That was accomplished more than two months ago when the Cowboys last gathered outside of offseason workouts with a 49-33 win over the Hoosiers in the Insight Bowl. That was in Tempe, Ariz., which was experiencing a colder than normal week but nothing like the 37 degrees that greeted the first spring football practice.
"It was a little chilly but it wasn't that bad because of the wind," said head coach Mike Gundy. "We didn't have that much wind. You know since they closed that (west) end down there we really haven't had any issues with the wind. It makes it much more comfortable. But obviously we don't get as much sun. It's an outdoor sport."
Gundy's last comment is true, but it made one ask that if the Sherman Smith Center were completed would the Cowboys have spent this practice indoors? Maybe and maybe not because Gundy prides himself on doing things to make his team tough.
He and his staff greeted a squad of 95 players Monday, including several new junior college transfers, one high school early enrollee, and several other assorted walk-ons and transfers. Gundy mentioned only one player that missed the practice as redshirt freshman wide receiver Josh Cooper missed due to illness. This was one of the three mandated non-contact practices by the NCAA.
"The enthusiasm was good and the guys are excited to be back out there," said Gundy, who was also asked if any player or players stood out.
"You don't really see anybody right now," added the head coach. "It's just a bunch of guys running around since they are not in pads. I didn't see anything out of the ordinary today."
As for what the Cowboys did during the two-hour, 20-minute practice, much of it was fundamentals including some special teams work on extra points and field goals as well as various phases of the punt and punt return games. There were several spectacular throws and catches, guys looked good on the run, and defenders were right there to the point of attack.
"There is a lot of structure and it went really smooth today," continued Gundy. "You want to get them moving around and not walking and practicing at a fast tempo. Then you want to get guys lined up and you video it and show it to them in the meetings."
The head coach was also asked about retention. The offense and defense hasn't changed, but each spring you go back and put the X's and O's in all over again.
"The first five practices are installation so there is a lot going in," explained Gundy. "I think the most important thing for those guys right now is to practice at a fast pace. It changes a lot obviously when you get pads on and start going against each other.
"I think they have some carry over. Dez Bryant is a pretty good barometer as to how guys carry over information and he was pretty good today. Dez is a pretty good barometer for a lot of things. He had some pretty good times today.
"Zac (Robinson) and (Brandon) Pettigrew, those guys are going to pick things back up pretty fast. I think they have kept things (retained) pretty good. One thing that helps is that we are allowed to meet with them for an hour twice a week during the offseason. That helps a lot."
The Cowboys spring practices are closed to the public, with the exception of the three scrimmage practices and the April 12 Orange-White Game. The first open practice will be Friday, March 14, which is the last practice before the players leave for spring break.
The Cowboys' next practice is Wednesday with a 3:30 p.m. start time. It is a closed practice.
Cowboy Football: Spring Practice Day 1
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