The routine now changes with classes beginning, and as Gundy said after the lighter scrimmage on Saturday morning he has seen enough of the physical characteristics of his team to back off and maybe only scrimmage a couple of times before the opening game at Central Michigan.
Let's face it, the Cowboys gained a lot from this camp. Below we rank the most important happenings and the most critical developments of Oklahoma State fall camp 2015.
1. Speed, the Cowboys have plenty of it.
On the first day of the Extreme Camp, which was the fourth day of fall camp, I learned that three of the new freshmen came in and clocked under 4.4 in the forty. Wow! Freshman running back Jeff Carr clocked a 4.38, freshman slot receiver Jalen McClesky recorded a 4.35, and freshman safety Bryce Balous, a 200-meter state champion in Texas, stopped the lazer timer at 4.32. Yes, I know that Tyreek Hill, hero of the Bedlam punt return, was a 4.2 and change guy but that is still a lot of speed.
Now factor in that another newcomer in running back Chris Carson showed up in the 4.4 range and the speed currently on this team with Brandon Sheperd (pictured above), Kevin Peterson, Ashton Lampkin, Ramon Richards, Michael Hunter, Jerel Morrow, Dylan Harding, Tre Flowers, James Washington, Chris Lacy, Rennie Childs, Jordan Burton, Kameron Doolittle, Jhajuan Seales, Austin Hays, even quarterback J.W. Walsh and linebacker Devante Averette are all in the low 4.5 category or better and that is so much really brilliant speed on this team.
Gundy has always stressed speed in recruiting. It is a driving force in the current list of commitments in the 2016 class as well. Speed is showing up in a big way in practice every day.
2. Health at Defensive Tackle
After the late summer injury to the most experienced returning defensive tackle in Vili Leveni the Cowboys could not afford to lose another defensive tackle. Gundy said early in camp that he thought the team would need five defensive tackles to get through the season, and Gundy was only counting four as he had yet to her his defensive staff definitive on whether one of the freshmen, most likely Darrion Daniels could play. That did not change right through the end of fall camp.
"Darrion Daniels is certainly good enough to play," Gundy said. (Daniels) I think is mature enough and strong enough but I'm not sure they will play him. We'll see."
The great thing at the position is that all of them stayed healthy and spring developer Vincent Taylor kept developing and improving. It is not the finished product and as Gundy repeated several times the position is still a concern, but it is also still full of healthy candidates.
3. Carson, Childs, and Carr Can Play Running Back
In most cases a "C" is not a good grade, but the Cowboys got three C's at running back in fall camp and it was a very good thing. Butler C.C. transfer Chris Carson was pretty much what he was advertised to be as a big back that could power and motor. He did in both scrimmages. Rennie Childs picked it up in the spring and continued to be a constant and consistent ground gainer with a combination of burst and toughness. Then, while underweight a little, Jeff Carr was just elusive enough and so very fast that he gained the head coach's attention early on.
"They’ve done a really nice job," running backs coach Marcus Arroyo said after Saturday's 74-play scrimmage. "Chris is pretty much what we expected in regards to being a mature athlete who is big, strong and does really nice things. I’m excited about the way he has taken on the role with the one’s.
"Rennie) is another guy who has been trending up since I got here. He has obviously built off of the spring. He’s a ‘Steady Eddie.’ He’s done a really nice job, and I’m excited to see him continue on. Carr has done a really nice job. He’s another guy who is really explosive and displays that he’s got some talent that we can put out there, probably pretty early on. He’s gotten better every day. That’s the best part about those guys. They’ve both gotten better every day."
4. Kevin Peterson Surgery, Still Lots of Corners
There was one major injury that we know of in fall camp and that was the slight knee injury to All-Big 12 and Jim Thorpe Watch List cornerback Kevin Peterson. The senior and three-year starter had arthroscopic surgery and is still expected to be ready for the season opener at Central Michigan. Call this disappointing but not devastating news.
In some ways it worked for new "super senior" transfer Michael Hunter from Indiana and rapidly improving big corner Darius Curry as they got more time and Gundy bragged multiple times about Curry.
Even when announcing the surgery, Gundy seemed very relaxed and confident with how it would play out. "(Team doctors) weren’t sure if they needed to (operate) or not, but they decided to go ahead and do it," Gundy said last week. "He’ll be out for a couple of weeks. We’ll bring him back at kind of a slow pace. It gives (Darius) Curry and (Michael) Hunter more work, which is fine."
5. Kicker Ben Grogan, Punter Zach Sinor Have Good Camps
Grogan is coming off of offseason surgery on his kicking hip and as Gundy observed he is striking the ball really well and is also looking like the favorite to handle kickoff chores.
"I haven't attempted very many long field goals, at least live with the team," Grogan answered when asked about his range in camp. "But when I was kicking on my own I was able to hit at least 55 yards, which is farther than I've been able to hit in a while. I'd have to get some live ones, with the snap and hold from there, but if I worked on it with them it would probably be 50 to 55."
Sinor was the greater mystery and punter the more immediate concern after Kip Smith graduated. Sinor has been good and mostly consistent. It is the consistency that he needs to continue to work on.
6. Depth at Linebacker
It is even greater than I think anyone may have anticipated except maybe defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Glenn Spencer. Jordan Burton at the star had to deal with a hip flexor injury in camp that he rallied back from and took his reps in the final scrimmage on Saturday morning.
But in his absence Devante Averette, who can also play the weak side linebacker; Kris Catlin, who is also very versatile; Gyasi Akem, and Kirk Tucker all played well. Chad Whitener is giving four-year starter and senior Ryan Simmons plenty of breaks, and at the weak side Seth Jacobs is spelled by Averette, Catlin, Justin Phillips, and Josh Mabin. Overall, it is a fast and very aggressive linebacker corps.
7. Offensive Line Continues to Work
There wasn't much discussion on offensive line in the post-practice media sessions but the biggest development was seeing Paul Lewis at right guard. The junior from Galena Park North Shore was happy for the opportunity.
"I really learned about it on the first day of camp," Lewis said. "I feel like I have played well in camp and I think the offensive line is getting better in every practice. Coach (Greg) Adkins is as good a coach as I've had and he is the key to us continuing to improve."
"I wouldn't say necessarily that it is night and day, but it went to night to at least sunrise," Gundy described when asked about the degree of progress on the offensive line. "They are making strides and in my opinion it looks like in the short time that they are better pass protectors in a pure third-down situation than we were at the end of the year last year. We'll obviously know more when we get challenged in games. I think that is where we have improved in the short term."
I know this, I like the look of the tackles with Zach Crabtree on the right side and Victor Salako on the left side.
8. Development of the Cowboy Backs
There may not be a more excited coach showing up for work every day than Jason McEndoo. Another of the new coaches on Gundy's staff, McEndoo coaches what is now labeled the "Cowboy backs." Tight ends and fullback candidates like veterans Jeremy Seaton and Blake Jarwin, along with offensive guard convert back to tight end and now very svelte Zac Veatch.
Jordan Frazier, who is rapidly improving and is 260 pounds and can still really move, rounds out the top four of these players that can line up in a vast variety of places and give the offense different personalities and load up different areas of potential power. I think McEndoo may have the most fun job in that all of these players he coaches have played in different positions and now all have found a great home in this position group.
9. Overall Health
We documented the arthroscopic surgery with Peterson and that is the only player we know of with a significant injury and he likely won't miss a game. There have been other bumps and bruises like star linebacker Jordan Burton, an ankle with walk-on receiver Cole Neph, and a few others but this team leaves camp and starts school with good health. Now is the cue to knock on wood.
10. Team Chemistry
This is an ambiguous topic and one that I guess can really be misleading. But having been around this program and Gundy's teams long enough I can sure see as good a team chemistry with this group as I've seen before with the Cowboys. There were a few fracases during camp and you'd be disappointed if there weren't any.
The leadership is really strong with the quarterbacks Mason Rudolph and J.W. Walsh, Cowboy back Jeremy Seaton, defensive leaders like linebacker Ryan Simmons, defensive ends Emmanuel Ogbah and Jimmy Bean, and cornerback Kevin Peterson being the players you can tell everybody looks to.