Cowboy Football Practice: Day 7

STILLWATER - The Oklahoma State Cowboys gathered Wednesday afternoon for the first time in the seclusion for a closed practice, closed to the public and to the media. While this might frustrate some hardcore fans and selected reporters the custom of closing practice has become a necessity in this day and age of big time college football.

Internet sites and a more aggressive mainstream media doesn't allow for any secrets in schemes and injuries without closing the doors. That said we'll continue to file practice reports with post-practice debriefs from head coach Mike Gundy, some assistant coaches, and selected players.

Gundy seemed to be enthused when he met with the media after Wednesday's two hour, 15 minute practice which ended with a lot of noise and some good collisions in the first goal-line drill of the camp.

"It was a good practice," said Gundy. "We did some goal line and some tackling, some live work, some nice collisions. It was a good practice. The effort was good."

And who was colliding? "Rod Johnson and Julius Crosslin, that was a nice collision, somebody's helmet came off," said Gundy of the collision during goal-line work. I guess Rod (won the battle) because the offense didn't score. We just played goal line, put the ball on the three and played it. Defense is very competitive and they got a little chant going there like high school. It was good stuff."

One area that has performed up to par (including the goal line work on Wednesday) and maybe above, despite some personnel tweaking during fall camp, has been the offensive line. Returning starters David Koenig, center David Washington, and tackles Russell Okung and Brady Bond form a solid nucleus. We do count Bond as a returning starter as he started five games last season.

Koenig is the best offensive lineman on the team and has the versatility of playing at either guard or tackle. He also has a mean streak that makes him valuable as well as leadership capabilities. The new member of the starting unit will likely be sophomore Andrew Lewis at left guard, although junior Steve Denning, the strongest player on the team, is also making a push. Gundy said he has learned to trust offensive line coach Joe Wickline that he will have the crew ready in time for the opener.

"I have no clue what goes on there," said Gundy. "I don't know what goes on there. He has his methods and we know he is going to mix it up and then have five ready to go for the start. In a way it is good because he ends up with several players that can play in different spots.

"I think we have more depth, and before the start of practice we talked about having a second line and using them every fourth series or so. I don't know if we can do that, but we do like the young guys and the way they are coming along. We have recruited a number of good players.

"They are doing well and moving around well," added Gundy. "Bond seems to be doing well because Wick is keeping him in there quite a bit. I think with Bond, Koenig, Washington, Lewis, and Okung that would be his favorite five right now."

The offensive linemen are being challenged with the heat, and the first two-a-day practice day on Tuesday. It is a time of year they have to deal with the competition and the physical demands.

"Five guys do have to work together in the O-line," said sophomore tackle Russell Okung. "We started off slow at the beginning of two-a-days, but we just have to know how to fit things scheme-wise. We have some very good athletes and we will come together through the course of camp. Coach Wick always moves people around and switches things out and rotates people. We know he wants to put the best five on the field and he is just making sure of who the best five are. It's not a distraction because we are used to it."

The defensive line and linebackers are one nemesis for the line in practice, but the heat and the grind are the biggest, the ones that Okung believes have to be overcome to make this offensive line successful.

"Coach Gundy and Coach Fedora have said we have to learn how to finish," said Okung. "We were good early in two-a-days, but then we slow down and make a few mistakes. We have to learn how to finish strong."

The offensive line and the rest of the Cowboys will be tested to keep up the enthusiasm and the effort of Wednesday's practice as the team will go through their second day of two-a-days with workouts at 10 a.m. and 5:45 p.m. Both workouts are closed to the public and media.

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