Cowboy Preseason Camp: Day 3

STILLWATER – Following a full day that included media and picture day, fan appreciation day, and lifting and meetings mixed in, the Cowboys practiced in shoulder pads and helmets for the first time Saturday. Included in the two-hour, 45-minute practice were an inside drill, seven-on-seven, pass rush and pass pro for the linemen, and two team periods that were live other than tackling.

After the first hour and a half of preliminaries the noise level and intensity took a jump up with the first team period with offense going against defense. On the second play quarterback Bobby Reid threw a sharp crossing route to tight end Brandon Pettigrew for a first down. Defense was dominant early in stopping the run as Xavier Lawson-Kennedy was complimented by head coach Mike Gundy for his play in the trenches.

Cowboy wrestling champion and All-American Steve Mocco, who was getting plenty of reps with the defensive linemen, had the first sack of camp as he tagged back-up quarterback Zac Robinson before he could get rid of the ball. Mocco is an experiment in that he is very inexperienced, but Gundy and defensive line coach Nelson Barnes aren't placing any limits on where Mocco's involvement could lead.

"He shows up," Gundy said of the three-time heavyweight wrestling champion. "I don't think he knows what he is doing. He's only been out there three days. Everybody knows what Mocco is made out of, and there is something to be said for a guy that plays football to play with great effort. Our coaches are trying to bring him along and get him in a stance and come off the ball."

"Steven Mocco has brought a lot to this team," said defensive line coach Nelson Barnes. "He worked out with the team all summer, and our players got a chance to see a young man that has been an All-American in another sport, and see how he comes out and attacks his workouts. How he challenges himself everyday. Regardless of what happens he has done a lot for the mentality of the defensive line. He is a young man that is learning to play football for the first time so we're trying to get him as many reps as he can so he can learn what is going on."

The running game got uncorked with the second team offense as true freshman Keith Toston had an impressive day of practice. Toston broke off two long runs in the first team period and came back for a run that likely would have been about a 40-yard touchdown in the second team period. To be fair, the defense wasn't supposed to tackle, just hold the ball carriers up, and that sometimes results in efforts that appear more than they really are. However, Toston looked good. He is not going to take Mike Hamilton's spot, but continued practice like Saturday's could make things more interesting.

Reid had impressive completions to the expected playmaking trio of D'Juan Woods, Adarius Bowman and Brandon Pettigrew. Hamilton later broke a zig-zag run for a touchdown that covered about 40 yards. The defense had its highlights with defensive end Marque Fountain standing up jumbo running back Julius Crosslin on a running play. Freshman starting linebacker Chris Collins did the same to Hamilton on another play, and Ryan McBean broke across the line of scrimmage and the defensive tackle stopped Bobby Reid before he could complete execution of a run or play action pass. McBean was there so fast that we'll never know what it was going to be.

"I really prefer to see the defense make more plays like what happened tonight," said Gundy. "We'll find a way to move the ball and score, so I prefer to see the defense win. What I'm seeing at an early stage right now is more speed on defense. It is harder to get around the edge, and that is what we are recruiting. We are trying to get speed on defense."

The inside drill was blocked by players down on the far east end of the field, but the top practice crowd so far of about 400 fans, many who stayed after the fan appreciation autograph session, enjoyed a close up view of the pass rush/pass pro drill with the offensive and defensive linemen. Each pair that is matched up go twice and offensive tackle and combo defensive lineman Maurice Cummings got it started as each won a battle over the other. Ryan McBean and freshman Noah Franklin, who was running first team tonight at the competitive right guard position, also had a split decision.

The first outright win was posted by center David Washington over defensive tackle Larry Brown and then left guard Steve Denning followed that up with a clear cut two play sweep of Jeray Chatham. Defensive end Victor DeGrate and offensive left tackle David Koenig had a split decision. The best action came with backup center Kurt Seifried and Xavier Lawson-Kennedy going against each other. XLK ripped Seifried's helmet off shortly after the snap, but Seifried never lost his concentration and successfully blocked XLK. Just as Steve Mocco was about to go against starting center David Washington the horn blew for the second team period that took up the final 29 minutes of practice.

In that final team period there were again highlights on both sides of the ball. Bobby Reid started it off with a nifty completion to tight end Justin Waller off boot action. Reid also completed a 15-yard strike to Ricky Price and lofted a swing pass to running back Calvin Roberts and Roberts turned it into a significant gain. The only interception of the evening came when cornerback Martel Van Zant made a great read on an out and picked off a Reid pass. Toston had his long run we previously mentioned and the collision of the day may have been when Andre Sexton came flying up and put his pads squarely on newcomer running back Dantrell Savage.

All in all, it was a pretty good practice, according to the head coach. "It was good work today and I just told the team that I wish we had lights out here," said Gundy. "If we could get the AD to put lights out here we could practice longer. It's the most fun that I've had in six months tonight watching those guys move around, seeing the speed that we require on defense -- Jacob Lacey making plays at corner, Keith Toston showing up at running back, Bobby Reid make a play, Bobby Reid make a mistake. It's just a lot of fun. XLK moving around. It's just a lot of fun, an enjoyable practice."

The Cowboys have another full day on Sunday with a morning chapel followed by meetings, a couple of walk throughs, and 4:45 p.m. practice in helmet and shoulder pads before the first full pad practice on Monday. All practices next week are expected to be open to the public.

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