Second Day Belongs To Defense

STILLWATER - With the thunderstorms and sizeable rainfall that came through Stillwater on Thursday morning, it was back to being inside Boone PIckens Stadium for the Oklahoma State football squad for the second practice of preseason camp. The difference was Mother Nature provided some cloud cover and a pleasant breeze to make the conditions significantly more comfortable than opening day.

"We had great conditions today for the players and had a good practice," said head coach Mike Gundy afterwards to a smaller group of media than on the first day on Wednesday.

"It was very good for the defense, very enthusiastic, forced a lot of turnovers, so it made it fun. When the defense is as competitive as they were in practice today it really pushes the offense, stirs the pot a little bit, and guys really fight back. It was a good practice today."

Gundy said he would like to see the offense take better care of the football as the first team offense gave away some of those turnovers to the defense. There were a couple of fumbles, but it was more interceptions, and defensive coordinator Bill Young said they preach getting three turnovers during any period with the offense including inside drill and 7-on-7.

The defenders were pretty happy with the results and especially happy with an interception they said linebacker Orie Lemon took to the house for a score.

"I think we only got three but we were going for five," said Lemon of the turnovers. "I was really waiting for him (Coach Young) to say we did better than we did yesterday. I'm not letting anybody tackle it if I get it in my hands," added Lemon of his score.

"I want the defense to win every day," said Gundy. "I want the offense to take better care of the football, but I am very excited when the defense does well. I think it is very good for our team chemistry right now.

"We were able to run em little bit, condition, and open their lungs up a bit," added Gundy. "We're looking forward to keep rolling tomorrow and it is two down and 27 (practices) to go (to the first game)."

The optimism is still high and should be after two good practices to start the fall camp.

The primary reason for all the optimism for the upcoming season is all of the experienced seniors and upperclassmen, and the explosive talent in the program. Names like quarterback Zac Robinson, wide receiver Dez Bryant, and running back Kendall Hunter are constantly mentioned and that trio is up for major awards this season.

There are others and the head of that list would be offensive tackle Russell Okung, who despite being an offensive tackle made a magazine cover (Phil Steele) and will be up for The Outland Trophy. Another senior that will be important but doesn't make that top tier list of Robinson, Bryant, and Hunter is cornerback Terrance Anderson. That duo of Okung and Anderson were both very happy for practice to get underway for very different reasons.

Okung could very well have been reporting to an NFL training camp rather than his senior season in Stillwater. The 6-6, 300-pound Okung was high on the draft list of virtually every NFL team. Okung has answered the question in the spring and in the summer of why he chose to stay. With the start of camp that question gets dropped.

"I look at it now and I tell myself that the decision is done, you can't change it, you can't change your mind," answered Okung. "You have to stick with it and I don't even look back and think, 'man, I shouldn't have made that decision.' I did make the decision and I'm happy about it. You know God will take care of those things."

For Anderson his reason about being happy that practice is underway is vastly different. Anderson did not participate in the Cowboys last game, a 42-31 loss at the Holiday Bowl in San Diego, because of academics. Now it's time to move on.

"Looking forward now, got to strive for greatness," said Anderson. "We've got a bull's eye on us. I'm just happy right now to be back out there with my teammates and try to contribute as much as I can."

The 5-11, 185-pound Anderson is slated to start at one corner opposite his talented roommate and fellow senior Perrish Cox. After the first practice Gundy identified Anderson as a player that has stepped up his efforts on and off the field. Cox has received that kind of credit as well from the coaching staff. It's become a theme for the roommates that line up on opposite sidelines on the defense.

"I've tried to step my game up," added Anderson, who has 61 tackles and an interception in his career. "My roommate has stepped his game up. I'm in the starting line-up right now, so I have to step my game up. Everybody is looking for me to do some thing as a vocal leader, but I'm more of the kind of guy that leads by example. I will always try my best to do something, but I just try to play better."

Anderson is another example of how this group of seniors is close. Put him and Cox together and add another fellow Texan and you have a tight trio of friends.

"We're real close and we're always together, just ask anybody," said Anderson. "Me, him, and DeMarcus Conner ... we're the three guys, the three amigos. We are together 24/7. Our bond is real great and that is why that on the field we do as good as we do."

Back to Okung, he is a leader, more by example than anything. There is a chance that he could be part of an all-senior starting offensive line as the first group had Okung at left tackle, Noah Franklin at left guard, Andrew Lewis at center, Andrew Mitchell at right guard, and Brady Bond at right tackle. Okung said he thinks it would great, but he won't count on it.

"It would (be great), but I know how Coach Wickline is and he will mix and match and in the end he will put the best five out there to help our team," said Okung."

Another thing that Okung knows is that his future endeavors in the NFL combine quite nicely with his goals for helping the Cowboys this season. The better he plays, the better Oklahoma State's chances and the better Zac Robinson throws and runs, Kendall Hunter runs, and Dez Bryant catches and runs; and the better his draft status in the 2010 NFL Draft.

"I like that you said that because in the weight room in the new West End Zone we have a sign that says 'individual desire fuels team success,'" described Okung. "That is up there on the wall and I look at it every day. I know that if I just take care of my job then our team success will ultimately come along."

Team success is something very important to both Anderson and Okung. Something they will continue to work on Friday afternoon at 4:45 p.m.

The practice, which could be on the grass practice field or Boone Pickens Stadium, will be open to the public for the first hour. It will be the first one in shoulder pads and the head coach said it will be hard to curtail the physicality and he might not want to anyway.

"It'll be physical. It's physical out there now," said Gundy. "It's hard to pull those guys back. Yesterday was the first day and all that adrenaline was flowing. Today they are out there and it is 84 degrees and the sun isn't out and they are flying around so you just have to let them go."

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