Cowboy Spring Practice: Secondary Improving

STILLWATER - The Oklahoma State Cowboys completed the second week and the sixth of the 15 allotted workouts for spring practice on Friday afternoon. It was a windy day out on Boone Pickens Stadium but that was a good test for the new offense of coordinator Dana Holgorsen.

If you are going to throw, you had better be able to get it done in the Oklahoma wind because more days than not it is going to be there. According to head coach Mike Gundy he likes what he sees so far on both sides of the ball. That is hard to do for a head coach in the spring.

"I think we are a little further along on offense than I thought we'd be," said Gundy. "They've shown some continuity and I was curious just how long it would take us to get into rhythm. The players have bought in and are moving along well.

"Defensively, we have some young guys that are showing up and making some plays," continued Gundy, who along with defensive coordinator Bill Young mentioned there was some goal-line and short-yardage work in the Friday practice, a little more running offense than had been seen so far.

"Justin Gent made some plays out there today. Joe Mitchell has made some plays and Chris Donaldson is fitting up in his gaps and doing some good things. It is fun seeing guys compete."

A real key on offense is at wide receiver. While quarterback Brandon Weeden sat across the room bragging on the work of the wide receivers in the offense and noting that there are stats kept on how many passes are dropped, Gundy hinted that number may have gone down during the course of the week.

"They've caught the ball well the last few days, but they didn't practice very well on Tuesday," said Gundy of the critical work of the wide receivers in this new offense.

"I mentioned Isaiah (Anderson) and (Justin) Horton. Hubert (Anyiam) is catching the football and obviously (Josh) Cooper has been reliable for us and is making some catches for us.

"Those guys are going to have to make plays and some freshmen are going to have to come in and do the same thing. We are going to run in a lot of guys in this offense. It is not like we are going to play just four or five receivers," Gundy added.

Now, while the wide receivers are getting loads of work, so is a depth-challenged secondary. Two of the most thin positions on the team are cornerback and safety. It doesn't take long to remember the Cotton Bowl and with the suspension of veteran All-American Perrish Cox, Brodrick Brown, all 5-8 and 180 pounds of him, was pressed into duty despite coming off an injury during the bowl season.

"Brodrick got hurt around the third game of the season and wasn't able to practice," said cornerbacks coach Jason Jones. "The only practices that he was released for were the bowl practices, so those were the only practices that he had to get prepared for the game.

"Fortunately, Brodrick's approach was that anything can happen on a Saturday and somebody can get hurt in a game and he was going to have to be the next guy and he went in there and played a great game."

Andrae May, the other starting cornerback this spring was sitting on the sidelines redshirting through the first eight games of the season, but the injury to Brown and several other injuries in the defensive backfield changed things before the team left for Iowa State. Fortunately, May was eager for action.

"He was and we called Andrae in and last season when we had injuries all over the place and got to looking at the corner spot and had a couple of guys nicked up," explained Jones.

"We knew if we had one guy go down that we were going to be in a bind. We called Andrae in and he said, 'Coach, I want to win and whatever you need me to do then I'll do it.' We put him in that next week against Iowa State and he had a good game. Now this spring he is out there competing for a starting spot."

The other critical returning player at corner is Andrew McGee, a key player right up until the Bedlam game where he broke his neck. The surgery and rehab is going really well and it appears McGee will make it back by fall camp in August.

"Andrew, I tell him all the time, he's a safety playing corner," said Jones. "You know most of the time your safeties are more physical guys. He loves contact, he wants to do whatever he can to intiate contact. He wants to get in the middle of everything.

"The reports from the doctor are great and he is out getting ready. He is not doing anything physical but he is doing all the individual drills and is moving around good. He is definitely going to be an asset for us going into fall camp."

The back-ups right now at corner are feeling their way around. It is a good thing, no, make that a great thing, that the Cowboys picked up two mid-term additions at corner, one a junior college standout and the other an All-State high school performer from Kansas.

"We're fortunate, especially with the situation (depth) we have at corner, to have Malcolm (Murray) and Devin (Hedgepeth) to come in at midterm," said Jones.

"Both of those guys are working hard. Right now they are not playing as fast as they were back in junior college and for Devin in high school because they are learning. We are installing something every day on defense.

"They are eager to learn and they come in and watch tape on their on and they come by my office and ask questions, so they want to get out there on the field. One of the things I notice with them out there is they both want to compete. They want to compete and I think both of them will be ready in the fall to help us out a lot," Jones added.

"We're not very deep at corner but we are working over there and fighting through it," said Brown, who also admitted that his Cotton Bowl experience gave him confidence and working against this offense gives him plenty of work.

"That was a big tone setter for me in the Cotton Bowl," said Brown, who is out of Westfield High School in Houston. "It gave me a lot of confidence. I have to take that momentum that I had in the Cotton Bowl over to spring, the spring game, summer workouts and right into next season. We are getting plenty of work out there, no doubt about that. It will make us better."

Isaiah Anderson said the receivers have to be conscious of their feet. Weeden made that convincing as he speculated that each quarterback throws around 300 passes a practice. It's logical the receiver's feet get sore after practice, and you can add the corners to that mix. With only four of them splitting the duty they are getting plenty of reps burning up the turf in back pedal and in dead run.

"Practice has been going pretty good. The guys have been enthusiastic and they've been flying around. They are really into it," added Jones.

"The older guys are really into it and are starting to lead, guys like Orie Lemon and Ugo Chinasa, stepping up and leading. They are showing the younger guys how to work. If a guy makes a play everybody is celebrating with them. If somebody makes a mistake you see guys patting him on the back, cheering him up, getting him more confident. The enthusiasm has been great."

Spring practice will continue Monday. Practices are closed to the public, but the Orange-White Game on April 17 is getting closer all the time. Gundy mentioned the day off will be good as the team got after it on Friday with some full speed work late in practice and a lot of work over the week.

"They will get a break and they will be fresh by the time we get back out there on Monday," said Gundy.

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