Looking Back At The Scrimmage

It is important to know the purpose of Saturday's scrimmage. OSU head coach Mike Gundy and his staff were looking, in order, for general continuity on offense and defense; evaluating young players and position groups in a competitive, game-like setting to make decisions on depth chart, and attempting to see which young players are going to play rather than redshirt this season.

The other purposes were to evaluate special teams units for operation and success. And, finally, and this was a sincere aim, to give the fans a good show. Gundy knew that this was the last look that Oklahoma State fans would get at the team before the start of the season. He made several allowances in giving the fans greater access down the sideline on the two shorter practice fields. His only concern was that there be no cameras other than those used by the print and television media.

Below we'll go position by position, and through special teams units, to evaluate what we all saw Saturday evening.

You can consider it hype or whatever you like, but it truly is a fact that Bobby Reid is more comfortable in his operation of the offense. When you are more comfortable and confident then your true athletic ability and skills show up more. During the scrimmage Reid really had only one negative play. He was indecisive on a pass play that blew up because of penetration by the defensive line. He tried to find an escape route but was stuck and defensive end Victor DeGrate got the credit for a four-yard sack. Other than that Reid picked out receivers well. He made good decisions on when to run, and those runs likely would have gone for greater yardage because quarterbacks were touched rather than tackled. Early on Reid did get tackled on a scramble by Donovan Woods and that wasn't bad either. A little hit is okay to keep quarterbacks tough. He threw the ball away on a first down in the red zone when no receiver was open. Add his three touchdown passes and one touchdown scamper in the goal line drill to all that. It was a strong first scrimmage for Reid.

It is a little unfair to place much stock in the evaluation of Zac Robinson or Alex Cate because both operated behind very young and inexperienced offensive lines. Gundy was a little harsh in his evaluation of Robinson, but we will guess that has softened some after viewing the video tape. Robinson threw the ball away for the most part and when he tried to force a pass a couple of plays after throwing his only touchdown of the scrimmage to Seth Newton, he made a major mistake tossing into coverage with free safety Donovan Woods there to pick it off. Playing with the first team offense, Robinson was dramatically better and more comfortable.

With just eight plays and third team personnel it is really difficult to evaluate Cate.

Reid: "I'm closer as days go along. I'm making runs and making cuts. Coach is yelling at me, defense hitting me. I don't know exactly where my progress is but I feel that by the first game I will be all right."
Gundy: "I didn't think Zac (Robinson) played very good without watching the tape. He threw a bunch of balls into the dirt. Typical freshman that just didn't go out there and play well and I'm sure he is aware of that and felt the same way. He had a chance to make a few throws and didn't."

There was plenty to like and not much to dislike. Mike Hamilton sitting this one out was a good thing. Hamilton has proven himself and this allowed the large gathering of fans to see what we have seen in practice, and that is Julius Crosslin, Calvin Roberts, Dantrell Savage and Keith Toston can all do the job, and all do it a little differently.

Crosslin is the bulldozer who runs over defenders and has decent speed for his size. You have to like his straight line approach especially when his has a full head of steam. Crosslin is a great answer in short-yardage and goal-line situations, and sometimes as a change of pace. Roberts is hungry for playing time and he is showing it. As Gundy said, he is having his best camp. The problem is where do you fit him? He is closer to Hamilton in style or a mix between Hamilton and Toston. My guess is he may have to wait for a turn if injuries develop and continue to make a living on special teams. It is great to have him good and ready.

Savage is the true missing ingredient as he gives that home-run threat that was missing last year. He catches the ball well, and the real bonus is his toughness in the middle of the field. He's better in space, but he isn't bad in the phone booth either. His speed will really make for the perfect complement to Hamilton and Crosslin. Toston is the huge bonus here. The coaching staff did not expect him to come in and showcase the way he has. He has speed and is strong and will get even stronger. He will have to play some this year, but what he has really done is relieved the absolute pressure of having to recruit a marquee running back in the next class.

Larry Fedora: "We know Juice (Crosslin) doesn't need a whole lot of reps. He knows what he is doing. Right now it is not as important for him to get those reps as it is those young guys so we can get an evaluation of them and see how they are going to help us this fall."
Larry Fedora: "The guy (Savage) never says a word, is very mature and serious about what he is doing. You never see him joking around. He has done a great job of picking up the offense."
Marcus Brown: "They came out today and showed us they have a lot of athletes all over the field. They looked good. Toston and Savage, you have to love them and they do have speed and moves and pack a punch."

We all know about D'Juan Woods and Adarius Bowman, so Saturday's scrimmage was the opportunity for all of the other receivers to show they can get open and make plays. Tevin Williams was showing up often early last week in practice, but Saturday count Ricky Price and Tommy Devereaux as the stars. Both players made big plays which is what this offense has to have. You get that pair teaming with Woods and Bowman, and then couple the return of Anthony Parks and Jeremy Broadway and that is six of the eight receivers that wide receivers coach Gunter Brewer has been claiming he wants.

Price catches everything and proved more than ever in the scrimmage that he can make a big play once he grabs it. Devereaux has only needed to prove that he can catch, because the speed is there for the big play. Trust me, everybody on the offensive staff was smiling over Price and Devereaux on Saturday, and also Sunday afternoon while watching tape. Don't get too crazy over this though because this team has to keep the mega stars in Woods and Bowman healthy to operate on all cylinders. Did anybody notice that Cate's one completion went to walk-on Todd Nelson? If the need arises for a sure-handed catcher on a short yardage situation he is an option.

Gundy: "Tommy Devereaux has been hit and miss throughout his career but one thing he can do is run fast. If he gets behind somebody and you put it out there for him chances are he'll go get it. It was nice to see him make a play."
Larry Fedora: "We know those guys are going to have to make plays for us. It is good for us to get them out there and have them make plays."

Not a lot to report here as Brandon Pettigrew had the only receptions to a tight end. Pettigrew is the real deal and is sitting on a big season. The beauty is even though they didn't show up in the passing game, Paschal Smith and Justin Waller are excellent backups, and all three block well. Credit some of the strong showing in the running game to this trio. Also, did anybody notice how often they kept the tight ends in to pass protect? I saw it happen more than once or twice.

Youth cannot be held against football players, especially on the offensive line. The second- and third-team offensive lines were young and inexperienced and that will explain the six illegal procedure penalties and the four sacks allowed, not to mention the hurried throws and negative yardage on running plays. The first team offensive line of center David Washington, guards Kurt Seifried (right) and Steve Denning (left) and tackles Corey Hilliard (right) and David Koenig (left) were more than solid in the scrimmage. The offensive line has to stay healthy and that is now a major concern through the rest of camp for Gundy and the staff.

A source told me that youngsters like Noah Franklin, Andrew Lawrence and Trent Perkins have to be worked over and prodded to progress, but they have potential. Brady Bond, Michael Booker, Jacob Secrest and Russell Oking are all going to be really good players, but may be another year away. The focus the rest of camp has to be on finding depth for this season. Once found, the hope is that it won't have to be used. A real plus will be getting some of these players some playing time in the first three games.

Gundy: "We don't have much depth in the offensive line. When our twos are in there, those are guys that haven't played much football before, three or four freshmen and a guy that hasn't played much. We are going to have to work through it."

The defensive line has to be a strength on the defense and while defensive ends like Victor DeGrate and Nathan Peterson showed up well in the scrimmage, we were hoping for some more big plays from tackles Ryan McBean and Larry Brown. Jeray Chatham and Maurice Cummings showed up more. That doesn't mean those starters weren't doing their job. Tape evaluation could show they were tying up blockers and spilling plays off to the defensive ends, linebackers and charging safeties. That is the problem with scrimmaging yourself, you can't be happy with everything all at once. We would guess that defensive line coach Nelson Barnes will be urging for more from the tackles next week. There is no question that they are capable, but it'd be nice to see them show up more.

There was no problem showing up for some of the backups. We mentioned that Chatham and Cummings were involved in some nice plays, and you can add youngsters like Derek Burton, Quencey Patrick and Ugo Chinasa to that list. Of course, that trio was going against the second and third offensive lines. Throw in former wrestler Steve Mocco too. Burton is the one that was mostly dominant in the battles of the backups with, by our count, five tackles, two tackles for loss, and two and a half sacks.

Reid: "Those guys we tried to trick them a little bit today (with our cadence) but those guys still stuck it in there. They came through a couple of times like they were unblocked. That is just how good those guys are."
Gundy: "We are so deep at that position. It probably depends on how healthy we stay at that position (on whether freshmen Derek Burton plays)."

We have to consider going back to the spring and from watching practice that freshman starter Chris Collins makes a decided difference. Collins and Jeremy Nehton sat this scrimmage out. The linebackers weren't bad. In fact, Rodrick Johnson and Marcus Brown at times were strong. Alex Odiari was lost too much. The other disappointment was there were too many yards after contact. I would expect more tackling drills on wrapping up in practice next week. Hits were made, but backs bounced off those hits for more yardage.

Among the backups Seb Clements is a football player. We had him involved in six tackles and he was always around the football. Justin Gent also looked pretty good in his first college scrimmage.

Marcus Brown: "We are all competing for all three spots and most of us are learning how to play all three positions because you never know who is going to get hurt, like Chris Collins is hurt right now, so I stepped up and played Will (weakside) on the first team today. I'm just trying to get in there and play the best I can at whatever position I get a chance to."

If Andre Sexton had not broken his arm last season OSU might have won a couple of more games. This guys is a stone cold football player. The first team corners of Martel Van Zent and Jacob Lacey are also playing well and did so in the scrimmage Saturday. Throw in free safety Donovan Woods and those are four of the best tacklers on the defense. Van Zant Sexton and Woods, who forced a fumble and picked off Robinson, can all pack a punch.

Freshmen Perrish Cox and Terrance Anderson were beat on two of the touchdown passes. They can be forgiven and will get better. Cox will play plenty this season and has looked better in coverage in practice. We still think that the secondary will be the most improved area on the football team. This group will get a bonus when Clint Coe is fully cleared and rejoins the group.

In the course of the scrimmage there was not a single miss as Bruce Redden hit field goals from 49 and 29 yards. Jason Ricks punched in a 30-yard field goal. Then at the end of the practice Gundy allowed the kickers some rock star attention and they took full advantage as Redden nailed a 51-yarder and Ricks made a 60-yard field goal. The Cowboys ran through some of their fakes on extra points, and while none of them were successful remember the defense knows all of their calls and knew they were coming. Opponents won't.

It was on the schedule, but the punt period was deleted. Take our word for it. Matt Fodge and Cole Reynolds are both hitting the ball really well. Protection and coverage will get work in practice this week and the scrimmage next week.

Take your pick, as Grant Jones, Tommy Devereaux, and newcomers like Dantrell Savage, Perrish Cox and Artell Woods can all deliver on kicks and punts. Did anybody notice that was former Muskogee quarterback Zac Ross who returned a punt all the way in the scrimmage. He is pretty good too. If penalties are eliminated and units execute with the move to the one-inch kicking tee Cowboy fans can expect plenty of excitement on kickoffs and on punts this season. The good kind of excitement.

Camp Cowboy was scheduled for Sunday night as the returning varsity players teach the newcomers traditions, the words to the alma mater and Ride Em Cowboys. It's a team building evening with fun in mind. Monday is back to the grind as there will be plenty of meetings and an afternoon practice back in the Oklahoma heat.

Work this week will be on shoring up the depth chart and rotations, along with polishing some additional parts of the playbook on offense. The personality of this team in schemes will be a focus for the week and it will be behind closed doors as practices are now closed. Howard Schnellenberger can fly back to Florida as he won't get in anymore with his OSU T-shirt and lawn chair.

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