It's A Full Saturday For The Cowboys

STILLWATER - Every day is a full one during preseason camp for the Oklahoma State Cowboys but Saturday was packed with the most wide ranging activities including getting your picture taken, doing interviews, and getting writer's cramp from signing autographs for the near 5,000 fans that were expected to take part in Fan Appreciation Day.

It all started at 9:15 a.m. on the grass practice field for the second workout in helmets and shoulder pads. The two-hour, 15-minute practice was highlighted by the longest team period so far in camp.

"They (the team) are focused mentally and I thought today was much better from a competitive standpoint," said Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy. "We had guys that were going at it in the interior part of the offensive and defensive line and the same thing out on the perimeter. Dez Bryant and Perrish Cox were going at it a little bit."

Yes, they were and once again, the pair proved that they are as explosive an athlete as the Cowboys have on the field. Cox has made numerous plays so far in camp with several interceptions in drills and different situations, while the All-American and Heisman Trophy candidate Bryant remind everybody daily of why he is so good.

Saturday morning in drills, Bryant made several adjustments on the ball and never lost stride where other receivers either can't make the adjustment to the ball or if they do, they break stride and really end the play where the catch is made.

"He is amazing," said Cowboys Radio Network color analyst John Holcomb watching Bryant in drills. "He really does things other players can't and makes it look so easy that you wonder why other players can't do it."

There was one play on a tip that Bryant again made a superlative adjustment that few receivers on any level could pull off and again never broke stride.

"Orie Lemon and Jamal Mosley were also going at it," continued Gundy on the practice. "That is good the competitiveness is there and the players have worked really hard up to this point."

This point is the end of the NCAA-mandated acclimatization period as Sunday at 4:45 p.m the Cowboys will on the full pads. Monday afternoon they will be in full pads in the lone practice and then Tuesday they have the first of just two two-a-day practice days.

There is no doubt the linemen have enjoyed getting after it and getting physical. A good example came up early in pass pro drills as super quick defensive tackle Nigel Nicholas got the jump on center Grant Garner. The next play Garner was more than ready for Nicholas' speed move and used leverage to put him on the ground.

Observations in the line play range from the known that Russell Okung is really good. It is almost unfair to have people go against him. The offensive line is really solid with center Andrew Lewis and veteran Brady Bond joining Okung along with guards in former junior college All-American Andrew Mitchell and the patient Noah Franklin.

Defensively, Derek Burton is a veteran and holding up inside at tackle. Chris Donaldson continues to make strides and has made plays. At defensive end Richetti Jones is having a strong camp and is playing really well.

"I'm just trying to stay humble and working hard to try to become a starter," said Jones. "I want to keep working hard and make plays over and over again. I need to keep my focus and not get tired. I'm feeling great. This is the one time I can say I'm actually ready to play football. My hip is not a factor at all."

One of the areas that has been most impressive so far has been running back. New running backs coach Robert Gillespie has a pleasant problem as he has a bunch of players capable of being the guy back there.

Kendall Hunter is coming off a 1,555 yard and 16 touchdown season. However, senior Keith Toston has 1,507 yards and 16 touchdowns in his career, Beau Johnson has shown he is talented, Kye Staley is down to 212 pounds and ready to go, and then there is the rapidly developing Travis Miller.

The freshmen look good too. Gillespie challenges his guys in practice. They drilled on staying inbounds on Saturday, and taking the fight to the defensive player to stay inbounds. The backs, all of them, make the most impressive group since the days of Sanders, Thomas, Nash, and Hudson in the mid- to late-'80s.

"It is a great position to be in," said Gillespie. "I've been on the other end where you didn't have enough running backs. Coming here, these guys have definitely put together a good group of backs, (that are) talented, unselfish, and they are looking forward to having a big year. There's enough balls to go around in this offense and it is so fast that having fresh legs to go in there is going to benefit us as a staff and as a team."

The subject of how to use all of the running backs that does come up often. Watching all of that talent at one position can even be distracting, in a good way.

"We talked about that and I was watching those guys today," said Gundy of the backs. "We have about seven of them that can run. There are about three or four of them that are unproven, but just watching them out there and their ability to absorb information and react and play in our offense really fast is encouraging. I joked with them that we might ought to have three of them in there at once.

"Kendall, we all know, is really special and Keith is a guy that has had a good career here," continued Gundy. "Beau Johnson is a guy that doesn't get to play a lot but can make plays. Beau is slim and knocked a tenth off of his forty and he can catch the ball and he'll block. He is a guy we have to get in the game. That's not even getting into Kye, Travis, and the freshmen we really like. We are going to play our backs and we are going to run the football."

Yes, they will run the football and it is a luxury to have so many talented and qualified guys ready to roll.

The Cowboys will roll in full pads as Sunday's practice at 4:45 is in full regalia, it is one of three full pad practices that the fans will be able to watch for the first hour.

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