Cowboy Practice Report: Aug. 12

STILLWATER - Okay, you can officially call these the dog days of preseason camp. Tuesday, the Oklahoma State Cowboys' 13th in camp, was also had their third day of two-a-day practices, once an every day staple of preseason preparation, the NCAA now limits two-a-days.

However, in the preseason they don't limit hours and they don't limits meetings, walk thrus, weightlifting sessions, so if you thought in the absence of two-a-days that preseason camp had become a picnic you are wrong. Tuesday was a good day, according to Mike Gundy.

"It was a good practice, good," said the Cowboys head coach, who was celebrating his 41st birthday with two-a-days. "It was a little warmer on the turf and that was good. Coach (Rob) Glass ran them a considerable amount today so that was good."

You have to balance the grind and getting your players to be physically and mentally tough to fight through it with creating some enthusiasm, and that comes with the prospects of the game on the horizon and that preparation is in a small way starting on that.

"Right now is when guys have to step up," said Gundy, pointing to player leadership. "There will be some young guys who will think it is too hard and not worth it and think about going home.

"There are big guys that are banged up and they cramp up a little bit and they think it is not worth it at times, but that is when your leadership has to come through and what you're saying true. We just ran them and everybody did a pretty good job and pushed through it. I think we have enough leadership to put it all together."

"Some of them are doing well given that they are pushing us really hard right now," said defensive end Derek Burton. "Nigel (Nicholas) is in front of me during the sprints, so some of them have adapted to playing with us really quickly."

"I definitely feel better, like I can put up a competition with the O-line," said nose tackle Tonga Tea, who Gundy has bragged about in his second season being some 20 to 30 pounds lighter and in better shape.

It's not like there is an extreme urgency, but now you are past the first scrimmage, it's less than a week to go before classes begin, and by the calendar you're about two weeks away from getting on the plane for Seattle. The team will leave in the late afternoon on Thursday, Aug. 28.

Quarterback Zac Robinson clued us in on Monday that at least part of practice is now dedicated to getting ready for Washington State, which means scout teams have been formed and that is always a traumatic moment for young players. Their role goes from competing for a spot on the two deep to trying to get the team ready and get noticed for future duty.

"We talk about that from the first day, there'll be a day, a separation day," explained offensive line coach Joe Wickline. "It is your job to get on the plane and we're going to do everything from our end, but after a while it is going to wind on down to just the guys we are really going to focus on for our team to win. They have to understand they are not on the back shelf, but have to focus in on the guys that are going to help us win the first game."

For the most part it is freshmen and young players on the scout team. For Wickline he had mostly freshmen and walk-ons that moved down to work against the defense. It's important both sets of scouts work hard because Wickline still has issues to decide on the offensive line.

David Washington has moved back to center and Andrew Lewis is back at offensive guard. There is competition all over the place. The need is for a good look to get ready for the Cougars and to make sure the right combination is blocking against them.

"We've got several more scrimmage-type practices remaining," said Wickline. "I think when we get through a couple of more scrimmages, live situations, we'll be closer. Guys are still competing and they are still up. They have good days and they have bad days. I think I'm pretty convinced as far as left, right, guard, tackle and where everybody is going to be.

"I'm pretty convinced where that is going to end up and it is just depending on who is going to solidify those spots. It is not a right-left, inside-outside deal anymore. We have everybody in the right place and we are just trying to figure out who is the best player."

On the other side of the ball it is very similar in the secondary to what it has been on the offensive line. Senior free safety Quinton Moore said it has felt a little like musical chairs back there as well, but this secondary and this defense is learning that it has some quality depth and that it has lots of potential to be better this season.

"It's been a surprise to me because every day I look to the boundary and I've got a different corner on my side," said Moore. "It's good that I get to play with each corner and understand each corner very well and how their press jam is and how their deep thirds technique is and that is good. All it does is help everybody keep fresh legs in the game and keep competing and what to do great things."

Through the workload, through the grind that is what is produced. The offensive line and the secondary are two areas on this football team that absolutely have to lead the way as they are two areas with the most talent. This football team may have to lean on those two position groups at times which is why it is a good thing they are being hardened right now in the grind of preseason camp.

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