Cowboy Practice Report: July 31

STILLWATER - Football is a contact sport, a physical game, so during the first couple of practices that the NCAA mandates as non contact and acclimatization practices there are certain limitations in what a coach can gain. As Oklahoma State hit the practice field for a toasty session under the hot sun (97 degrees), head coach Mike Gundy was looking for everything to be fast.

With the new clock rules regarding the clock moving more and as soon as the ball is placed down and ready for play, Gundy wants to go, go, go.

"It was a good first day and everybody was doing a good job of getting from drill to drill, good hustle which is normal for the first day because everybody is excited," said Gundy. "We need to do a better job on offense and defense of pushing the envelope and moving fast. We want to be a fast-paced offense, and defensively we want to be sitting there waiting on the offense. We want to play faster.

"I was pleased with the execution today," continued Gundy getting into player evaluation. "I thought (Brandon) Weeden had a good day and (Alex) Cate did some good things.

"The other guys, our running backs, Kendall (Hunter) did a nice job. (Keith) Toston looked good and it was nice to see him at full speed. Beau Johnson, who did a nice job in the spring, performed well. At the wide receiver spot Dez (Bryant) made some plays like we would expect.

"On defense I thought Swanson Miller (defensive tackle), (Andre) Sexton (star linebacker) and (Jacob) Lacey (cornerback) showed up. Donald Booker showed up at the linebacker spot. Overall, it was a good day."

The offense looked sharp for a first-day practice and despite the feelings of some over graduation losses there are plenty of playmakers in the arsenal. Two of the areas that will be looked at critically on offense will be running back and wide receiver where Dantrell Savage and Adarius Bowman, the top playermakers in 2007, are departed.

At running back Kendall Hunter put on 10 good pounds in Rob Glass's summer strength and conditioning program. Few consider that Hunter returns after averaging 6.5-yards per carry last season playing all 13 games. Junior college newcomer Beau Johnson, who was impressive in spring, also got plenty of good out of the program, and elder statesman at the position Keith Toston has had a strong recovery from a late season ACL knee injury.

"Kendall has had a great summer and in the weight room. He is one of the stronger guys," said quarterback Zac Robinson. "He really pushed himself this summer and running-wise it is always there for him. He is probably one of the quickest guys if you watch him go through the bags or some other drill like that. He has some unbelievable feet. I look for him to have a great year, along with Beau and Keith. Keith is looking really good. So with those three guys we should be set in the backfield."

Hunter showed a little more spinning in the practice Thursday as he spun out of several situations, seemingly into open space and more yards.

"I feel pretty good but I see a lot of stuff that I need to improve on," said Hunter modestly after practice. "I was just trying to get back in the move today."

Toston actually looks faster in watching him work Thursday than he was before the injury last season. He has worked on his focus and not losing the football, and he is determined to do everything he can to help this football team.

"That was my main task getting back all the way healthy and being ready to help the team when it was time," said Toston. "I felt as good as I have (today) since I came in. I came in and made some plays and this year I also feel like I'm taking a leader role."

The other playmaker concern is at wide receiver and Dez Bryant became a very known commodity toward the end of the season with Bowman being injured against Kansas. It was Bryant that did the most damage in the bowl game against Indiana.

The trio of Gundy, co-offensive coordinator Gunter Brewer, and quarterback Zac Robinson know Bryant will be there and they also have faith in newcomer Bo Bowling. Another speed threat has to emerge to help stretch the field vertically and keep defenses honest in pass coverage against Bryant. Robinson and Gundy are starting to be convinced that "Miracle Man" Artrell Woods, coming off that near tragic injury in the weight room, is that answer.

"It truly is unbelievable, and you saw him in the spring a little bit and you could kind of tell he was still coming off the injury and he was because it had just happened about nine months before that," said Robinson. "The gains he has made this summer have been huge and he has been running routes, like today, and his speed is all the way back and his hands. It looks like he is back to that form he was a couple of springs ago when he was making a lot of plays for us. Having him back all the way brings a lot to this offense because he is probably the smartest receiver that we've got."

Gundy added, "Of all the stories and the things people talk about I'm not sure there is a better one than that one. His attitude from day one was great and now he is nearly all the way back and out here ready to go. I expect him to be on the field playing in Seattle."

He was on the field Thursday and looking good, but again, Woods was on the field in non-contact work all spring. Thursday was the first of the two NCAA acclimatization practices in shorts and helmets. The pads will go on Saturday with the contact work starting and that will be a major hurdle for Woods. A hurdle most everybody around the program expects him to jump on his way to being a playmaker for the offense.

The offense should not be short on playmakers with the likes of Woods, Bryant, Bowling, Hunter, Johnson, and Toston along with tight end Brandon Pettigrew and, of course, the trigger in Zac Robinson.

The Cowboys get back to work Friday with a full day of meetings, morning walk-throughs, and the 4:45 p.m. practice with the first hour open to the public. It will be another non-contact practice in helmets and shorts. The shoulder pads get added to the equation for an 8:15 a.m. practice Saturday prior to media day and fan appreciation day. The Saturday practice is open in its entirety.

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