Cowboy Football: Spring Practice-4

The hope was that by giving his team an extra day on Monday to get back in the flow of things that they would be better prepared to get back on the practice field with the fourth of the 15 allotted spring practices. Mike Gundy and his coaching staff put the Cowboys through a two-hour, 20-minute practice that was moved inside Boone Pickens Stadium after the rain Monday night in Stillwater.

"We were sloppy today offensively. Defensively, I thought we were pretty good," said Gundy of the practice. "When the offense was competing against the defense I thought that they (defense) were back in the flow. We need to tackle better, come to balance and tackle better."

The Cowboys went through the normal individual and group drills and also had work in seven-on-seven, inside, and team periods. There were some good things but Gundy expected more.

"Unfortunately, some of the guys leading this team let spring break affect the first practice," added Gundy. "It was a very average practice and needs to be much better.

"We were able to go somewhat live. We went a heavy thud and not really tackling to the ground but we got after it a little bit and that was good for the players to hit each other and get into the flow. I expect tomorrow's practice to be much better. We had a lot of fun out there. I know our coaches had fun being around the players and being back on the field."

Oddly enough, it was the offense that was more dominating in the last practice before spring break. That practice was also in full pads and also featured some contact. Gundy was asked even though that last practice was over a week and a half ago is it possible that the defense was looking to redeem themselves. I'm sure they had looked at the tape of that practice in meetings Monday and before practice on Tuesday.

"I think there is some truth to that," agreed Gundy. "Ultimately, you would like both sides of the ball to compete every day, but I think there is some truth to players accepting a challenge and that is youth, but we see some of that. I am encouraged with the younger players, the incoming players, the redshirt freshmen that we expect to make plays that are giving us effort out there."

One of the objectives this spring, maybe not at the top of the list but up there, is determining who the backup quarterback is behind Zac Robinson.

Enid standout and Cowboy signee Clint Chelf watched Tuesday from the sidelines. Chelf was recruited in part because he resembles Robinson in abilities, but this battle doesn't include him yet. It is still between junior Alex Cate and former New York Yankees draftee and minor league pitcher Brandon Weeden. They are battling for the second spring in a row.

"Both of them are better and both of them have a better feel for what we are doing on offense, and at the end of the spring we would definitely like to name a number two," assessed Gundy of the situation. "Whoever takes control, I mean we certainly don't do that, that decision comes down to them and whoever understands the offense and is the most productive will be the number two guy."

Cate and Weeden, who also was once a quarterback standout at Edmond Santa Fe along with being a pitcher and shortstop, are both friends and the competition is on a friendly, helpful basis.

"Me and Cate are good buddies," said Weeden. "It is not really a competition between us. We want to push each other to get better and we want to help each other out. It's not a hate deal. We want to make each other better and I think competition does that."

"It is just go out and do the best we can do," said Cate. "We'll give each other pointers if I see something he can do or he sees something that I need to do, we point it out and I don't think it any different than last spring."

Last season the pair combined for eight total passes with Cate completing 4-of-5 passes for 56 yards and Weeden hitting 1-of-3 for 8 yards. Gundy expects that they both understand the importance of finding out who is second on the depth chart.

"They both understand. Weeden is older and he understands the system and Cate has been around awhile so they both understand," said Gundy. "We don't have to remind those guys of that. They understand the competitive part of it."

There is the possibility that each might fit different scenarios better. Weeden is the less mobile of the two but has the stronger arm, while Cate is more mobile and has more experience in the offense. Could it be the situation could dictate who would play. It is something that Cowboy observers have thought, and so have Weeden and Cate.

"Last year that is kind of how it felt during the season," said Cate. "Different games I thought Brandon would go in if this happened or I could go in. You had to be ready each game and that is kind of how I took it."

Gundy said both had okay practices on Tuesday, and yes, Gundy isn't thinking situational backup. He means it when he says he would like to have a definite number two at the end of the spring. Of course, that's also what he said last spring.

The Cowboys go again at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday in a practice moved up because of common exams on campus involving players. That practice is closed, as is the Friday practice when Gundy said his team will do their first true scrimmaging of the spring.

"We're going to scrimmage about 50 plays, about like a half," said Gundy of his plans for Friday. "There will be some thud involved, but we are going to put them out there and let them play."

That will take the Cowboys through six practices and leave nine more, including the Orange-White Game on Saturday, April 18, at 6 p.m.

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