Not A Finished Product
There is no doubt that Oklahoma State looked much better on Saturday in the 48-24 win over Wyoming. No turnovers, 594 yards of total offense, and five sacks on defense will make you look better. By no means are the Cowboys the finished product. Head coach Les Miles and the staff found a number of areas they feel they need improvement in.
"We didn't block them perfectly (last Saturday), and we need to better at some of our technique work across the board on the offensive side as we go forward," said Miles. "I felt the defense played very crisp at the beginning, but then gave up a little too much rushing and then long throws late in the game. There are reasons to be optimistic about the defense playing that side of the ball. We still need to improve."
The main areas that the staff will keep a keen eye on are the offensive line, the passing game, stopping the run on defense, and keeping teams from big plays in the passing game. When they get the chance to play the young players, they are looking for them to improve. Miles said the hope is a number of the young players that got their first taste of it last Saturday will be ready to contribute consistently in some of the big games during the Big 12 season. That list includes Marque Fountain, Brad Girtman, Xavier Lawson-Kennedy, Ricky Coxeff, Corey Hilliard, and Tommy Devereaux.
Bell Gets Big 12 Honor
Tatum Bell was voted the SBC Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week by the panel of media voters that select the weekly honors. Bell rushed for 215 yards on 21 carries with three touchdowns. His scoring runs came from 7, 30, and 16-yards. It was the first time in his career that Bell was voted the Big 12 weekly honor.
Offensive Line A Competitive Situation
The offensive line is
definitely not a finished product. Today both Les Miles and offensive line coach
Chuck Moller elaborated on that. Both coaches talked about the need to improve
technique and become more consistent on the line. Miles felt there were some
plays that the tailbacks had more to do with in their ability to break tackles,
rather than the offensive line giving them a clean path into the secondary.
Along that way of thinking, the competition at several positions
- including both tackles - heated up as Doug Koenig (left tackle), Caleb Noble (guard), and freshman
Corey Hilliard (right tackle) got significant snaps during the Wyoming
"I was very pleased. Caleb Noble played the most," said Moller. "He was doing a good job and he is moving himself up and is closing the gap on being in that top five. Doug Koenig played the second most of the backups and he is doing a good job. Corey Hilliard, if he continues to improve each week the way he has he is the future of what we are looking for. I want guys being forced to improve at everything they do. What they do well and what they do poorly. They know our system will put in the best five guys. I encourage the competiveness. I want the twos to be pushing hard for the ones and know that if they overcome them they will get the nod. For us to improve the way we want to we have to improve each week technically and just move the team along in leaps and bounds when that happens." Moller didn't elaborate on any possible changes, but it is obvious that he is comfortable with Noble playing a lot, and it appears that Koenig is about to pull even with starter Matt Hardison, if he hasn't already.
Darrent Williams revealed to the media on Monday that it was his turn in the rotation at punt returner on Saturday when Gabe Lindsay took the late first-quarter punt back 55 yards for a touchdown.
"It was my turn, but since I was winded from covering a deep pass on defense I let Gabe take it," explained Williams, who rotates with Lindsay on returning punts. "I wasn't jealous. I was happy for Gabe. He's a senior and I'll get my chance to take one back all the way."
Williams and Lindsay do
things differently on returning punts. Williams is more of a pure speed guy,
while Lindsay has a great first step and is outstanding at seeing the field and
reading the blocks on the return unit.
"Gabe has taught me a lot about being patient and waiting for the blocking to develop," said Williams. "He is great at that, I'm more about speeding downfield, but his influence has made me better."
Four Week Countdown
Miles is resisting describing the nonconference portion of the schedule this way, but it is apparent that the Cowboys won't be challenged severely over the next three games. While it is unspoken - the strategy is to win first, and improve second, develop young players third. If the Cowboys will jump up their game each of the next three contests as much as they did from Nebraska to Wyoming, then they should be in great shape by the time Kansas State comes to town on Oct. 11.
Speaking of Kansas State, it is watching closely over the next four weeks to see how quarrterback Ell Roberson's left hand improves. Roberson injured the hand when it banged into an opposing helmet in the Wildcats romp over McNeese State on Saturday. Today K-State head coach Bill Snyder said the prognosis is for Roberson to miss the next three weeks and be ready for Kansas State's Oct. 4 game at Texas. The Wildcats come to Stillwater the next week.
A Little Bit About Southwest Missouri
The Bears play in one of the toughest conferences in Division I-AA, the Gateway Conference. They opened up on August 30 with a 48-0 win at home over East Central Oklahoma out of Ada, a Division II school. Southwest Missouri led at half 31-0 and went on to cruise to the win. They outgained East Central 458 yards to 189. The bulk of their yards came on the ground as they rushed for 353 ards and passed for 105. Tailback Tommicus Walker, who is 5-11, 198 pounds,rushed for 127-yards on nine carries with one touchdown run. Walker's touchdown run was a 61 yard effort. Backup Cody Pratt, a 5-10, 215-pound junior had 157 yards on 24 carries with four touchdown runs. Starting quarterback A.J. Porter was 6 of 10 passing for 69 yards. Porter is a 6-3, 217-pound sophomore.Tony Hill, a 6-3, 203-pounder, led all receivers with four receptions for 50 yards including a touchdown.
The offensive and defensive lines are average. The leading tacklers are sophomore linebacker Rodderick Dobson and senior linebacker Darryl Warren with seven stops. Southwest Missouri intercepted two East Central passes and recovered a fumble, but they also fumbled the ball four times to East Central.
"We understand that Southwest Missouri has some ability and skill," said Miles. "They can run around and play. They will bring in more athletic ability, they will be faster than the team that we played last Saturday."
Information At A Premium
Information is not that easy to find on the Bears. They only sent Oklahoma State two media guides, which were both confiscated by football. They also neglected to send a program with the video of the East Central game. The Cowboys have since obtained a flipcard from the game with the Bears two-deep and full roster.
It came to my attention that Wichita Northwest tailback O'Dell Bell is a hot name right now. He should be. Last week Wichita Northwest routed Wichita South 74-12 as Bell had 165 yards and four touchdowns in the first half alone. Bell is 5-10, 185 pounds and runs a true 4.4 in the forty. He can fly. Bell said he is being recruited right now by Kansas State, Colorado State, Oklahoma State, and Wyoming.
Among the visitors to the OSU-Wyoming game last Saturday were Tyler Lee defensive back Martel Van Zandt and his brother Dominique, who is a running back and a linebacker. Martel is a Texas Top 50 prospect that is 6-2, 200 pounds and really packs a punch. The interesting aspect of this recruiting story is that Martel is deaf. He was at the OSU game with his mom and a woman that signs for him. Martel has a signer that is with him at school and is also football knowledgeable and is with him at football practice and games to communicate. How schools can accomodate Martel's special needs will determine where he goes.
"I want to make sure Martel will be taken care of," said his mother. "I was very impressed with Oklahoma State and was encouraged when I found out that Coach Miles brother is deaf. That tells me he has a real understanding of what Martel is dealing with."
Martel has a great personality and is very outgoing. He is not shy and reserved as you might expect. He is also a very good student. Checking into the situation, Oklahoma State provides deaf students with a signer in all of their classes, and football would have to provide a signer for Martel in practices and possibly games.It's a unique situation, but from what I've seen, one that would be well worth the investment and the effort.
There are two areas of
focus that the Cowboys need to shore up. The offensive line is improving, but
needs to continue. Nebraska found a weak spot with the zone blitzing
that it did. It allows for solid coverage on Rashaun Woods and still gives the
defense a chance for a strong pass rush. There is no way to infuse experience in
young players, they simply have to get it from playing. Chuck Moller is always
wanting at least eight good linemen and he has them. The next three games,
getting them coached up, improving technique, and recognition are vital to
success down the stretch in the Big 12. The other area is the secondary. This is
an area that I said would be the most improved on the football team. I still
feel that way, but they have to become more consistent. Wyoming connected on too
many deep passes, a problem that came up last season against UCLA, Kansas State, and Texas Tech. The deep passes have to be
covered better. Like a big return or a blocked kick, long pass plays are
momentum grabbers. The other area that needs to improve with the secondary is
takeways. Wyoming put the ball up 38 times, many times with pressure on the
quarterback and there were no interceptions. The Cowboys have to not turn the
ball over themselves, but they also need some takeaways. If those two areas will
make strides, the rest of the team continue to sharpen their skills, then
October and November could be a lot of fun. Those two areas have to be better to
beat the likes of K-State, Texas
A&M on the road, Oklahoma, and Texas.