OSU Defensive Line Play Should Be Improved

STILLWATER - It still seems a little like camp. It's Aug. 18 and after thunderstorms overnight and showers throughout the morning it turned steamy in Stillwater on Tuesday afternoon as the Cowboys were back at practice for the first time since Saturday's scrimmage. It has become tradition at Oklahoma State not to practice on the first day of classes, which was Monday.

It was a tradition former head coach Pat Jones started because more times than not practice on the first day of school ended up not being very productive. ead coach Mike Gundy and his staff put the team through a two-hour, 20-minute practice Tuesday that Gundy felt started off like a team that had missed two days of practice.

"We had a good practice but it started out very slow," said Gundy. "That sometimes happens early in the week when it's the first week of school. They got going after awhile and they started practicing better. The temperature was hot which was good because it gave our players a chance to work hard and we had a good practice and have to have a better one tomorrow."

Gundy kind of put the blame on the coaches for the slow start to the practice and felt it was the coaches that pulled the tempo back up to where it needed to be.

"You start school and take a few days off and it's 105 (degrees) on the turf and guys don't move around as much as they should, but got a good hour and a half in. We just didn't do very well the first 30 minutes," Gundy added.

Cowboys cornerback Perrish Cox said he thought the practice wasn't too slow off the top.

"I didn't think we started sluggish," said Cox. "As Coach (Gundy) sees it, we kind of did and I'm thinking it was because of school. We have to get all of our classes right and find most of them and all that. It is kind of tough on some of the people the whole situation. I think that must have been the reason because school started."

Gundy had said on Saturday that he expected quarterback Zac Robinson to be back at practice on Tuesday and progress well this week. While Gundy did not want to and said he would not get involved in injury reports, Robinson was in the media room after the practice and certainly acted as if he had taken part.

"Feeling great and I could have gone a few days ago but I waited and came out today and everything felt good and feel like I haven't missed a beat," said Robinson.

Because of Robinson the Cowboys have been good at quarterback but over the past four years Oklahoma State, under Mike Gundy, have had to invest in junior college talent to help in depth and as starters.

Gundy has repeatedly expressed the concern that with junior college players, who often just have two years of eligibility, you only get one really productive year on the field. Gundy's thought is proven out when you look at players like defensive tackle Ryan McBean, who was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers and is now with Denver Broncos. McBean was okay his first season at OSU before really performing his second season. Since McBean there was defensive tackle Tonga Tea, who also played significantly better his second season.

There are exceptions to the rule going both ways. Running back Dantrell Savage came in from Gulf Coast Community College in Mississippi and was a star in his time at OSU. Steve Denning came in from Northwest Mississippi with three years and started from almost the beginning. Scott Broughton was an All-American out Georgia Military that never could find a home on the field after trying both cornerback and wide receiver.

Currently there are several junior college transfers on the Cowboys roster, including offensive lineman Andrew Mitchell, linebacker Donald Booker, linebacker Tolu Moala, defensive tackle Swanson Miller, defensive tackle Chris Donaldson, defensive end Jermiah Price, running back Beau Johnson, cornerback Maurice Gray, and safety Lucien Antoine, all in their second season at Oklahoma State.

Booker was the most productive of all the J.C. transer players as he had 32 tackles and played an influential role, especially in the Missouri game as a pass rusher. Johnson played well as the third tailback, Gray played well and played in all but the Texas game. Antoine was set to play a bunch but got hurt in the second game of the season against Houston.

Moala was hust much of the season. Jermiah Price was the best of the linemen with 22 tackles, seven tackles for a loss, and a sack. The rest of the linemen played sparingly with Miller playing the most and finishing with 17 tackles. For skill players the adjustment seems to be easier as last season kind of proves.

Donaldson, who so far this August has looked dramatically improved, is an example of the junior college learning curve.

"I feel like I have something to prove to my teammates and the coaches," said Donaldson, who has a great attitude. "With the help of some of my teammates and the coaches that guided me along real fast, I feel that I have caught up to the speed. I feel like I am doing good right now. I can always play better, but I feel like I am playing good."

The bonus with Donaldson is that he came in from Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College with three seasons to play. Now entering their second season, Price could be a catalyst on the Cowboy defense. Miller is listed as a starter at defensive tackle, and Andrew Mitchell is starting at right guard on offense. The extra year makes a big difference for linemen.

"Ha, ha, ha," laughed Donaldson about that thought. "You can pretty much ask the whole team and they will pretty much tell you the same answer. A year ago I thought I was ready to make the jump from juco ball to Division I, but I was out of shape.

"I couldn't keep up with the speed. Everybody always talked about my quickness, but when I got here everybody was just as quick as me and I had to work that much harder to be quicker than everybody else. I worked hard to get where I'm at but I am going to work that much harder to get ahead."

First-year junior college players on this year's Cowboys squad include walk-on wide receiver Colton Chelf, cornerback Andrew McGee, and wide receiver Dameron Fooks. All three of the skill position players look like they will be ready to help. Chelf was a bright spot in the spring, Fooks is coming off a solid scrimmage performance, and McGee has had a really good camp at corner.

Now for the linemen this year's group may reverse our theory. Offensive linemen Anthony Morgan, an All-American at Navarro, and Levy Adcock from NEO A&M in Oklahoma have both been running second team. Defensive end Darius Hart has shown promise, while defensive tackle Horace Hubbard may take longer to develop.

Adcock and Fooks both have three seasons to play, which like Donaldson in the previous class is a big bonus. Hubbard has a redshirt year if the Cowboys chose to use that to help him develop more. It may not be a bad idea because as Donaldson will attest a year of experience in Division I really helps out.

The Cowboys need all they can get and Donaldson has another message for Cowboys fans -- the defensive line, much scrutinized going into this season, will hold up its end of the bargain for the Cowboys to be successful.

"I know there are enough guys for us to be successful," said Donaldson. "In practice we roll guys and there isn't much change in talent or speed. I don't think we will have a problem at the D-line. The defensive line is the core of the defense and you know, we're the strong link and we are going to be strong up front. We have enough talent and depth to boost the defense and help carry the defense where it needs to be."

It speaks well of Donaldson, Miller, and Price, second-year junior college players, and that second year always seems to be a little better.

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