Camp Is Over, So What Have We Learned?

Okay, the Cowboys' fall camp is over as classes begin Monday morning on the gorgeous Georgian campus. There is a correction practice this evening that will run about an hour and 30 minutes. There will no doubt be some push ups as one of Larry Fedora's lasting gifts to the program is the round-up style punishment and self admonishment of mistakes in spring and preseason scrimmages and games.

The players on offense get in a circle and one by one run into the middle, state their name and how many times they let the team down by making a mistake or by lacking the appropriate effort in completing their assignment.

Of course, Fedora also left the offense. It was his playbook to begin with but thanks to the play-action chapter written by head coach Mike Gundy, the zone-read chapter authored by Curtis Luper, the tight end and assorted run and screen additions supplied by Doug Meacham, and the fact that originating offensive line co-author Joe Wickline is still in Stillwater insure that little will change in the offense.

We agree after seeing camp that little will change with the offense. Two questions that have been circulating since before the start of fall camp have yet to be answered by the coaching staff: 1)Who will call the plays and 2) who will be the backup quarterback? We don't get a vote but our intelligence means we have a right to throw out our answers.

Mike Gundy will call the plays. The reason we say that is that he has been involved in calling plays throughout fall camp. If Gundy wasn't going to call the plays this season he would not have been involved in it during camp. He would have designated the coach, likely Gunter Brewer, that would be calling plays before the players reported and cal was underway.

Gundy studied the Fedora offense the past few years as the quarterback coach and on the sidelines monitoring as the head coach on game days. He called the plays in the Insight Bowl win over Indiana and felt that fun again from playing the college football chess game with real life-size pieces.

Before fans start saying this is a bad idea, remember that with this staff that has two experienced offensive coordinators on it besides Gundy in Brewer and Meacham, veteran coaches in Trooper Taylor and Curtis Luper, and one of the best offensive line coaches in the country in Wickline.

And, virtually all of the play calling decisions are covered during staff meetings each week. The call sheet on Saturday virtually calls the game. Yes, Gundy will be more involved but he realizes that he has to be the head coach and needs to have the presence with the entire squad.

We think the backup quarterback is Brandon Weeden. We could be wrong, but he is 24 years old, has pro athletic experience, a big arm, and improved tremendously in knowing and running the offense since the spring. Remember all along we have lobbied for calling them co-backups and using Alex Cate in a dead even game or one where the Cowboys lead.

We like Weeden in a game where OSU trails to throw the Cowboys back to the lead. No lack of respect to either Weeden or Cate, but this team is in trouble without Zac Robinson, who is really good. Okay, that's stating the obvious. Did you know the Associated Press rated him one of the six breakout players this season in college football and said that the Robinson-led Cowboys could have a big year. The Associated Press has been stingy with its compliments of OSU over the years.

You hate to lose Will Cole because he is so fast, has improved his attitude, and was on the verge of being a really good player. The good new is there are about three or four players like him on the receiver corps. DeMarcus Conner, Hubert Anyiam, Bo Bowling, and Josh Cooper could all break out big. Jeremy Broadway could be more consistent and Artrell Woods could be the miracle man.

This just in, tight end Brandon Pettigrew is really good. Okay, so is the offensive line, and it is neat to see David Washington come back and reclaim his center position, sliding Andrew Lewis back over to left guard. Besides the starters, look for contributions up front from Andrew Mitchell at tackle, Trent Perkins at guard or tackle, Noah Franklin and Jonathan Rush at guards, and Grant Garner at center. There is the best offensive line depth that I can remember here for this season.

The offense should be really good.

Defense, did you say defense? Yes, Oklahoma State has some defense this season. I'm going to yield to defensive coordinator Tim Beckman and not give out any preseason awards because this crew hasn't played a game yet but I came into the fall with three prevailing thoughts on defense.

I believed that the secondary was pretty good and would be vastly improved. Remember, the defense has to work in concert. The secondary needs the support of the linebackers and the pass rush from the defensive line. I believed that the linebackers might be a real problem. I believed that the defensive line could be better but would be very young.

Now that camp is over I still believe that the secondary could be one of the most improved areas on any team in the nation. They have at least five cornerbacks that you are fine playing at anytime. Maurice Gray was a big time addition that didn't get as much credit as Lucien Antoine or Swanson Miller. Jacob Lacey could be an All-Big 12 player or better, and Perrish Cox is much more mature going into his junior season. The safeties are solid too with Ricky Price, T.J. Bell, and freshman Johnny Thomas playing at strong safety. Quinton Moore and Lucien "The Punisher" Antoine playing at free safety.

I was wrong about linebacker as Orie Lemon, big hitter and JC All-American Donald Booker, and Justin Gent are all solid at middle linebacker. Patrick Lavine has really come on at the weakside. Lavine, the returning starter, had a sluggish spring but fall camp has been anything but. Lavine is backed up by senior Seb Clements. Andre Sexton plays the star, the hybrid linebacker position. The good thing is the linebackers are better than I thought they would be and this group will hit you and plant you in the ground.

The concern defensively comes on the line where all of the starting players have improved. Swanson Miller is vitally important backing up the three technique. It's just the Cowboys are so thin at the tackles and so young at the ends, despite the presence of standouts Derek Burton and Ugo Chinasa.

A rash of injuries on the defensive front would be extremely difficult to handle. You can go back and capitalize or underline, or both, the word extremely.

My good friend Dave Hunziker said he is having a hard time getting a handle on this team. I am not. If they stay healthy this team is better than 2007. They have a better team chemistry and attitude than 2007. I believe, provided they stay reasonably healthy, they have a bigger prize awaiting them in 2008.

Camp is over and it's time to turn virtually the full attention to Washington State, and time to start earning that bigger prize we all want in 2008.

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