The first day of classes meant that the Oklahoma State football team was not going to practice today. There was a team meeting on Monday afternoon and then training table. During the day the players were in class or relaxing, but it was business as usual for the coaching and support staff with offensive and defensive meetings during the day and in between the computers were locked on video, either more review of practice and the scrimmage over the weekend or video of upcoming non conference opponents.
With camp over what are the takeaways from camp from our point of view? We came up with more than a few.
1. The run game has improved. Oklahoma State can run the football and provide explosive plays in the run game. Can the offense run the ball when everybody in the stadium knows they need to run the ball?
Simply basing it on what I've seen and the scrimmage, head coach Mike Gundy said it after the scrimmage, "without looking at the video I don't think we ran the ball great but I think we ran the ball good." Great is when you can run the ball when everybody knows you are going to run the ball. Good is when you can run the ball, but not always run it. That is where the Cowboys are, but those explosive plays in the run game are good to see again.
2. The best move in spring was switching redshirt freshman Marcus Keyes to left guard.
Without a doubt, that day and every day in practice after the move the offense ran the ball better and looked better overall. Keyes had worked hard, has a big strong frame, and honestly, he cares a lot. You'd be surprised how much that is a factor with how good players are and how soon they are good. If the care factor and the work ethic is high then if can happen like it did here with Keyes.
3. Chris Carson had a really strong fall camp.
Carson has been outstanding. You see how bad he wants it in his eyes. He hasn't had a bad practice, but didn't get to stay in the scrimmage long as a number of players were limited in reps by the coaches. It was just precautionary. His teammates point to him when asked about who is ready to break out and make a difference. They talk about how hard he has worked and how important this is to him. I can tell you he is a player really worth rooting for.
4. Freshman Justice Hill and transfer Barry J. Sanders will help the running game.
Both players have performed well in practice and both had a pair of touchdowns in the scrimmage last Saturday. I think there is still a wait and see attached to each player. With Hill it is because he is a freshman and you have to see how long he can stay in there physically. It is a major jump, especially at the running back position. With Sanders it is continuing to get comfortable with the offense and go from thinking to just reacting. I think it is safe to say that both will help and significantly.
5. Marcell Ateman will be missed, but there are receivers that will pick up the slack while Ateman is out.
Give some credit to Jhajuan Seales and Chris Lacy as those two veteran receivers were ready to step up. At least they have looked that way in practice. James Washington was a given, and Jalen McCleskey was being mentioned by nearly everybody around the program as a "breakout" guy for this season. Austin Hays really helps if he can stay healthy. Three freshmen have shown up big in camp in Oklahoma Player of the Year last season Dillon Stoner, Tyrell Alexander of Lancaster, Texas, and 6-2, 200-pound walk-on Obi Obialo out of Coppell, Texas. You wouldn't want to see anymore injuries but that group is pretty solid, if not, at times, spectacular.
6. Defensive tackle is a position where the Cowboys cup runneth over.
I love the line an "embarrassment of riches" and it applies at defensive tackle and it was produced out of adversity. I remember this time last season the concern as to whether the Cowboys would hold up at defensive tackle following the season-ending injury to projected starter Vili Leveni before camp even opened. Sophomore Vincent Taylor not only held up, he developed over the course of the season into a leader and on the field, a difference maker at the position. Junior college transfer Mote Maile did a nice job and developed. Junior Eric Davis improved and freshman Darrion Daniels grew up in a hurry and provided good snaps at the position. Now Leveni is back with all the defensive tackles from last season and the Cowboys added a Baylor signee that wound up in Stillwater in junior college All-American Dequinton Osborne. Osborne is 5-10, 320 pounds and very quick. Taaj Bakari has grown up too and is now a redshirt freshman wanting to get in some reps. It is a good position to be in as fresh legs will always help at defensive tackle.
7. Safety is now a loaded position thanks to the development of Kenneth Edison-McGruder and the availability of Derrick Moncreif.
Edison-McGruder's move back to safety after playing star linebacker in the spring was huge. He is a clone of senior All-Big 12 performer Jordan Sterns at free safety. His play allowed the Auburn transfer Moncrief to move over to strong with Tre Flowers and provide a solid two-deep at each safety position and some flexibility in how the Cowboys personnel the defense in response to what the offense is trying to do. Safety was a strength and now it appears to be a bigger strength. Remember there is still Jerrel Morrow, who is a solid player.
8. Lenzy Pipkins looks to be in the fine tradition of past graduate transfers on defense.
Pipkins quickly gained the attention of his teammates this summer. It seems that number 4 is a little bit of a talker but he can back it up. Saturday in the scrimmage he made a very acrobatic interception and returned it the distance. He is right in line with Tyler Patmon and last year's graduate transfer, Michael Hunter, now playing for the New York Giants. I think he will really help the depth and production on the corners.
9. Jarrell Owens is a player to keep on eye on at all times.
Owens is an explosive athlete who worked very hard in the offseason and he is really starting to have a great feel for the position. Teammates Jordan Brailford, Cole Walterscheid, Trey Carter, and Tralund Webber are all good, but Owens has a chance to be really special.
10. Mike Gundy was right, he may be looking toward the student body to find a kickoff specialist.
The head coach said that on media day and I thought he was kidding. Heck, Matt "Philly" Ammendola booted those field goals in such profound fashion in the spring game that I thought he would for sure be the answer as a kickoff specialist. He may still be. Ben Grogan will be fine on PATs and field goals as he has looked good in camp. Ammendola has been solid on placements too, but his kickoffs, while deep in the end zone, don't go out often. Consistently past the five-yard deep mark in the end zone will do, but if some crazy former high school or club soccer player in the student body wants a few free trips and free t-shirts and to have his friends see him suited up at Boone Pickens Stadium then the job is still available until Gundy declares it closed.