Spring Football: Goal Is To Get Chunky

In the coverage of Friday's half scrimmage in Stillwater most of the media outlets included Cowboys head coach Mike Gundy's comments about chunk plays. For our purposes in this story we'll call chunk plays anything that gains 20 or more yards. Some coaches consider chunk plays to be any snap that gains 30 or more yards.

There's a good reason for the media to emphasize the "chunkers." It's because Gundy, offensive coordinator Larry Fedora and the entire offensive staff have emphasized those big plays, along with preventing turnovers through spring practice. Improving in those two areas are key to Oklahoma State improving enough to produce a winning season and a return to the bowl season in college football.

Last season OSU averaged 4.7yards per play on offense (3.9 per rush and 5.8 per pass). The reason those numbers are low is the Cowboys didn't have enough big plays. The Cowboys had only 13 running plays of 20 yards or more and only 22 pass plays of 20 yards or more.

While some of the developments this spring have been very obvious - like Bobby Reid taking a solid hold on the quarterback position - the development of chunk plays in the offense has been less obvious, but it is there. We went back and looked at each scrimmage, both the major scrimmages and half scrimmages, to see how many chunk plays the offense had and for how many yards. To make it fair we also checked the defensive total for negative or no gain plays (not including incomplete passes), sacks, interceptions, and recovered fumbles. The defense has been fairly conisistent, but those offensive numbers have climbed in every scrimmage.

Below is an analysis of each scrimmage and those categories that we picked out on each side of the ball.

First Scrimmage – March 24
This was a half scrimmage held on the first day the Cowboys were in pads - just the third workout of the spring. The offense was still getting its feet on the ground and was still rotating quarterbacks equally. The defense was base with little or no stunts or blitzes.

Chunk Plays (3 for 84 yards)
Mike Hamilton 34-yard run
Alex Cate 20-yard pass completion to Adarius Bowman
Bobby Reid 30-yard pass completion to D'Juan Woods

Negative or no gain plays - 12
Sacks – 2
Interceptions – 0
Recovered fumbles – 2

The numbers show a vanilla scrimmage, which is what it was. However, the people involved in the chunk plays on offense provided a preview of things to come in the next three scrimmages. Bowman, Woods and Hamilton are three players capable of creating chunk plays, along with the quarterbacks. In fact, while Zac Robinson has had more than double the reps of true freshman Alex Cate the last two weeks, and in the two most recent scrimmages, the two are dead even on chunk plays this spring with three each. Robinson has had one pass and two chunk runs, while Cate's have all been through the air. The light numbers on defense in this scrimmage have to be attributed some to the plain defensive schemes used.

Second Scrimmage – March 31
This was the first major scrimmage of the spring and it was much anticipated as a potential separation day for the quarterbacks. The defense threw in stunts, blitzes, and more complex pass coverages and disguises. By the numbers it wound up being the best scrimmage for the defense, but the offense still progressed, and Reid and Robinson - primarily Reid - were judged to have separated themselves in the quarterback race. To further explain the difference between the offense and the defense in this scrimmage the coaching staff limited the number of plays for Bowman and Woods at wide receiver. That factor cut down on big-play potential and made the quarterbacks have to work harder.

Chunk Plays (7 for 192 yards)
Zac Robinson 22-yard completion to Tommy Devereaux
Bobby Reid 43-yard completion to D'Juan Woods
Alex Cate 23-yard completion to Adarius Bowman
Bobby Reid 22-yard completion to Calvin Roberts
Al Pena 35-yard completion to Tevin Williams
Bobby Reid 20-yard completion to Brandon Pettigrew
Alex Cate 27-yard completion to Tevin Williams

Negative or no gain plays – 30
Sacks – 8
Interceptions – 5 (Reid, Robinson, Cate 3)
Recovered fumbles – 2

Many of the negative plays took place with the second offense on the field. But the most important factor offensively is that even without Woods and Bowman the chunk plays grew. Remember too that getting big plays against your own defense is always more difficult because they know your plays and your audibles. Recognition is always highest with your own defense. In this scrimmage with more schemes and another week under their belt with the young linebackers the defense performed better.

Third Scrimmage – April 7
This was the second major scrimmage and it came in adverse weather conditions with rain, cold, and a hefty wind. The quarterback reps had changed drastically following the previous scrimmage with Reid and Robinson getting the bulk of the snaps. What is amazing about this scrimmage is that while the offense really jumped up its performance the defensive numbers stayed consistent. For those that don't remember this scrimmage the offense was slow in starting, but really improved over the course of the scrimmage. The coaches also used Woods and Bowman more and the tight ends, especially Brandon Pettigrew, really got after it. Chunk plays were the most important aspect of the offense this day.

Chunk Plays (9 for 339 yards)
Bobby Reid 40-yard completion to Brandon Pettigrew
Bobby Reid 20-yard completion to Paschal Smith
Zac Robinson 75-yard run
Bobby Reid 24-yard completion to Brandon Pettigrew
Calvin Robert 49-yard run
Bobby Reid 54-yard completion to Adarius Bowman
Zac Robinson 30-yard completion to D'Juan Woods
Chris Offor 22-yard run
DeAaron Martin 25-yard run

Negative or no gain plays – 28
Sacks – 7
Interceptions – 2 (Reid, Robinson)
Recovered fumbles – 2

It was a solid scrimmage for both sides of the ball with the defensive numbers consistent and the offense continuing to improve. You might remember the drive chart analysis from last week, there was plenty of give and take to it in that there were big plays countered by three-and-out series for the defense. Remember, you don't want it all going one way.

Fourth Scrimmage – April 14
This was the second half scrimmage of the spring and you would have to give the offense a win. However, the defensive numbers are still solid with the seven sacks still showing that the defensive line is ahead of the young offensive line. The quarterbacks did a great job of protecting the football with no interceptions and the defense continued its success with stripping the football and forcing some fumbles, something they are doing much better than a year ago.

Chunk Plays (10 for 289 yards)
Bobby Reid 34-yard completion to Brandon Pettigrew
Bobby Reid 21-yard completion to Anthony Parks
Calvin Roberts 28-yard run
Bobby Reid 35-yard completion to D'Juan Woods
Bobby Reid 20-yard completion to Anthony Parks
Bobby Reid 42-yard completion to Adarius Bowman
Mike Hamilton 20-yard run
Alex Cate 41-yard completion to Tommy Devereaux
Mike Hamilton 24-yard run
Bobby Reid 23-yard completion to Brandon Pettigrew

Negative or no gain plays – 18
Sacks – 7
Interceptions – 0
Recovered fumbles – 2

Ten chunk plays on offense in a half scrimmage - that shows the offense has progressed and the barometer are those defensive stats which show the defense is still performing at a similar level as they did in other scrimmages. It is always tough to evaluate your own team against your own team, but in this case I feel pretty confident in proclaiming the offense will be better and more productive. Certainly, for this improvement to be magnified and increase there are factors that need to stay positive. The offense can't afford any injuries to the offensive line. Reid, Woods, Bowman and Pettigrew also must be included on that list. There will also be two more scrimmages to evaluate, a half scrimmage on Wednesday and the spring game on Saturday. Right now chunk plays are looking better for the Cowboys in 2006.

GoPokes Top Stories