Cowboy Preseason Camp: Day 4

STILLWATER – The heat was the early winner in Cowboy football camp as head coach Mike Gundy and his staff met in the middle of the day and decided that with the temperature in the mid- to upper-100s - and the heat index hovering around 115 - that practice would be pushed back an hour to 5:45 p.m. Gundy said it comes down to being smart with your football players.

"Earlier this week we talked about if it got up to the mid 100s, (around) 103, 104 we felt like we needed to push practice back," said Gundy. "When we get into a situation like that we have to take caution with the players. You back it up an hour and then the majority of our practice is in the shade which is still 95 degrees. You have to take in consideration that if I had a son out here what would I want to happen. We still get a lot of work and are able to protect them."

Once the Cowboys got out on the field there didn't appear to be any problems as a result of the heat. The practice in helmets and shoulder pads for the second straight day was physical and the work hard, but the players responded well. They did hold two breaks during the practice where players were able to rest for about 5 to 10 minutes and consume Gatorade.

The practice in format looked very much like Saturday's practice with a lot of work on execution of both the running game and the short passing game. There were two extended team periods that featured full contact except for tackling. There was also an inside drill, seven-on-seven, and pass rush drills included in the two-hour, 40-minute practice.

One constant to watch has been the offensive line as line coach Joe Wickline has been mixing it up almost daily to look at several combinations at the two guard positions. Today's combination had Kurt Seifried at left guard and Noah Franklin at right guard joining returning starters David Washington at center, David Koenig at left tackle, and Corey Hilliard at right tackle. The second-team line had Brady Bond at left tackle, Andrew Lawrence at left guard, Andrew Lewis at center, freshman Trent Perkins at right guard, and freshman Jacob Secrest at right tackle.

In the first team period (11-vs-11) defensive tackle Ryan McBean got it started as he stopped Mike Hamilton for no gain on the first play. Defense had the heavy hand during most of the period including a nice stop by defensive end Marque Fountain as he caught freshman running back Keith Toston in the backfield. Offensive highlights included Bobby Reid completions to D'Juan Woods on a 20-yard out and a deep pass to Stillwater native Tevin Williams. Junior college transfer running back Dantrell Savage broke loose on a couple of runs and Toston also showed up for the second day in a row with about a 20-yard gain in which he displayed a couple of nice moves. The 6-1, 200-pound Toston is catching the eye of the head coach but it is early.

"It just depends on how he holds up," Gundy said when asked how serious he'd be about playing Toston. "It's still early in practice. When we put the pads (full) and he starts taking some blows, you know it's different when guys start getting blown up and then have to get up and make a play."

The inside drill was completely dominated by the defense as the offense struggled to get anything going. The pleasant aspect of that for the defensive staff was there were hardly any solo tackles as it seemed there were several defenders at the ball carriers quickly. Xavier Lawson-Kennedy showed up a lot, and the only real highlight run came when the freshman Toston was able to get around the corner on the third defensive front.

The seven-on-seven drill revealed that true freshman Perrish Cox is getting an opportunity to be the nickel back as he joined the first team secondary when they shifted into nickel personnel. Safety Calvin Mickens had the top defensive highlight when he picked off a pass thrown by backup quarterback Zac Robinson.

While seven-on-seven was going on the offensive and defensive lines were engaged again in pass rush and pass protection work. The one-on-one battles are walways interesting. In the first match-up veteran tackle Corey Hilliard got the best of defensive end Nathan Peterson - stopping him twice in a row. The only other two-play sweepers in the drill were on defense as Ryan McBean got by redshirt freshman offensive guard Noah Franklin twice and combo defensive end/tackle Maurice Cummings dominated another redshirt freshman guard in Andrew Lawrence.

Three of the more entertaining battles were offensive tackle David Koenig going against Marque Fountain, backup center Andrew Lewis going against XLK, and former Cowboy wrestling great and now defensive tackle Steve Mocco going against senior offensive guard Kurt Seifried. On the first play Mocco used a wrestling move, a head snap, and went right past Seifried. On the second play Seifried did a good job of stalemating Mocco.

The practice ended with the second team period lasting nearly 30 minutes. On the first play Reid, off boot action, hit Anthony Parks for a nice gain. Unfortunately, Parks left the practice later with a reported quadracep injury. Reid had a good practice for the most part as he hooked up with a variety of receivers. The play of the day was a wild one as Reid hit Adarius Bowman on a deep crossing route only to have freshman Perrish Cox pop the ball loose, but tight end Brandon Pettigrew was there to recover and after breaking free from a trio of defenders trying to take the ball from him sprinted to the end zone.

"It's kind of fun," Pettigrew said of the fumble recovery and touchdown run. "Try to make a play, AD (Bowman) made a play and it slipped out and I did what I could do. Try to make the best of it. When the lights come on I hope (I'm catching passes). That's what the coaches have planned to spread the ball around a little bit. If I'm open the quarterback is going to get it to me."

On a play later Reid had the nicest run we've seen from him since early last season. After the snap he moved to his right, made a huge fake to drop a defender and then got downfield and cut back across the field for nearly 30 yards. A little later Reid had his worst mistake of the day as he tried to force a quick pass to the outside that weakside linebacker Alex Odiari was camped on. Odiari intercepted the pass and took it to the house. After practice Gundy downplayed the mistake.

"He's further along than that," Gundy said when asked about the mistakes coming off several good plays. "Obviously, when Odiari was in man coverage on the screen and sitting on it, he needs to throw it away. He is further along than that but he still makes some mistakes. He's not the finished player, but as long as he runs like he did out there then I can live with it. He just wants to make a play. When you go through a team period like that where the defense dominates then you want to push to make a play. That is a good learning experience for him. You may get in a game like that and you can't push it. You have to take what the defense gives you. He gets better every day."

The defense is ahead overall, according to Gundy, and players like Lawson-Kennedy, Larry Borwn, linebacker Marcus Brown, linebacker Jeremy Nethon, Martel Van Zant and Donovan Woods showed up a lot. Steve Mocco, freshman Quencey Patrick, defensive end Victor DeGrate, and defensive tackle Ryan McBean all had sacks in the team period.

Offensively, Savage, Toston and Calvin Roberts all had some impressive runs and backup quarterback Zac Robinson had a pair of completions to D'Juan Woods, including a crossing route that Woods was able to turn into a long touchdown.

"Defense is way ahead," said Gundy. "Defense is doing a great job, more communication, maturity from Donovan Woods, Sexton, McBean. Chris Collins is doing a great job and XLK is showing up. He needs to keep pushing through and show up 15 days from now."

Gundy said there was a good chance that practice in the afternoon could get backed up several times this week, if not all week, The Cowboys will be in full pads for the first time on Monday with the practice scheduled for 4:45 p.m. Tuesday will be the first of three two-a-day workout days with practices at 10 a.m. and 4:45 p.m. Also, this will be the last week where workouts will be open to the public.

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