Cowboy Football: Spring Practice Day 8

STILLWATER - For the first and only time this spring the Oklahoma State Cowboys were on the field for back-to-back practice days. Even more than Tuesday, a non-contact practice to get back in the swing of things following spring break, the coaches challenged the players as Wednesday's practice served as a prelude to the first major scrimmage of the spring scheduled for Friday.

That scrimmage will be open to the public and will begin at 3:30 p.m. in Boone Pickens Stadium.

Head coach Mike Gundy seemed to be pleased with the way Wednesday's practice went.

"Guys moved around well and there continues to be a lot of enthusiasm," said Gundy. "A lot of young guys getting reps out there on both sides of the ball. Now we're looking forward to the day off (Thursday) and then the full scrimmage on Friday.

"We continue to put offense in and the defense continues to put things in and there were some guys confused out there, but that happens in spring ball. There are some young guys working for the first time at a very fast pace. Overall, the retention has been good."

The emphasis in practice was on a wide varied number of areas, but it has become apparent that two sophomore-to-be and were rushed into playing last season have matured and are much better now.

Kendall Hunter of Tyler, Texas rushed for 696 yards and four touchdowns playing in all 13 games last season. The 5-foot-8 and now 190-pound Hunter also caught 10 passes for 137 yards and a score. He has been playing well in practice and seems to have been pushed some by new junior college All-American running back Beau Johnson.

"He's improved himself in the passing game," said Gundy of the player that he nicknamed Spud. "That's the most difficult adjustment for a high school players that plays as a freshman at that position, the passing game. He's worked hard on it and seems to be in the right spot this spring. He is doing fine. You give him the remainder of the spring and the summer and he is going to be really ready. We are expecting him to make a lot of plays next season."

Damian Davis, another sophomore-to-be, was one of several wide receivers that made big plays on Wednesday. A list that also included Dez Bryant and veteran Jeremy Broadway, who found the end zone several times. Davis caught two passes for 47 yards last season, blocked well, and Gundy really likes him.

"Last year if he turned sideways you couldn't actually see him," said Gundy of the 6-6, 180-pound Davis. "He actually gained 17 pounds and you can see his shadow. The 17 pounds is not enough. He needs 10 pounds more. Damian's strengths are route running and catching the ball. He has good hands. He is an intelligent player and seemed to be in the right spot. He should retain that and be a factor early in the season."

Others on offense that reportedly showed up well included young tight end Wilson Youman, and quarterback Brandon Weeden got plenty of opportunities as he mainly worked with the second unit on Wednesday. Gundy emphasized that those two quarterbacks, Weeden and Alex Cate, are involved in a race for the second team designation that will go on all of the spring.

On defense, defensive tackles Jeray Chatham, Tonga Tea, and Quincey Patrick showed up in some of the drills. Junior-to-be linebacker Orie Lemon says he really appreciates those big guys up front as they make his job easier.

Lemon, who has played some quarterback and fullback at OSU early in his career before settling at linebacker, realizes what an opportunity he has. The 6-1, 240-pounder from Houston Yates High School is running first team and while junior college All-American Donald Booker is expected to compete for that job in the fall, Lemon gets a head start on the first team.

"I'm feeling pretty good," said Lemon of his time on the first unit. "I come in and work hard everyday just doing my stuff and doing my assignments. It is really harder (learning) for me because I've moved from Sam (stongside) down to Mike (middle) and I'm still learning all that. Patrick (Lavine) helps me a lot."

Lemon says already the defense is better and that is a message Cowboy fans are anxious to hear.

"The defense is way better from day one," said Lemon. "We are still installing some things, but we are way better from day one (of spring) to now."

The Cowboys will have a chance to show the fans more defense Friday in the first major scrimmage as the defenders had the better day in the "thud" scrimmage that concluded the first two weeks of the spring. That Friday scrimmage open to the public begins at 3:30 p.m.

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