Cowboy Football: Spring Practice-13

STILLWATER - The Oklahoma State Cowboys started practice early Wednesday and they finished fast, as in fast and furious. The practice only lasted about two hours but it featured the final full pad work including a "thud" scrimmage using different situations. The head coach continued to like the work and the effort and found compliments for both sides of the football.

"Had another good practice today, really our final heavy practice of the Spring," said Mike Gundy after the workout. "We will be in shorts tomorrow, then a day off, and then the Orange-White game. We were really excited about the team and the effort.The defense did a nice job today in two-minute drill work.

"Guys that have made plays throughout the spring at the wide receiver position continue to make plays. (Justin) Blackmon made plays today. Beau Johnson is running the ball effectively. Brandon Weeden made some nice throws today.

"Defensively, (defensive end) Jeremiah Price made some nice plays. Donald Booker showed up and made some plays. Ugo Chinasa (made plays). It's kind of been a continuation of what has happened throughout the Spring. I'm looking forward to the spring game on Saturday."

Gundy said he will be an onlooker at the spring game and the staff will be split up and coach. He promised they will run some plays that will be exciting and hinted they may run some plays that he doesn't want to run or show.

"I tried to stay in control of that the first year but those guys go ahead and run them anyway," joked Gundy.

Two questions that we found interesting in the post-practice session were whether any players had come out of left field to surprise the staff this spring and how high should OSU fans' expectations be of the defense next season?

"I hope Justin Blackmon is going to (help us this season)," answered Gundy on the first question. "He has showed up and made more plays than we would have anticipated for a freshman. Defensively, we're really excited about the way (Jaime) Blatnick is playing. Donald Booker has really had a good spring. Johnny Thomas has had a good spring. Guys that we knew eventually were going to make plays but didn't know how soon it would happen."

Even though this is the first year for new coordinator Bill Young in his return to his alma mater, Gundy did not hold back on the defensive expectation question.

"I think they should have great expectations for our defense," said Gundy matter of factly. "I like the system. I like our coaching staff. I like how they have jelled as a group. I think that Coach Young is a great fit here at Oklahoma State.

"I think the players are buying in. We have enough maturity on that side of the ball that I think we can get more pressure on the quarterback than we have in the past off the edge. I think we have experience at linebacker. I would expect Perrish Cox to have his best year ever at the corner."

That leads us to the next subject of leadership. The Cowboys have it and that last name, Perrish Cox, is part of it.

A huge contributor to last year's success and the 9-4 season was the chemistry of the team, which when it is good spills over into nearly every area of the team, on and off the field. Because there is so much change in a football team year to year you just don't know how that chemistry will vary from one season to the next, but Gundy feels he is seeing that good feeling develop in the 2009 team.

"We've got good leadership in this group," said Gundy about his team overall, attitude and daily work ethic. "I think they step up and they lead by example. They understand they going to be out there for two hours and 15 minutes and as long as you're there then you might as well work hard and get better. That has been key to the success we've had here the last two or three seasons.

"You like to sit back as a coach and let that happen itself without having to say, 'Let's go guys, pick it up.' Some of that took place early in practice with guys like Zac Robinson, Sexton ... guys that have been around and know what it takes in order to improve and get better," continued Gundy. "It is pretty spirited out there and they are having fun."

Besides the usual suspects like Robinson, Sexton, Russell Okung, Andrew Lewis, Derek Burton, and Ugo Chinasa, Cox is another senior that has put himself in the leader category. It is hard to imagine Cox in that role as he has sometimes been a guy that needed power steering to get where the coaches wanted him to be on and off the field.

"I think Perrish is having his best spring since he has been here," said Gundy. "He has really matured and has become a leader for us. He is such an important contributor in our return game and then also in the defense. I think he is taking everything a little more personal as he goes into his senior season."

Cox earned All-America honors last season as a kickoff returner by CBSsportsline. All he needs is 110 yards of kickoff return yardage to become the all-time leader in Big 12 history. He leads all active NCAA players with four kickoff returns for touchdowns and if he adds two more then he will tie the all-time record in that category.

"I think about it every now and then, especially when my teammates bring it up," said Cox of his kickoff return prowess. "Coach Defo brought up in a meeting that all I had to do was return two more kickoffs and I would have the NCAA record for all-time, I mean the whole thing, all history. It made me feel good but I'm kind of focused in on defense right now."

That's good to hear. Cornerback coach Jason Jones, Young, and yes, DeForest will be glad to hear that. Cox, who had 32 tackles and two interceptions last season, will need to be a mainstay on the defense this season. The corner position is thin and Cox agrees with Gundy that he has matured and is helping that position as a leader and more mature player.

"I think it is," said Cox of Gundy's comments. "It's a variety of aspects, the weight room, my weight because I got bigger, stronger, faster, all over on the field. We have two young safeties and I think I have to keep them up. That is the way I feel. I have to keep them up by being a leader and that will make us better on defense."

Cox is the player that earlier this spring said he is tired of everybody talking about the Cowboy offense, he wants people to talk about the OSU defense. He said he didn't mean any disrespect by it. He knows the offense is very good and going against that offense allows the Cowboys defense to improve. He gives the offense credit, but he so badly wants to hear fans compliment the defense before his OSU career comes to an end. It might even be worth a kickoff return for touchdown to him, to him but not to Gundy or Joe DeForest.

The next chance to improve will come Thursday as the Cowboys will go in shorts for spring practice #14.

The 15th and final practice comes Saturday at 6 p.m. in the form of the annual Orange-White game at Boone Pickens Stadium. Gates open at 5:30 p.m. and admission is free.

The teams have already been chosen but Gundy and his staff are keeping them under wraps just in case any late adjustments have to be made and to keep the competition from getting in the way of finishing with a strong practice on Thursday just as they did on Wednesday.

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