Cowboys Continue Prep For Independence Bowl

STILLWATER - The Oklahoma State Cowboys were back for the third of their four weekend practices as part of their designed routine to prepare for the Dec. 28 Independence Bowl game in Shreveport, La., against Alabama of the SEC. Saturday's practice was heavy on technique as the squad was in helmets, shoulder pads, and sweats. The passing game got a good going over on both sides of the ball.

Quarterback Bobby Reid appeared sharp as he hit various wide receivers with strikes including a smooth post route to Adarius Bowman for a touchdown in team work.

"We've got a little bit in now, but everybody has been on the road recruiting," said Gundy. "Other than the coordinators there hasn't been much tape that has been studied. Next week we will have to get into it pretty seriously. Probably by Saturday because we will practice Thursday and Friday and then by Saturday we should be into it pretty good."

The offense has a good read on what they will see out of Alabama as defensive coordinator Joe Kines is the interim head coach and will still guide the Crimson Tide defense, which was one of the best in the SEC this past season. The mystery will be on offense where former Bama head coach Mike Shula had a major influence and called plays. With Shula gone that chore is passed on to offensive coordinator Dave Rader, the former Tulsa head coach.

"Now that he's gone and Coach Rader is doing it, his (Rader's) background is much different from what they were doing on offense this season," Gundy said of preparing for the Alabama offense. "It has our guys guessing some. Coach Rader is four and five wides and throwing it down the field, no huddle, a variety. They (OSU defensive staff) are reaching a little bit."

The Cowboyss were minus several players on the field as defensive end Nate Peterson, free safety Donovan Woods, freshman defensive end Derek Burton, and freshman corner Perrish Cox were still rehabbing minor injuries. All are expected to play in the bowl game. Wide receiver D'Juan Woods and defensive tackle Xavier Lawson-Kennedy were also absent.

"They have classes for some seniors and (D'Juan) had class from 12:30 till 4:30 today and so did XLK," Gundy said of the two missing players. "They have to have this class and there are certain classes that are only offered at certain times. They had to have it, so we had no choice."

The Cowboys will practice on Sunday afternoon and then will hold the annual team banquet honoring the senior class. They will also resume practice next Thursday and practice through Tuesday, Dec. 19, before players will be dismissed for a break before gathering again in Shreveport on Saturday, Dec. 23, for preparations for the bowl. All practices in Stillwater are open to the public.

It's a busy schedule and with final exams beginning Monday players have to manage their time.

"It's rough trying to balance everything but you have to do it. It's part of the college life," said strong safety Andre Sexton. "It's what makes being a college athlete so special -- being able to balance school work and football at the same time. It will be rough trying to find time to study, but I will get it done."

The coaching staff has the challenge of keeping things moving and progressing with a fractured schedule that has them out during the week recruiting.

"I think that is the key in winning, as a staff, to keep the team motivated and then stay in some type of routine," said assistant coach Gunter Brewer. "Coach Gundy told them from the beginning that we were going to go out and keep the practices short and sweet, really try to keep them moving. We were going to practice on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday with the recruiting weekend and studying for finals wrapped around it. It just takes a great effort from your staff and your players but it is all done for a great reward, winning the bowl game with Alabama."

Brewer said the practices have been pretty good despite the four-day breaks between sequences.

"Today was excellent but Friday was a little sluggish by what we consider we'd like to have," said Brewer. "Last week was outstanding -- all three practices were really good. Today was good with guys moving around pretty good. Then when we go against the defense it's good because they are jawing with each other pretty much 24/7. It's starting to jell together and then as we get the game plan in it will really come together."

As mentioned recruiting continues. The Cowboys have eight recruits in for official visits this weekend. Here is an updated list of the recruits that made visits.

*Grant Garner, OL, 6-3, 265, 5.0, Mesquite (North), Tex.
Bret Harris, DB/S, 6-0, 195, 4.4, Irving (MacArthur), Tex.
*Ahmad Jones, DL, 6-3, 310, 5.27, Silsbee, Tex.
*Richetti Jones, DE, 6-4, 240, 4.6, Dallas (Lincoln), Tex.
*Isaac Madison, CB, 5-10, 175, 4.4, Dallas (Carter), Tex.
*Nick Martinez, OL/DL, 6-4, 291, 5.2, Floresville, Tex.
*Marcus Richardson, LB, 6-0, 215, 4.56, Seguin, Tex.
Tonga Tea, Jr., DT, 6-0, 313, 5.1, Snow C.C., Utah/Alaska

A few impressions from seeing them watching practice and around.

Tea is very imposing physically. He is obviously strong and does not look 300 plus. He has also been very interested and very attentive in watching practice.

Ahmad Jones is a big man. He also seems to be the fun lover of the group. He is smiling and seems to be popular with the other recruits and his future teammates, the Cowboy veteran players.

Nick Martinez is very athletic. He looks like he could easily put on another 20 pounds of muscle and play at 300 plus.

Richardson is the real deal. He had a great season and reminds you some of Chris Collins. He is quiet and serious looking.

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