Cowboy Preseason Camp: Day 5

STILLWATER – The heat was on in more ways than one as the Cowboys practiced in full pads for the first time Monday evening. The conditions were extreme with the heat but the shade of Gallagher-Iba Arena helped immensely. The two-hour, 45-minute practice featured two lengthy team periods, and with injuries to a couple of backs introduced some of the newcomers to real Cowboy football.

Both junior college transfer Dantrell Savage and true freshman Keith Toston saw extensive duty with the first and second team offensive units. Fullback John Johnson is also hobbled so Jeremiah Burton and freshman Orie Lemon, just moved from quarterback, saw the lion's share of duty at fullback. All in all head coach Mike Gundy called it a good first practice in full pads.

"It was a good practice today, better by the offense," said Gundy. "We had some short yardage work, lots of contact, the players were really excited to get out there in full pads. A lot of good work. We have some young players starting to show up. D'Juan Woods practice well today. (Adarius) Bowman practiced well. Defensively, Ryan McBean, Larry Brown, Jacob Lacey shows up ... guys just working hard and getting better."

Early in practice the defense retreated to the smaller practice fields and did extensive work on form tackling and stripping the football. It would show up later in the day during both team periods.

"I'm on the offense all the time to protect it (football), and on the same play I'm telling the defense to get it on the ground," said Gundy. "I think the only way to coach it is to secure the tackle and strip and pop the ball out on defense every play. Talk about it every play. The ball went on the ground twice today. Ricky Price put it on the ground and somebody else put it on the ground. The defensive guys came from behind and punched it out. Football games now are about chunk plays, tackling in space, and turnovers."

In the first team period the offense started off well as Julius Crosslin took a handoff from quarterback Bobby Reid and gained good yardage. Reid followed that with a run around the right side. At that point the defense picked it up as defensive tackle Jeray Chatham bounced outside in a hurry to stop Dantrell Savage on a sweep for virtually no gain.

Defensive end Victor DeGrate showed how dominating he can on the next two plays as he put the brakes on Calvin Roberts on one play and then the freshman Toston on the next play. Toston later had his real indoctrination to Division I football when safety Grant Jones came up and hit him flush and stood him up on a straight handoff. Jones, DeGrate, linebacker Chris Collins, and defensive tackle Larry Brown all had strong defensive plays in the nearly 25-play period. Perhaps, the biggest defensive highlight came courtesy of former NEO and Tulsa Union walk-on Billy Lewis, who picked off an errant Zac Robinson pass and returned it for what would have been a score.

"Defense is ahead right now," said Gundy. "They are moving around and have some speed on that side of the ball. Offensively, we are already ahead of where we were last season, but we're not as far ahead as the defense right now."

Offensively, there were some highlights as Reid connected on virtually every pass he threw and had success running the ball. The 6-3 sophomore quarterback found D'Juan Woods, Ricky Price and Adarius Bowman for completions. On the last play of the period Reid hit Bowman on a quick pass and the 6-4, 230-pound wide receiver used his blockers and showed a burst for a big gain before being knocked out of bounds.

While an inside drill was going on down on the far east end of the practice facility, the wide receivers and defensive backs renewed their rivalry with the goal line passing drill. In the ultra competitive drill the receiver chooses an inside slant or outside fade based on the position of the defensive back. Tevin Williams made a beautiful catch going up on the defensive back and coming down on his back with the ball. Tommy Devereaux scored on the slant and Seth Newton gave freshman Perrish Cox an education with position inside on the slant. Ricky Price did the same to junior college transfer All-American Scott Broughton. The best move of the drill came when D'Juan Woods completely turned around Jacob Lacey, but the ball was overthrown.

In the pass rush/pass protection drill, another continuing rivalry in camp, the offense struck back as starting center David Washington pancaked defensive tackle Larry Brown. Senior guard Kurt Seifried did the same on a rep to Ryan McBean. There was some retribution for the defense as defensive tackle Xavier Lawson-Kennedy blew up guard Andrew Lawrence on successive reps and wrestler turned defensive tackle Steve Mocco had his way with Phillp Friess. A young offensive lineman to keep an eye on is freshman Trent Perkins. Perkins was impressive in completely handling fellow freshman Quencey Patrick.

The second team period was a good mix of success by both the offense and defense punctuated by another strange play that led to an offensive score. It was almost as if Bobby Reid read head coach Mike Gundy's comments from Sunday night's practice as Reid scrambled and also kept the ball on zone reads for very good yardage. Of course, Reid went untackled in the bright green jersey. Reid was sacked once by defensive tackle Ryan McBean, who was especially active.

"We are all seniors up front, so we should be up there leading," McBean said of the entire defensive line. "The young guys expect it, the coaches expect it, so whenever we make big plays it is what we are supposed to be doing. We expect that out of ourselves. We do lead the team."

Reid was accurate with his passing as he completed four passes - two to Tevin Williams and at the end a pair of passes to tight end Brandon Pettigrew, one over the middle and the other on a seam route. Pettigrew represents a very visible target, and said he is hoping the passes to the tight end keep coming. He knows that Woods and Bowman have been talking to Reid a lot about Reid keeping an eye out for them.

"I probably need to go do that right now cause those other guys will take advantage of me," said Pettigrew. "I'm not really much of a talker and I've been like that since high school. I'm trying to make little plays into big plays and I try to lead by example, not by being a talker. I feel a whole lot different from a year ago. I'm used to the offense and everybody has adjusted. I think we look pretty good."

Pettigrew was involved in that weird play on Sunday when he recovered a Bowman fumble and took it for a score. Monday night it was Tevin Williams's turn. Backup quarterback Zac Robinson, who also threw the ball well, tossed a pass that cornerback T.J. Bell went way up to get his hands on but couldn't control it. The ball was tipped a good distance back to the middle of the field where Williams zipped in to grab it and took it to the end zone.

Other highlights in the final team period included a sack of Robinson by Muskogee freshman defensive lineman Derek Burton, son of the former Cowboy offensive guard. Steve Mocco showed some speed and football ingenuity by stopping speedy Tommy Devereaux in the backfield on a reverse. Linebacker Rodrick Johnson recovered a fumble by wide receiver Ricky Price. Linebacker Marcus Brown had the biggest hit of the day as he put one on Julius Crosslin.

Speaking of running backs, both Savage and Toston had runs to end the day. Savage broke free on an inside run play and even showed a little spin move on his way to a 50-yard score. Toston added a long run that covered about 20 yards.

"Savage, Toston, and Julius Crosslin, Julius Crosslin is really having a strong camp," Gundy said of the backs. "Number 29 (Mike Hamilton) has a tweaked hamstring and we don't need to see much of him. He proved to us last year how tough and durable that he is. We're going to let those other guys get some good work.

Tuesday is the first of three two-a-day practice days in camp as the team will go at 10 a.m. and then again at 5:45 p.m. Both practices are open to the public.

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