Cowboy Football: Spring Practice-6

STILLWATER - The Oklahoma State Cowboys had to wait until Monday for their sixth practice and their first scrimmage, a mini-scrimmage of about 50 plays, after Friday's session was halted by the weather. Some things are worth waiting for and by all accounts we heard this first spring scrimmage was in that category. Head coach Mike Gundy sounded fairly enthusiastic about what he saw Monday.

"It went very well, really," said Gundy. "I was excited about the defense forcing turnovers and I was not excited about the offense not taking care of the ball. Some guys (defense) came up and made tackles and some younger guys (offense) made plays with the ball in their hands.

"It was really what you are looking for at this stage -- great effort, good body language, guys really playing hard. We know there are going to be mistakes and that is okay. We just want guys to play hard, and I thought overall, it was a good day," Gundy added.

According to the players, the scrimmage started in favor of the offense with a quick scoring drive. But after that the defense picked it up and thanks to those turnovers that Gundy mentioned even jumped in front of the offense. That is in the eyes of the defensive players.

"Coach (Bill) Young sounded pretty excited talking to us after the scrimmage, saying that we didn't come out good, but we did finish and that is our motto," said star linebacker Andre Sexton.

"We got some turnovers, we had two interceptions and caused a fumble. We came out and you heard some pops, so nobody was backing down from hits. We've got a lot to build on from our first scrimmage so I think we are heading in the right direction.

"Scheme-wise, he (Coach Young) has adjusted to us," continued Sexton of the progress of the defense. "We're based more on cover four and doing less movement and just playing football on defense.

"The fumble, T.A. (Terrance Anderson) comes up and sets the edge and there's a pop and out comes the fumble and we scoop and score. I think we kind of gave it back to them after our guys fumbled the ball. Then we got an interception for a touchdown (Maurice Gray) and then we got another one and J.T. (James Thomas) kind of tripped. He has to work on his feet a little bit."

The offense had its moments like the first drive and another scoring drive. Gundy did say that quarterback Zac Robinson and running back Kendall Hunter had very limited work.

One area that doesn't get as much publicity for getting a makeover this spring is the offensive line. By all reports, the line too had a solid first scrimmage despite the fact that popular offensive line coach Joe Wickline has two holes to plug in his crew for next season with center David Washington and offensive guard Steve Denning both graduating.

Wickline is known for taking the long road to plugging holes and coming up with a starting five on the offensive line. Wickline inserted Noah Franklin at right guard and Jonathan Rush at left guard on day one of the spring. Veteran three-year starter Andrew Lewis moved from guard where he started last season back to center where he started most of 2007 after Washington was injured in the game at Troy. All three of those guys were there on the first unit for the first scrimmage.

Lewis liked the combination. "I think we are doing a good job and we have two new guys in there after losing Big Dave and Steve Denning, and I think the guys on the first team we are doing a good job of helping those guys and adjusting to new guys on the line, helping them get used to it," said Lewis of the process so far this spring.

Lewis, like a lot of the veterans on the line, is really pleased that senior teammate Noah Franklin is getting a chance to play. Franklin came in highly regarded from Vinita and has put in his dues to get the chance to play. He has always been big and strong, but hasn't always been comfortable with the offense.

"I think Noah has done a good job just since last season," added Lewis. "I think he has done what he needs to get that starting role."

Franklin, like all the Cowboys O-linemen, will have to survive the very physical and mental game of musical chairs that Wickline plays with his first- and second-team offensive line candidates. On any given day you may show up to the offensive line meeting and discover that you have been demoted or promoted. Or, you may have moved from guard to tackle or center to guard.

It is all about being tested and Wickline likes testing his guys. An example is former Snow Junior College All-American Andrew Mitchell, who is running first team at right tackle ahead of incumbent starter Brady Bond.

"He gets frustrated with the guys and he's always doing that kind of stuff," explained Lewis. "Right now it has been pretty steady with those two new guys."

Nobody is immune as even Lewis, who was a Remington Award watch list player last season, gets moved around and demoted or promoted. Last week he found himself second team behind promising sophomore center Grant Garner.

"I've heard all the talk, that he is going to send me back to Joplin if I screw up one more time," smiled Lewis. "I've heard his comments, but he is a good coach and he gets the best out of me."

The Cowboys' next practice will be at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday. Gundy is hoping to get the team back on the natural grass practice field. The team will work out at 3:30 p.m. Friday and that will be the last open practice besides the Orange-White Spring Game on Saturday, April 18, at 6 p.m.

Friday's practice is also slated to be a major scrimmage.

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