Cowboy Practice Report: Day 8

STILLWATER - Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy celebrated his 43rd birthday on Thursday, but the presents came to his football team on Friday. On the first scheduled day of two-a-days, Gundy let his players and even the staff sleep in. Offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen, claiming not to be a morning guy, said he slept in until 8 or 8:30.

The team did have meetings and a walk through in the afternoon before hitting the practice field at 6:30 p.m. for a short, primarily special teams practice. There were individual drills and some team, but it was mostly special teams. The team worked out in helmets, jerseys, and shorts.

It was also nice because with all the morning practices you forget about that shade later in the day that Gallagher-Iba Arena provides. It was still warm as the breeze felt like that breeze you get on a July night when you are standing next to the grill.

Gundy changed the schedule, according to sources, for several reasons. He has been happy with the effort and the progress of his team. He is well aware of the toll the heat of this week can take on a team. The lighter day will also buoy the legs and energy as the team prepares for the first major scrimmage on Saturday night.

While both sides of the ball had their high points in the first week, the offense has, maybe, been running ahead of the defense some during the first week of fall camp.

That could be considered unusual in that offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen is in his first season and is installing his offense, while defensive coordinator Bill Young is in his second year with many of the front line players having played a good number of snaps last season.

A lot of oklahoma state fans have been curious about how the offense was installed and it is that process along with the relative simplicity of the offense that is the key to the offense running fairly smooth.

As the Cowboys head into the second week of fall camp, Holgorsen has actually installed his offense close to six times, and that doesn't count the time the players themselves under the leadership of quarterback Brandon Weeden spent on it this summer.

Holgorsen explains that he has the installation of the offense broken down into three practices. In the spring he repeated the process every three practices, getting in four installations before working toward the spring game. Now in fall camp the offense has been installed twice in the first six practices.

Holgorsen has been happy with the attention the offensive players have taken to learning and getting it right. While there are not as many plays as the previous offense, there are a wide range of looks, options built in off reads that require the players to pay attention, be disciplined and stay on the same page with each other.

In particular it is the wide receivers that must master this attack along with the quarterbacks. He feels for the most part that they all are.

"I think so," said Holgorsen. "They have a chance to make a bunch of plays. We can't just play with four receivers, we're looking for four more guys who need to step up and be in position to be those second team guys who will push those starters for playing time and starting time. It takes more than four; you've got to have two at each position."

Inside receivers coach Doug Meacham agrees. Meacham had coached tight ends but this is an offensive style that he coached as an offensive coordinator after picking up on it from Hal Mumme at Valdosta State when Holgorsen was also working under Mumme and Leach. Holgorsen was there from 1991 to 1993 and Meacham took that offense and used it at Georgia Military, Jacksonville State, and Henderson State.

"I'm seeing the light starting to come on for guys a little bit. In terms of schematics, I think they understand their assignment work," said Meacham of his players at inside receiver.

"Now we're starting to see guys fine-tuning their route running and pinpointing different kinds of coverages and things like that. In terms of specific routes or blocking assignments, I think they have a full understanding of all our schematics.

"Now it's getting to the point where you're honing in on the quarterback and receivers getting on the same page with particular things and really just understanding the variety of adjustments that you make in certain coverages. The wheels are turning at a faster rate right now and we're only going to get better from here because the foundation of the offense is in and they understand and they know it," added Meacham.

The quarterbacks, both starter and 26-year-old veteran of two halves of Division I football Brandon Weeden and freshman Johnny Deaton, improve every day. Weeden is really encouraged with the progress of the offense.

"It really is and I feel like the ones are all on the same page," said Weeden. "We're not making a lot of mistakes, and the mistakes we make are going full speed. Even better, when we make a mistake and then correct it we don't make it again. If you can get going in this offense and not repeat mistakes then you are making progress. That is a big deal.'

As for the offensive line, Weeden said they have exceeded his expectations.

"The first three days I stood back there and never felt any pressure," said Weeden. "I realize it won't always be like that on Saturdays but I am complimenting those guys. They are doing a great job.

"Yesterday, Grant (center Grant Garner) was apologizing to me for pressure up the middle. I said, that is going to happen. They have really stepped up to the task and I am happy."

Weeden said he has worked hard on his pocket presence and making the plays hanging in the pocket. The other part of the equation is back to the receivers, both those inside and wide. They have to make the right reads, stay on the same page, and make the plays.

"They are making those plays and not repeating mistakes," said Weeden. "They are my guys and (Josh) Cooper is running good routes. Isaiah (Andeerson) and Tracy (Moore) are making plays, big plays. They are all doing really well."

The Oklahoma State offense really gets to test itself in the first full scrimmage of the fall camp Saturday. We will have a report on the scrimmage Saturday night.

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