Practice Report 16: A Friday For Special Teams

The end of the Cowboys Friday evening practice was very noisy and afterwards head coach Mike Gundy revealed that he took a page out of last year's practice guide as the entire team gathered around place kicker Bruce "Sunshine" Redden as he attempted several long pressure field goals with his teammates yelling to simulate crowd noise. The fate of the team and whether they would do up-downs was on Redden's toe.

The results were mixed as several kicks went through and several up-downs were done. The same process was improvised and repeated for the punt returners, especially newcomers to the duty like Tommy Devereaux and walk-on freshman Zach Ross. Freshmen Quinton Moore and Jeremy Broadway are returning kickoffs and they got some of the same treatment while trying to catch simulated big kicks launched out of the Juggs machine. It was a spirited way to end the evening practice.

"Today was a lot about special teams," Gundy said following the evening practice. "We had the earlier practice today that was all special teams. Tomorrow we are going to scrimmage about 70-80 plays and we will find out a lot about ourselves. On offense we are going to look at what we've been working on and find out what we can do. The things we can't do we will throw out, and then we'll go from there in getting ready for the first game."

Saturday's scheduled 5:45 p.m. scrimmage on the practice fields will be completely closed to the public and media alike as Gundy wants total privacy on this one.

The first practice on Friday at 11 a.m. was all special teams.

"We worked every phase and every scenario," siad associate head coach and special teams coordinator Joe DeForest. "We worked our hands team, onside kick, kickoff return fielding pooch kicks. Every scenario that could come up in the course of a game. Free kicks, everything."

DeForest reported that Daniel McLemore will return punts with Devereaux and Ross as backups. McLemore and cornerback Grant Jones will get first call on kickoffs with freshmen Quinton Moore and Jeremy Broadway backing up. It is obvious with returning kicker Jason Ricks out with a pulled quad muscle that Bruce "Sunshine" Redden will handle extra points and field goals and will also kickoff.

DeForest said the other specialist chores will be told first to the players on Monday. Freshmen Matt Fodge and Cole Reynolds are battling for the punting duty. Senior Bruce Jeffries and freshman Zach Allen are competing for the long and short snapping chores, and Chase Holland and Luke Roberts have been splitting the holding duty.

During the morning practice Redden was very strong with his kicks, which might explain his missing some in the evening practice. Also, in the morning Cole Reynolds boomed a 53-yarder punting out of his own end zone. During the evening session, again out of the end zone, Reynolds had punts of 44, 44, 41 and 40 yards; while Fodge had the long punt of 46 yards with his three other kicks going 40 yards.

The evening practice was in shorts, shoulder pads, and helmets. The offense was consistent working a lot of short passing game including screens and throws to the backs and tight ends. The running game also got a thorough going over in preparation for Saturday's scrimmage.

"We've been sharper the past two practices, and they've bounced around pretty good in the heat," said offensive coordinator Larry Fedora. "We need to be improved tomorrow night. That scrimmage will be very important in showing us what direction we need to go."

The defense has had the upper hand in the first two scrimmages, and Fedora said the addition of new blitzes each day have helped the offense. Defensive coordinator Vance Bedford is feeling pretty good about his side of the ball, even the secondary which everyone else seems worried about.

"They've worked hard," said Bedford of the job his defensive backs have done. "Defo (Joe DeForest) has done a good job with the corners and they are playing very well right now. We're helping them with cover two, some pressure blitzes up front and their performance has improved. They are gaining confidence.

"I've probably done a bad job with the safeties," added Bedford laughing before admitting that he has been happy with the job they are doing as well.

Saturday night is a dress rehearsal without the fancy uniforms and crowd, but it will go a long way in dictating the course Gundy and the staff will take in the final two weeks leading up to the Sept. 3 opener with Montana State at Boone Pickens Stadium.

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