STILLWATER – It is easy to get the days confused this week around the Sherman Smith Training Center and the West End Zone complex that houses Oklahoma State football. With the season opening game at Central Michigan scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday and televised on ESPNU, the Cowboys were off on Saturday, which is normal for a Monday on a game week with a Saturday game.
Today was the heavy practice of the week, which is normally conducted on a Tuesday. Monday will have a full practice in helmets, shoulder pads, and shorts, while Tuesday will see the Cowboys go through their normal Thursday comprehensive walk through. They will travel on Wednesday when the United Airlines charter will pick them up and fly them to Saginaw, Mich.
If you thought the practices are getting easy then you weren't there on Sunday. It was a full two-hour practice and with the humid conditions the players pants might as well have been see through. In games they would wear longer girdles or protective shorts, but little to imagination with the heavy sweat pouring out in the Oklahoma intense humidity.
"They are ready to play," one member of the support staff said. "They've worked hard, really only three days off since they reported on Aug. 4. This team wants to play a game."
I agree, the Cowboys are ready to get after it. The intensity is there, and there is a confidence but not an overconfidence that makes this team attractive in attitude and convincing in that they will deliver a special season.
All that and most people consider this team to be very young. In some ways they are.
"It's crazy when people say that because I feel like we're all younger guys. I just turned 21, so I feel like I'm young, but I'm one of the vets on defense," said cornerback Kevin Peterson, who was participating in practice and seemingly ready to play following that slight knee surgery earlier in camp. "It's fun to see what guys incorporate what they learn on the field and in film to game day. Everybody is ready to compete, so it will be fun to see what they can do."
Part of that youth is on the offensive line, including starting right tackle Zach Crabtree. Crabtree, a huge 6-7, 305 pounds, is a great barometer of success up front on offense as with him starting last season the Cowboys were 6-2, while when he was out with an ankle injury the team was 1-4 and protection was a struggle and gaining yards and making first downs was a struggle.
"We’re making great plays. All the way across the board, we’re solid and we believe that we can be good," Crabtree said of the offensive line. "I think that’s what’s most important is that we believe in ourselves."
Today's practice was a hard one with lots of work against the first team defensive line, including defensive ends Emmanuel Ogbah and Jimmy Bean.
"Those guys make us better," Crabtree said. "How can you not get better working against Ogbah and Jimmy Bean. Those guys are as good as we will see all season and they make you work too. There is no taking a drill or a rep off. If you do they will embarrass you and they may embarrass you anyway. Coach Adkins has changed our mentality. We believe we can be good and if you win once in awhile going against Ogbah and Bean that helps the confidence too."
Lots of Confidence in Mason Rudolph
You wonder what an all-conference caliber cornerback thinks of the starting quarterback. Kevin Peterson sees Mason Rudolph all the time. He's picked off his passes. What does he think of Rudolph heading into the 2015 season?
"He's really going into his fourth game starting, but you see him and you think he's started 15-16 games in a row, so he brings a lot of maturity to the table," Peterson said.
Question Rudolph in front of Crabtree, one of his protectors, and prepare to duck. Crabtree will defend his quarterback orally as well, and the fact that he still hasn't played a home game is no big deal.
"Mason is not worried about that. All of his collegiate games have been outside of Boone Pickens (Stadium)," Crabtree said. "With him as our quarterback and us being who we are, we’re not worried about that. We’ll be fine. We’re going to go out and play football."