STILLWATER – Day one and for a first day this one was pretty smooth for the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Of course, any more freshmen and first-year players have all summer to get acclimated and learn from the veteran players.
In the case of the 2016 Cowboys, it appears that the lessons were learned well. Mason Rudolph looked good and threw the ball well. He had command of the offense and there were no apparent busts throughout the individual and group drills and the team install, which looked like it was centered on conventional run game and play-action pass off that run game. It is good to see the offense looking to be productive with a solid base running attack.
The array of running backs was impressive as Chris Carson, now 220 pounds, and Rennie Childs got most of the first team carries with sophomore Jeff Carr and newcomer graduate senior transfer Barry J. Sanders also getting some first team carries.
The freshmen looked good too as Tulsa Booker T. Washington standout Justice Hill and DeSoto, Texas speedster L.D. Brown were joined by the mysterious Ja'Ron Wilson. Wilson had an eventful summer that looked like he might not be involved at OSU, but it was good to see him in practice and looking ready. Hill, by the way, is rumored to have maxed out at 500 pounds on the squat this summer. That is a mighty amount for a 5-10, 175-pound freshman back. He actually looks a little heavier than that.
Head coach Mike Gundy probably had the same problem many members of the media had in being there and being able to shoot video of the entire practice. For the media where to go first and for Gundy where to look and when.
"We had a good day. It was good to get back out with the team," Gundy said after the nearly two-hour practice. "We had a really good offseason. The coaches said we had great leadership in the offseason with the veteran players, and I think that carried over into today.
"In just watching from a distance, it looks like we're a week or so ahead of where we've been the last two or three years in preseason camp, which is a credit to the players. They've reported with a good attitude, so it's a fun time of the year for all of us, and especially for me to be able to watch our players, see them in practice and continue to see them get better.
"I thought that Mason (Rudolph) had a good day, and I thought that (Barry J. Sanders) looked good when he was in there. … I thought (Jordan) Sterns and (Ashton) Lampkin moved around well," Gundy continued. "Some of the new guys, I thought Tralund Webber moved out there pretty well and (Keondre) Wudtee threw the ball well. There will be a number of young guys pop up over the next couple of weeks. The third week in August, we'll start to make some decisions on incoming players and whether we're going to play them as a freshman or red-shirt them. Overall, we had a really good day."
Gundy mentioned freshman quarterback Keondre Wudtee, and the Louisiana native is really a good looking athlete and he throws the ball with a lot of velocity. You have to think after watching him that he will be in the competition for the backup quarterback spot with Taylor Cornelius and sophomore John Kolar.
"We have about a week to come up with a plan for who we're going to give the quality reps to," Gundy said of the schedule, which has the offense and defense in install and not going against each other in team until Thursday. "The good thing in our system, as you guys know, they get a lot of work in the first 45 minutes. The experience they can gain in that team period is important, and we'll have to make a decision on that within a week, just from the standpoint of only getting so many quality reps a day. If one of those guys has to play, we want to have a plan for them so we can function and execute as an offense."
As always, Gundy was asked and commented on the work over the summer of the players under strength and conditioning expert Rob Glass and his staff. Several really stood out including Rudolph, left tackle Victor Salako, who has lost 25 pounds, running back Jeff Carr, who has gained 13 pounds since last season, and defensive end Jordan Brailford, who is now 250 pounds after reporting to OSU as a freshman at 209.
"Victor (Salako), Mike Wilson, (Brad) Lundblade, and Vincent Taylor all look really good," Gundy said enthusiastically. "Even (Ashton Lampkin) … really looks good. We have a lot of confidence in coach (Rob) Glass. In my opinion, he's the best in the country, and that's why those guys look the way they do every day."
The Cowboys are back out on Wednesday for an almost identical practice in helmets, jerseys, and shorts. They put on shoulder pads on Thursday and Friday and full pads will be the dress of the day for the first time on Sunday. Saturday is a walk through to go with Fan Appreciation Day and Media Day.
The players looked like they were having a good time today. For the skill guys it was a lot of pitch and catch and hand-off. There was a spirited seven-on-seven period.
So how did veteran wide receiver James Washington grade the practice? "I would grade it pretty good," Washington answered. "Just coming out there with all the guys with smiles on their faces and eager to get back out there. It's almost like Christmas. When you got guys like that that are eager to get back out there, sky is the limit."
They were eager.
There were some surprises such as scholarship players Dawson Bassett (Cowboy back) and Ben Hughes (defensive tackle) not being on the camp 105 player list. The NCAA only allows Division I schools 105 players suited up until school starts. Those two should be back with the Cowboys when school starts and walk-on veteran snapper Kaleb Smith should be back as well, but he is having shoulder surgery, according to his father.
With Smith out the snapping chores will go to redshirt freshman Sam Walkingstick of Sallisaw and freshman Tanner Morgan from Ankeny, Iowa. By the way, new special teams coordinator and graduate assistant Steve Hauser looked very much in charge and prepared today in the special teams period.
We mentioned walk-on freshman running back Ja'Ron Wilson of Euless Trinity being on the practice field. Other freshmen or new walk-ons that made the 105 were Nyc Burns, who was one of five quarterbacks along with Rudolph, Cornelius, Kolar, and Wudtee.
Others included receivers Landon Wolf of Tulsa East Central; Obi Obialo of Coppell, Texas; safety Chance Cook of Canadian, Texas; linebacker Zach Smith of Pleasanton, Texas; linebacker Jake Dyer of Whitesboro, Texas; offensive lineman Ry Schneider of Minco; offensive lineman Sheldon Barnes of Jenks; and defensive end Triston Grant of Owasso.