touchdown run by Chris Carson and the overall productive rushing day by Rennie Childs, the defense kind of won the day and should because they have certain advantages in the spring and in fall camp having seen about all the offense has to throw out against them. Familiarity favors the defense.

The Cowboys were back at it Friday morning for close to two hours in helmets and shoulder pads. Following corrections done yesterday in a walk through the emphasis was on the material likely to show up in Saturday morning's mini-scrimmage or extended team period as either title fits.

The practice will feature some more "lay it and play it" time that allows offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich and defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer to sharpen their play calling abilities.

As for today, the head coach liked what he saw.

"Another competitive practice, defense continues to run to the ball," Mike Gundy posted on his @CoachGundy Twitter account. "Offense is making plays. Their attitudes have been great, skill players are showing up in spots. It’s so competitive right now that it’s satisfying as a coach to be around these guys."

"I thought it went well. We competed hard, played with a lot of energy and played with emotion," echoed cornerbacks coach Tim Duffie. "We’re getting some balls out and forcing some turnovers, which is good for us."

Like most of the Cowboys practices, other than the scrimmage and the evening special teams practices, there were two team periods. The first one was balanced with both offense and defense making plays. Mason Rudolph had a nice completion over the middle to senior Kameron Doolittle. J.W. Walsh made several plays with his feet and his arm.

Afterward, again on Twitter, Gundy was liking defense and youth as redshirt freshman defensive end and one of our All-Glass Team members Jordan Brailford was mentioned along with two other young defenders and then two new freshmen. On top of that Gundy earlier complimented safety Kenneth McGruder and mentioned he could play a role this season.

"Brailford has had a really good camp. (Tre) Flowers practiced well today. (Eric) Davis (defensive tackle) has stepped up & he’s a guy we need to make plays," tweeted Gundy. "Louis Brown (freshman defensive end) made a nice play today in our team period. Kevin Henry (freshman star linebacker) is running & attacking the football. I’m pleased with where we're at."

I know fans are thirsting for more. You'd like to see what is going on and if not you'd like to know that you are getting a roundup on practice from someone that isn't sipping on orange Gatorade while wearing orange-colored glasses. I can't guarantee you all that, but I'll try really hard.

Trust me, the defense is the heavy in practice and should be. My experience and I've been doing this for a long time is that if your defense is not winning most practices at this time then you are in trouble. That means despite seeing the offense over and over that your defense cannot physically match up with the offense to take advantage of the repetitive knowledge.

This is where Klintworth's quote comes in. This may be the deepest and overall most talented depth chart defensively in some time. Gundy has already confirmed it is the best in his coaching tenure.

The younger defensive ends like Jarrell Owens, Cole Walterscheid and Brailford are coming on to back up Emmanuel Ogbah, Jimmy Bean, and Trace Clark. The defensive tackles are playing fairly well, especially Vincent Taylor as he has kept up his spring performance. We saw some of Trey Carter inside in the scrimmage on Thursday.

The linebacker depth is amazing with Devante Averette and Kris Catlin added with all the other linebackers like Ryan Simmons, Seth Jacobs, Jordan Burton, Chad Whitener, Justin Phillips, Gyasi Akem, Josh Mabin, and Kirk Tucker is more of that wave of players.

Then in the secondary, especially the corners, the depth is loaded. Even with Kevin Peterson out for another week and a half, it's loaded. That includes the latest super senior transfer in Michael Hunter, who is playing really well.

"You know, it’s been interesting," Duffie said. "Obviously, Michael is a very physical, impressive guy, but people don’t realize that he missed a spring at Indiana, so he didn’t get any reps. He’s been working hard to get back to the speed of the game. Each practice, he gets better. You can see the rust getting knocked off a little bit, and he’s going to really help us this season."

He could even start.

Before we get to offense, the special teams have looked good with Ben Grogan kicking healthy and strong and punter Zach Sinor also playing well. Everyone is curious about the return game and no promises that it will be like Justin Gilbert on kickoffs and the late Darrent Williams on punt returns, but I think it will be good and with the young freshmen in Jeff Carr and Jalen McClesky could be, at times, spectacular.

Offense will be fine. The biggest question of running back is no longer a question with me. As long as the big guns of Chris Carson and Rennie Childs stay healthy then life will be good, and the backs and offensive line are sharing the role of boosting each other's confidence and performance.

In practice, the passing game is the hardest aspect of this team to judge and that is because of the defensive strengths of pass rush and pass coverage. However, Mason Rudolph and J.W. Walsh are both throwing the ball better than ever and the receivers are good. There will be few Saturdays where they will run up against coverage like they see in practice every day.

Can this team compete with West Virginia, TCU, Baylor, and Oklahoma? My answer is absolutely yes. Can they beat them all? My answer is they could, but I think without being at their fall camp that West Virginia, TCU, Baylor, and Oklahoma are all pretty good as well.


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