Scouting the Ragin Cajuns

Robert's pre-game thoughts on how OSU and ULL stack up, an update on Elbert Craig's injury and recruiting tidbits...

Looking Ahead
That is the danger and why the Oklahoma State coaches were a little antsy in practice this week. Coaches don't worry as much about big games because they know their players are ready, they know they are focused on the opponent, and they know fans expect a rugged game. When a team like Louisiana-Lafayette comes to town with their 0-5 record, the week before OSU gets a shot at home for revenge against Kansas State, that's when coaches have nightmares of what could happen. That said, this was a good week of practice for the Cowboys. On the offensive side Josh Fields threw the ball really well with what seemed like was a little extra zip on it. The Cowboys worked a variety of wide receivers as Rashaun caught his share, but D'Juan Woods, Tommy Devereuax, Kenneth Williams, and even Errick McCown got reps in the passing game.

On the offensive line look for Corey Hilliard, who has received a lot of the reps in practice to see more time at the right tackle position. He has had a good two weeks of practice. The entire offensive line has had plenty of work during the past two weeks.

A player to watch for more at tailback might be Vernand Morency as he had a chance for more reps in practice. Morency seems to be out of the doghouse and has performed well. Tatum Bell and Seymore Shaw still rank ahead of Morency, but if the opportunity is there, I think Morency will get a chance at some carries.

Defense has remained consistent, and plenty of players got work in during the past two weeks. On the defnesive line the young guys all got lots of action. How about this -- according to our sources Xavier Lawson-Kennedy is down to 292 pounds. That's "in-shape" for the big guy from Duncanville.

The injury to Elbert Craig will give added playing time to Freddie Sinclair and Jamar Ransom, both players have had plenty of playing time in the past two games and they should play well. It is Craig's leadership that will be expecially missed.

Elbert Injury and More
The news reported is correct on Elbert Craig, Jr. As reported by several news outlets Craig suffered a season ending knee injury. An MRI revealed that Craig's injury in a live pass-rush drill on Tuesday was indeed a torn anterior cruciate ligament. The Cowboys starting weak safety is one of the best tacklers in the Big 12 and made his 18th-consecutive start and 28th of his career in the SMU game. This season he was ninth on the team in tackles and for his career he finishes 14th on the all-time O-State tackle list with 277 stops.

With Craig out, the weak safety position is now manned by Freddie Sinclair and Jamar Ransom. Both have had a lot of playing time and should do well, but you hate to lose the veteran experience and leadership of Craig.

Before anyone asks, Craig is not a candidate for a sixth year from the NCAA. He redshirted as a freshman, and had three uninterrupted seasons of playing time. The NCAA rule specifies that players who lose two or more years of eligibility playing time as a result of circumstances out of their control (primarily injury) can apply for an additional year of eligibility.

The Cowboys have had some other injuries in practice this week that could impact playing time for Saturday's game with Louisiana-Lafayette, but head coach Les Miles' policy of not reporting injuries (this applies to beat reporters that are allowed to view practice but not report injuries) keeps me from detailing those. I can tell you that none of those injuries appeared to be serious enough to impact any playing time beyond Saturday.

It also appears that previously injured players such as tight end Billy Bajema (hamstring), free safety Thomas Wright (knee), center Ben Buie (back), safety Jamie Thompson (quad), and fullback Tim Burrough (shoulder) appear to be improved and all players should be ready for the ULL game Saturday.

Dress Rehearsal Theory and What To Expect
I look at Saturday's game as a dress rehearsal. I know that sounds like devaluing the game, but it's not. This game is critical for the Cowboys success during the tough October and November run of Kansas State, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, and Texas. This game has to bring together the offense with the ability to run and pass. Balance needs to be part of what we see on Saturday. ULL runs an aggressive defensive front so being able to throw over the top is almost a given, and no, these guys are not going to adjust. They will be just like SMU -- stubborn in sticking with what they run, because they are preparing for a run of Sunbelt league teams that they can beat. I think you will see the ball spread around the field to Rashaun, the other wide receivers, and the tight end will be back en vogue on Saturday.

Even with a loaded front the Cowboys should be able to run the ball effectively. The offensive line should be able to manhandle the Cajuns up front.

On defense look for the Cowboys to apply plenty of pressure. The Cajuns have not been able to run the football with any success, and the throwing game, while more successful, is susceptable to turnovers. Expect the Cowboys to blitz and go upfield. Bill Clay is hoping to get all of the young players unvolved and early including Xavier Lawson-Kennedy, Brad Girtman, Marque Fountain, Jerry Don Bray, Trumaine Carroll, and linebacker Victor DeGrate. All of the mentioned players should help out with duty in Big 12 games.

Eyes Down South
There will be plenty of focus earlier in the day on the matchup in Austin between Texas and Kansas State. I am one of the few folks that feels K-State can go into Austin and win. The question comes down to Ell Roberson and how healthy the K-State quarterback is going into the game. I can tell you that the Wildcats' athletic director Tim Weiser had very little comment on the quarterback's health during this week's Big 12 AD meetings in Dallas. I guess the coach (Bill Snyder) has taught his athletic director (Weiser) well.

Recruiting News
Not much. Okay Robert Reid may show up at the Texas-Kansas State game in Austin, but I really don't see that as a threat. Next week will be the major week for recruiting as OSU is hoping to have a banner turnout for the Kansas State game. No word yet on two of the biggest names on the list of invitees as the Cowboys would love to have Palestine, Texas running back Adrian Peterson and Park Hill, Missouri offensive tackle Brett Gallimore in Boone Pickens Stadium for the game with the 'Cats. We'll check it out and try to give you an advance for next week.

World Series Time at Allie P.
If you are itching for baseball, something other than the Major League Divisional Series, then keep an eye on the lights at Allie P. Reynolds Stadium. New head coach Frank Anderson believes in splitting up his squad into two teams at the end of fall baseball and having a best of three game series and call it the "World Series." Before the wet weather earlier this week, the plan was to play 7 p.m. games on Wednesday and Thursday with a Friday afternoon contest. The hope is they will go now Thursday night, Friday afternoon, and possibly conclude on Monday or Tuesday night.

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