Cowboy Practice Report: Aug. 4

STILLWATER - At the start of practice the temperature was 106 degrees and with the plus-2 heat index that meant it felt like 108 Monday on the grass practice fields east of Gallagher-Iba Arena as the Oklahoma State Cowboys finished the NCAA acclimatization period with their first practice in full pads.

The practice lasted two hours and 15 minutes, but at the end the enthusiasm from the players and coaches following a popular and boisterous "champions drill" made it seem like they could have started the entire practice all over again from the start. It may seem like the do as the players will be back on the field at 8 a.m. for the first practice of the first of three two-a-day sessions during camp.

"We had a good first day in pads," started head coach Mike Gundy. "It was nice and warm out there and two hours and 15 minute practice. There was a lot of enthusiasm and some good collisions out there. We finished the practice with a toughness drill and let some of the young players go at each other and hit. It was a lot of fun and good to be back out there."

Just as the defense had one of its better days on Saturday, forcing a multitude of turnovers, the play leveled out and was fairly even on Sunday. The practice on Monday finished up with some big plays on offense.

"Some big plays today in the running game," said Gundy. "Kendall Hunter made some nice runs, Beau Johnson made some nice runs, and Brandon Weeden played well. We're looking forward to our first two-a-day tomorrow."

The battle for backup quarterback continues and likely will continue through the first scrimmage Saturday. Gundy was complimentary of the defense and mentioned the trio of Swanson Miller at defensive tackle, Orie Lemon at linebacker, and freshman Johnny Thomas out of Texas City at safety for making big plays on defense.

While Gundy didn't mention the wide receivers specifically, Monday was no different as they made some spectacular plays in practice. Leading the way of a group we've reported on, that includes the likes of comeback story Artrell Woods, tall and slender Damian Davis, junior college newcomer Bo Bowling, former Mustang (Okla.) High School hero Josh Cooper, unknown DeMarcus Conner, and even freshmen like Adrian Richards and Justin Blackmon, is Dez Bryant. Gundy mentions Bryant after every practice.

In the Cowboys team meeting room is a sign for the wide receivers, who use the room as their position meeting room. The sign, which explains what is required of success, is titled "Freak time, show time."

"You know I've heard them say that and I try to stay as far away from that as I can," said Gundy when asked if he could detail its origin. "I used to coach wideouts for three or four years and I stay away from that and I stay away from the offensive line room. I'm guessing it has something to do with show time being game day performance. They could probably give you a better answer than I could."

There is no doubt about that and the major freak among the receivers is Bryant, who has turned some practices already this preseason camp into "freak time, show time" with spectacular catches that defy description. The 6-2, 210-sophomore has trimmed up and increased his speed after catching 43 passes for 622-yards and six touchdowns.

Those are modest numbers compared to the gargantuan numbers put up last season by Texas Tech All-American Michael Crabtree. Crabtree put those numbers up last season as a redshirt freshman and it will be interesting to see how Bryant does this season which would be his corresponding season to Crabtree's last. The two have something in common that is easy to spot. They are both built like running backs.

"That is hard work in the weight room for both of us to get that way," said Bryant of himself and his receiving rival at Texas Tech. "I have had plenty of people tell me that I look more like a running back than a wide receiver. It's just hard work to get there where people make that kind of comment."

Bryant says he is so much better prepared this season for not only show time on Saturday but all the responsibility he has as a player and the leader of the wide receivers. Bryant is young, but last season he had to step up when Adarius Bowman, who has 17 receptions for 254 yards and two touchdowns this season for unbeaten Saskatchewan in the CFL, was injured. He may be young but experience and performance make him the leader.

"It sets me up real good for this season in knowing that I have to be the go-to guy and that I have to be strong because I'm a little more experienced than the other receivers and that means I have to step up and make big plays," explained Bryant. "Last year when I came in I thought it was a lot of pressure, but now I'm used to it and I don't look at that. I just go out and play my game."

While the quarterbacks don't use the freak time, show time label, Zac Robinson is in a similar position. This will be his first full season as the starter. He is a little older and while the early focus at his position is on whether Brandon Weeden or Alex Cate will be his backup, Robinson is setting himself up as the leader of the offense.

"I'm actually having some fun in this fall camp," said Robinson, perhaps not factoring in Monday's 106-degree temperature. "I think that says something about the guys on this team in that they are more than willing to put in the work and they aren't going to complain about it. That is the overall attitude of this team. Guys are willing to do whatever it takes to be successful and win the (Big 12) South."

"For us, I wouldn't trade him for anything," said Gundy of Robinson. "There are some really good quarterbacks in this league and the offensive coordinators in this league have done a good job of getting the quarterbacks to adopt to their style of play. They are different, but you always feel that if you play a team with a good quarterback, they have a chance to win, just like if you feel like you have a good quarterback with your team that you have a good chance to win."

It all adds up to better practices, being further along as a team, and it makes getting this team ready for the season easier. It also helps that speed, strength, and conditioning coordinator Rob Glass had all summer with the squad.

"I think things happen a lot faster in practice now," said Gundy. "We're going into the fourth year with our offensive system. There is more maturity out there and a comfort zone of guys knowing how it all fits in, so things happen faster in practice which helps for the games."

Remember, Robinson talked about having fun and doing what it takes to win the South. Outside of Stillwater there may not be many considering winning the South as a possibility for the Cowboys. The consensus pick is for fourth in the South, but Bryant is on the same page with his quarterback as far as winning and ignoring the outside picks.

"Seeing those picks, that doesn't bother me or us at all," said Bryant. "We know what we can do and know what we will bring to the table and we're going to go out and do what we do best."

Tuesday is the first day of two-a-days. The first practice begins at 8 a.m. and the team has a wake-up call of 5:30 a.m. The second practice will start at 5 p.m. There is an expected break in the heat wave in Oklahoma on Wednesday or Thursday.

GoPokes Top Stories