There are six more spring practices left for Oklahoma State, starting with Monday as the Cowboys will be back on the field for the first time following a 100-play scrimmage on Friday in the Sherman Smith Indoor Training Center. Actually, there are five practices and then the spring game on Saturday, April 16.
Oklahoma State fans likely can't wait for that date and their only opportunity to personally witness their team in the spring. I like it because then you and I will have a visual basis to share and discuss the Cowboys football squad for next fall. Until then, I have a chance to watch and study the team in practices and scrimmage but only limited discussion.
I know the coverage coming out of the scrimmage on Friday was limited. We brought you what Cowboys head coach Mike Gundy had to say about the proceedings and introduced a defensive (Ramon Richards) and an offensive player (Jalen McCleskey) from the day. Gundy added that he liked the running game and thought that Raymond Taylor, Chris Carson, Rennie Childs and Jeff Carr all performed pretty well and the offensive line showed improvement causing the running attack to be able to move well enough to satisfy Gundy.
Gundy called it a "track meet" and I'm interpreting that to be as much about the tempo as the offensive production, although I did think the offense was quick to move the ball into opposing territory and even into the red zone. The defense had pretty solid success in the red zone as while the offense featured big plays they did not always lead to getting into the end zone.
It is obvious that James Washington, Marcell Ateman and Jalen McCleskey will be major targets for Mason Rudolph but that is like saying salt and pepper are needed on the table. It's going to happen. Emerging weapons on offense could be redshirt freshman wide receiver Phillip Redwin-Bryant, a walk-on from Harker Heights (Academy), Texas who is 6-2, 215 and shows up some.
At the Cowboy back position, Blake Jarwin and Zac Veatch continue to be the staples but as Gundy said last week, Jordan Frazier is picking up his play or maybe he's just experienced and comfortable enough that he is making more plays. At 6-4, 265 pounds, he is a big, strong target that moves pretty good. Keenen Brown is out there and still working to get accustomed to his new position. He'll get there.
The offensive line returns all five starters and is improved, just as Gundy said. It is still fun to watch that second offensive line work as see how competition can be created with Matthew Mucha (soph.) at right tackle, Lemaefe Galea'i (soph.) at right guard, Johnny Wilson (RS-frosh) at center, Larry Williams (JC-transfer) at left guard, and Marcus Keyes (RS-frosh) at left tackle.
Over on defense, it was consistent that some of the areas that I've felt have shown up well in practices did the same in the scrimmage on Friday. I'll start with the young defensive ends as Jarrell Owens, Jordan Brailford and Cole Walterscheid all played well. There are some mistakes, as you would expect from a trio of sophomores, but there is a lot of athletic ability and some explosive plays.
The depth at defensive tackle is fun to see, and that is with Vili Leveni watching this spring. Leveni will be back on the practice field in the fall. Vincent Taylor is getting better and Motekiai Maile is improving after his first year as a starter. Add Darrion Daniels, senior Eric Davis, redshirt freshman Taaj Bakari, and Ben Hughes and the tackle position is as deep as I can remember in some years.
Now that Kenneth Edison-McGruder has moved to the star linebacker there is a lot of athletic ability there and that includes redshirt freshman Kevin Henry and, of course, returning starter Jordan Burton. It helps that Gyasi Akem is now 6-2, 230 and has moved to the weak-side linebacker.
Justin Phillips is playing some middle linebacker and he is 6-0, 235 pounds and can run well. I was watching Baylor's video from the Bears final spring scrimmage and they are experimenting with a 3-4 defensive look that head coach Art Briles says adds speed to their defense and fits their personnel better because they have fewer big guys for defensive tackle. Okay, with the athletic ability and speed at linebacker Oklahoma State, in my opinion, gets the same impact on the Cowboys defense while staying with the 4-3 defense.
I really liked what I saw from Ramon Richards at cornerback and then you have Ashton Lampkin on the other side. Depth includes experienced Darrius Curry with all kinds of young and eager newcomers in junior college transfer Malik Kearse, Madre Harper, and the fastest player on the team in redshirt freshman Bryce Balous, who has looked really good.
At safety, playmaker Jordan Sterns and Tre Flowers are back. Moncrief is really solid and at 6-2, 220 pounds a big enforcer in the secondary. Dylan Harding and Jerel Morrow are also rapidly improving and eager to get on the field. I like redshirt freshman Za'Carrius Green too.
See what I mean, I can't wait for that spring game and then we can all engage in a summer full of anticipation for the 2016 season. There is a lot, I think, that Cowboys fans have to look forward to this spring.