Spring Football: Defense Is Catching On

STILLWATER - Oklahoma State head football coach Mike Gundy apparently didn't get his fill of full speed football Friday with the Cowboys second major scrimmage of the spring, a scrimmage divided between situations including plenty of two-minute scenarios which fared better for the defense than the offense.

Monday the team went through a two-hour, 15-minute practice that was short due to many players being involved in campus-wide common exams at 5:30 p.m.

The practice included plenty of physical team work as there is now just one practice (Wednesday) left before Saturday's 6 p.m. Orange-White Game.

As Gundy told the media on Friday in his post-practice debrief with reporters, the coaching staff met this morning and discussed the format for Saturday's game. With depth a major concern at several positions, splitting the team into two teams for the game may be difficult.

One source said that nothing was decided but a format featuring offense versus defense in more of a scrimmage style or practice is more feasible. The issue has not been decided and will be re-visited. The decision doesn't have to be made until Wednesday and two teams could be drafted that morning. It could even happen on Thursday but the odds are this year's Orange-White Game could feature the offense (orange) versus the defense (white).

The new Oklahoma State offense under defensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen actually got a fast start in spring as it was installed and looked very good in early practices.

"I thought we were ahead of where I thought we would be offensively," said Gundy last Friday. "However, the offense struggled some with execution today. The defense has started to make a few more plays."

When asked Gundy admitted that part of the defensive success is that they have now seen plenty of the offense, and just like you ask your defenders to do during the season with video study of an opponent, recognition comes into play.

"There is a lot of truth to that, but there are a lot of young guys on defense," said Gundy. "The recognition starts to show up when you get into the 12th or 13th practice. Guys start to recognize plays."

"It's coming pretty close," said senior standout linebacker Orie Lemon of the recognition of the offense. "We were kind of used to it because we have played against it throughout the last couple of years. Now we go out every day and play against it with our own offense. We just put forth the effort to stop it."

"Definitely. it's got to the point now where we're keying on plays, calls, line of scrimmage calls, and we're kind of knowing the play before they run it," said defensive end Jamie Blatnick.

The coordinators on both sides of the ball diminish the recognition factor. Defensive players are supposed to read the offense and recognize what is coming at them. That is part of defense.

On the other side, offense is supposed to be good enough at executing its offense that they should be able to have success no matter what the defense does. If everybody blocks, the right throw is made, or the running back takes the right path, then execution wins the day or the play.

"Spring ball is hard because you see the same things all the time," said Holgorsen. "They're (defense) doing good, they are disguising things, they are comfortable with what they are doing.

"Our guys are 12 days into it and they are in their second year of that defense. If they weren't getting into us then we'd have some problems around here. Those guys look good on that side and it is more of a process of us just trying to get better."

Holgorsen added that he doesn't grade on a curve. If the defense knows what is coming at them, execution comes back into play and he expects his offensive players to out-execute the defense. That will be easier to expect in the future when the offense and the little things involved in making it work become second nature and reactive to the players running it.

Defensive coordinator Bill Young is happy that his defense is making some plays and has done well in certain team situations. But Young is like any coach and wants to continue to see improvement.

"We feel good about where we are, but you always want to be better than what you are," said Young, who will be honored Tuesday night by the Oklahoma chapter of the National Football Foundation. "That is human nature. We've played a lot of snaps and played pretty good, but we can always do better."

The only question now is how well Wednesday's practice goes and whether it is scrimmage or game time at 6 p.m. on Saturday.

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