STILLWATER – The final week of spring football practice at Oklahoma State started Monday with a two-hour practice inside the Sherman Smith Training Center and outside on the adjacent fields. The practice was a little shorter and some of that may be part of an effort to try and keep everybody healthy as possible until Saturday.
We wrote over the weekend about the loss of cornerback Ashton Lampkin, safety Tre Flowers and the news that Dylan Harding will be giving football up because of symptoms of spinal stenosis. We learned that Harding's situation started with numbness going back to last season but he kept the symptoms to himself until this spring when they continued.
Talking to head coach Mike Gundy before practice and he is more concerned with depleted depth at linebacker where star linebacker Jordan Burton has sat out the spring, middle linebacker Chad Whitener is practicing but without contact, and several other linebackers have had minor injuries.
"We have to be careful because we really only have two sets of linebackers right now and if one goes down then we might have to have a linebacker switch jerseys back and forth and play for both teams," Gundy said. "That's not good. We want to give the fans a show, but we want to be smart about it."
One coach told me that the discussion for Saturday has been to have a game, a quick game with the first-team offense and first-team defense going against the second-team offense and second-team defense. Gundy said he has yet to make up his mind and they will continue to consider a format that will work for the experience that they want to give the fans at 1 p.m. Saturday.
As for practice, it was a typical practice with all the elements. It appeared that extra work was put in on the short throwing game.
"I think it went good. It's been a good spring," cornerbacks coach Tim Duffie told athletic media relations after practice. "We're trying to develop some depth, especially at corner with a couple guys out. We're trying to improve every day."
Duffie agreed with all the media attention you may have seen lately that Ramon Richards has stepped up and played really well. He has not only played well physically and mentally, but he has become more of a leader.
"I think this has been his best year, obviously. I think him being here in his third season, he's really come on here at the end of camp," Duffie added. "He's catching the ball well. He's doing very well. We're proud of him and we can count on this guy in the fall."
Richards will tell you one of the guys that makes him better is another player getting lots of spring publicity as James Washington is our "Most Explosive" player on the team. In reality, Washington will tell you that title should go to Jhajuan Seales, but Washington is the one that seems to make the most plays and he made another sensational catch on a long pass today. He also took a short pass and exploded through the defense.
"When I think of explosive I think of Jhajuan Seales and when we run competition 40s with Coach (Rob) Glass he is winning a lot of those and with his vertical, I think he is 40 or 41 inches," Washington said.
When told the other receivers pointed at Washington, he said he'd share it.
"Yes, we can share it. I'll share it with him (Seales)," Washington laughed.
Washington's explosion comes with execution as he makes more big catches than any receiver on the team. But Washington said there will be enough footballs in the air this fall and that there have been this spring to keep all the receivers happy and busy.
They also keep the cornerbacks busy too, so Duffie has had to push development with his new players especially with Lampkin out the rest of the spring.
"I think Darius Curry has had a good camp. Some young guys – Bryce Balous has had a very good camp; and Madre Harper, the incoming freshman, has really made strides," Duffie started. "Malik Kearse is doing well as camp goes on. We've done really well. We're not where we need to be, but hopefully we can improve over the summer and be ready in fall camp."
The Cowboys will practice again Wednesday and then we should get a decision on spring game format for Saturday and have a chance to talk to the coaches and players about what they are thinking as spring gets really close to finishing up.