Cowboy Football Practice: Day 13

STILLWATER - With the added humidity of the dew coming off the grass and the mid-morning temperatures already approaching the century mark the Cowboys went through a steamy two-hour. 15-minute practice on the grass practice fields east of Gallagher-Iba Arena. Coming off a solid workout on Monday night in 103-degree heat, the effort was deemed good by head coach Mike Gundy and his staff.

The team went through its usual routine of special teams (PAT/field goal, punt, and punt return), individual, team, inside, one on one, and more team in a manner that inspired Gundy to give the squad a reward he had mentioned as a possibility before the start of the morning practice on the last scheduled day of two-a-days.

"We told the players if we had a good morning workout, we would let them have the afternoon for team building," said the head coach. "We want them to get their feet back under them. We're going to go long on Wednesday with a scrimmage."

So instead of the evening practice the Cowboys headed off to a cooler environment. Originally we were told that buses had been lined up to take the squad to a movie much like last year's excursion to see Talledega Nights, but we weren't able to confirm the destination.

The reason the Cowboys weren't headed back to the practice field Tuesday night was because the morning practice which ranked among the best so far in camp, and it came under rugged conditions.

"We had a good practice today," Gundy said. "It was hot, and the grass was wet, so it was humid. We pushed them and had a situational scrimmage. We probably had 20 to 25 live plays. The defense was really good in third-down situations. Dez Bryant made another couple of nice catches in critical situations. Jacob Lacey (cornerback) made some plays. It was really good for us. We pushed them hard today."

The Cowboys will continue practice Wednesday with a 5:15 p.m. workout that will include a scrimmage expected to consist of roughly 60 plays. After single workouts on Thursday and Friday the squad will gear up on Saturday for another major scrimmage that should include close to 120 plays and will be under the guise of a Big 12 officiating crew. All practices, including scrimmages, are now closed to the public and media.

One new aspect of the Cowboy defense under coordinator Tim Beckman is its multiplicity. Offensive coordinator Larry Fedora says that has been very good for his offense to work against in practice.

"There is probably a lot of crossover with everybody we are going to see (this season) because we are so multiple with what we are doing on defense," said Fedora. "They have been very impressive with what they have thrown at us.

It is also good for the players on the defensive side of the ball as, just like on offense, personnel shifts with the different packages on defense. That gives a greater number of defensive players a chance to play. The Oklahoma State back seven has a surplus of players at every position, so all four of the top safeties on the depth chart Clint Coe, Quinton Moore, Ricky Price, and Andre Sexton are involved. It's the same at cornerback with veteran Calvin Mickens backing up Martel Van Zant on the boundary side.

"I'm just happy to be on the field again," said Mickens, who had an impressive interception in practice to put him in a good mood. "Last season I didn't play as much as I'd like to. It is real good to have so many people involved because anytime anybody steps out somebody else can jump in without missing a beat. It's a good thing to have this many people involved."

Younger players, like rapidly improving sophomores Justin Gent and Orie Lemon, have greater opportunities to get on the field too.

"It's not going to be one defense on the field the entire game. It's going to take everybody," said Gent. "I think that is going to be one thing that helps us win games, is that we have so many more people involved. After you pick it up (the defense) it's amazing. At first, I wasn't sure I could pick it all up, but when you start picking it up and studying your playbook you see it's a good defense and you really learn it."

Beckman told me in an interview during July that last season, while at Ohio State, head coach Jim Tressell told the defensive staff they would have to play 30 players in the first quarter in the early season showdown at Texas. The belief being you would need to go deep in order to have front liners still fresh in the fourth quarter.

Beckman said he felt the same way about the Cowboys opener at Georgia. He thought 30 might be too many, but at least 24 to 25 players will see action in the game. His defense with multiple looks and multiple personnel should make that happen and at the same time keep a lot of players involved in the effort.

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