Storms Mess Up Practice Plans

STILLWATER - Monday was the last open practice of the season and Oklahoma storms roared across the state late Monday afternoon cheated the fans as the Cowboys had to go in about 30 minutes into the practice. MIke Gundy was determined not to be cheated as he brought his team back out nearly an hour and 30 minutes later and they practiced under the lights of Boone Pickens Stadium until 8:45 p.m.

"I just want to practice," said Gundy when told he looked frustrated with the weather. "We only get 29 (practices) and now we're going to end up with 28 and a half. It's frustrating. We were able to make up some of it tonight.

"We came back and were able to practice for about an hour and they practiced very well," added Gundy of the somewhat split practice session. "There was a lot of excitement and guys were moving around very well. We were able to get something done.

"The players do a good job with it and the coaches probably get more frustrated because we're in such a routine. Now you have to back up dinner two hours and they go to bed later and you have two practices tomorrow and recovery time and all those things (are effected) that are supposed to be important."

In between, Gundy and the coaching staff used the open spaces on the mezzanine of the new west end zone where a television and radio studio was planned to do walk throughs. Gundy said there are three areas of space that are about 56 yards by 28 yards.

"If we put down a little indoor/outdoor turf we could scrimmage in there," he laughed. "If Coach Miles were here we could do it because we'd run the same plays between the hashes."

Gundy said he has seen signs his team is more physical and he saw some more signs of that Monday night, including a big hit by safety Luciene Antoine on running back Beau Johnson. It was a popper that reverberated throughout the stadium.

Speaking of hitting, the linebackers have been doing their share. Here's a good question, since the pads came on which position has had the most fun? The answer very well could be the linebackers.

Watching them closely, the all senior crew of Andre Sexton at star, Orie Lemon at middle, Patrick Lavine at weak, and Donald Booker floating at middle and sometimes at weak has played pretty well. They are dependent some on the big heavies up front occupying the blockers, but they know their assignments and they are making plays.

"To have a continuity and to be able to feed off another one, like with certain schemes where one has to spill and one has to fill and they have to overlap," described linebacker coach Glenn Spencer. "That is kind of like playing with your brother when you can feel what he is doing. You can't overrate that at all. That is a great luxury to have."

They have that luxury because they are experienced, they are all seniors, and they are even from the same area (Houston). You can call them the Houston Demolition Company.

"We are real close. We kind of knew each other and everything before we got here," said Booker, who was the last to arrive after an All-American year at Navarro Junior College in Texas. "We all kind of knew each other before we got here because we are all from Houston in the same area. It is much like a family."

"I can say we probably connect better," said Patrick Lavine, who has played and even started almost since his arrival. "Coming from the same background and from the same area, we are probably used to the same things and share some of the same qualities."

One of those qualities is that they will hit and they will tackle. Sexon (100), Lemon (90), and Lavine (70) were three of the top four tacklers last season. Booker, who played in situations, had 32 tackles.

Tackles are one thing, but big hits are another. Those have been lacking but the linebackers would love to deliver. Those type of plays fire up fans and also quite often knock the football loose. Big hits do fit in with the Cowboys grand scheme on defense.

"I think the fans love seeing big hits and defensive players flying downhill," said Sexton, who is the oldest of the crew being a member of Gundy's first recruiting class and redshirting his sophomore season with an injury.

"Then I think they like seeing turnovers and seeing defensive players with the ball in their hands and seeing them try to score. It is a lot more fun that seeing the normal offensive guys do it.

"The main focal point is turnovers and if we continue to focus on turnovers and it continues all season then we can be an overall better defense because that means people are flying to the ball," added Sexton. "The pass rush is getting pressure on the quarterback and people are breaking on balls in the secondary and all that stuff just carries over and you can't help but nationally improve and you will see our national ranking in a bunch of areas improve."

There is no doubt the secondary has improved and, hopefully, the defensive line will continue to make strides. But at the end of the day, or in this case the end of the season, it may be a senior quartet of linebackers that will make OSU fans believe defense is back in vogue in Stillwater.

"We can be as great as we put our mind to," said Lemon. "We've been doing good in preseason camp and we can be that good or better if we put our mind to it."

That would be really nice and could be the difference in 10 wins and a really nice bowl game, and 11 or 12 wins and a berth in the Big 12 Championship Game and the BCS.

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