Cowboy Practice Report: Aug. 3

STILLWATER - After a stellar day on Saturday for the defense with all the interceptions and fumbles, the offense was back taking some big swings Sunday. The decreased humidity caused the 104-degree afternoon to be a little more bearable during the two-hour, 20-minute practice that included special teams work on PAT/field goal and punt.

Most of the good stuff happened after the double horn signifying the closed portion of practice, but the offense made its share of plays, and the defense had some too.

"Offense performed better today and we still had the same guys showing up and making big plays on defense," said Gundy in his post-practice debriefing with the attending media -- the lowest turnout of the camp so far had The Oklahoman, The Tulsa World, and Go Pokes.

"(Donald) Booker show up and makes plays, (Jacob) Lacey made a couple of plays, Dez (Bryant) made a bunch of plays," Gundy said. "Travis Miller (freshman) showed up at the running back spot and made a bunch of plays. It is encouraging, really good work ethic and it is fun to be out there."

While the skill players, playmakers like quarterback Zac Robinson, wide receiver Dez Bryant, tight end Brandon Pettigrew, and the running backs like Kendall Hunter, Beau Johnson, and Keith Toston get so much publicity, attention, and credit for making the offense go, probably the main reason that Gundy and the staff have confidence in the offense being stout this season is the return of all but one starter (David Koenig) on the offensive line. You look over in practice at the offensive line in its position drills and see the numbers, eyeball the height, weight, physical maturity, flat bellies on the big guys and it is a good-looking group.

"They are and it should be and when you go four years in our system and you have four years to recruit, time and time, on a secure basis it ought to build up," said Joe Wickline of the entire group of 19 offensive linemen that almost form four complete lines for practice purposes. "When you recruit certain attributes in size and speed, but the thing I'm most proud of is they are guys that are tough guys and they really are interested in being good players."

While you lost one starter in Koenig, you actually return an extra starter in David Washington. The fifth-year senior and elder statesman on the offensive line broke his leg against Troy. Now he is back at center and you have Andrew Lewis, who filled in with an All-Big 12 type season and is now a Remington Award candidate for top center in the country.

You would think it might create friction but Washington has said time and time again that he is comfortable with it and is just determined to compete for a job. Lewis credits Washington with helping him and says the two still support each other.

"Me and Big Dave, he taught me everything I know about playing center," said Lewis of the relationship between senior and junior. "We still sit together (in meetings) and eat together. We are still good friends and stuff. Coach Wickline hasn't told us what he is going to do with us yet, so we're just playing hard and seeing what happens."

With all the players back you would expect this camp to feel like last year, but Lewis and Wickline both say it is a different season and, as usual with Wickline, every position is open. A good example was Saturday's practice when returning starter Steve Denning was at less than 100 percent for practice and inexperienced, but talented Trent Perkins, a backup tackle, saw action at right guard.

"I think it feels a lot different and the coach (Wickline) is putting an emphasis that I'm not just a part-time guy anymore," said Lewis. "I'm now more of a full-time guy and I have experience and I'm expected to show it. I think my leadership ability is pretty strong

"I'm not a vocal person and I'm more of the work hard and do everything right and lead by example kind of guy. Last year we didn't have as much cohesiveness at first, but this year we'll start off from the beginning strong."

The talk is with the starters back plus Washington, plus junior college All-American Andrew Mitchell, plus young, talented players ready to play like Perkins, that this year Oklahoma State may have the rare luxury in college football of having two full offensive lines ready to play and even rotate every third or fourth series in a game.

"I'd say 10 or 12 practices into it that Coach Wick will have a good feel if those guys are ready to go out there in a live situation, and if so, then we'll use them because Wick would prefer to use two lines," said Gundy.

"I kind of think that is a deal where time will tell," said Wickline, a the veteran offensive line coach who has put together lines for this style of offense at Middle Tennessee, Florida, and now Oklahoma State. "I've done this before, some at Florida and some here (with a third guard and third tackle rotating) every third series.

"The first thing is we're going to find our best five. We haven't found that yet and when we find that then we'll determine who the third guys are. That is our next goal, and then see if we have a complete second line. It may be the first game (before we do it) and maybe not at all," Wickline continued.

"As guys begin to demonstrate to us that there is very little separation between the starter and themselves then they'll be considered a part-time starter, and when you have part-time starters behind the starters then we'll roll 'em. It's about chemistry and the kids, who is the best player and finding that right away. You do that quickly then some guys think it is done, but it is never done with us (offensive line). It's an every day proving ground."

"I think that day in and day out every game we wouldn't wear down as bad," theorized Lewis of the multiple line strategy. "You know last year against Texas Tech we ran 105 plays and switching lines could save our legs quite a bit."

While the offensive line and their talent and experience is really important for this season, they likely won't be counted on to set the trend in either fashion or hairstyles. That duty will likely fall on the skill players or maybe an experienced television star like defensive end Richetti Jones. In fat, as practice started this week backup center Grant Garner reached back in time for his preseason camp hairstyle.

"That's the Billy Ray Cyrus hairdo from back in the day," said Lewis looking over at the sophomore center. "We're giving him a hard time about it."

"Heck, I like it," said Mitchell. "I like it. Sure, it's classic mullet ... but I would grow my hair if it would do like that."

That would be considered typical. Mullets are not generally considered a popular style these days but a good group of offensive linemen will stay together and back each other up on virtually anything. The Cowboys certainly appear to have that kind of group and more of them than any season in recent memory which should lead to more of them playing. As Wickline said, time will tell. Time may also tell how Garner's choice of hairstyle stands up.

The team will be back at practice at 4:45 p.m. Monday and that will be the first workout in full pads for the Cowboys in this camp.

Full pads on Monday, stay tuned.

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