Cowboy Spring Football - Day Nine

STILLWATER – It was a scrimmage that left Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy speechless. Actually, fellow coaches and player said that Gundy was losing his voice prior to the early start of the Cowboys ninth spring practice, a scheduled half-practice and half-scrimmage. But the long afternoon getting soaked in extreme springtime storm conditions certainly didn't help Gundy's vocal cords any.

Some of the situations that came up during the close to 130-play scrimmage couldn't have helped either. The Cowboys battled the conditions, which played havoc with ball handling and the passing game, and even had to take an Orange Bowl halftime-type break (55 minutes) when lightning threatened.

All in all, it became more of mental sharpening practice in battling the obstacles than a physical challenge which a full contact scrimmage usually presents. After the scrimmage concluded Gundy had no voice left to speak with the media, so associate head coach and special teams coordinator Joe DeForest stepped in.

"First of all, I think our kids did a great job of fighting through some adverse conditions," said DeForest, who met with the media in rain soaked coaching attire. "We had a rain delay and they fought through it and did a great job. The ball security on both sides (suffered). We couldn't intercept the ball when the offense threw it to us. There were some mishandled snaps, but overall, I thought the kids did a really good job of coming back after the rain delay."

The coaching staff moved up the start of the practice 45 minutes to 2:30 p.m. with the hope of avoiding the severe weather moving into Stillwater. They finished the practice portion of the itinerary including some full speed work on the punt unit and got into the scrimmage.

They started the scrimmage working on the offense coming off it's own two-yard line and the first team offense executed a couple of first downs as Reid scrambled seven yards on third down to get out of the shadow of the east end goal posts. Actually, there were no shadows today. Reid also delivered with a 10-yard strike to wide receiver Artrell Woods for another first down. The junior-to-be starting quarterback almost delivered a third straight first down but just missed with a nine-yard scramble coming up one-yard short of the marker.

They moved back to the two-yard line and Reid again hooked up with the rapidly improving Woods on a 16-yard pass play. The second team offense did not fair as well coming off the goal line as junior college transfer defensive tackle Tonga Tea made two good defensive plays, pressuring second team quarterback Zac Robinson into an incompletion and then Tea teamed with linebacker Seb Clements to stop back Julius Crosslin for no gain.

The next stage of the scrimmage involved putting the ball down at the 30-yard line and letting the offense work on drives against the defense. For the most part it was ones-versus-ones and twos-versus-twos with a few personnel adjustments. Reid and the first team offense benefited from three defensive penalties on the first drive as a late hit on Reid out of bounds, an offside, and a facemask penalty on a Dantrell Savage run helped move the chains.

Reid also connected with Adarius Bowman for a nine-yard play and a first down and then Reid scored on a six-yard touchdown run to his left in which he took a hit and was flipped by safety Quinton Moore at the goal line. The quarterbacks got a taste of taking hits during the scrimmage, yet there were also some quick whistles to protect the signal callers.

The next time the first team offense took the field it was the Reid and Toston show as the quarterback and running back combined for 62 yards to set up a first-and-goal at the eight. Toston, who has been impressive throughout the spring, ripped off runs of 25 and 11 yards on back-to-back plays, while Reid had a 14-yard run off a boot action pass for another first down. Artrell Woods showed up again as Reid connected with the speedy sophomore wide receiver for a 12-yard gain to help make up for an offensive holding penalty. The drive ended with Reid trying to hit Bowman in the back of the end zone and the pass, which sailed on Reid, was picked off in the very back of the end zone by Jacob Lacey.

While the drive resulted in a turnover, for Toston being a major part of moving the ball downfield is a confidence builder.

"Most of the time it is confidence," said Toston. "When our offense gets rolling we get confident, but then those little mistakes we have to correct to finish those drives. We also have to do a better job of holding on to the football."

It was at that point that the conditions worsened and Gundy called for the players to head underneath the north side of Boone Pickens Stadium for what ended up being a 55-minute break.

"We just sat there and tried to keep ourselves focused," said wide receiver Artrell Woods. "We were trying to stay loose and just talking with each other. We do like those weekends off, but we just wanted to get out there and get our day of work in."

According to DeForest, working in the adverse conditions and dealing with the weather delay both could be beneficial come next season as you never know what kind of obstacles the conditions will throw at you during the season. This is where the focus and the attitude in coming back from the delay with a strong effort proved challenging.

"The effort was there," DeForest said when asked specifically about after the 55-minute break. "Our kids give effort every single play. They were excited about getting out and they didn't want to practice on the weekend for one thing. They were willing to wait as long as they could to get back out there. Any time you have conditions like we had today you have to fight through it and understand you have to secure the ball and the concentration is on catching the snap, making the catch, and on defense we have to do a better job of stripping the ball in adverse conditions."

Most of the drives after the break featured a lot of give and take between the offense and the defense with both sides having their moments. The defense highlights included linebacker Seb Clements recovery of a Zac Robinson fumble five yards behind the line of scrimmage, a strong play by defensive tackle Maurice Cummings in pulling down Toston for a two-yard loss, and safety Andre Sexton's interception on an overthrow by third quarterback Alex Cate. Each of the quarterbacks by the way had a touchdown pass and an interception.

Offensive coordinator Larry Fedora said without looking at the scrimmage video that the quarterbacks had that kind of day with some good moments and some not so good.

"I'll be honest with you, I'm never happy with spring ball," said Fedora. "I set myself up for frustration because we try a lot of things and a lot of people and ultimately if one guy screws up then it basically blows everything. We get to see a lot of players and a lot of wrinkles on video and then we get to evaluate all of it and that is what it is all about, but it is frustrating. Bobby made some nice throws in it (conditions), Zac made a couple of nice throws in it, and even Cate made some nice throws, but I'll have to look at the tape."

Those good moments included Zac Robinson's perfect strike to Artrell Woods on a wheel route down the left sideline that went for a 46-yard touchdown. Again, Woods is making lots of progress at wide receiver.

"It's just trying to come out here and work hard and stay focused in catching the football," said Woods. "It's all about the team getting better."

It was Woods later that caught Reid's lone touchdown pass as he went up to grab a 37-yard touchdown pass in the end zone. Cate used a nice touch pass on his scoring toss as he lofted the ball up and over the left shoulder of tight end Justin Waller for a 16-yard touchdown.

The defense had a few more highlights as linebacker Patrick Lavine sacked Robinson for a five-yard loss as he got through clean on a blitz. Two of the other defensive moments came courtesy of two players that used to make plays on the offense. Donovan Woods, playing linebacker, has become very comfortable with his new spot since moving from safety and he came through clean on a blitz to stop Crosslin for a two-yard loss. Woods has been a big help in encouraging former wide receiver Ricky Price in his move from wide receiver to safety. Today Price started at strong safety with the first team defense for the first time and made a perfect read and run through on a pass late in the scrimmage but could not hang on to the wet football for the interception.

"I came from the opposite half of the field and got the ball on my finger tips and couldn't handle it," explained Price. "I still should have made the catch because it hit both my hands."

Still, Price showed up well and is making a run at a starting role in the secondary.

"At first I was kind of hesitant (about the move) because I didn't know if I had it in me," said Price about moving to safety. "Then I got out in the drills and thought maybe I do still have the ability that I had in high school. I just need to get adjusted more to the game speed. Donovan (Woods) kind of talked me through it and he was very supportive in telling me how he went through it and the problems that he faced when he made the move."

"He's done a good job for us," DeForest said of Price. "He's come over after two years on offense and has learned the new position, learned the new defense, and really has responded very well. Today he made a lot of big hits, nearly intercepted a pass, and he is still learning and will get better."

If you were going to side with either the offense or the defense, you would lean to the defense. The conditions, along with an improved defense seen all spring, made it tough on the offense. It was close as we detailed, but Fedora repeated that he doesn't mind seeing the defense have success this spring. In fact, he is elated about it.

"That is exactly what I said," echoed Fedora. "If the defense shuts us down then I'll be happy. I'll be happy about what they will be bringing to the table next year."

Gundy will have the weekend to get his voice back and the Cowboys will look to have better weather to practice in Monday when they start the final two weeks of spring practice leading to the April 14 Orange-White game. Monday's practice is scheduled for 3:15 p.m. and all spring practices are open to the public.

Depth Chart 3/30 (based on scrimmage)
Offense

WR Artrell Woods, Jeremy Broadway
Slot Adarius Bowman, Seth Newton
RT David Koenig, Jacob Secrest
RG Steve Denning, Michael Booker
C David Washington, Andrew Lawrence
LG Andrew Lewis, Noah Franklin
LT Russell Okung, Brady Bond
TE Brandon Pettigrew, Justin Walle
r WR Anthony Parks, Tommy Devereaux
QB Bobby Reid, Zac Robinson, Alex Cate
FB John Johnson or Jeremiah Burton
RB Dantrell Savage, Keith Toston, Julius Crosslin

Defense
DE Marque Fountain, Derek Burton
DT Maurice Cummings, Jonathan Lewis
NT Jeray Chatham , Tonga Tea
DE Rodrick Johnson, Shane Jarka
SLB Donovan Woods, Justin Gent
MLB Patrick Lavine, Marcus Brown
WLB Jeremy Nethon, Orie Lemon
BC Martel Van Zant, Calvin Mickens
SS Ricky Price, Andre Sexton
FS Quinton Moore, Clint Coe
FC Jacob Lacey, Perrish Cox

Specialists
K Jason Ricks, Dan Bailey
P Matt Fodge, Cole Reynolds
LS Zach Allen, Mike Smith
H Cole Reynolds, Matt Fodge

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