Their were plenty of onlookers, with fans and media present and along with the coaches and players all observers realized there were two positions of immediate need.
Head coach Mike Gundy and new defensive coordinator Tim Beckman must replace departed starters Ryan McBean (Pittsburgh Steelers rookie) and Larry Brown at defensive tackle. However, helmets and shorts don't allow much to be decided at one of football's most combat-oriented positions. Answers at defensive tackle must wait.
The other position of high interest is wide receiver and without pads that is a spot where more can be seen and evaluated. Several veterans, along with a couple of new faces, showed up on the first day by catching passes and making plays.
"The wideouts that have some skills really made some plays," said Gundy. "Some of the freshman really showed up and made some plays."
The need at wide receiver was created this summer when a freak weight room accident left speedy spring football hero Artrell Woods in a back brace with a broken back and two displaced vertabrae. Woods is out for the season and Gundy and offensive coordinator Larry Fedora are looking for a receiver to stretch the defense vertically like Woods had the potential to do, and for somebody to balance the passing game opposite preseason All-American wide receiver Adarius Bowman.
"We'd love to have Artie (Woods), but we don't," said Gundy. "We have some ways in our offense to overcome that."
"Guys see opportunity to get out on the field with Artrell being down," said quarterback Bobby Reid. "He had tremendous ability to stretch the field, but he's not with us now. A guy like Artell, with him being out three or four guys can get out on the field and do what he has been doing."
When the offense lined up the first time sophomore Jeremy Broadway and junior Seth Newton lined up with Bowman. The second unit saw true freshman Dez Bryant, DeMarcus Conner, and senior Tommy Devereaux.
There was plenty of mix and match all day, and in observing drills it was obvious that Bryant, more of a post-up receiver like Bowman, has a chance to be special. In drills he went up with his big hands and caught one ball that among all Cowboy receivers only Bowman could have grabbed. Bryant was dependable and made most catchable balls into plays.
Another freshman that made catches is Josh Cooper. The Mustang, Okla., All-State wide receiver has been likened to former Texas Tech standout Wes Welker and you could see why. Freshmen Damian Davis and Hubert Anyiam had their moments, but also showed signs of being freshmen.
"It didn't take long to see him (Dez Bryant) make a few catches to realize we didn't miss on (getting) him," said Gundy. "Hubert Anyiam, Cooper has a little bit of a ham (hamstring injury), but he is a guy that keeps showing up and making plays. We have some guys."
Of the veterans Seth Newton made plays, Conner caught the ball well, Broadway struggled some on the first day, but Devereaux seemed to make the most of the opportunity catching the ball and running into open spaces. From Mike Gundy to quarterback Bobby Reid to Devereaux himself there is still an expectation for the speedster that had a specific play in the game plan against Nebraska in his very first game as a Cowboy.
"Tommy made some plays and Tommy has to make plays for us because he has been around here for four or five years," added Gundy. "He has to be able to go get the deep ball and go make some plays for us."
Reid said he specifically had sought out Devereaux and gave him a personal pep talk to prepare him for the challenge and the opportunity that has come at him for his final season as a Cowboy.
"I had a little talk with him and told him, 'This is your last go round and from here it is either all or nothing,'" said Reid of his talk with the player everybody calls Tommy D. "He told me he is ready, so we're going to see."
Devereaux recounted the conversation with Reid. "At the beginning of the summer he said, 'T.D., this is your last year man. You came in your freshman year and didn't do anything real good. You just slipped up a little bit.' I've been catching the ball better, practicing all summer looking it in and then run with it. Sometimes I get so excited thinking about what I'm going to do with it before I catch it. This year I'm centering on consistency and being a receiver they can trust."
Devereaux knows this opportunity came at the expense of an injury to a teammate and his frame of mind is admirable, an attitude that is in part the product of being a senior and having dealt with some disappointment in his career.
"I think I've kind of let some people down over the years being so tentative," said Devereaux. "I'm going all out. We've dedicated it to him (Artie). That is our big motivation."
Oddly enough it was Woods and Deveraeux that ran the fastest 40-yard dash times on offense over the summer, both clocking 4.3.
There was some disappointment, overall, on the part of the head coach as Gundy wasn't exactly happy with his team's first practice for the 2007 season.
"We had an average practice, need much more intensity," said Gundy of the practice overall. "I was disappointed with the way the offense came out and acted like everybody is going to roll over for them. It wasn't very good. Offensively, we came out and made too many mistakes, dropped too many balls. The defensive guys competed in individual drills. We wasted one and now we have 28 (practices left before the opener with Georgia)."
"I feel the same way," said Reid. "We started off real slow. I think guys are getting used to having coaches around, but it will get better. Everything is not going to be perfect on the first day. We are working to get perfect and it will be a long road."
The Cowboys next chance to impress on that long road, which the Cowboys have little time to travel will be tomorrow (Friday) with another 4:45 p.m. practice in shorts and helmets that will be open to the public.
Below is a list of open practices remaining:
Friday, Aug. 3 ....... 4:45 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 4 ... 6:00 p.m.
Sunday, Aug. 5 .... 4:45 p.m.
Monday, Aug. 6 ... 4:45 p.m.
Tuesday, Aug. 7 ... 10:00 a.m. and 5:45 p.m.
All remaining practices and scrimmages are closed to the public
Cowboy Football Practice: Day 1
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