Spring Football: Questions & Answers (Part 1)

Think of spring football as a television quiz show with 15 episodes. There are plenty of questions with plenty of answers, and if the right answers surface there are going to be plenty of prizes, although they are deferred for football purposes until the fall. It's a lot like Alex Trebek and Jeopardy.

Under the category "Offensive Threats" the name Adarius Bowman pops up. Who is the needed complimentary play-making pass receiver to D'Juan Woods became the correct response during the Cowboys spring.

Perhaps the biggest answer came under the category "Quarterbacks" and when the name Bobby Reid appeared, the appropriate response during the 15 spring practices and six major or half scrimmages became, who is the starting quarterback for the 2006 season?

This all gets a little confusing when you play by the Alex rules and all the answers are in the form of a question.

Head coach Mike Gundy and his staff preferred to see the answers without another question and in most cases they did. The positives far outweighed the negatives and any continued question marks that remain will need to be answered in preseason camp in August. Some of those - like the kicking assignments - appear to have multiple right answers. Others, such as who will be the starting offensive guards, have multiple answers with the hope that at least two of them are the right ones. We'll examine all the answered and unanswered questions from spring, but one very positive answer that came out of the final of the 15 practices the NCAA allows in the spring was the care factor for Oklahoma State football.

There weren't a lot of football issues decided in the Orange-White Game on Saturday, but an off-the-field issue was given a strong positive answer. Under the category of "Care Factor" turns up the answer former players and fans. The proper response is, who cares enough to show up in record numbers on a gorgeous spring Saturday to support OSU football? I know, that's Jeopardy overkill and I promised we'd drop it.

Mike Gundy and the university, including athletic director Mike Holder and marketing director Kyle Wray, promised atmosphere and a good show. Gundy asked former players to return to Stillwater so they could see what's happened in the program and let the current staff show them how important they are to the program.

The players responded in huge fashion with more than 250 former players from superstars like Walt Garrison, Barry Sanders, Thurman Thomas and Hart Lee Dykes to former walk-ons traveling back to Stillwater for the weekend. They reminisced, played a little golf at Karsten Creek, watched the game, and were honored at halftime. When it was over a bond between the football alumni and the program had been re-established.

The fans responded with a record spring game crowd of 15,000, and some members of the media, usually the most skeptical of observers, thought the crowd was as high as 17,000. For the record, only Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas State and Nebraska drew more fans to their final scrimmage or game this spring.

Gundy and the Cowboy staff came into the spring game feeling they had accomplished everything they were wanting to in the first 14 practices. Saturday night's game was for the former players and the fans. However, there were a few discoveries in the game that pitted the first team and key reserves on the Orange against the rest of the squad on the White.

The Orange offense struggled in running the football. Mike Hamilton was solid in gaining 77 yards on 16 carries for a 4.8-yard average, but overall, the Orange had just 97 yards on 29 attempts. Bulldozer Julius Corsslin sat out with a nagging ankle injury and that would have helped. Take the green jersey off quarterback Bobby Reid and that number goes up, but Hamilton is still the solid 4 to 5 yards a play back. A needed commodity but the anticipation of adding junior college speedster Dantrell Savage to the mix is still very much there with the offensive staff. Savage is a big piece to the puzzle, along with stabilizing the offensive line at guard.

Turnovers were a problem for the offense as Bowman and tight end Brandon Pettigrew each fumbled the ball and Reid threw two interceptions. One of those should have been a touchdown as Reid gave up an easy jog into the end zone to try and complete a pass to tight end Justin Waller in the back of the end zone.

"He told me he was didn't want to be selfish," said offensive coordinator Larry Fedora in describing his conversation over the sideline headphones after the interception. "I told him that I would tell him when to be unselfish."

The chunk plays, so badly needed in the offense, continued building as they had all spring. In all there were long pass plays to Bowman, D'Juan Woods and Anthony Parks in the contest.

As for the spring overall, here's the offensive questions answered and unanswered.

Starting Quarterback - Answered
The answer is Bobby Reid. The physically gifted standout from Galena Park North Shore in Houston is starting to come of age. He has fought off injuries twice and dealt with learning a new offense. Last spring he was going through practice in a daze, or frustration, as he tried to think his way through everything. Now with head coach Mike Gundy back coaching the quarterbacks and possessing the increased understanding of the offense that comes with a full year in the system, Reid is going through practice with a smile on his face. He's relaxed and having fun. It shows in his game. He still has aspect of his game he needs to work on, but finishing the spring completing 70 of 108 passes for 1,103 yards with five interceptions and seven touchdowns is a vast improvement.

"Bobby's playing better now than he was at the end of the year last year," said Gundy. "He has the physical tools to be a good player and he has to commit himself to being that player. Mentally, he's a better player than he was at this time last year, which is good. It's his second year in the system and he should have a better feel for what is going on. He needs to have a great summer in order to continue to improve and lead this football team."

"To me personally it is important because I want this offense to flourish," said Reid. "I want us to be good next season and it starts with me and then with the line and then with everybody else knowing what to do. I want to progress and continue to get better. I need to make myself better any kind of way I can."

Over the summer and August reviewing video cut ups and picking out those situations where he should tuck the ball and run will be a priority.

Tight End Improvement - Answered
All four of the top tight ends on the depth chart did good things in the spring, but starter Brandon Pettigrew was sensational. At 6-5, 255 pounds he is the picture of a big time tight end. Starting with the second major scrimmage, held in cold rainy conditions, Pettigrew began making plays in numbers unseen for him previously. He finished the spring with 18 receptions for 270 yards and two touchdowns, easily topping his numbers from last season of 11 catches for 128 yards and one score. Paschal Smith and Justin Waller - along with Tremayne Standberry - provide solid depth.

"Last spring we were having to learn real quick and it is different when you are in the film room trying to learn it and when you are out here seeing signals and thinking to yourself, what am I supposed to do," Pettigrew said in comparing this spring to last year. "It's different this time because I'm prepared and learned it (offense)."

Playmakers at Wide Receiver - Answered
In the words of Regis Philbin, this may not be the "final answer," but the addition of Bowman and the potential of Butler County (Kan.) Community College transfer Anthony Parks, combined with the improvement of Ricky Price and Jeremy Broadway, have observers and the OSU staff believing that there are enough play makers at receiver to make the offense go this fall. D'Juan Woods proved again in the spring game that he is the leader of the pack. Woods made a circus-type catch the he and his brother Rashaun before him have spoiled Cowboy fans with. He also added a slick 34-yard touchdown catch. Bowman took a step back in the spring game with some drops and a fumble, but that should propel his work ethic over the summer. His spring numbers were gaudy. He had 26 receptions for 433 yards and three touchdowns. His highlights ranged from blowing by cornerback Calvin Mickens on a 70-yard touchdown in the last scrimmage to catching passes over the middle like he did in the spring game and dragging defenders with him downfield.

"He's a different dimension," Fedora said of Bowman. "Obviously, when you have a good receiver on one side and then you can put another good receiver on the other it is tough on the defense to double up one guy. You can take advantage of that on offense."

"I do see that," Bowman said of a big year for himself and Woods. "He's also going to get his catches and I really feel a big year coming up for both of us."

Parks had a one week attitude adjustment period in the spring with strength and conditioning coach Rob Glass and then he took off finishing the spring on a solid performance with three receptions for 81 yards, including a 64-yard touchdown in the spring game. Price and Broadway also showed improvement and there is room for more with incoming freshmen or veterans like Tommy Devereaux, Tevin Williams and Seth Newton who continue to improve.

Running Back & Run Game Production – Unanswered
Maybe this is a partial answer, but the judges won't accept that. They never do on game shows. Hamilton is what he is and you need that steady guy that grinds it out. Not only that, the head coach loves him. He finished the spring with solid numbers, including 77 yards on 16 carries in the spring game. He works hard and is a good example to teammates.

"The reason I'm a big fan of Mike is because Mike gives great effort," said Gundy. "He plays hard and he's durable. He never says a word, he just plays the game. I think Mike maximizes his potential. He plays hard and he doesn't leave anything, and that is what we look for from our team. He's had a great spring and didn't put the ball on the ground once."

Julius Crosslin is another known commodity. The short-yardage bulldozer is also capable of taking over a game like he did against Texas Tech last season. Again, he's not a home run threat. Calvin Roberts had a good spring, but will need to do more in August to join the mix and the performances of walk-ons Chris Offor and DeAaron Martin did catch the coach's eyes. Dantrell Savage, the speedster and home run threat from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, is man of the hour in August with the hope he brings the home run threat to the offense.

Fullback is a part-time position in the offense and John Johnson and converted linebacker Jeremiah Butler have shown they can handle the job.

Offensive Line Stability – Unanswered
The three veterans are in place with Corey Hilliard and David Koenig holding down the tackles and sophomore David Washington at center. The biggest concern here is Koenig holding down his weight, but his athleticism makes him a better pass protector in trying to ward off those big, fleet pass rushing defensive ends.

At guard they ended up in the spring game with senior Kurt Seifried at right guard and sophomore Steven Denning at the other. Expect the competition to heat up again in preseason camp as redshirt freshmen Andrew Lawrence and Noah Franklin, along with true freshman and spring participant Jacob Secrest hoping to get involved. The offensive line youth and talent bodes well for the future, but leaves the present a little dicey.

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