One Last Practice Before Scrimmage

STILLWATER - The final football practice of the spring took place Wednesday with Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy and his staff putting his team through the paces in a two-hour practice that also contained a lengthy scrimmage period. As Gundy promised, the Cowboys also worked on their two-minute situations that were scrimmaged last Friday.

Observers in the program say this has been one of the more physical and scrimmage laden spring practices ever under Gundy. Now with the 14th practice concluded there is just one step next and that comes, for the first time this spring, in front of the fans.

The issue of format for the Orange-White game, scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday in Boone Pickens Stadium, has been decided as fans will see a scrimmage with a game format.

The first team offense and first team defense will take on the rest of the squad with a point system that awards the typical points for the offense plus some bonuses for big plays and rewards the defense for a variety of accomplishments during the scrimmage.

Everything from turnovers to sacks, to three-and-outs will earn points for the defense. This format, which represents a major change from the past several seasons where the team was split evenly and they staged a more traditional game, will actually be better for fans who hope to get a realistic impression of what to expect out of new offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen's spread offense that has been installed in the previous 14 practices this spring.

"I think it will be good for the fans to see the first team offense and the first team defense plus we were going to be in a situation where if we had an injury at a certain position then we were going to have guys changing jerseys in the middle of it," explained Gundy. "This will allow us to have continuity and I think the fans will be entertained."

Holgorsen isn't looking to waste Saturday's opportunity. The more work his offense gets, the better.

"The spring game doesn't mean anything to me other than it is another opportunity to get better," said Holgorsen.

Holgorsen has said he is relatively pleased with how the offense has gone in and how well the players have picked it up. The running backs have been especially solid.

"Kendall (Hunter) is a good back for this offense and he has done a good job of learning and of catching the football, then he can really do something with it," said Holgorsen. "All of the running backs have been good with what they have done on the practice and all of them can make plays."

Holgorsen also said that quarterback Brandon Weeden has improved every day. He said that he has pushed Weeden with both mental and physical quarterback drills designed to push his speed with making decisions -- the right decisions with the football in the offense -- and that is where the improvement has come.

There is also a mutual admiration society going between the offense and the defense. Defensive coordinator Bill Young and his staff knew the landscape had changed when they were seeing empty backfield and five wide formations the first day of spring practice.

That promoted the defense to push it with its young players to get better every day. There has been the exchange of plays in team period where each first team unit will run card plays or defensive schemes in order to help each other get better. Holgorsen said that just going against Young and his defense has helped.

"I have never seen a defense better at getting out there and disguising their looks and trying to confuse the offense than what I have seen this spring," said Holgorsen. "Bill Young is a tremendous defensive coach.

"Spring ball is hard because you see the same things all the time," added the new offensive coordinator. "They're doing good, they are disguising things, they are comfortable with what they are doing.

"Our guys are 13 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."

Young, the defensive staff, and all the players have agreed that working against this offense has helped them.

"We feel good about where we are, but you always want to be better than what you are. That is human nature," said Young. "Dana's offense gives us a look at a wide variety of different formations and run and pass plays.

"We've played a lot of snaps and played pretty good, but we can always do better. I have confidence that they are going to move the ball on everybody they see next season. This has been a challenge for us everyday in practice this spring."

The final challenge comes Saturday with the Orange-White scrimmage/game. Fans will have to judge for themselves but all things being equal we believe they will see an exciting wide open offense that will feature the running backs, in several roles, more than they may have thought.

They will see a starting quarterback in Brandon Weeden that has come a long way and a crew of receivers that are also adapting and more advanced but with much more work to do. The offensive line is coming along but also will need more work.

On defense they will find a defensive line that is solid but needs more depth at tackle, a middle linebacker that may be one of the best in the nation, young linebackers that are improving, and a secondary that isn't deep but is potentially strong.

That is what we think you'll see.

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