Cowboy Spring Football - Day Five

Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy made a change and then pulled a surprise Wednesday, the Cowboy's fifth practice of the spring. The change was to accommodate 10 players that had common exams at 5:30 p.m, so practice was switched to an hour early at 2:15 p.m. The surprise was the final team period which Gundy used to stage a 40-play scrimmage.

The head coach said that doesn't replace the half-scrimmage scheduled for Friday's practice, the final workout before a week off for spring break.

"Another good practice and a lot of enthusiasm," said Gundy. "I know I say that a lot, but there is a lot of enthusiasm out there. We finished with like a 40-play scrimmage, ones against ones, twos against twos, and let him go full speed, run and tackle, throw and catch and they look forward to doing that. It was kind of a warm up for Friday. We'll do more Friday, that will be one of our half-scrimmage, half-practice days.

"Today Jacob Lacey made some plays and did a nice job," described Gundy. "Keith Toston ran the ball well. Obviously, (Brandon) Pettigrew made some plays. Rod Johnson worked again at the defensive end spot, the drop. We have that position now with Coach Beck's defense, a guy that stands up on the defensive line and Rod kind of fits that role and does a nice job with it. (Calvin) Mickens made some good plays at corner, did a nice job."

Highlights in the scrimmage included a couple of good runs by sophomore running back Keith Toston, including one that went for close to 20 yards. Toston is now 6-1, 210 pounds and still has maintained his speed. Quarterback Bobby Reid hooked up a couple of times with tight end Brandon Pettigrew and also had a nice completion to Artrell Woods.

The defense more than held its own as the enthusiasm on that side of the ball is still very strong. On the first play cornerback Jacob Lacey had a big hit welcoming wide receiver Adarius Bowman back to practice. Bowman, who had been on loan to the basketball team, caught the ball but took a big hit from Lacey knocking him out of bounds. Another defensive highlight came when defensive tackle Jonathan Lewis read a middle screen and sat on the play and intercepted the pass from Zac Robinson. Backup defensive end Shane Jarka had a pass deflection. All in all the defensive line was active, which is a good thing.

"At times last year the offense was very productive and I think maybe it wore down the defense," Gundy said when asked about defensive intensity. "They are playing with a lot of enthusiasm and excitement, so it's obviously going to stir up the offense. Competition is the greatest thing going and we've had some good competition out there in the first five practices."

The past two practices and the final practice before spring break will be important for one of the least experienced and depth challenged areas of the team -- the defensive line. On Monday returning middle linebacker Rodrick Johnson got his first taste of being a swing player and preparing to play linebacker or defensive end. Marquis Fountain gives you a quality veteran at defensive end that led the team last season in tackles for a loss with 11.5. He also had a solid 4.5 sacks. Nate Peterson is a playmaker at defensive end, but is sitting out practice right now with an ankle injury. The back-ups are inexperienced with Derek Burton and redshirt freshmen Shane Jarka and Ugo Chinasa. That duo is inexperienced but has a lot of potential.

"I look at it this way, every year is a new year and you never know who is going to step up," said defensive line coach Nelson Barnes. "That is the one great thing about football is it is such a team sport that there are a lot of people that have a chance to step up. We don't have a Ryan McBean right now, but somebody is going to step up and play like Ryan McBean, like Victor DeGrate, like Larry Brown, like XLK, and like Darnell Smith. Some guys are going to do that and it is just fun for me to see who is going to take those roles. There are some guys that have some ability. They are young but it is fun to see them develop."

"I think the enthusiasm of this new defense. I haven't seen it like this in a long time," said senior defensive end Marque Fountain. "I think that is going to help us all on the defense."

Inside at defensive tackle, Maurice Cummings and Jeray Chatham have shown up well so far in practice. Junior college All-American Tonga Tea is not as well conditioned as the others after coming in for the spring semester from Snow (Utah) C.C., but he has shown up well at times in practice and has the strength to manhandle blockers. There is also Jonathan Lewis, and Quencey Patrick made a marvelous play shedding a blocker and dumping the ball carrier for a two-yard loss. during Monday's "Cowboy Drill."

"I feel we're playing all right right now," said senior defensive tackle Maurice Cummings of the defensive tackles. "We'll get better. We're learning a new defense right now and that is going to take time. I think Coach Beckman has a good plan and I can't wait for the season to start. I feel all of the tackles are going to perform. Just give us a little time and we will be fine."

The players on the defensive line know they are under the microscope and recognize the concern from everyone from coaches to fans. They understand that feeling, but don't necessarily agree with it.

"I think the spotlight is always on the defensive line because if you don't have a good defensive line then your defense isn't going to be very good," said senior defensive end Marque Fountain. "The defensive line is a big key to your defense. Last year people looked at the defensive line and didn't know if it was going to be good enough to win games. We just have to go out there and play. We know that the defensive line is going to ride on the shoulders of some of us veterans."

Friday's practice will be back to the regular 3:15 p.m. start time and the half scrimmage will start around 4:30. Practices are held on the grass practice fields east of Gallagher-Iba Arena, weather permitting, and they are open to the public.

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