Spring Football: Linebackers a Big Hit

Thursday was the in-between practice for Oklahoma State as the team went through a two-hour, 20-minute practice on Boone Pickens Stadium to reinforce the installation of the short yardage and goal line offense put in earlier this week. The Cowboys were dressed in shorts, shoulder pads and helmets, and contact was limited as they are coming off a heavy hitting practice Wednesday and preparing for the second most important scrimmage of the spring on Saturday at 11:45 a.m.

The practice had to be conducted backwards. Team period, team pass, and team blitz came first as several players had to leave early because of exams. The individual and position drills came in the second half of the practice.

One of the areas of the team that has been a pleasant surprise is at linebacker. New linebackers coach Todd Bradford has been put in charge of helping defensive coordinator Vance Bedford teach the 4-3 and other schemes and blend together four talented veteran linebackers and a couple of players making the switch from safety to linebacker.

"It is going well," said Bradford when asked about a general sizing up of the linebackers. "They are doing a good job, but I'm glad we don't have to play a game. We need to improve and I think we will."

Everybody has noticed one of Bradford's converted linebackers in Jamar Ransom. Bradford, Bedford and head coach Mike Gundy have all been singing his praises as it appears the 5-10, 228-pound El Paso, Texas product is a natural at the position. Ransom is a big hitter who made several tackles and wasn't shy in the short yardage and goal line scrimmage on Wednesday. In last Saturday's 115-play scrimmage he had five tackles and two sacks.

"I'm having a great time out there," said Ransom of his work at linebacker this spring. "I think it really is the perfect place for me being in there with those guys and getting physical like that. I'm having a great time."

A real key to the transition is that Ransom has plenty of help not just from the coaches but also from the veteran trio of linebackers Paul Duren, Lawrence Pinson and Pagitte McGee.

"All of those guys came in and gave me some great input, whether it's shuffling your feet or how to backpedal like a linebacker," said Ransom. "They all have given me great advice and I'm just thankful that I have those guys to help me out like they have."

Duren, as a veteran, really likes having the three linebackers out there most of the time. Duren led the Cowboys in tackles his freshman and sophomore seasons and was third on the team last fall. He likes the hunger and aggressiveness this defense puts in the linebacker corps.

"I like it because we're spilling plays to a linebacker and not a safety," explained Duren. "In the 4-2-5 you were always spilling plays over to a safety and I think this works better for us. You have to make plays."

After having a coach in Bill Clay who was older and maybe more reserved at times, the Cowboys have a younger coordinator who likes to get a little noisy, and both Duren and Ransom like that as well.

"He's put enthusiasm in us and is out there making us play real hard for him," said Duren of Bedford. "I don't see many loafs out there and that is a good thing. I think the coaching staff is responsible for that."

"He's an adult version of V.G. (cornerback and resident talker Vernon Grant) and we feed off of that all the time," said Ransom. "We get energy from him. He gets in there fired up and jumps around and gets on us. I like it a lot."

It's working. The enthusiasm is there more than ever on the defensive side of the ball. It's important that in the final five practices -- including the last two scrimmages -- that the defense makes the improvement that is needed. They are certainly heading in that direction.

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