Gridiron notes: Sunday practice report

The Cowboys went through a two hour practice on Sunday working on Nebraska and testing themselves on to minute situations on both sides of the ball. All that while a sizeable number of players are rehabbing minor injuries.

STILLWATER -- The Cowboys used a rare Sunday morning practice to sharpen execution and also to work on some Nebraska and on certain situations that come up late in the game. The practice was less physical in helmets and shoulder pads putting a premium on getting assignments right and executing over trying to phyically beat each other up. It was a smart move on the part of Miles and the staff as they came to the end of the first week with few serious injuries, but some 13 players missing practice with minor injuries that exceeded the normal bumps and bruises.

The open workout was switched from the stadium to the hedge practice field and the grass. There was still a good crowd as some 150 fans crowded into the corner of the hedge field to eyeball the workout. With one week of the two week preseason camp concluded Miles said the team is not as far along as he would like, but that's more due to the new NCAA regulations rather than his team's effort.

"It's really not the same in that we've been through about seven workouts and a walk through," said head coach Les Miles. "After a few more days of work like on Wednesday will be the equivalent of the old schedule of two-a-day workouts in the first week. You can tell we're veteran in some spots and you can see we're young ins ome others."

The rest of Sunday will be more restful, but it will be back to two-a-days on Monday.

The offense and defense split up early in the practice session with the first team offense on the upper field against a scout defense unit and the first team defense on the lower field against a scout offense unit. The work by both first and second units on both sides of the ball was against schemes and plays the Cowboys expect to see out of Nebraska.

On the upper field, the Cowboy offense really worked the passing game with Josh Fields hooking up twice, once on a streak and the other time on a seam route with wide receiver Kenny Williams. With Rashaun Woods sitting this work out it gave some of the other receivers an opportunity. Gabe Lindsay again had a good practice and Charlie Johnson at tight end had an impressive reception over the middle. The offense also worked on their screen passes extensively in the drill.

Down on the defensive field most of the work was against the running game with freshman Donovan Woods giving the Cowboy defenders a real good look against the option.

The final team period featured the first units going against each other in a variety of two minute scenarios. "We covered some situations in two minutes for both sides of the ball," said Miles. "We gave them some scenarios where they were ahead by seven, behind by two with two time outs, a variety of situations."
With the first units out there Tatum Bell took a screen pass to the right on the first play for a 15-yard gain. However, the offense struggled from there. Bell gained about five-yards on a running play before a pair of incompletions. Fields threw the first pass away and then on the second hit Errick McCown between two defenders in the hands, but McCown couldn't hold onto the ball despite not being hit on the play. That's an example of plays that wide receiver's coach Todd Monken is looking for somebody besides Rashaun Woods to make.

"Right now we don't have anybody that has separated themselves from the other guys," said wide receivers coach Todd Monken about the wide outs other than Rashaun Woods. "Gabe Lindsay has had a great camp and I think he has to play a major role for us. Errick McCown has been a surprise but I think today he took a step back. He didn't fight back the day after two-a-days. We're still looking for someone whether it's D'Juan, Woogie (John Wohglemuth) to get healthy, Chijuan (Mack), Tommy Devereaux or Kenny (Williams) to be that other guy."

Another series started with defensive end Greg Richmond stealing the ball from Fields, but the play had been whistled dead. Then after an incompletion, Fields lofted a desperation pass that was picked off by cornerback Darrent Williams and returned for a score. Williams really put a nice move on tailback Seymore Shaw. Williams says the secondary is improving each day this preseason.

"We are way far ahead from where we were last year," said Williams of the play of the defensive backs. "This is by far the best secondary I've been a part of since I've been here. I feel this is going to be our breakout year, and we should be able to go out and shut down other people's passing games. We've got everything we need back there. We have speed and we have guys that are physical."

The second unit also had it's ups and downs as Beeghley hit tight end Charlie Johnson for a 15-yard first down completion, and then after an illegal proceedure penalty on freshman tackle Corey Hilliard, Beghley completed a pass to Vernand Morency out of the backfield for a 12-yard gain. The drive then died with a couple of incompletions.

The first team finished with one more try and this time McCown came back and made a nice catch on a Fields pass for a 37-yard gain. After a bobbled snap and a clock play to stop the clock with 30 seconds left the field goal unit came on for a winning field goal try only to have it blocked. It was the only snafu for the kicking game all day as they were perfect as a unit in the earlier special team period.

The first completely perfect day as the kicking started with a last second field goal attempt with the unit coming off the side and having 13 seconds with no time out to get the kick away. They lined up with the snap perfect and the hold good and Luke Phillips nailed a 31-yard field goal. Phillips went on to kick field goals of 27 and 42-yards and backup Brent Baisden connected on tries from 27 and 37-yards.

After field goal they worked punt and Cole Farden got every snap in the drill as did backup Sky Rylant. Farden was booming most of his punts including a 55-yard and 62-yard punt in the air. Working on returning punts were Gabe Lindsay and Darrent Williams along with freshmen Andrew Alexander and Tommy Devereaux.

Hawkeye Pierce and Trapper John McIntire had nothing on OSU head athletic trainer Terry Noonan and the OSU sports medicine staff. Fortunately, none of the injuries in fall camp have been serious, but they were busy today. We counted 13 players that either didn't practice or practiced in a limited way.

The wide receiver corps was especially depleted on Sunday with Rashaun Woods out for practice, but spending time working rehab exercises (metabolics) for his sore knee. Woods will watch the knee all season and take days to work on resting and strengthening it. D'Juan Woods was doing the same after he was rolled up in practice on Saturday. John Wohglemuth continues to be hobbled by his knee which he had arthroscopic surgery on this summer. The defensive line was also thin with Khreem Smith limited by the knee sprain he suffered on Friday. Smith is looking better and should be back in practice soon. Fellow defensive end Antonio Smith was suited up and did some work, but was also hobbled some with a leg injury. Defensive tackle Kyle Hix looked much better, but was resting a slight shoulder separation. With about 45 minutes to go in practice freshman defensive tackle Xavier Lawson-Kennedy had hit the wall and sat out the rest of practice.

On the offensive line center Ben Buie (strained ligament in the back) did some work but not all of it, guard Doug Bond was still rehabbing a left elbow injury, and Sam Mayes was suited up but on the side with the hip injury. Add to that linebacker Paul Duren, who was suited up but still working on his hamstring pull. Weak safety Charlie Ward is still out with a sprained knee, and freshman tailback Calvin Roberts was never out at practice following a knee injury on Saturday. The extent of Roberts injury is unknown. Also, walkon linebacker/fullback Preston McIntyre is out for the season and is rehabbing a surgically repaired ACL from the end of spring practice.

The Cowboys took to the swimming pool this afternoon as they had a chance to cool off and relax at the Stillwater Municipal Pool. Then during the evening a trip to Camp Redlands outside Stillwater was on tap. The Cowboys are going to eat their dinner out there and then hear from a series of speakers about Oklahoma State University and OSU traditions including learning the alma mater and fightsong. Families of the players are also invited to attend. The highlight of the night will be esteemed almunus Boone Pickens address to the team. Pickens, who graduated from OSU in the 50's, has become a very successful oil and businessman and recently gave the University a $70 million gift that serves as the cornerstone for the funding for the Lewis Field rennovation project.

"It will be good for them to hear from a significant alumnus from Oklahoma State as he shares what Oklahoma State has meant to his life," said Miles of Boone Pickens addressing the team on Sunday evening. I think that will be the highlight of the day."

Asked if the topic of winning might come up in Pickens speech to the team, Miles thought it would be a topic that the ultra successful businessman would hit on.

"That's all he has ever done in his life. I can't imagine he would not talk about excellence because that is all he has pursued."

Of course it was Pickens who when he made the donation to Oklahoma State back in May said his desire was for OSU to win at everything in the Big 12 Conference.

Cowboy junior veteran Chay Nease was sporting a white jersey for offense rather than the orange jersey that he has been accustomed to wearing as a safety. Nease said he was switched on Saturday to wide receiver, and he is really looking forward to it.

"You'll probably get a call from my grandma on Monday," said Nease. "She is going to be real excited about the switch, and I think I can pick things up quickly and work into some playing time."

Nease looked good catching passes in warmup drills and he will continue to play on the special teams units. Nease has very good speed and started out as a wide receiver at OSU his redshirt season. He had an interception last season in the win over Texas A&M. In high school at Thomas he earned all state honors as a running back and wide receiver rushing for 1,177-yards and scoring 18 touchdowns his senior season.

Wide receiver coach Todd Monken said Nease's chances of squeezing into the competition at receiver will depend on how quickly he can pick up all aspects of the position including the blocking and support roles.

Two of the Cowboys 10 committed players for the next recruiting class were at practice on Sunday with their fathers. Tulsa Union defensive end Nathan Peterson and his dad were in the crowd and as the Cowboys and coaches arrived on the hedge field for the start of practice at least five members of the coaching staff stopped to talk to the Petersons. After practice Les Miles and Todd Monken spent a few minutes with them. Ponca City tight end and defensive end Justin Waller, the Cowboys first verbal commitment in the 2004 recruiting class was there with his dad. The staff also paid the Wallers a lot of attention. The two players and their dads did spend a little time together. While they will be teammates in a year, this fall Peterson and Waller will be rivals as Tulsa Union is the preseason pick to win 6A District 3 and Ponca City is picked second in the district.

Because the Cowboys went out and practiced the one time on Sunday that enables them to come back with two-a-days on Monday. This upcoming week, the final week of preseason camp before school starts, they will go twice a day on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday with single workouts in the afternoon on Tuesday and Thursday before the big mock game (scrimmage) next Saturday afternoon on Lewis Field. OSU Director of Football Operations Mack Butler asked me to remind fans that the mornings are open and the afternoon workouts are closed. Morning practices in Lewis Field can be viewed from the west endzone, the east concourse, and the north stands. Below is the schedule for practice this final week of preseason camp.

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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