STILLWATER – It was a quicker two-hour practice on Wednesday as head coach Mike Gundy called it the last practice of the spring. Saturday, in his mind as most of the players, is something different, more of a game and a chance to show off in front of the fans.
"We finished up practice and had a really, really good spring," Gundy said after the practice. "A lot of enthusiasm. The same group of guys that I've talked about made plays. Both young quarterbacks have showed improvement. I like where our running backs are. It was good to get Josh Mabin back with us today. He missed a couple of practices, but was out there with us today."
It was also good that safety Tre Flower was back to full practice status earlier this week. The practice was lively and included all the usual components and a strong work ethic, but there was some fun too. During one-on-one drills, the wide receivers traded places with the defensive backs, so while they covered, the corners and safeties ran routes and caught balls from the quarterbacks. The role reversal was obviously fun for both groups after doing it the other way in 13 previous practices.
During team period the running game was strong again. Chris Carson put an exclamation point on his spring and the offensive line has enjoyed it and looks forward to showing that improvement to the fans on Saturday.
"We have improved, improved a lot," right tackle Zach Crabtree said. "I give a lot of credit to the running backs because I think Chris Carson has run confident. He has done well, so has Rennie (Childs), all the backs have run the ball well. It is teammates against teammates on Saturday, but we want to show the fans how the offensive line, the running backs, and the running game has improved this spring."
"I hope they've improved and I know they're improved," Gundy said about the line, the backs, and the run offense. "We've improved in blocking and being able to cover up defenders and I like how our running backs are sinking their hips and being more aggressive and downhill."
On the defensive side, the standout of the day was defensive tackle Motekaia Maile, now wearing number 90 is even bigger than last season. He recovered two fumbles in the practice, scooping one for what would have been a score.
It's like Gundy said, the spring has been good and now it's time to do a little showing off on Saturday.
"We're excited about the game on Saturday and getting the guys out there and letting them play a little bit. We're going to have a lot of festivities along with the game and our goal is to get an hour and 15 minutes of football to try and put on the very best show that we can for our fans," the Cowboys head coach said.
"We'll talk about it tomorrow and come up with a plan for and get that information out there for you guys so you can get the rosters settled. We wanted to wait until after practice today so we didn't have to adjust rosters based on the health of our team. We will have an orange team and a black team. We'll split teams up, but we're just not quite sure how we're going to do that yet. We'll have the scoreboard running and we'll play very similar to what we did last year. We'll let them play. It won't be a 60-minute game, more of a 40-minute game."
The rosters will be announced likely on Friday and there will be some touch-ups, a few guys that play a lot on first team will likely be included in those groups in order to cover the different personnel groupings on both sides. It will be basically the first-team offense and the second-team defense on one team and the other team will be the second-team offense and the first-team defense.
"We're going to have 80- to 100 plays. So there's going to be some good football, but what I want to see is effort and base offense and defense," Gundy added. "The guys playing and we want to put on a show for the fans. We don't always consider this a learning the X's and O's experience for us, but it is a good teaching opportunity for playing in front of a crowd and being able to handle the situation and the pressure. That's our goal."
There will be one change from the daily practice routine. During spring football, Gundy has spent most of his time upstairs over the Sherman Smith Center looking down on his team. It's been a good place to analyze and take stock in where the Cowboys are. On Saturday, Gundy will be back with his feet on the ground and a whistle just in case some defender gets too close to Mason Rudolph.
"I'll be downstairs because I'll have some media requirements," Gundy said. "We'll be communicating throughout the game and quarterbacks are going to talk at the end of quarters and so on, so forth. I'll be down there and have a whistle. I don't know that I'll have to use it much, but if I have to then I have it. I've really enjoyed being up in the video tower this spring. It gives me a chance to think and keep quality notes. And I'm sure the offensive coaches like it because it keeps me from staying on them during practice."
The team will still meet some over the next two days and then be ready for Saturday. Former players in the program will be in town on Friday for golf and activities as part of Legend's Weekend.
Special Visitors at Practice
The tragedy at homecoming this year is still very vivid in the minds of all Oklahoma State fans and Stillwater residents. In fact, Triple Play Sports Radio's Tom Dirato interviewed former Oklahoma State running back Robert Turner and his wife Annette. Both were injured in the tragedy and still feel the effects of it. Annette had a collapsed lung and a broken leg.
While that interview was airing on the radio in Stillwater, sitting inside the Sherman Smith Center was Leo Schmitz of Skiatook, Schmitz sat in a chair in the end zone wearing white shiny New Balance tennis shoes and with his shorts was visible his prosthetic left leg replacing the one he lost that day when the car barreled into the crowd at the corner of Main and Hall of Fame.
Attending the practice with Schmitz was his wife, Sharon, who was there and was injured as well, was his son, Mark McNitt of Houston, who suffered a fractured leg that day.
What is so amazing is the attitude prevalent in all of these people, from the Turners to the Schmitzes they are not bitter, but look at the positive and how they can make their lives and the lives of others better. These truly are inspiring people.
Recruits at the Last Spring Practice, and Sanders Visit this Weekend
There were some regulars on hand on Wednesday in preferred walk-on quarterback Nyc Burns out of Tulsa Berryhill, who has been to the past nine practices.
Big-time commitment Adrian Wolford from Meeker was back to watch. Wolford is big enough that he looks like he could skip his senior season at Meeker and join the Pokes early.
Also, at the practice were a pair of players from Lincoln Christian in Tulsa in running back Reed Martin (6-1, 210, 4.51) and defense end Garrett Flannery (6-3, 273, 4.79). Both are good looking players physically and Martin shows up on tape as a tough hard-nosed runner.
Norman tight end Caleb Dean was there too. Dean is 6-4, 210 pounds and has eight catches for 91 yards at the varsity level for a school that doesn't throw the ball a lot. Dean is also looking at playing wide receiver. He is also a good looking athlete.
The expectation on Saturday for the spring game is somewhere between 70 to 100 prospects attending the game and a pregame tailgate in the Sherman Smith Center. OSU has to charge the recruits for the food for that event. It is also been learned that super senior transfer Barry J. Sanders, who has already said he will attend Oklahoma State this fall, will make his official visit to OSU this weekend.