Cowboy Spring Football - Day Seven

STILLWATER - Spring break is over and if the Oklahoma State Cowboys needed any proof then the first spring practice after the break took care of that. This was the seventh day of the 15 days allotted to practice in the spring by the NCAA, but it likely felt like day one.

The team was back in helmets and shorts and following the long practice it was capped off with a lengthy conditioning period directed by strength and conditioning coordinator Rob Glass. In all, this was the longest practice so far in the spring as it lasted more than three hours.

"We used our third practice without any pads and so we went long with a lot of running to get the spring break out of them," said Cowboys head coach Mike Gundy. "They all came back healthy and I'm happy about that. We pushed them hard and kind of got them back in the flow.

"We did a lot of things installation-wise to get them focused mentally. We are almost through with our installation on both sides of the ball, and they really moved around pretty good. You hate to admit it as a coach but this generally is not a very good practice, kind of like the first practice in two-a-days after a scrimmage. They moved around pretty good today."

The attitude was good as the players hustled throughout the workout that did include some seven-on-seven work in the middle of practice.

Highlights in the drills, which are few in a non-contact practice, included a long completion from quarterback Alex Cate to Artell Woods, who got open deep down the sideline. Defensively, cornerback Calvin Mickens sat off a wide receiver screen as he was coached by some of the defensive players on the sideline and then jumped it with perfect timing to get an interception. Linebacker Jeremy Nethon picked off a pass over the middle and returned it for what likely would have been a touchdown, although there were no offensive linemen to attempt to make a tackle and without pads there was no tackling.

"I've said this several times," said Gundy, "our players are learning to practice pretty hard and continue on and take hard coaching and develop the way it takes to be a championship team."

Cate's long pass to Woods is becoming more common as the redshirt freshman from Salt Lake City, Utah, is showing why he was one of the top quarterback recruits in the country in the 2006 recruiting class. Cate threw two touchdowns in the half scrimmage on the last day before spring break and he had no interceptions in his scrimmage action.

"Alex Cate played really well, much more than I noticed out there," Gundy said commenting on what he saw in looking at the video from the scrimmage. "He has to put his time in and has to earn the right to get more reps. He's actually getting a lot of reps right now. Traditionally, we haven't worked threes here but he's getting about 25 percent of the reps, so he is getting good quality reps."

The 6-1, 190-pound Cate is very excited to be running the Oklahoma State offense and not playing the role of quarterback for Texas Tech, Texas, Kansas or Oklahoma as he had to do last season as a member of the scout team. He also feels like he is getting up to speed with the Larry Fedora no-huddle, spread offense.

"I feel pretty good and I just need to keep it up," Cate said of his play this spring. "I still have a lot of things that I need to work on and a lot of improvement that I need to do. I know the playbook more and it is more exciting."

Cate's role is not easy. He can get excited, but he also has to realize the talent and experience that is ahead of him on the depth chart at quarterback in Bobby Reid and Zac Robinson. There is no lid on his progress but if it were a race he's starting considerably behind the other two quarterbacks.

"I get a good challenge in practice every day with those two guys," said Cate of fellow quarterbacks Reid and Robinson. "We all get along pretty good and joke and laugh with each other. All throughout practice they help me out on plays and pretty much on everything."

What Cate has accomplished is he has the attention of the head coach, and he has done that with what he has shown in situations like the scrimmage right before spring break.

"The thing Alex has done is his made plays in live drills," explained Gundy. "That is the key to any sport. Practice is OK, but can you make plays when the lights go on? And when we've scrimmaged he's made plays so he'll continue to get work. If it tapers off then we'll back off. If he makes more plays then we'll give him more work. They have to earn the right and he's at the toughest position because there is only one guy in there and he has to take advantage of his opportunities in live drills."

Cate will get more opportunities this Friday when Gundy will put the team through another half scrimmage. Next week, likely Friday (April 6), will be a full scrimmage and there is the Orange-White Spring Game scheduled for April 14 at 5:30 p.m.

The Cowboys will practice again on Wednesday at 3:15 p.m. and all practices are open to the public with viewing limited to the roped off area on the west end of the practice field.

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