Gridiron notes: Crowd enjoys Saturday practice

Fans gathered on Saturday to get a glimpse of the OSU season to come.

The Cowboys morning practice on Saturday was the first full squad, full contact practice open to the public and the crowd at Lewis Field was large, one of the largest ever for a simple practice. There were some 400-500 fans in the north stands with a few more in each endzone. The crowd got into it too as they cheered loudly for Rashaun Woods on several receptions along with noticeable cheering on other plays as well. At the end of the two hour practice the crowd gave the team a standing ovation as they left the field.

"It was an open practice, there is some interest, it was kind of nice to see," said Miles of the crowd primarily in the north stands. "It's hard for me as a football coach to ever think that anybody gets to excited about a practice. I mean, honestly, but there is some interest and there were a couple of nice catches and runs and the crowd was getting into it. It was fun."
Miles was happy with the workout, and said he felt the defense bounced back in certain situations today. He liked the hitting, and was particularly pleased that several players like offensive tackle Kellen Davis, defensive nose tackle Mike Williams, and several linebackers stepped up when replacing injured starters.

Unlike yesterday, the offense got off to a quick start in the purely running drill. Tatum Bell took the first handoff and used a dip move going around left tackle to open a lane that took him deep into the secondary. Credit left tackle Matt Hardison with a sealing block to opne up the path. Later in the drill backup tailback Greg Gold flashed a move or two as he went off right tackle for the distance. Bell was at it again when dipped and stutter stepped into the secondary for what had to be considered a touchdown.

Defensively, there were highlights and most of them were provided along with a little noise (pad popping) by linebacker Lawrence Pinson. Pinson stopped Bell for a no gain, and was in on several tackles in the drill.

"You see those young linebackers they can play," said Miles after practice. "It was exciting to see what Pinson did today and Victor DeGrate made some plays."

Gold used a jumpstepi in going left, and then he spurtted past the competition

We don't always spotlight the pro pass and run blocking drills done down in the corner by the offensive and defensive linemen. Kellen Davis filling in for the injured Sam Mayes at right tackle went against starting defensive end Antonio "Scoobie" Smith and held his own to set the tone in pro pass for the offense. Davis had a pretty good day overall taking advantage of his opportunity.

"Kellen did do well today," said offensive line coach Chuck Moller. "Right now Kellen is going to start as a backup at right tackle to Sam Mayes as long as we have Same at tackle. We would like to see Kellen develop and improve. The only thing holding Kellen back is a nick to the hand, and we are getting that better. He is rehabing, but it is still taped up and he is not 100 percent. We are getting him going the right direction because it is in him. He is a good football player."

The offense didn't win all the battles as Greg Richmond continues to be trouble for offensive left tackle Matt Hardison, but Richmond is trouble for most of the offensive tackles in the BIg 12. If you don't believe it just look at his numbers. Efe Mowarin was tough to handle for several of the guards and centers. Brad Girtman put on a nice display in a run blocking drill going mano-a-mano with fellow freshman tight end Tremayne Standberry. The battle between Xavier Lawson-Kennedy and Caleb Noble was worth watching. That is two very strong young men. Mike Williams is faring as well in individual work as he is in team situations as he beat Corey Curtis convincingly in the pass pro drill.

There were two separate team periods in the morning with Darrent Williams drawing an applause from the crowd on the first play when he made a great effort to break up a pass on a deep post from Josh Fields intended for D'Juan Woods. Williams played it up a little for the crowd. On the first running play another Williams had the defensive effort as big Mike Williams at nose tackle stung Bell for a one-yard loss. Free safety Thomas Wright made it three in a row as he came up and stopped Seymore Shaw for a short gain off left tackle. After an incompletion in the live contact drill, Efe Mowarin and linebacker Victor DeGrate, two newcomers, combined to stop Greg Gold for a loss. The next play Gold skipped out of a tackle only to be tripped before getting very far downfield. That ended the first team period.

The second convention between offense and defense lasted longer, but started in similar fashion as linebacker Pagitte McGee, filling in for the injured Paul Duren, come up to corral Bell for a short loss. The Cowboys love to run the counter toss and it has been successful against several teams, but the talkative Vernon Grant smelled it early as the strong safety came up to make a stop on Bell. There were a couple of passing highlights as Fields hit Rashaun Woods, a daily practice occurrence, for a long completion down the right sideline. Fields came back and found Errick McCown on a deep post. It was a good day of practice for McCown catching the ball as he has to be feeling some heat from freshmen Tommy Devereaux and Chijuan Mack. In fact, on the play after McCown's recpetion backup quarterback Jamie Beeghley found Mack deep down the sideline and Mack made a very good adjustment on the ball to make the catch.

Later Fields came back and tried to hit Rashaun Woods on a post, but give creidt to Darrent Williams and that the pass was slightly behind Woods. Williams made another play that got the crowd's attention when he stuck out his hand and broke up the pass. Fields did get a touchdown a few plays later when McCown got behind the coverage and caught a deep fade and then turned on the speed to get in the endzone. After another nice defensive play by nose tackle MIke Williams to stop Seymore Shaw for a three-yard gain, backup fullback Shawn Willis got a pair of carries with two very different results. The second carry went for a touchdown following Willis' fake of one defender and hurdle over the grasp on another. Miles said those two plays stuck out The first not very good, the second sensational.

"Two Shawn Willis plays kind of stick in my mind," said Miles. "The first one he goes the wrong way, the stinker, on a blocking scheme. Then the next play he takes a little belly play 60-yards for a score. There are a number of plays that invade a football coach as he walks off the practice field."

The deep snapping has to continue to be a concern, although it is getting better. Jacob Dressen and Bryan Machado continued to do the nsapping chores on extra points and field goal tries in practice on Saturday. In the morning Luke Phillips worked with Dressen and holder Sky Rylant. Phillips nailed a point after and then field goals from 27 and 47-yards before an off snap bothered the timing on a 56-yard try. Bryan Machado snapped on backup kicker Brent Baisden's attempts. Baisden hit an extra point, but missed a 26-yard field goal attempt after a high snap. He came back to nail a 47-yard try. The rest of the special teams period was spent on kickoff returns with the same three pairs as on Friday alternating with returns. Darrent Williams and Daniel McLemore appear to be the first unit, but freshmen Tommy Devereaux and Andrew Alexander look good too. Vernand Morency is working with Robert Jones.

Unfortunately, it is rather lengthy and was extended by one today in practice. The only injury during practice appeared to be a knee injury for freshman tailback Calvin Roberts. Roberts, a quarterback in high school at Port Arthur Memorial in Texas, injured the knee in drills and had to be carted to the training room. There was no report on the extent of the injury.

Further news from yesterday's injuries in the first full contact workout, starting offensive guard or tackle Sam Mayes suffered some heat related distress and a possible hip pointer. He missed Saturday's practices getting rehab in the training room. Mayes should be back in workouts soon. Defensive end Khreem Smith was in practice in shorts and shoulder pads after a knee contusion on Friday. Defensive tackle Kyle Hix is still being evaluated, but appeared to suffer a slight shoulder separation. Offensive guard Doug Bond was held out with an elbow injury. Linebacker Paul Duren remained in shorts and shoulder pads while still recovering from a right hamstring pull. Finally, weak safety Charlie Ward is going to miss about a week, maybe more, after suffering a sprained knee. An MRI on Friday was negative which was good news.

Former University of Tulsa quarterback Josh Blankenship was a visitor to Saturday's Cowboy practice. Blankenship, whose father is Tulsa Union head coach Bill Blankenship, is good friends with former TU assistant coach and OSU Director of Football Operations Mack Butler. Blankenship spent time with Butler on the sidelines during practice. The former All Stater who played on Lewis Field as a high school quarterback and once while guiding the Golden Hurricane, was sporting a cast on his wrist as the result of an injury in a recent auto accident. Blankenship was also signed and then subsequently released by the Miami Dolphins after finishing his college career with a record breaking season at Eastern Washington.

Not only do the Cowboys receive excelletn food at the training table, designed by Director of Football Operations Mack Butler and a consulting nutritionist, but Butler also makes sure that during preseason training camp that the Cowboys do not go to bed with an empty stomach. Prior to the preseason camp, Butler contact local Stillwater restaurants and arranges for late night snacks for the Cowboys. Already in the preseason the Cowboys have had Charlie's Chicken, Dominoes Pizza, spaghetti from Fazolis, more pizza from Papa John's, a couple of Subway sandwiches, more pizza from Dominoes, and tonight those popular chicken chunks from Charlie's will be the snack. Butler says the snacks are popular with the players and those five restaurants have been great to work with.

Following the Cowboys Saturday evening workout it would be normal for the team to have Sunday off with a team activity planned. The activity is planned as they will go for a cookout and relaxed evening at Camp Redlands, but earlier in the day they will practice with a trip to the swimming pool planned after practice. Miles, ideally, would like to skip the practice, but the new NCAA rules almost mandate a practice in order to get the scheduled work (29 allowed practices) in. It doesn't make Miles or the staff very happy.

"Here is an interesting thing about a foolish rule (NCAA preseason practice mandates)," explained Miles. "We practiced twice today and we want to give them Sunday off. We give them the day off tomorrow then we can't practice twice on Monday. So you cannot have two consecutive two-a-days. You have to practice once on Sunday, so you can practice twice on Monday. I mean it doesn't make any sense, and what they've done is brought them earlier and made Sunday's legitimate practice opportunities. We will not practice on the second Sunday. I would really like to give them Sunday off."

There is an 8:00 a.m. nondenominational church service scheduled so that players will still get their spiritual commitment in, but tomorrow's Sunday practice is very unusual for the Cowboys. Below is the schedule for practice the remainder of the preseason camp.

Sunday, Aug. 10 Full Squad Practice 10:40am-12:30pm (open)
Monday, Aug. 11 Full Squad Practice 8:26am-10:34am (open)
Full Squad Practice 4:16pm-6:35pm (closed)
Tuesday, Aug. 12 Full Squad Practice 4:20pm-7:00pm (closed)
Wednesday, Aug.13 Full Squad Practice 8:26am-10:34am (open)
Full Squad Practice 4:16pm-6:45pm (closed)
Thursday, Aug. 14 Full Squad Practice 4:20pm-7:00pm (closed)
Friday, Aug. 15 Full Squad Practice 8:26am-10:34am (open)
Full Squad Practice 4:16pm-6:35pm (closed)
Saturday, Aug. 16 Full Squad Mock Game 3:20pm-6:00pm (open)
Sunday, Aug. 17 Full Squad Practice 7:20pm-9:10pm (closed)

School starts on Monday, Aug. 18 and all practices are closed!

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