Spring Football: Defensive Line Pride

STILLWATER – The Cowboys went through their 10th practice of the 15 allotted workouts in the spring on Monday starting a half hour earlier on the grass practice fields east of Gallagher-Iba Arena. The early start was so a number of football players could attend the 13th annual Student-Athlete Academic Awards Banquet, along with some of the members of the coaching staff.

If there were awards given out for Monday's practice some of the recipients would include defensive end Victor DeGrate, safety/cornerback Calvin Mickens, and the return of the prodigal wide receiver Anthony Parks.

During the team period DeGrate pulled the same ploy that his teammate and fellow defensive end Nathan Peterson did during Friday's scrimmage. He read a screen pass and dropped to the outside and timed his jump just perfect to intercept the pass from quarterback Bobby Reid. The coaches blew the whistle just after the interception, preventing DeGrate from running it all the way to the end zone.

Reid had several spectacular completions on the day, including a post down the middle to tight end Brandon Pettigrew that covered nearly 40 yards and ended with Pettigrew being dragged down inside the 5-yard line. Two of the other notable completions from Reid went to junior college receiver Anthony Parks out of Butler County (Kan.) Community College. Parks was back working with the team after spending a discipline week last week with strength and conditioning coach Rob Glass.

Parks showed he was eager to get back on the field as he caught a slant from Reid that he broke off for a big gain. Then toward the end of the two and a half hour practice Parks went up to snare a Reid pass on the sideline with a one-handed grab. The pass was high, but Parks got it and then went straight up the left boundary for another big gain.

Mickens get his award for the hit of the day as he came in and stood up Pettigrew after a short reception. It was a big hit for Mickens, who is now splitting time at free safety and cornerback.

Reid continues to get the large share of the reps at quarterback with redshirt freshman Zac Robinson getting the next highest number of snaps, while Al Pena and freshman Alex Cate continue to get limited reps in the team period.

Overall, the workout was a sharp one, according to head coach Mike Gundy who detailed the rest of the spring schedule leading up to the April 22 Spring Game. Gundy told the media after practice that the Cowboys would use their two remaining half scrimmage practice days on Friday of this week and on Wednesday of next week, the last practice before the spring game at 5 p.m. Saturday, April 22. Gundy also shared some of his opinions on last Friday's scrimmage after reviewing the video.

"Bobby played better, handled some things, needs to eliminate turnovers and handled himself better, did a good job in all the protections that we use, and threw the ball better," Gundy said of top quarterback prospect Bobby Reid. "Zac (Robinson) did fine. (He) had a couple of mistakes in some protections but for the most part played well and ran the ball well (75-yard touchdown run). Both are getting better."

The defense had a good scrimmage and they continue to play well, especially the defensive line. It's a very experienced group that has a better knowledge of the defense and a stronger commitment to each other, according to senior to be defensive tackle Ryan McBean.

"We get together on the field and off the field, which means we're working real well together," said McBean. "We tell each other the plays, what's coming and where it's coming from. We look out for each other, and that is the best thing ever. That's the best thing ever. We did that last year, but this year we understand so much more about what we are doing. We talk to each other and make sure that plays get made."

"We feel that defensively the defensive line is one of the most experienced and strong points of the team," said defensive end Nathan Peterson. "It's such a deep experienced group. That experience is going to help us out a lot next season."

One of the concerns of the defense is to help the offense.

"We can put them in the best possible situation that we can," Peterson added of the defense helping the offense. "We can get sacks, get stops, anything behind the line, one-yard, anything. Coach (Bedford) has told us in practice a sack is like taking away six points. You set them back six or seven yards with a sack and most of the time we're going to get the ball back for our offense. We've come a long way since last year and our pass rush is so much more aggressive in getting up field."

Turnovers, of which the defenders came up with four in Friday's scrimmage, are stressed everyday.

"They teach us in practice to run to the ball and strip," added McBean. "With the defensive linemen all that matters is that we get push. Then we get up field and when we see the ball we get on it. With our linebackers they have been real fortunate getting their hands on the ball and doing their thing."

The defense will continue working on forcing turnovers more on Wednesday when the Cowboys resume practice with number 11 of the spring at 3 p.m. on the grass practice fields. All practices in the spring are open to the public with a limited viewing area on the west end of the practice field.

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