Practice Report 4: Lines Get Physical on Sunday

Sunday's practice was a little more physical with the Cowboys in shoulder pads and helmets for the second day. The guys up front on both sides the ball - offensive and defensive linemen - were a little more noticeable. The two hour, 45 minute practice, which ended just before a healthy thunderstorm hit Stillwater, included a blitz drill, inside drill, some one-on-one work between the offensive and defensive line, and a near 30-minute team period at the end of practice.

It's been very difficult to follow the defensive front in the opening days of practice as they have worked exclusively down on the northeast corner of the practice fields - binocular or scope distance from the area that fans and the extended area that media are limited to. But today the big boys came out of hibernation and looked pretty good.

In the blitz drill the quarterbacks - Donovan Woods, Bobby Reid, and Al Pena - were forced to scramble on almost half the plays and on one play Woods was forced the throw the ball away on the run. The offense had its moments as Woods connected with his brother D'Juan on a wheel route and later hit Tommy Devereaux on the outside with a ball that was tipped at the line of scrimmage. He also hit Luke Frazier with a wide receiver screen that gained good yards.

Reid's three best throws included an out route thrown with nice velocity to Seth Newton, an inside slant to Tevin Williams, and a screen pass to Mike Hamilton out of the backfield. On one of the plays that Reid was forced to tuck and run linebacker Paul Duren broke through on the blitz and did a nice job of forcing Reid into defensive support. Jamar Ransom had a nice stop on Woods out on the outside as Woods was trying to escape the blitz.

There was good to be had on both sides of the trenches, and head coach Mike Gundy sounds happy with the situation on both lines.

"I'm excited about them," said Gundy. "I really enjoy watching coach Wickline and coach Barnes coach. We have some good young talent there, and Walter Thomas and XLK are hanging in there. It's a challenge for them because as big as they are. It's interesting to me to watch those guys because if they can make it through the next couple of weeks it's downhill from there. Really, with the pads on the past two days its been the first time we could be physical."

The battles continued with a little more ferocity during inside drills. In a little ones versus ones action Julius Crosslin tried to pierce the line and found that Ryan McBean and Xavier Lawson-Kennedy make solid stop signs. The safeties were active in the inside drill as Thomas Wright and Jamie Thompson came up to make several plays. New defensive lineman Jeray Chatham, who has moved over from the offense, combined with linebacker Jeremiah Burton to stop Crosslin for a loss. But in fairness to the offense Hamilton broke a play over the right side for seven yards, Calvin Roberts broke another run into the secondary, and Crosslin broke a carry through the left side and went all the way on one of the last plays of the drill.

Following inside drill the fun didn't stop as offensive and defensive lines got together for a little one-on-one pass protection work. One player from each side goes with a dummy back behind the offense. The objective is simple - offense protects while the defense tags the quarterback. Some of the more competitive and entertaining matchups included guard Caleb Noble going against defensive tackle Josh Pinaire, newcomer at center Steven Denning against big Walter Thomas, Jeray Chatham gave freshman standout Noah Franklin a little Division I education, and newcomer Larry Brown and guard Corey Curtis really got after it.

Pinaire seems to have improved and he and Noble finished even up, Denning and Thomas really got after it and it escalated into a little extracurricular skirmish that was broken up quickly. Chatham has a chance to help on the defensive line. He knows the drill well from the other side, but may be better on the defensive side.

"I was very excited," said Chatham of when he was told he was moving to defense. "This is where I belong on the dark side. This is where I really wanted to be. It's being excited and being mean."

Larry Brown has some quickness and he and Curtis put on a good show with both players having some success. Curtis says he's happy with the offensive line and impressed with improvement by the defenders, including Jeray Chatham.

"He moved positions and we're happy for him," said Curtis of Chatham. "We get a little mad at him when he knows the call and he plays the play, but we get him back. He's going to use it to his advantage, anybody would.

"Guard is where I've been playing most of my career here, just this is the right side not the left side, but the transition really hasn't been that bad," said Curtis of his new starting role on the offensive line. "I like guard a lot because I get to play next to Corey (Hilliard) and he really helps out a lot."

Highlights in the team drill included a pair of touchdown passes by Donovan Woods. Woods was intercepted earlier in the practice by linebacker Paul Duren, but in team connected down the left sideline with Luke Frazier, who had beat the corner on that side. Then on the last play of the practice it was Woods to Woods down the right sideline for a touchdown, in stride and into the end zone.

Reid had his share of success as he connected for a good gain over the middle to Greg Gold, who is working almost exclusively now at receiver. Gold made a sliding catch on the play and later took a Utah pass from Reid the distance for a score. Reid also hit Mike Hamilton on a screen and Hamilton made the most of it with a move on the perimeter that dropped the defender and gained good yardage. Some of the better defensive plays came up front as linebacker Pagitte McGee and defensive tackle Cody Townsend had impressive stops at the line of scrimmage.

Both quarterbacks had success and Gundy said the scoreboard for order on the depth chart has really not advanced or changed much since the start of practice.

"I feel like that were throwing better as a team," said Gundy. "There was so much indecision in the spring as to where everybody (receivers) were located. I think we have a better feeling for that. I think Donovan and Bobby are both throwing better. Donovan Woods is a better thrower than he's ever been. I can already tell you that. A couple of times today Bobby was moving and threw that intermediate pass on the run and hit those guys. Last year he was missing those a lot. Today he ran to his left and hit Paschal 10 or 15 yards down the field. That's encouraging."

Monday all the pads go on for the first time as the final NCAA mandated acclimatization practice will take place at 4:45 p.m. What does that mean? It means two-a-days on Tuesday and Thursday of this week working toward a major scrimmage on Saturday at 11 a.m.

All practices are open to the public this week with the public entrance in the middle of the west fence between the field and The Athletic Center.

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