Cowboy Practice Report: Day 1

STILLWATER - It was great to see the brand new practice jerseys and shorts, and new and clean and refurbished football helmets being modeled by 105 Oklahoma State Cowboys football players on the fresh cut grass of the practice field on Friday morning.

There were no pads Friday, just day one of the NCAA mandated acclimatization period. That's okay as it is the start of fall camp and football. The weather was fantatastic compared to the sizzling heat Oklahoma has seen, even in the mornings, the past week or so. It was good to get back to football practice.

"It was good to get back out there and enjoyed watching the young guys and returning veterans," said head coach Mike Gundy. "We have a long ways to go but the effort is good and that is what is important.

"I thought the overall practice was good. The weather was good. We're not in pads, so that is different, but this is the best time of year."

There are really only three things you can look for and gauge in the first practice. One is conditioning and what kind of shape and strength base your football team has. The second area you can evaluate is retention and how mentally prepared are your players to get started, and how much review will be needed and how quickly you can move on to more advance lessons. The third criteria is the younger players and starting to look for which of those might be ready to jump in and contribute as freshmen.

As far as the first evaluation and the condition of the team. The jerseys and shorts make that easier and also our eyewitness of several summer workouts. All the players looked in shape and ready to go but there are some extra credit honors to be passed out.

Wide receiver Tracy Moore has lost all baby fat that he had some of last season and is a cut, v-shaped, six pack abs impressive player out there at receiver. Former tight end and now defensive lineman Cooper Bassett is now close to 270 pounds and looks very impressive. Quarterback Brandon Weeden is obviously in the best shape of his life.

Some of the younger players that came in during the spring and even some this summer improved like quarterback Johnny Deaton, cornerback Devin Hedgepeth, linebacker Caleb Lavey, and linebackers Joe Mitchell and Shaun Lewis. You can throw in cornerback Justin Gilbert and safety Zach Craig as guys that came in ready and got better in the summer.

"You have to hand it to Rob Glass because he squeezed everything he could with this group in the 11 weeks he had to work with them," said assistant strength and conditioning coach Gary Calcagno. "He did a tremendous job."

Glass, himself, admitted that the turnover on the team doesn't just impact the experience on the field but it also impacts the physical prowess when you lose veterans out of the program and the roster is younger. Glass said he was happy with the effort by the players in the summer.

"Nobody is going to be in better shape than our guys," said defensive coordinator Bill Young. "Rob Glass and those guys in our weight room in the offseason conditioning are phenominal."

Now to the mental part of it and the retention, the grades on that for day one seemed to depend on who you asked. Offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen wasn't doing back flips because it can always be better but he seemed to like and expect what he saw of how the players retained his spread offense over the summer.

"With specific people, yes," said Holgorsen in answering the retention question. "I have a pretty good idea of who our starters are going to be and I think the retention with them was fine.

"It's like I told you a couple of days ago that we have a lot of new guys that we need to straighten out. When you have young guys that make mistakes you can't put it on the whole offense. You have to kind of gauge that he's a young guy and be patient with that, but the older guys were fine."

The defense has a lot of turnover too. The defensive line is mostly veteran but there are youngsters throughout the two deep. Bill Young came out of practice expecting more than he got and looking for better practices from this point on.

"It's all of that, it's kind of all of that," said Young when asked if he was looking more at players knowing where they should be or how hard they need to compete. "You can get somebody off the street and get them to carry out assignments but you have to give great effort and get off blocks and make tackles, so it is a little bit of all of that.

"There is that anxiety in a first practice where they are holding back and not giving that kind of effort you want them to give. We are going to be fine, we really are, but this was not a satisfactory practice for us today," Young added.

The third area -- finding which young players may contribute this fall -- will take some time, maybe a week to 10 days. Many of those jobs open to young players will come on special teams where Joe DeForest has a "Help Wanted" sign up.

Gundy also said corners and receivers of all ages have plenty of opportunities on this team. Gundy was on the prowl for those young players in practice and was anxious to get feedback from his assistants on those newcomers as well.

"Obviously, I'm moving around and don't talk to them a lot during practice,"' said Gundy. "I think they are interested in seeing the first-year players and what they can accomplish early to give us some depth. What they can show in order to get some other guys in. That is a goal for the first 10 to 12 days. I saw a lot of different faces in there today."

The rest of Friday was filled with meetings, lifting, and walk throughs as there is plenty to cover before practice number two bright and early at 9 a.m. Saturday.

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