Practice Report 5: Wright Dismissed; D Shines

As Oklahoma State associated head coach Joe DeForest walked to the practice field prior to the Cowboys first full pad session Monday he said, "It's been a bad day." DeForest didn't elaborate, but at the end of practice head coach Mike Gundy cleared up why DeForest and the rest of the defensive coaches didn't enjoy their Monday -- the jigsaw puzzle at secondary lost a piece that they were really counting on.

"Thomas Wright is no longer on our team," said Gundy at the end of his debriefing with the media following practice. "It's a violation of team policy and that is all I can say. I wish I could tell you more, but that is all I can say."

Wright, a 5-11, 185-pound senior out of Sweeny, Texas, was one of the few players in the Cowboys secondary with significant experience. Wright worked his way into a starting position as a freshman and despite injuries had several starts and lots of playing time as a sophomore and junior. His dismissal means there is more emphasis on getting freshmen ready in the secondary. It could also necessitate the move of Jeremy Nethon, the formerly dismissed safety, back to safety from linebacker where the now walk-on has been working.

Even with Wright gone the secondary and the defense had a pretty good day. It started in one-on-one work with the receivers early in practice as freshman cornerback Jacob Lacey made a spectacular interception on a fade route. Lacey got up for the ball and tipped it to himself as he was falling on the ground. Freshmen Andre Sexton and Quinton Moore, and veterans Jamie Thompson, Chase Holland and Stephen James got loads of work at safety. At the corners Daniel McLemore, Martel Van Zant, Cortney Billingsley, T.J. Bell, Grant Jones, Jacob Lacey and Calvin Mickens all got reps.

During the blitz drill the Cowboy offense was working the flats with short passes to receivers and running backs. It opened with quarterback Donovan Woods connecting with Tommy Devereaux in the left flat and Stephen James coming up to make a big hit. The offense never hit for anything big in the drill, missing on a couple of long routes. The full team drill ended with quarterback Bobby Reid being sacked.

In the team run drill Donovan Woods had a long keeper on the first play, and then shortly after that running back Mike Hamilton got a big run as he ran over freshman safety Andre Sexton. In the inside drill the defense had two big hits as Victor DeGrate clobbered Hamilton just behind the line of scrimmage nearly taking his head off. Defensive tackle Ryan McBean showed up with a nice stop on Julius Crosslin behind the line of scrimmage. The offense's shining moment came when fullback Shawn Willis broke a dive play off right tackle and took it the distance to the end zone.

"We are doing pretty good. We've come a long way from the spring," said defensive end Victor DeGrate of the defensive line. "We depend and are starting to trust each other and run the defense like we are supposed to. It's very critical that we are better than we were a year ago. D-line that is the first thing that the other team sees. If we don't play like we are supposed to the defense isn't going to work. We have to trust in each other and do our assignment."

The theme of the defense having their day continued with seven-on-seven work as Woods' first pass was intercepted by Daniel McLemore after the ball had been deflected. After Sunday's practice where the offense really was sharp with both Woods and Reid looking good throwing the ball, Monday was not as good. Woods hit 3-of-7 with the one pass intercepted. Reid was better hitting 4-of-6 passes including a red zone pass to Tevin Williams that went for a touchdown.

In the final team drill the offensive success came via the ground with Hamilton and Crosslin carrying several times for good yardage and a seal block by tight end Brandon Pettigrew sprung Donovan Woods down the sideline on an option keeper. Toward the end Reid was intercepted -- much like Woods earlier -- on a deflected ball that linebacker Lawrence Pinson had come right to him. The offense did work on some new running schemes today that showed up well in practice and will be fun for fans to see later during the season.

The practice ended a two-minute drill in which the offense came up empty handed. Donovan Woods had two tries guiding the offense and finished 1-of-5 passing with one scramble to get away from the rush. His last pass was on target but dropped by tight end Paschal Smith. Reid was better passing with four short completions to wide receiver Seth Newton, but he was sacked once and then on the last play of the practice, perhaps fittingly, Reid was picked off on a beautiful diving catch by Grant Jones.

"The guys worked hard and I was excited about seeing Grant Jones make some good plays here at the end," said Gundy of the three-hour practice. "It seems like our defensive line is holding up on pass rush here at the end of the day. When you are out here for two hours and 45 minutes it's tough for those big guys to finish, but it seems like they are in good shape."

The Cowboys don't have to wait long to get back on the practice field with the first two-a-day practice day of the preseason Tuesday. Practices begin at 10 a.m. and 4:45 p.m. and both are open with the public gate being in the middle of the west end adjacent to The Athletic Center.

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