STILLWATER – What a treat for the Extreme Campers as usually their weekend coincides with the very first days of camp and they might get to see a practice in shoulder pads and helmets. But on Sunday morning the over 130 members of this year's class of Extreme Camp, a three-day all-access window into Oklahoma State football, saw the first practice in full pads and it wasn't disappointing.
The campers saw the expected hitting, some big plays on both sides of the ball, and a view of some developing stories that could impact the depth chart for the upcoming season.
The nearly two and a half hour practice was highlighted by two team periods going full speed except defenders were encouraged to keep ball carries upright and not tackle to the ground. It happens some especially in the inside or middle drill.
In the first team period, the first big play was a Mason Rudolph pass in stride to speedster slot receiver Jalen McCleskey, who was able to get open deep in an exchange route. However, the defense got its licks in as hard-hitting sophomore safety Kenneth Edison-McGruder, who had some big hits on Friday, came up and blasted wide receiver Chris Lacy, but give major points to Lacy, who despite the big hit, held onto the ball for the reception.
Chris Carson had a tough run in the first team period as he carried several tacklers for several yards. One huge positive is the running backs, as a group, are falling forward nearly every time they go down. Also in that first team period it was noticeable that freshman walk-on wide receiver Obi Obialo is getting significant reps with the ones and the twos. The 6-3, 200-pound walk-on from Coppell, Texas was spotted by the Cowboys staff as they recruited freshman offensive lineman Dylan Galloway. Obialo was injured his senior season and only had 22 receptions for 154 yards and no touchdowns. He had been committed to San Diego State, but wound up walking on at Oklahoma State. His junior season at Coppell he had 40 catches for 598 yards and five touchdowns.
The inside or middle drill drew a crowd and for some good reason. The defense got a jump on its goal of five turnovers on the day as redshirt freshman linebacker Kevin Henry recovered a fumble and so did defensive end Trey Carter. Some interesting developments included redshirt freshman and an identified challenger to playing offensive line, Marcus Keyes pulled some first-team duty at left guard. Michael Wilson worked some at center.
Freshman running back Justice Hill out of Tulsa Booker T. Washington had a pair of very impressive tackle breaking runs in the middle drill.
"We had a good day. It was very competitive," head coach Mike Gundy said as he watched much of the practice from the crow's next in the Sherman Smith Training Center. "The defense was more aggressive than the offense. Sometimes that happens early in camp, but overall I like the competitiveness. We still have areas that are important to our team that we need to improve on. We turned the ball over a couple of times. Defensively, we gave up a couple of big plays, so we have to minimize those key areas to be successful. It's early in camp, but we're getting some quality work."
In the second team period, the defense had the first big play as Rudolph tried to hit Lacy downfield and Ramon Richards stayed deep on the ball with help in coverage from safety Jordan Sterns and Richards caught the ball and then held on despite Lacy's attempt to knock it loose. Chris Carson had another big play, this time a short catch out of the backfield, something he does really well, and he took it the distance. Rennie Childs had a pair of big runs, double-digit gainers. Barry J. Sanders had a good catch and so did Austin Hays. James Washington also had a big catch.
Gundy really liked the practice overall, but also insists that the pace, the tempo, the effort needs to continue to pick up. This is the starting point in full pads and not the finish.
"Well, I like the group we have. I like the coaches. When I watch the overall operation of our program and practices, it's enjoyable to me because I joke with the media that it could really run itself," said the head coach, while saying goodbye to the Extreme Campers.
"The two new corners, Madre (Harper) and Rodarius (Williams). They continue to get better at a much faster pace than what young corners do. Justice Hill is making some plays at the running back spot," Gundy added when asked about newcomers. "I saw (Barry J. Sanders) make a catch today. We're seeing some guys that are young that will be able to help us early on in the year."
Oklahoma State is back at it on Monday morning for a helmets and shoulder pads practice and then back in full pads again on Tuesday. One week down and one week to go in fall camp as school starts on Monday, Aug. 15.