Cowboy Practice Report: Aug. 1

STILLWATER - Day two is completed in the Oklahoma State Cowboys camp and it was even hotter and steamier than day one. The two-hour practice ended with a little conditioning session and then the rush on the cold tubs. Those cold tubs (cattle water tubs filled with ice and water) can feel like heaven after a hot practice like Fridays.

They are just for players as head coach Mike Gundy had to go directly to debrief the media after the general session that featured more offensive installation and more skills work with a team period to close it out.

"We had another good day and a lot of enthusiasm which is to be expected, still a lot of excitement early in the season," said Gundy in very general terms. "Guys continue to show up and make plays.

"Donald Booker (middle linebacker) shows up on defense. Swanson Miller (defensive tackle) shows up. Jacob Lacey makes good plays and Markelle Martin (freshman) make good plays. Offensively it was the same guys. Damian Davis (wide receiver) made a few plays today. Brandon Weeden (backup quarterback) had another good day today. It was a good day, offensive line, just keep working."

Shoulder pads are added to the uniform starting Saturday morning and more will be able to be told on both sides of the ball, but there is no doubt about the urgency from the beginning and throughout the offseason that the defense has to be better in Stillwater.

The numbers last season on defense weren't good. There was little to be proud of on that side of the ball ranging from allowing almost 30 points, 443 yards total, and 286.5 yards passing a game. Texas Tech, in defeat, had 718 yards total and 646 yards passing. Texas rushed fo 307 yards in its win over the Cowboys.

Veteran OSU strong safety Ricky Price has the right idea, improvement needs not be measured in exacting numbers but in philosophy and, more than that, in effort.

"My goal is to be a better leader on the team and do whatever it takes to get our team, our defense, to the next level," said Price. "I just want to do whatever I can to help our team and that is what I have for personal goals this season. I don't have any certain stats and numbers."

Without pads in the first two practices in camp you really can't measure stats or numbers but you can see some things. One that is easily noticed is that the players seem to understand the defense better in the second year for defensive coordinator Tim Beckman. Veteran member of the defense Andre Sexton, playing a new position at the star linebacker, hopes you can notice the physical attributes of the defense.

"I think the first thing you noticed today and will notice in camp is a faster, stronger, more physical defense," said Sexton. "We have a lot of guys in the back end of our secondary, safeties that are bigger and will come out and hit you in the mouth and can also break out and cover one on one. That is what the fans really want to see is to see us man up and not play the deeper zone coverages and come out and play up close and physical."

"As a defense we want to be a top-25 defense," added Price. "We just want to make it known that we're the defense that is going to come down and hit. Basically in the spring you saw us come out with a different mindset and a different mentality. We've had guys like Lucien Antoine come in and give our secondary a whole new mentality and physical attitude."

Antoine is a physical player, both in looks and deed. As one of the junior college transfers he cannot speak with the media as part of Gundy's first-year player policy. Antoine will speak on the field and through his teammates.

"He's changed my whole mindset," said Price. "I wasn't the type of guy to knock somebody's head off, but now I saw him do it and I want to go about it the same way."

The secondary with holdovers like Jacob Lacey and Perrish Cox at corners and Price, senior Quinton Moore, and Antoine at safeties should be a vastly improved area. Price likes the guys up front too that have been bolstered by junior college talent like tackles Swanson Miller and Chris Donaldson and end Jeremiah Price, along with youthful enthusiasm from ends like Richetti Jones and Jamie Blatnick.

"I think it will be us and the defensive line," said Price. "I like the way they went about doing things this summer in the weight room and everything. They really got after it and they are really determined and I think they will be improved."

That leads us to the linebackers, an obvious concern. Sexton moving from safety may be on paper the most sure thing as he seems to be a natural for that star linebacker role.

"I think it fits my personality better because when I was a freshman and having more success on defense early it was because I was blitzing from a lot of places on the field," explained Sexton of his new role at the star linebacker, the position that Donovan Woods played a year ago.

"This puts me back in those type of positions and situations. It gets me doing what I'm strong at and it showcases my ability to cover and lock up with a receiver because I am still basically like another safety out there. We have that extra speed out there."

As for the other linebackers, Patrick Lavine is a returning starter at the weakside but he has left the door open for competition as former walk-on Seb Clements, one of two married players on the team, is battling him heads up for the job.

"I feel great about it," said Clements, who added that he dreams about starting that first game on Aug. 30 against Washington State in Seattle. "That is the mindset you have to have. I'm here to compete and I've got a real good shot at it and I'm just working hard every day to make it happen."

Working equally as hard and working hard all summer long is Orie Lemon. The former quarterback is 6-1 and 249 pounds and still runs really well. He is battling junior college All-American newcomer Donald Booker, who has been complimented by Gundy after each of the first two practices.

"Orie is showing up more and he is making plays," said Gundy. "We have quite a bit more speed at that position and Booker shows up because he is fast and fast guys show up. I'm excited about seeing those two guys develop over the next two weeks."

"He's going to push me very hard just like I'm going to push him on the field and in the meeting room," said Lemon of Booker out of Navarro Junior College in Texas. "If he doesn't know what to do then I will tell him and if I mess up then I expect him to tell me what to do. We are going to be pushing each other to get to that number one spot."

"Everybody has bought into the system," said Clements. "This is year two and everybody knows what to do and what their assignments are. Everybody has bought in and we've improved a lot."

They get another chance to show that improvement on Saturday morning when the shoulder pads are added to the helmets at 8:15 a.m. Everybody is invited. Bring the coffee that will really show us all something, steamy coffee for a hot morning on the practice field. That's defensive kind of tough.

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