Spring Football: Orie Lemon Is Back

STILLWATER - The first scrimmage of the spring was held Wednesday with real Big 12 officials. Heck, even Boise State head coach Chris Peterson was in town surveying Oklahoma State's practice to see what the new offense looked like. It wasn't perfect but it produced what is advertised, offensive explosion and some of those popular "chunk" plays.

We asked nearly everyone involved for what they thought and to tell us about some good highights since few people other than the team, coaches, Peterson, and the officials got to see what was going on.

"It was fast paced and I thought we had good effort," started head coach Mike Gundy. "I was glad it warmed up out there. First day we've really been out there in the heat and that is perfect for a scrimmage.

"There were mistakes. One thing I really liked was there were not a lot of procedure penalties and things that would concern me on offense. We need to do a better job of taking care of the ball on offense and then on defense we need to do a better job of forcing turnovers," Gundy added.

"I thought there were some big plays on both sides of the field. I thought there were some big plays offensively and I thought there were some negative plays on offense, which is good for the defense. We stayed healthy and I think we are moving in the right direction."

Okay, but what about the highights?

"Hubert (Anyiam) made a couple of plays (two touchdown catches) and Josh Cooper made a few plays. (Justin) Horton made a play and then dropped two or three balls he should have caught," said Gundy. "As a head coach I thought there were good plays on both sides."

"Probably that reverse (a 40-yard touchdown run on a reverse), I love getting the ball in my hands," said wide receiver Josh Cooper, who also caught a long touchdown pass. "We've been repping that play a few times in practice getting it in shape."

"Cooper is good," said offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen. "Cooper is one of those guys that will make catches and he will run and not bust stuff, will make people miss, and will block. He is one of the guys right now that we can count on.

"Brandon (Weeden) got better today and I thought he was a little cooler than he'd been in the past," added Holgorsen of the first-team quarterback. "He handled some thing today that were problems when thrown at him in the first six practices. He's progressing."

"The throw to Hubert (Anyiam) was good and we were on the same page there," said Weeden. "The throw to Cooper and the touchdown in the end zone and I think I did good things and did the right things. I just need to make those decisions quicker and it'll come.

"You know how our old offense was you could kind of sit back and read half the field and then dump it down. So now it is one, two, three, check it down where I am just a tad bit late, but I'll get there."

Now we also heard there were some defensive highlights and there were several including a tipped interception by new freshman linebacker Caleb Lavey. There were some big hits by the likes of star linebacker James Thomas, safety Johnny Thomas, safety Daytawion Lowe, and, as mentioned in the headline, middle linebacker Orie Lemon.

"He made a couple of big hits today," said Gundy. "You know we joked with him and he grabbed one of the backs and did what the players call, 'tossed him out of the club,' threw him about 10 yards on the ground which is good to see. It's good to have him back. He is going to be a leader for us."

You see Gundy is looking for players but he is also looking for leaders. The huge senior class that really stretched from the 2008 season through last season has left the program with not nearly as many players in leadership positions. Leaders aren't just annointed, but they are forged.

Gundy is looking and encouraging the right guys to push their way through into that role.

"No question that started in January and has carried on through this point in spring ball and will have to carry on throughout the summer," started Gundy.

"The good thing about the last couple of years is that you had a lot of senior leaders, even two years ago and last year. The bad thing is when you have a bunch of them they all leave at once.

"Now some of our leaders may not come from seniors but come from sophomores. The class that just left, they developed leadership skills when they were sophomores and juniors. We'll have guys that will do it but they will have to work their way to it and earn it," Gundy added.

It is a natural for the quarterback to be on that roll call of leaders. Weeden has not just taken to the offense but he is swimming like a grown-up fish moving from the river into the lake. At the same time that he has absorbed the offense he has worked on his leadership qualities. At least one senior from the other side of the line of scrimmage has noticed.

"I like Weeden a lot and he is a very vocal leader and has a positive aura about him," said defensive tackle senior Shane Jarka. "I just like the way he leads the team and what he offers with his arm. He has a cannon. I like him as a person and player and a teammate. He is very poised and focused and I like all of that."

Gundy, who was less than enthuiastic at times about Weeden in practice and in meetings when he was listed third on the depth chart, has noticed and is happy with the progress.

"I think Brandon has done a nice job up to this point," said Gundy. "I think he has maxmized as much as he can.

"His real leadership will happen through the summer and the all voluntary workouts and the coaches are gone on vacation and he has to organize the practices, get guys out to participate and that is his responsibility. That is when his real leadership skills need to come forward," continued Gundy.

For now there is still more work with the coaches. Wednesday's scrimmage just moved the Cowboys over the midway mark of spring practice with seven more practices to go.

The next one is scheduled for Friday and there will be high school coaches from all over the region here to check out that one with the Oklahoma State coaches clinic going on that day.

The spring game is still Saturday, April 17, at 6 p.m. and with all practices closed to the public that will serve as the debut for the new offense and the new class of leaders.

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