Spring Football Thoughts & Report Card

Let's start with an overall opinion, I like this football team. With Josh Fields they would have an additional leader and great experience at quarterback, but I'm afraid, and I might add happy for Fields, that he is going to be drafted high in the Major League Amatuer Draft. That said I look for the leadership on the squad to fall to guard Sam Mayes, tight ends Billy Bajema and Charlie Johnson, along with the starting quarterback.

On defense I love the fire of strong safety Vernon Grant and cornerback Darrent Williams. Those two emotional leaders will blend with steady linebacker Paul Duren, fellow linebacker Lawrence Pinson, and cornerback Robert Jones to form the leadership on defense.

        The speed on this team is brilliant, 25 guys that run 4.5 or better with real speedballs like Darrent Williams, Daniel McLemore, Andrew Alexander, Robert Jones, Grant Jones, Chijuan Mack, Kenny Williams, Calvin Roberts, and so many more. Speed is a killer in so many ways in college football. It starts big plays and goes a long way toward preventing them as well.

        If you were at the Saturday scrimmage you saw a glimpse of what the offense might become if Fields departs. If he returns, the Cowboys will have two vastly different attacks to toss at opposing defenses requiring them to really stretch their practice time on a variety of schemes. Fields can pick teams a part in a balanced pro-style attack, while Robert Reid or Donovan Woods can come in and attack the perimeter and also maintain the threat of a passing game. Either way, with Fields or without, the O-State offense will be more diverse than it has ever been.

        The defense has a chance to be vastly improved, start with the speed and experience in the secondary. Mix in experience and athleticism at linebacker. I believe the situation at defensive end will be good. There is plenty of talent to provide several different combinations. They will be green, but will be helped with the experience behind them in the defense. It is critical that Jerry Don Bray add more consistency to his play where he already has shown himself to be capable of making big plays. It is imperative that the Cowboys remain healthy at defensive tackle. as the combination of Clay Coe, Xavier Lawson-Kennedy, Brad Girtman, and Efe Mowarin will have to be a solid rotation. Darnell Smith might be able to help even though he is undersized, and it would be nice to get Walter Thomas or William Bell in the house in August and find that they are ready to contribute early.

        Finally, all Cowboys fans have been anxiously awaiting winning an opening game. It is the only feaux paux of the Les Miles' era. This season has only 11 games on the schedule. UCLA, even on the road at the Rose Bowl, is beatable. More work than ever in previous springs was devoted to preparing for UCLA. Miles knows a win over UCLA gets a younger team badly needed momentum and couple that win with home wins over Tulsa and SMU, a week off, and then a Big 12 opener at home with Iowa State and the Cowboys could really be off and running.

        My early prediction on the season is 8-3. The three losses are Texas on the road, Oklahoma at home, and Texas Tech on the road. All three of those games could be wins. A win over either Texas or Oklahoma and the Cowboys could go to Lubbock on the Saturday after Thanksgiving playing for, or a share of, the Sough Division of the Big 12.

        Below are my spring football grades by position.

Quarterback - A

        I give a slight edge to Reid on the quarterback race, but it's easy to recognize that both Reid and Woods are very special athletes, and both need to have an impact on the football team. There is great depth when you add Al Pena and Jamie Beeghley. If Fields returns it is crowded, but there's nothing wrong with a crowd of talent as long as everyone recognizes their role and handles it well.

Tailback - I

        No other grade is possible when three of the five players miss significant time. Morency needs to be as tough in in every month as he proved to be in November. Kudos to Grag Jones for, again, proving how tough he is. Calvin Roberts is a great athlete that has a chance to really develop either here or somewhere.. Look out in August when Floridian Mike Hamilton arrives.

Fullback - A

        Willis is as good, maybe better, than he was last fall, and Julius Crosslin, who ran a 4.45 in the forty, came on to add depth to the position.

Wide Receiver - B

        D'Juan Woods is developing well, but Todd Monken says his other guys have some distance to travel before they are ready to make big plays consistently. We saw that in the final scrimmage. The group of Chijuan Mack, Kenny Williams, Eric Allen, and Tommy Devereaux all have skills but need to improve in positioning more than anything else. Monken says he will also challange them to ger stronger and be ready to play more physical in the fall.

Tight End - A

        Billy Bajema and Charlie Johnson. Enough said.

Offensive Line - A-

        Strike me dead, but they are better. The reappearance of a talented and determined Doug Bond was outstanding at left guard teaming with left tackle Corey Hilliard. Then redshirt freshman David Koenig proved he is going to be ready to add depth. Akin was as good as last spring at center and Ben Buie should be back to help in the fall. On the right side Mayes and Kellen Davis are very solid and I like Adam Gourley and Phillip Friess and the way they have developed. The trio of freshman coming in August are quality players.

Defensive Tackle - B

        Nothing could be done about the injuries to Mowarin and Girtman. Xavier Lawson-Kennedy improved and could be a bull inside in the fall. Clay Coe is steeady, and the experiment with Darnell Smith was a success. It'd be nice to have more and have everybody healthy. These players have to be ready to have a dynamite season.

Defensive End - B+

        This could have easily have been an A, and I probably should change it. Jerry Don Bray is going to be a really good player, a little more consistency is all that is needed. Marque Fountain will be good at the rush end. Depth is good and the young players like Maurice Cummings and Nathan Peterson really came along rapidly.

Linebacker - B+

        Roderick Johnson really improved as a midterm freshman and he will play some next season. He reminds you some of Victor DeGrate. Paul Duren missed some time with an ankle injury. Lawrence Pinson was out there, but was kept out of contact situations. Bill Clay says Pinson will be back and be the old Pinson after the injury from last season.

Secondary - A

        It's loaded. Read above. The corners are as good as OSU has ever had with Darrent Williams and Robert Jones. Thomas Wright had a teriffic spring at free safety.

Special Teams - B

        Still nothing defintive on the field goal and extra point chores, but DeForest believes that either Luke Roberts, Cole Farden, or incoming freshman Jason Ricks will be ready to handle it. Farden is solid, even spectacular at punter and kickoffs. D'Juan Woods or John Wohglemuth will hold and Jacob Dressen is the snapper again. If you were at the final scrimmage you know about the returns. WOW!

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