Cowboy Practice Notes: Aug. 11

Freshman running back Travis Miller of Marlin, Texas, had a great first 10 days or so of practice as he broke several big runs in practice and impressed the fans, his teammates, and the coaches. However, the first couple of plays in Saturday's scrimmage, especially the second, served as a welcome to college football for Miller.

Welcome to the NCAA On the second play defensive tackle Jeray Chatham came through unblocked and rattled Miller with a ferocious tackle in the end zone popping off the freshman's helmet and putting him down for a safety.

"It took him about five or six plays to get away from being rattled," said Gundy of the play. "He was rattled and just took the ball, was looking around and he realized that they could tackle him and no one was going to blow a whistle. It's a big difference.

"In his defense, we didn't block anybody either and there were people standing around waiting on him, so I'm not so sure I wouldn't have wanted to duck myself."

Miller took the welcome and got better from it. Gundy decided to throw him into the fire again Monday. The 5-11, 185-pounder was apparently ready for it.

"He'll adjust and he did better today," said Gundy. "We put him out there against the number one defense and had him run the ball and he did a better job."

Gundy isn't guaranteeing that either Miller or his fellow freshman back, Oklahoma High School Player of the Year last season in Oklahoma, Kye Staley will play, but they are being prepped to be ready.

"We like the future of Travis and we like the future of Kye Staley and he actually performed well last week for a guy that hasn't done much," said an enthusiastic head coach. "Once they start to get it some, guys can step up a little bit. We like the future of those guys. They are getting a lot of reps.

"Spud (Kendall Hunter) and Beau (Johnson) are getting all the ones and those young guys are getting all the twos. They are getting enough work so if we needed to use them we could."

Middle Linebackers Draw Praise
> According to the experts, yours truly included, linebacker was supposed to be a weakness entering the 2008 season. But coming out of that first scrimmage the middle linebackers provided some of the best highlights and the first- and second-team middle linebackers were drawing praise from the head coach, starting with Orie Lemon, who looked to be one of the leading tacklers in the scrimmage on Saturday.

"Orie is playing better," started Gundy. "Orie is growing up. He is 250 pounds and he still runs fast and he is understanding the law of physics where if you hit them harder than they hit you that it is going to feel better. He is doing a lot better in that area."

Of course, the biggest hit of the scrimmage was that decapitation-type hit from middle linebacker Donald Booker when wide receiver Will Cole came across on the slant route.

"He's got a pretty good feel for showing up at the right time and when he hit Will Cole he was 17 yards deep, that's a pretty good (pass) drop for a backer," said Gundy. "And as I said after the scrimmage, it was nice to see the hit and was nice to see Will Cole pop up. He's come a long way. Those were two encouraging aspects of the scrimmage."

Special Teams Update
Two updates on special teams. After practice on Monday, Gundy commented on punt returners, a unit that got some good work during Saturday's scrimmage.

"We like Dez and Bo, we like Broderik Brown and Travis Miller, those guys are doing a nice job of returning punts," Gundy said. "I would say Dez and Bo would get the nod right now, and Johnny Thomas does a nice job."

Kicker Dan Bailey was three for three from long distance on field goal attempts last week with the entire team out on the field screaming at him, including linebacker Orie Lemon doing his guard dog impersonation or is that imdognation? He was also perfect in the scrimmage on Saturday.

"I think it has helped out a lot, and like you said it is as close to a game as you can get," said Bailey of the pressure work in practice and the scrimmage. "It is perfect preparation to just get as close to game situation as you can. I enjoyed it and I would like to do it more often and anything that gets me ready for the game, then that's great."

Bailey is battling sensational freshman Quinn Sharp, and Bailey seems to be running ahead at this point on both placements and kickoffs.

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