Cowboy Spring Football Notebook

There were a wide variety of visitors at the Cowboys' Friday practice, including recent signees Jared Glover, Josh Cooper and Jamie Blatnick. Glover, the Bixby High School linebacker, was in Stillwater watching his third spring practice.

There were prospects like Butler County C.C. (Kansas) defensive tackle Dustin Smith. Smith is a 6-4, 285-pound defensive end at Butler that would project as a defensive tackle at Oklahoma State. Israel Esko is a wide receiver and safety from Guthrie that was also in attendance.

In addition, the entire coaching staff from the University of Central Oklahoma was in attendance, including former OU linebacker Joe Bowden and Steve Patterson, son of OSU assistant director of football operations and former NEO A&M head coach Dale Patterson. There were also a couple of coaches on hand from Mansfield Summit High School in North Texas. Of course, the Cowboys already have a commitment for the next recruiting class from Mansfield Summit in kicker Quinn Sharp.

Also on hand was former head coach Pat Jones, who now is a sports radio talk show host in Tulsa . Former players Corey Hilliard, D'Juan Woods and Xavier Lawson-Kennedy were also seen walking the sidelines.

Break Time
Friday's scrimmage ends the first phase of spring practice. When the team returns they will have three more weeks and nine more practices this spring, including the April 14 Orange-White spring game at 5:30 p.m.

Head coach Mike Gundy is used to breaking up spring practice as Pat Jones did it when Gundy was a player and as a Cowboy assistant. As the head coach it's the break that concerns Gundy more than the break in practices.

"Spring break is always a scary time for a coach," said Gundy. "You know you reflect back on what you did in college and you get a little concerned about spring break. They are 18 to 23 year old males so you know you just try to tell them to be careful about what they do, make good decisions, and take care of each other. They are still going to go have fun and we want them to, but you always worry about them."

When the Cowboys return the staff hopes it doesn't have a re-start of the spring, but instead pick up where they left off. Gundy says that is where the final NCAA mandated non-contact practice comes in handy on the schedule.

"They'll be back on Sunday night a week from now and then we'll have another practice on Monday in shorts and helmets," Gundy said. "That'll be our third practice in shorts."

Woods Moves Closer to the Ball and Adds Black Jersey
The spring media guide lists Donovan Woods at 6-2, 225 pounds, but the reality is that Woods is 235 pounds. As a result Woods has been moved to sam linebacker after starting the bulk of the past two seasons at free safety. He apparently has taken to his new home as after his first practice at his new position on Wednesday earned a black shirt, as he became the fifth defender honored with the black practice jersey this spring.

New defensive coordinator Tim Beckman has tinkered some with the defensive personnel since arriving as Rodrick Johnson has moved from linebacker to defensive end. Now Woods, a former quarterback, has moved to linebacker. Woods has readily accepted the new assignment.

"I think that's good," Woods said of the move. "It'll allow me to do some different things, move me closer to the ball. I get to be around the ball more and make more plays."

It could help Woods' future in football as he is one of the Cowboy seniors that looks the part of a professional player. Woods is strapping and looked physically the part at linebacker in practice so far and the chore will be mentally adjusting and adapting to being closer to the line of scrimmage. He'll see more guards and tackles than wide receivers and tight ends coming out to block him.

"Actually, it is just a little more contact," explained Woods. "Outside of that you are still running to the ball and trying to make tackles. Moving closer to the ball you get more opportunity to do that. The thing is you are going to get hit more. At safety you have 80 plays and you might get 40 with contact. This is different and you might get contact in the 60-70 play area."

"Guys are buying in and Coach Gundy has done a great job of talking about body language and things like that all the time. When we come out here to do stuff we are going to have to come out and do it, so we may as well enjoy what we are doing and guys have bought into that"

How Do You Like Me Now?
Offensive line coach Joe Wickline recognizes that Cowboy fans keep their eyes on the offensive line and asked after practice, "how do you like my rotations this spring so far?"

Wickline, who is the master of working different combinations to find out who works best together, has had a surplus of candidates compared to the first two years on the job. At center Wickline has used returning starter David Washington, Andrew Lewis and Andrew Lawrence. At guard Steve Denning, Noah Franklin, Trent Perkins, Andrew Lewis and Michael Booker have all been in and out of the lineup. Russell Okung, converted guard David Koenig, and Brady Bond all have starting experience at tackle, and along with Jacob Secrest have seen work at tackle. That adds up to 11 players to form a 10-man two-deep on the offensive line.

Wickline also hinted that incoming freshman Jonathan Rush of Killeen , Texas could factor into the rotation when he arrives in the summer. The 6-5, 250-pound Rush will need to get a little bigger, but Wickline believes he's got the right stuff to help as Okung did as a true freshman last season.

"He's a wrestler and he's tough," Wickline said of Rush. "He is more mature physically and is a smart player and that gives him a chance. I can't wait to get him here."

Good Hands
So far during spring practice the Cowboys have worked on PAT/field goal along with punt and punt return/block units. But special team coordinator Joe DeForest admits that kickoffs and kick returns will be the biggest change for 2007. The rule makers have moved kickoffs at the college level back to the 30-yard line, the same as the NFL. DeForest, who once again had the overall top-rated special teams in the Big 12 in 2006, admits that will change everything.

"I'm going to have to look at a lot of options," said DeForest, who recognizes it will be very difficult to find a kicker as he has in the past that will kick the ball far enough to guarantee most kickoffs will go unreturned. "I can see a lot of people going to pooch kickoffs to get hang time and make it difficult to return. We'll look at that and we'll have to see who we have that can get the ball to the goal line as often as possible. I'm also going to have to look at possibly having three returners on the field to cover more area and that may mean giving up a fullback for blocking."

Historically since he came to Oklahoma State, DeForest has waited to put in heavy work on kickoff and kickoff returns in August where he can look at more incoming players to be involved. The bonus is DeForest returns all but one of his key specialists from 2006.

The Cowboys return Perrish Cox, who finished 14th nationally in punt returns and 35th in kickoff returns. Cox had six returns that directly set up scores for the Cowboys.

Jason Ricks is back to handle placements and possibly kickoffs. Ricks has never missed a field goal inside 40 yards in his OSU career and has hit field goals of 55 and 53 yards.

Matt Fodge is coming off second-team All-Big 12 and All-American honors after averaging 44.9 yards a punt to finish eighth in the nation in punting. Zach Allen, who has not registered a bad snap in two years, is back along with reliable holder Cole Reynolds. All of the returning specialists will also be back for the 2008 season.

GoPokes Top Stories