Spring Football: Gundy Likes The Effort

STILLWATER – There is not a lot you can tell from the first day of spring practice. The NCAA rules mandate that you wear helmets, jerseys and shorts, but no pads. There is no contact. The things you can tell on the first day of spring is the physical condition of your team, the attitude of your team, and you can see what their aptitude is in recalling the offensive, defensive, and special teams assignments.

For the Oklahoma State Cowboys it was apparent that they are in much better physical condition than they were a year ago. Rob Glass' off-season program did its job. Players were flying around and moving really well with no hint that anybody was struggling with conditioning. This will become even more apparent as the pads come on later this week.

The attitude was excellent as players seemed very excited to be back out on the field. The off-season program, and the work it entailed, may have been partially responsible for that as well. The recall was pretty good too, and head coach Mike Gundy was right in the middle of that as he is taking a more active coaching approach this spring.

"The players came out and had good enthusiasm," said Gundy. "Coach Glass has worked our team extremely hard and our players have bought in. One thing our football team has is a good attitude and they are working hard and paying the price to do what it takes for us to be successful here, so I was pleased with the practice today.

"It's hard to practice because you are in shorts, no shoulder pads, but there are some assignments that can be worked on," continued Gundy. "Players can get the feel for being back out here again and throw and catch. Other than that, (I'm) looking forward to getting the pads on in a couple of days and banging some heads.

"I'm just coaching a little bit and getting back in there with those guys (quarterbacks)," Gundy added of his involvement. "The one thing that from last year that was difficult for me was not having the player relationship that you have as an assistant coach and seeing the young people develop. I wanted to get out here more and work with the quarterbacks. Larry (Fedora) and I talked about some different things. Larry has coached wide receivers, running backs and quarterbacks, and there are some times he will coach some different things and I will coach the quarterbacks and allow him to move around and coach some other positions."

Offensively, there was a lot of work on the passing game with passes being thrown by the four quarterbacks - Al Pena, Bobby Reid, Zac Robinson and Alex Cate - to backs, tight ends, and a beefed up group of wide receivers. Adarius Bowman is a real strong physical presence at wide receiver to go a long with the talented and more buff D'Juan Woods. Sophomore Ricky Price seemed to pick up where he left off and junior college transfer Anthony Parks showed he really knows how to catch the ball in the middle of traffic. Parks caught one ball in the middle of a crowd of four defenders. As a group the receivers all realize the more playmakers the merrier.

"If we have four or five receivers all making plays then it's hard to key on anybody," said Bowman. "I know D'Juan had a lot of attention on him last year. He still made plays but put four or five guys out there with him, and it's hard for a defense to deal with all of us."

"I think it will help the team out a whole lot and relieve the pressure if other teams want to double cover," said Woods. "A.D. (Bowman) is a monster. You know he is guy out there that is going to be very physical, catch the ball and run people over. He is going to make his presence known and that is something that we need as an offense. We have more guys that make plays it will take more pressure off all of us."

Some of the highlights for the receivers included a Pena toss to Woods down the right sideline for a 27-yard gain. Bobby Reid hit tight end Brandon Pettigrew on a seam route for 19 yards. Pena hit veteran slot Tommy Devereaux on a dump route over the middle and the speedy Devereaux broke it for a 23-yard gain. Pena found Parks again in tight quarters for an eight-yard gain, and freshman Alex Cate hit Seth Newton, who made a nice catch, for a 12-yard advance. All of those plays came during a team period against the defense at the end of practice.

The defense had its moments too. Defensive coordinator Vance Bedford called it a typical first day of spring practice, but said the effort was good. He was frustrated by some drops that could have been interceptions, and the emphasis for the defense is forcing more turnovers.

"They are a little motivated on defense because we told them that if we don't have at least three turnovers or three sacks each practice they are going to have extra practice," said Bedford. "They have a reason to get to the football, and a dropped interception then I'm going to start subtracting from that. We had too many drops today. One of our problems last year was lack of turnovers (on defense). We had no idea what we were doing, but we will be better come Wednesday."

One play where the defense was successful came when sophomore linebacker Kevin White picked off a Cate pass and took off for the opposite sideline on the return. As he was going out of bounds Bowman, who never let up on his pursuit, knocked the ball out of White's hands. It was a great hustle play and an example of the attitude and effort that Gundy saw and was happy about as spring football was officially launched.

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