What Do We Know After Four Spring Practices?

What have we learned after the first four of 15 spring practices for the Oklahoma State football team? Robert Allen has some answers.

Adarius Bowman will be a difference maker on offense at wide receiver.
Bowman has so much athletic talent. He has the size, strength, more than adequate speed for his size, and an ability to either break tackles or make people miss. One development we have seen early in the spring is the use of Bowman in the slot. Previously we thought the coaching staff would have him strictly outside, but his running ability is so good that he begs for some of those slip screen and quick screens that go to the slot receiver. He also has caught several balls over the middle and turned them into big gainers. Bowman and D'Juan Woods team with Ricky Price, Jeremy Broadway, Anthony Parks and Tevin Williams to form a nice corps of receivers. His presence, along with Woods, makes all other players better because of the attention that top pair will draw from defenses.

Patience and creative scheming will be important in breaking in the new offensive line, and injuries at that position (feel free to knock on wood) could be disastrous.
It just takes time. This is no knock of Andrew Lawrence, Steven Denning, Noah Franklin or any of the other young linemen, but playing on the offensive line in Division I, especially in the Big 12, is a difficult chore for a young player. You really need experience and maturity, both physical and mental. The coaching staff, especially line coach Joe Wickline, has no choice but to be patient. They'll get better but in the meantime there will be mistakes and physical mismatches. Offensive plays and game plans will have to keep the inexperience in mind and will require planning that will lessen the pressure on the offensive line. By the way, Corey Hilliard is really good and David Koenig has adapted to tackle better than I thought. He may be more of a natural there than at guard. Center David Washington has to stay healthy this season.

Brandon Pettigrew would win any tight end beauty contest.
I really hope to see a lot of passes thrown his direction because Pettigrew is just too awesome appearing not to play a major role. This guy looks like an NFL tight end and moves well. If I were a quarterback I would be tempted to look for him first on nearly every play ... well, OK almost, but Adarius Bowman and D'Juan Woods look pretty good as well.

Quarterback will likely be decided on the negatives and not the positives.
Al Pena, Bobby Reid, Zac Robinson and Alex Cate have all played well so far this spring. They have all moved the ball. They have all minimized mistakes and have been careful with the football. Trying to split them right now is like trying to split hairs. Pena may have the best command of the offense. Reid is so darn athletic and does things so easily. Robinson has the prettiest release and appears to throw the best ball. Cate is keeping up and shows the ability to be a little crafty in tough situations. It is that last quality that may get magnified in the next several practices, including the Friday scrimmage. Things really went to the advantage of the offense in the first scripted scrimmage. However, the coaches can script more difficult situations for the offense and probably will as soon as Friday's scrimmage. The defense will be more complex and the pressure on the quarterback greater with blitz schemes. Coverages will be better disguised. It will be the decisions made, right or wrong, the plays made under these more difficult circumstances that will decide the order on the depth chart when all the ors are taken out. Expect some shake out as early as next week.

Defensive line has a chance to be really good, maybe better than any OSU defensive line in the last decade.
I'm not kidding and I may not apologize to Kevin Williams, Greg Richmond and Co. Inside, Ryan McBean is sitting on a big season and Larry Brown has made huge strides since last season in battling with Xavier Lawson-Kennedy at nose tackle. Jeray Chatham, out of the doghouse he was in last fall, is playing well. A top foursome of Victor DeGrate, Darnell Smith, Nathan Peterson and Marque Fountain at defensive end is as good as I can remember in some time. Add to that list Maurice Cummings, a young and athletic T.J. Minor and a constantly improving Jonathan Lewis and this group is good and most are experienced from time in Saturday scraps. If the line stays healthy it could be special.

Linebackers have loads of athletic talent, but will be a work in progress for a while.
The line will really help here because this is a kiddie corps. Rodrick Johnson is solid, but still not completely sound. Jeremy Nethon's maturity will help. The plus is while they don't always know what is going on and need experience they are athletic. Alex Odiari, Kevin White and Chris Collins can all move well. They are all willing strikers. Playing physical is not a problem for Air Force transfer Marcus Brown. However, a good linebacking corps plays almost like one. That will take some time, and expect to continue to hear linebacker coach Todd Bradford and defensive coordinator Vance Bedford yelling loud and often.

The Cowboys have two All Big 12 caliber kickers.
If you don't pay attention to who is kicking field goals you won't be able to tell whether Bruce "Sunshine" Redden or Jason Ricks is kicking. Now if it is one of the spring added walk-ons you will know instantly, but Redden and Ricks both kick the ball the same. Their kicks get altitude rapidly and they have been going through the post high on the uprights. Through four days of practice neither kicker has missed in practice and the misses in warmup have been few and far between. Assistant head coach and special teams coordinator Joe DeForest will have a very difficult chore. He will likely pick one to handle field goals and extra points and save the other kicker's leg for kickoffs. Remember all those Cole Farden kickoffs that were touchbacks. Hopefully, one of the two can do that. Having two guys with this much talent is one of the best problems a team can have.

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