Practice Report: Youth Shines In Scrimmage

STILLWATER – Something different on Thursday as Oklahoma State ramped up its preparation for the start of season since coming back from camp and the start of classes as head coach Mike Gundy and his staff put the Cowboys through game-like situations in a "thud" scrimmage.

It was physical as there were plenty of tough and violent hits at the point of contact, but players on both sides of the ball were working very hard to keep themselves and each other off the turf. Whistles were blown quick at the end of plays. It was similar to the other scrimmages in that defense was the heavy side of the ball, but there were good things on both sides as the head coach described.

"We had a 90-play scrimmage today and it went really well," Gundy explained to a large group of reporters, cameras, and microphones. "The defense made some plays and then the offense made a few plays."

In what could be the last major scrimmage of the preseason (there could be a mini-scrimmage later), defense made the first play as redshirt freshman defensive end Jordan Brailford out of Tulsa's Booker T. Washington High School showed how far he has come. One of our Go Pokes "All-Glass Team" selections as he has beefed up some 30 pounds to his 6-3 frame and now weighs 245. Brailford came crashing in the backfield on a pass and took the ball right off the throwing hand of quarterback J.W. Walsh and ran it in the end zone.

As Gundy mentioned the offense answered with scoring drives led by both starting quarterback Mason Rudolph and senior J.W. Walsh. Walsh later broke free on a 50-yard touchdown run.

"I'm encouraged where we're at with our football team," Gundy added. "We obviously need the work next week, and then we'll start to tempo down a little bit before we travel to Michigan. Our attitude is good, players are excited and comfortable with our coaches. We have to keep rolling and get ready for next week and get ready to play in a game."

One of the standouts of the scrimmage was freshman running back Jeff Carr. Carr caught several passes including one that set up a score and he also scored on a touchdown run.

He is a favorite of the head coach who has commented on how he likes his abilities and the way he goes about his work, kind of quiet like former running back and current NFL performer Kendall Hunter. Gundy has said Carr is a freshman that will play.

"Jeff Carr and Jalen McClesky, [Kenneth] McGruder, I think I mentioned those guys a couple of weeks ago. They'll all play," Gundy said. Darrion Daniels, I think will play, if we feel like we want to put him in there and get him some time. Those other guys I feel like will play in the first game."

Gundy then made a statement on recruiting, and perhaps the evaluations of those that cover recruiting, even the evaluations of some other schools that Oklahoma State competes with in recruiting. McClesky was not considered a heavily recruited or highly regarded prospect. Carr was even more lightly regarded as in he had few options when Gundy and Oklahoma State took a look at him.

"You know it's interesting, in recruiting, those were the two guys that in a lot of people's opinions weren't heavily recruited as other players in our class and other classes in the conference," Gundy stated. "They end up being the guys that it looks like are going to compete in the first game."

Then Gundy came back and recounted what he thought when he first saw Carr on video after new safeties coach Dan Hammerschmidt, who had coached running backs at Houston, mentioned his name as a candidate as the Cowboys were looking for a running back in the class.

"I was at home and got a call the day before signing day and so I went in and had my son pull it up, because I don't know how to pull things up on the computer," Gundy said. "He pulled [the highlight tape] up, watched it and we made the agreement that he was definitely good enough to play at this level."

He has to be very glad that he has him.

The defense had a lot of standouts during Thursday's scrimmage with defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah, and cornerbacks Ashton Lampkin and Darrius Curry coming up with plays. Jordan Burton and Kris Catlin made some plays too.

Is the defense the fastest of the Gundy era? "I think so, and again it could just be me getting old but they move pretty fast out there," Gundy said. "One, I think they are pretty fast and, two, there's a lot of depth. They're not getting as much work so it allows them to stay fresh. I think they run pretty well."

It's a stout crew and one that has certainly helped make the offense better. But you can forgive offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich and quarterback Mason Rudolph for looking forward to seeing a defense that won't have so much practical knowledge about the offense and that won't be as fast as the Cowboys.

"Yeah, I am and that will be nice," Rudolph said. "Especially with a defensive line that has as many studs as ours does. It will be nice to see somebody new and explore a defense different than the one we've been seeing everyday."

"It's like that every fall camp and players get tired of hitting one another and you want to go after somebody fresh and make it a new competition," Yurcich said. "You want to go live against teams that are trying to scheme you and that's the competition part of it."

Gundy was asked a lot of questions but two we wanted to add to our report following the scrimmage were this one on the status of the defensive tackles: Without Vili Leveni, it has been a question or a concern in camp. So how is Gundy with the defensive tackles just two weeks out of the first game?

"I've been pleased with Vince [Taylor], Motekiai [Maile], and Eric Davis. Those guys have made some plays inside," Gundy answered. "We need them to be strong in those A-gaps and let our ends make plays. Position-wise that is a concern because the guys playing at that spot haven't competed at this level, but for the most part they've had a good camp."

The last question for the Oklahoma State head coach took him back to his playing days and the 1988 season when he handed the ball a lot to the greatest running back in college football in any single season, Heisman Trophy winner and multiple Division I record holder Barry Sanders. On Thursday the Football Writers Association of America released a 75th Anniversary Team and Sanders was a second-team running back. The first-teamers were Herschel Walker of Georgia and Archie Griffin of Ohio State.

"In my opinion, there's no knock on anybody, but if he's behind a line that was decent he probably rushes for 25,000 yards," Gundy said of Sanders pro career in the NFL. "In college he had the greatest single season any running back has ever had. I'm probably partial to him, but he was pretty good."

My sentiments exactly, Sanders not being on the first team kills the credibility of a team voted on and selected by the people that have, continue to and will in the future document and record the happenings of college football. That is disappointing they didn't get Sanders right.

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