Talking beforehand, defensive coordinator Bill Young said he was in a good mood. He doesn't want to lose any players on the defensive side of the ball and it is defense that is hampered by having two starters, safety Victor Johnson and defensive end Jamie Blatnick, suspended. The two are in camp and are working on the side but are not involved in any football work until head coach Mike Gundy decides otherwise.
"I think we are getting better every day," said Young, who acknowledged that defensive tackle depth is still a major concern, although he feels offensive line convert DeJuan Davis is improving and redshirt freshman Anthony Rogers has come a long way since last spring.
Some of the freshmen that are catching the eyes of the defensive staff include cornerback Justin Gilbert, cornerback Devin Hedgepeth, linebacker Shaun Lewis, linebacker Joe Mitchell, and safety Zach Craig.
Richetti Jones is playing well on the defensive line, along with tackles Shane Jarka and Chris Donaldson. Much is also expected out of returning defensive end Ugo Chinasa, who is getting lots of looks from pro scouts visiting camp. The San Francisco 49ers were the only team taking in Thursday's practice.
Former tight end Cooper Bassett also continues to make progress, according to Young. In the linebacker corps, James Thomas, Justin Gent and Kenny Alexander are also showing up.
In the secondary, safeties Markelle Martin and Johnny Thomas are holding down the spots and leading the way. Another senior, Andrew McGee, as mentioned several times on this site, is really showing a lot of guts and toughness coming back from a broken neck in the Bedlam game of last season. McGee told us he is really excited and pleased with the way camp is going.
Nobody would say the defense is a finished product but the work is going into it and if they stay healthy, and even get some players back (Johnson and Blatnick), the defense could be fine.
Offensively, the practice was good. Quarterbacks Brandon Weeden and Johnny Deaton are both playing well. Deaton improves on a daily basis. The play of the running backs drew attention in the morning with Kendall Hunter, Jeremy Smith, and lots of reps and success for freshman Joseph Randle.
Again, the Cowboys go twice on Friday with practices at 9 a.m. and 5:50 p.m. The morning practice will likely be in helmets, shoulder pads, and shorts. The afternoon may be the same, or helmets and shorts.
The team will have a full scrimmage on Saturday. Unless otherwise notified, all fall practices are closed to the public.