Cowboy Football: Spring Practice-10

STILLWATER - This has been a pretty good spring weather-wise and the head coach feels it has been a good spring so far in performance and production. That continued Wednesday in near perfect conditions as the Oklahoma State Cowboys did so well with an extended team period that included work on situations including goal-line work, third-and-long, and a two-minute drill.

"It's a good day. We had another good day," said Gundy. "I was pleasantly surprised that we could come back the players would be so in tune physically and mentally, really good effort and attitude.

"That is really important to our coaching staff right now, that we practice hard. We understand that there are going to be young players making mistakes, but guys are giving us a lot of effort and great body language. It is just a lot of fun to be out here.

"I was just jogging off the practice field thinking how much fun it is to be out here and how lucky I am to be here coaching these guys because we've got a lot of good kids," Gundy added.

Spring is a time for some of the process of the changing of the guard. A new group of seniors takes over the role of that class and position, and as far as positions go there are a bunch up for grabs, both first and second team on the depth chart.

"It is always fun to watch new players step up for the leadership roles," said Gundy. "Then it is fun to watch young players that haven't competed in games that are trying to develop themselves to be ready to play in games and I enjoy that part of it. So selfishly that was fun for me today."

The legend of Joe Wickline continues this spring with the Cowboy offensive line. Gundy admits to not paying that much attention to the musical chairs Wickline has become famous for with moving his offensive linemen backwards and forwards and side to side during the spring and in fall camp right up to 10 days or a week before the first game.

However, there has been one constant on the offensive line this spring, Every time the first team offense comes to the line of scrimmage big number 76 - Russell Okung - lines up at left tackle.
So is Okung the most stable of the Cowboys front five on offense? "I can give that to (Andrew) Lewis," answered Okung. "I would say he (co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Joe Wickline) is pretty much giving me the same excuse that he has since I first got here. I'm just in by default until we get a better guy in here, I"ll be the one in the position."

Wickline may use that line on Okung and maybe it works, maybe. The truth is that Wickline would love to have an army of offensive linemen like Okung. The 6-6, 305-pounder has All-American written all over him for this season.

Okung came out of Fort Bend (Bush), Texas to eventually move in as a starter his freshmen season. He started not just because the team needed him but because he was ready to. Few freshmen are ready to start on the offensive line in Division I college football but Okung was. Part of the reason why was his work ethic and his drive to be good. Even now, he refuses to relax and he does not believe he is anywhere near the finished product.

"No, I really wouldn't. I feel like I have a lot of work to do," said Okung. "I feel like as an offensive line that people know who we are and so I going through spring and coming into two-a-days it isn't going to get easier and it may be harder than in years past."

That attitude extends past himself as you could read. Check out Okungs' thoughts on how good the offensive line can be this season.

"I think we can only be as good as the whole offense can be," said Okung. "We've got to be a team that doesn't turn the ball over. To turn the ball over isn't just the ball on the ground or being intercepted, it is also missed blocks and missed assignments. I think if we improve in that area and lessen our amount of errors then, naturally, the sky is the limit."

While Okung feels he has a long way to go, the NFL does not and after some very average performances in the combine by both senior and underclass college offensive line coming out this year there is at least one NFL team that ranks Okung as the best available offensive linemen out there in the college ranks. Yes, that includes the current class preparing for the draft.

"It's a good compliment and it's just not that time right now," said Okung. "That time has passed for me for the time being. I'm back and it is Oklahoma State for me and that is not anything that I worry about at this time. Whenever that point comes up again I will worry about it at that time."

His mother, Dorothy, is strong on Okung getting his degree. Russell is a son that listens to his mother. He will leave Oklahoma State after this year. He will make lots of money being drafted high in the 2010 NFL Draft. He will be successful and he will likely add a little money because the NFL likes college graduates.

The Indianapolis Colts annually produce a poster with their players wearing their college shirts, the players that actually graduated from college. NFL people will tell you they will pay graduates more because they know they will be on time, be prepared, and they are just overall more responsible employees.

"The first thing they told us when we got here was use us, use Oklahoma State to get your degree," added Okung. "That piece of paper is pretty important to me. I'm at one of the best places that I can possibly get a degree and I am going to take advantage of that."

Thankfully, Oklahoma State and the Cowboy offense with Zac Robinson, Kendall Hunter, and Dez Bryant are more quadruplets than triplets. You have to count Okung in there. Gundy and Wickline have to be glad he's still over in the corner of the practice field or in Boone Pickens Stadium playing a part of the offensive line's version of musical chairs.

"The thing about Russell is he's got a lot of qualities as a player, but he is really one of those rare breed guys that is a class act," said Wickline. "He does a nice job in school, a nice handling himself around people, around media, around Stillwater, wherever he goes. He can be trusted, he's reliable.

"He is a class act and we are proud of him. As far as a leader goes, there are a bunch of leaders, guys who do it this way and that way, I really think Russell tries to lead as a senior because he has played the most but I really think he tries to lead by example. He does it by working out harder, by going to class, not vocally but by setting the example."

Okung is special and he may be as valuable as any player the Cowboys have coming back to lead this team next fall.

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