Cowboy Practice Report: Day 4

STILLWATER - For the second day in a row it was hard to tell it was Monday morning rather than a typical August afternoon in Oklahoma. By 9 a.m. the temperature was in the mid-90s and in the 10 o'clock hour it was more than 100 degrees, causing the last hour and 20 minutes of the fifth practice to be officially classified as a heater.

Head coach Mike Gundy is adament about pushing through the conditions and with no two-a-days workouts scheduled until Friday (by the way it is anticipated that the high of the week around 107 degrees will be Friday) that his players have time the rest of the day to drink lots of fluids, eat the training table, and recover.

Another reason that Gundy is comfortable pushing this group is what they accomplished over the summer with strength and conditioning coordinator Rob Glass.

"Coach Glass pushed them really hard this summer," said the head coach. "We wanted to instill that toughness in them that we've had for a number of years here. We still believe that we have to be a tough football team both mentally and physically, no matter how experienced you are. We like the guys we have in the program and we expect them to play well and to play early."

As for the workout Monday, it was similar to Sunday except reportedly the linemen got after it more. There was some one-on-one work between the offensive and defensive lines and that kind of work will really heat up Tuesday when the full pads come on.

There is no doubt that offensive line coach Joe Wickline has his work cut out for him with replacing four offensive line starters. Three of those four starters from a year ago, including Russell Okung (first-round pick signing for $58.1 million), and one backup from last season (Andrew Mitchell) are in NFL training camps competing for jobs.

Only Lane Taylor is back and playing left guard for now. At this time it looks like Grant Garner is at center with Andrew Morgan at right guard. Jonathan Rush is in the middle of the competition at guard. The three top tackles are Nick Martinez at left tackle, Levy Adcock at right tackle, and Parker Graham pushing both of them. There are others like Brandon Webb, Casey LaBrue and Patrick Hoog competing for playing time.

Wickline says he will have it under control when the Cowboys open the season Sept. 4.

"We've got a ways to go," said Wickline. "I'm not going to sit here and tell you we are ready for a BCS bowl anytime soon. We have a ways to go but you just can't create that and say remember that game two years ago when they ran that defense.

"You have to go out there and work hard and develop guys and get them ready even if they are not ready to. That is not the issue at hand. The issue at hand is that we are going to kick the ball off in September and we have to have five, six, seven guys that fit that bill."

Gundy has great faith in Wickline and has for a long time. He also knows that in fall camp he is liable to look over at anytime and see different combinations up front on offense. It is the way "Wick" works. Gundy also feels that Wickline is happy with his group of players to forge the line from.

"I think he likes the players that he has," said Gundy. "He likes their work ethic, their demeanor. I think he likes their athleticism. Joe's coached a long time and he has a good feel for how much pressure and how hard to push these young guys. I think he knows how to handle them.

"I think he's aware that they're going to make mistakes but he knows that they'll continue to get better and they'll work hard and from this point on all throughout the season they'll continue to get better each day," Gundy added.

The offensive linemen competing for the jobs believe two things. Number one, this offense is easier to learn and easier to play. They also believe that Wickline will push them to extremes to find out who is going to survive to play in this offense.

"In the game I think it is true, but in practice I think it is myth," said Levy Adcock of whether the offense is easier on offensive linemen. "We get four times as many reps done in each practice and you just keep going and it is nonstop. I think in game situations it is easier.

"As far as Coach Wickline, he is a very intelligent man when it comes to football and he knows everything there is to know about it. When he says things, we just soak it in," Adcock added.

"One hundred percent it is easier," said Garner. "There are a lot less plays, different variation and different blocks but only a few plays and the terminology of the system is easier. It is a new offense but the same (offensive line) coach."

"You can't play safe and you can't play soft," said Rush, who twice has been set to start only to get injured. "I think for people to think we'll be down because we are replacing four starters, I think that is a default answer. I don't think people really know about the guys that are stepping up to play, and with Wick's type of coaching he makes it like a den of lions."

I think all Cowboy fans on Sept. 4 will be happy if the Cowboys have a group of lions on the offensive line.

The reports were the offense had a better go of it overall during Monday's day. However, freshman corner Justin Gilbert continued to impress with a couple of picks in the practice.

The emphasis in special teams work was on kickoff return, and special teams coordinator Joe DeForest said he thought it went well. DeForest is a stickler for assignments and is a good creator when it comes to kickoff returns. He said for right now Gilbert, fellow freshman running back Joe Randle, along with veteran Kendall Hunter, were returning the kickoffs.

Full pads come on for the first time in fall camp Tuesday with another 9 a.m. start for practice on the grass practice fields east of Gallagher-Iba Arena. Practices are closed for now to the general public.

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