Cowboy Football: Spring Practice-3

STILLWATER - Pat Jones qualifies as an old sage when it comes to Oklahoma State football and the former Cowboy head coach and now member of the media with radio and Fox Sports Southwest coverage of Big 12 football acted like he kind of liked what he saw of the Cowboys on Friday, the first day in pads for spring football 2009.

"They look a little different," said Jones. "Those offensive linemen look a little bigger, a little more mature. Boy, Mike (Gundy) sure has some good young backs over there. Pass rush may still be a challenge but they have some good looking athletes out there just like they did last year. You know last year every time I looked at them I had them winning more games."

Jones did make that statement last August as he went from saying the Cowboys would win six games to eight or nine in one trip. This is just the spring and Jones likes what he saw Friday.

More importantly, the current head coach liked what he saw as the Cowboys went through their third spring practice and the last one before spring break as the players will have this weekend, all next week, and the next weekend off. They got a lot of work in during the fast paced two-hour, 20-minute practice.

"It was a good week and the weather turned out nice for us," said Gundy. "I was a little concerned about that. I don't want to waste a day in really cold temperatures or if there is precipitation. It was nice today and we had good effort. I thought that the young tailbacks really ran well and we had about 20 plays of live contact, which was really a lot of fun."

After special teams work on field goal and extra point with Dan Bailey doing the kicking, the team worked on punt and punt return installing areas in both, including the return of the shield punt from last season.

Marc Yerry was handling the snap chores and redshirt freshman Quinn Sharp was punting along with walk-ons Bret Haines of Stillwater and junior college product Clinton Stein. Justin Blackmon, Josh Cooper, Isaiah Anderson and Dez Bryant (wearing just shorts and a helmet) were fielding the punts.

Following individual drills the team came together for their first team period. Highlights of team run included the play of running backs Kendall Hunter and Travis Miller and defensive end Ugo Chinasa, who bolted through to sack quarterback Alex Cate .

Chinasa also patiently waited on a quick screen to Kye Staley and made a big hit on the play. Young defensive linemen Chris Donaldson and Richetti Jones also teamed for a sack of Brandon Weeden.

"I thought the defense was tackling well and was in their gaps and put a lot of pressure on the offense with some of their blitz packages," said Gundy of both the early period and the team period at the end of practice.

"The young guys that are out there like Broderick Brown. I saw Darius Hart show up a couple of times and (Donald) Booker showed up from the linebacker spot. I am really excited about the young safeties like Johnny (Thomas) and Vic (Johnson)."

The squad split up for inside drill and seven on seven. Watching inside drill, tackling needs to improve, but some of the young defensive linemen showed up like defensive ends Jamie Blatnick and Richetti Jones.

Inside at defensive tackle Shane Jarka, beefed up to close to 300 pounds, Chris Donaldson, and Nigel Nicholas made some plays. The redshirt freshman Nicholas even got an attaboy from new defensive coordinator Bill Young.

"I feel really good and we have some really, really talented young men," said Young. "We don't want anybody to get too fat-headed just yet, but we have some guys that are playing hard and we are trying to talk about the big team, little me. I just feel really good about these guys. We have a long, long way to go. Hopefully, we'll be better the next time."

In the final team period quarterback Zac Robinson zipped a 16-yard completion to DeMarcus Conner for the only significant pass play. Robinson only took a few snaps, while the young running backs Staley and Miller had some decent runs. New freshman Dexter Pratt broke off right tackle on his only run and burst out to a 20-yard plus gain.

"On offense, I still like Justin (Horton) in there at the slot receiver," said Gundy. "He is making some nice plays. He's going to be like (Adarius) Bowman when he grows up. He'll be in that slot receiver spot and then we'll play him eventually like we did Bowman. When he matures and learns the system there is a chance he could play out there by himself to a tight end side. It depends on how far he comes along. I think he still runs 4.65, so he still runs well. He is an example of the kind of young guys we have that have good attitudes, so things went well this week."

Gundy said his hope now is that the every player is smart and has a safe spring break. They will come back a week from Monday, have meetings and lifting and then get into some heavy days on installation on both offense and defense.

So far it's been a good first three practice with no injuries and the younger players making some progress in week one of the spring.

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