STILLWATER – For the second day in a row the Cowboys went through practice in a helmet, shoulder pads, and shorts using the Sherman Smith Training Center and the adjacent turf practice field. There was some contact as the offense and defense competed in team periods, an inside drill, and seven-on-seven or outside drill.
There was give and take in what we saw during the practice. Veteran junior quarterback Mason Rudolph continued to look sharp and made several plays, but one aspect of his play that was noticeable was that Rudolph did not force any bad situations. During the team period he twice threw the ball into the turf to avoid any chance of a bad play and make sure the offense moved on to the next play with a chance. That is a real sign of maturity in a quarterback.
Rudolph hit Chris Lacy and James Washington on big gainers. The run game was not spectacular with anything breaking big, but the trio of Chris Carson, Rennie Childs and Barry J. Sanders each had what I would consider tough runs for good yardage.
Honestly, the practice was a little better for the defense and that included some of the veterans and some of the younger players and back-ups that signal the depth on defense may be better than thought outside of the West End Zone and anywhere Oklahoma State fans gather. The secondary, in particular, looks like it is gaining depth.
On one of the first plays in the 11-on-11 work, Rudolph tried to hit Washington on a deep route and the combination of cornerback Ramon Richards and free safety Jordan Sterns had it covered and, in fact, collided with each other preventing one of the two players from likely coming up with an interception. Sterns broke up another pass with a big hit on the sideline on a receiver.
A younger safety came up big as true sophomore Kenneth Edison-McGruder, who played some star linebacker in the fall, is back at safety and he collided with freshman wide receiver Tyrell Alexander over the middle in a "kind of welcome to Division I" moment for Alexander as a pass in his hands was broken up by the physical hit. Later a pass over the middle by John Kolar was tipped up and Edison-McGruder was there to make the interception.
Cornerbacks Ramon Richards, Ashton Lampkin, Darius Curry, and newcomer and senior transfer Lenzy Pipkins from Louisiana-Monroe, along with speedy redshirt freshman Bryce Balous, were solid in coverage causing Rudolph to do a few of those obvious throw aways.
After the practice cornerbacks coach Tim Duffie spoke to Oklahoma State athletic media relations about the practice and his group.
"I thought it went well," Duffie said of the practice, which lasted a little over two hours. "The tempo was great. We've got a lot of guys that are rolling in there trying to get some experience. It's been very interesting to see some of the young guys and some of the newcomers get out and compete. I think everybody wants to play and improve every single day. Obviously, the veteran guys are really setting a good example for these kids."
Some observers felt coming into the season that the corner position might be a weakness. Kevin Peterson and Michael Hunter graduated and are both in NFL camps. Lampkin was coming off an injury and surgery in the spring. After playing as a freshman, Richards played sparingly last season and wasn't terribly noticeable. Curry is big for a corner, but has given up big plays. Nobody knows much about Pipkins, and the rest of the crew is really young.
So the question begs, who looks good and in a pass happy Big 12 can the Cowboys corners hold up?
"I'll tell you, all of them have in their own way," Duffie said of the players in his position group. "Obviously Lenzy (Pipkins) has experienced playing at a high level and starting at (Louisiana Monroe)… A.J. Green has done a heck of a job. Also Rodarius Williams, along with Madre (Harper). Madre was here in the spring, so he has an idea of what we're trying to do. The two guys that weren't (here in the spring) are really catching on fast."
"I think with Ashton, the biggest difference with him is that he's trying to vocally go out and lead and help those guys in the right way," Duffie said moving on to the projected starters. "Ramon has really calmed down. He's a high energy guy all the time, so we're always trying to get him to work efficiently. He's doing that better. It's just tough sometimes when you're out there against (James Washington) because he makes everybody look average, but he's made some plays against him too. It's just a good battle going on between those two guys."
A huge bonus was getting Lampkin back full speed for the start of fall camp, which wasn't a certainty.
"It's something I'd been through before with my right ankle, so I was already mentally prepared for it," Lampkin explained and also stated he was running and cutting full speed with about three weeks to spare before camp started earlier this week. "I stayed focused, did what I could do and controlled what I could control. I can't control injuries, no one can. All you can do is watch film, do what you can do and get bigger. I've gotten way bigger over the summer."
Lampkin and Richards both take it as an affront that anyone would think the corners would be a weakness on this defense. Lampkin said anybody spying in on the meeting room or the field with the corners would see it the other way.
"We're 10 corners deep this year, and all those guys are hungry," Lampkin said. "They all want to play, even the freshmen who just got in. They want to play as bad as I want to. We're really deep right now and guys are out there competing."
"We definitely have some athletic guys that run, change direction and play tough, but we've got to get on the same page on every call, every play, day in and day out doing what's right," added Duffie. "Your athletic ability can be minimized if you're not doing what you need to do defensively."
The corners weren't the only defenders making noise in practice. Star linebacker Jordan Burton is coming back well from injury but one of his backups in junior Kirk Tucker has made a number of plays and has been physical. Weak-side linebacker Gyasi Akem had a nice tackle for loss on a run play with Childs as the ball carrier. Middle linebacker Chad Whitener was active in his reps and always around the ball.
On the defensive line, the second team tackles were veteran Vili Leveni and junior college transfer and All-American D.Q. Osborne. Osborne has a very quick first step and he was especially disruptive today to the second team offense. Osborne has a chance to be a really good weapon.
Back to offense, on those runs Carson and Childs showed really tough efforts carrying tacklers to get at least six yards and on his solid run Barry J. Sanders made a defender miss at the line of scrimmage to open up some space. One more note on offense, backup quarterback Taylor Cornelius is having a good camp so far and had another good practice on Friday.
There weren't any recruits on hand today, but plenty of onlookers as the vast majority of the enrolled Extreme Campers were watching. Extreme Camp is an opportunity to spend three days inside the Oklahoma State Cowboy football program as the campers get full access to practice, meetings, special events including an introduction to the new players in the program and nightly socials with the coaching staff. They also eat training table with the players and the staff.
Oklahoma State will go through Fan Appreciation Day from 1-3 p.m. Saturday at Gallagher-Iba Arena and Media Day is from 3:30-5:20 p.m. The workout is a jersey and shorts only walk through emphasizing special teams in the morning. It will be a welcomed break as the team will be in full pads for the first time on Monday morning.