Cowboy Practice Report: Thursday

STILLWATER - The last couple of days of practice in fall camp might have been considered the wall as the Oklahoma State Cowboys were fighting through a mixed bag that included stormy weather on Tuesday. But if the last two day were some sort of wall then by all reports the Cowboys climbed over the wall Thursday morning with a strong practice on the grass practice fields east of Gllagher-Iba Arena.

Practice is closed but reports were it ended on a spectacular play on the goal line when quarterback Brandon Weeden threw up a fade that wide receiver Justin Blackmon reached up and caught with a one-handed snag between two defenders. One observer said it was a Dez Bryant-esque type of catch.

That would be appropriate as Blackmon got more playing time last season and caught a game winner from Weeden on national televsion on an ESPN Thursday night game against Colorado. That one wasn't a fade but was a ball zipped some 28 yards to account for a 31-28 win and complete a second half comeback.

Blackmon, Hubert Anyiam, Josh Cooper, Isaiah Anderson, and even Jeremy Smith in the backfield, got some playing time or more playing time last season because of injuries or Dez Bryant's suspension. That experience has allowed those players and the Cowboys to be further down the road in rebuilding or reloading than would have originally been possible.

"Much further, so much that they are much further along just from an experience standpoint and being in a game and understanding the tempo and what it takes to play at this level," said Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy in discussing the youth but somewhat experienced youth of this football team.

"I use the example all the time, it's like showing up at an NFL camp and you are a rookie or a veteran and if you have had 100 plays in the season before then you are a veteran because you know what it takes, you've traveled with the team, you've handled the pressure."

Even though they are now in a different offense, that experience helps. It also helps that center Grant Garner had to play some as a freshman, Anthony Morgan started the opener with Georgia last season, and Jonathan Rush has twice earned a starting job on the line. Heck, even right tackle Levy Adcoak played some as a blocking tight end last season.

"It helps that those guys got some experience," agreed Gundy.

Now there are also the freshmen and they too can help speed up the process because of the rule that went into effect several years ago allowing freshmen to move in early in the summer and go on scholarship and begin taking classes and adapting to college football.

Cornerback Justin Gilbert, cornerback Devin Hedgepeth (spring arrival), safety Zack Craig, safety Deion Imade, safety Lavocheya Cooper, linebacker Shaun Lewis, linebacker Joe Mitchell (spring arrival), running back Joe Randle, and wide receiver Chris Dinkins have made strong impressions this fall.

Gundy says the rule makes a freshman a real option on the depth chart.

"It allows them the opportunity to play early in the season and gives you a better feel as a coach for trying to get them to the 100 to 150 plays to make it worth their while," said Gundy.

"If they are not here in June or July then they are not going to be in good enough shape and they spend most of camp in getting in good physical condition, which at times can derail them a little bit mentally. If they get here and get into good physical condition then they have a chance to play as a freshman," Gundy added.

The biggest need position on the team to help the depth is defensive tackle, and now a freshman has come the rescue.

"We've got Davidell (Collins) playing defensive tackle and while we moved him over there, he's helping but it is still slim at that position," said defensive coordinator Bill Young.

Yes, but Collins has done well as of late and he is big, fast, and most of all, eager. The 6-5, 268-pound Collins was fabulous in high school and he is working hard to find fabulous at this level. His coach and teammates will be happy with satisfactory for now.

"Oh, a few guys go out and you have to slide down to the three (technique) and a few guys come back in and you slide down back to defensive end," said co-defensive lineman Cooper Bassett.

"We're thin, trust me, and being out there I appreciate it because I haven't sweat this much in a long time. We had guys falling out and Davidell has moved from defensive end to d-tackle and I kind of feel his pain. He's a young, eager guy and he is going to do whatever it takes to get on the field. He is learning and getting better all the time," added Bassett.

With Shane Jarka and Chris Donaldson as the starters, Collins and Nigel Nicholas backing up, and Anthony Rogers also in the mix, the Cowboys are working to expand at defensive tackle.

"We play a lot of guys on defense," said Gundy. "Coach Young gets those guys in. We rotate those guys in and they get a lot of reps in practice. Offensively, it is really the same way with the skill positions."

The more the merrier and that was the case Thursday with a solid practice. Friday is the final two-a-days of camp with practices at 9 a.m. and 6 p.m.

The Cowboys camp closes with a scrimmage on Saturday evening and with school starting on Monday, all of those players will get Sunday and Monday off before practice resumes on Tuesday.

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