STILLWATER – On what was expected to be the hottest day of the summer so far, at least by the heat index, which was projected to hit somewhere around 110 degrees in Stillwater, Oklahoma State got its practice work done early. Head coach Mike Gundy had his team out for a near three hour practice in the morning at the Sherman Smith Training Center and adjacent practice field.
Much of the work was inside the Smith Center as the Cowboys had two team periods, a middle drill, pass pro with the linemen, one-on-one and seven-on-seven with the receivers, and finished with an overtime period scenario. That is something that will be worked on several times before game week and then always gets some work in game week. The head coach seemed pleased with the practice.
"Really good practice today. I liked that the humidity and temperature was up. It allowed us to work out for three hours, and it really opened the guys up. Very competitive," Gundy said. "The offense made some plays, the defense made some plays, so we're pushing forward. I like where our team is at right now."
The first team period started with a pitch and catch from quarterback Mason Rudolph to receiver James Washington. It was defended well but a good pass and good route by Washington. Overall, the secondary seemed to have a really good day. On another play free safety Jordan Sterns came up hard on a short pass and forced a fumble after the completion and linebacker Devante Averette recovered.
Chris Carson continued his strong run of practices as he had a good run in team and caught a short pass delivered with great touch by Rudolph and the play went for 30-plus yards. The pass rush was good and forced several throw aways and Rudolph and Taylor Cornelius both had to scramble instead of throw on a play because of rush and coverage.
"At the end of the week, by Sunday, we'll make decisions on which freshmen we think will play in the first game, and then obviously the others will be in some sort of a redshirt mode unless there's a guy that's right there on the bubble," Gundy continued. "We're going as planned.
"The quarterback (Mason Rudolph) continues to play well. By Monday we'll establish a backup quarterback. Taylor (Cornelius) is doing really good right now. (John) Kolar is making some plays, but we'll have to get that position solidified by Monday."
Candidates to play as freshmen would be three receivers.
"(Dillon) Stoner continues to get quality reps. We're anticipating him playing as a freshman," Gundy added.
The others are Tyrell Alexander of Lancaster, Texas and the walk-on receiver Obi Obialo from Coppell, Texas. Running back Justice Hill is another possibility and so is cornerback Madre Harper, who was with the team for spring football.
"I like where we're at. I like the depth at our defensive tackle that everybody has talked about for the last couple of weeks. I like our coaches," Gundy said. "The team chemistry seems to be developing, which seems so important to a quality season. We're just going to push forward and put some quality work in. We'll give them Monday off when they start school."
The Cowboys are expected to be in pads for the next three days and will fit a scrimmage in sometime over the weekend. This last weekend is going to be the grind of fall camp, but as Gundy said classes and a day off await on Monday.
One other aspect of camp that Gundy has to really like is that while there have been some injuries, nothing serious so far. The worst injury the team is dealing with is the foot injury and surgery for Marcell Ateman that happened before camp even started.
"We're in good shape," Gundy said. "We've had a couple of guys get what I would call minor injuries but overall our soft tissue injuries have been very good up to this point."
There were a trio of NFL team represented by scouts today as the Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles, and Oakland Raiders had scouts watching the practice. The feedback we have had from several scouts this fall is that Oklahoma State has more NFL prospects than the last several seasons. That is a good thing.
One sad note as we learned at practice when former Cowboy punter/kicker Cole Farden sent a to text director of football operations Mack Butler to let him know that his grandfather and Oklahoma A&M football legend Neill Armstrong had passed away in the Dallas-area.
Armstrong, a teammate of close friend and fellow legend Bob Fenimore, helped lead Oklahoma A&M to a perfect season in 1945 as the Aggies went 9-0 and a 33-13 Sugar Bowl win over St.Mary's of California. Armstrong was a two-time All-American as a defensive end and also played end on offense. Armstrong was a first-round pick in 1947 of the Philadelphia Eagles and played for five seasons in the NFL. He went on to coach in the CFL and in the NFL with the Minnesota Vikings, Dallas Cowboys, and was head coach of the Chicago Bears from 1978-81. Now that famous picture of Armstrong and Fenimore shaking hands before a game can be repeated in football heaven.