On the heels of another 10-win season, Oklahoma State looks to challenge for the Big 12 championship this year.
The Cowboys, who have one of the best offenses in the league and the nation, are looking to plug a few holes and bolster depth during spring drills.
“We have a certain number of players that you all are familiar with: (quarterback) Mason (Rudolph), James Washington, Jarrell Owens, Tre Flowers, Chris Lacy, (Jalen) McCleskey,” said OSU coach Mike Gundy. “Guys that, at our level, we would call veteran players. They need to get some quality work and we need to get them out so the second wave of players, who could have been redshirted, that haven’t had as much experience and need to give 30 to 40 plays a game, they need spring ball.
“There’s a difference there. That’s where I think most coaches and teams across the country have changed. When I was playing, we got all of the reps. Now we go back to – if you’re somewhat of a proven starter, we’re going to lessen the load on your body and give the young guys some quality work. Then we’ll try to simulate a game the best that we can, as we do at the end of practice every day for 50 plays.”
Running Back Jeff Carr is hoping his work in the weight room will pay off in more playing time.
“I’m a little bit more physical when I’m running the ball now,” Carr said. “I’m more physical when I starting running down hill and even when I don’t get the ball.
“I obviously want to earn more playing time and I’m going to come out here and give it all I got just like last year.”
Rudolph, a pro prospect who decided to return for another season, teams with receiver James Washington and running back Justice Hill to former a potent trio on offense. All are proven performers.
Transfer Tyron Johnson should add some quality depth this fall.
“Tyron’s done good,” Gundy said. “He has done great for us. He has bought into the OSU culture, the Cowboy culture. He’s been really good. It’s early, and my coach told me a long time ago to be careful about drinking the Kool-Aid too early, but to this point, he’s been pretty impressive in practice with some of the plays he’s made.”
The offensive line could be the key to the success of the skill players.
“That’s an interesting group, obviously with losing Victor (Salako) and Mike (Wilson), but we have a quality group back,” Gundy said. “(Larry) comes back as one of the veteran players because he played for about six games. Then we have that second wave that I was talking about who need to get some quality work. (Brad) Lundblade is back practicing full speed. He’s an example of a guy that won’t get a lot of work because we know what we’re going to get out of him. The other guys have an advantage because we have terrific skill on the perimeter and that makes their lives a lot easier, from a physical standpoint. Mentally, they can get a lot of different things if people feel like they’re backed into a corner and they’ve got to take chances to slow these guys down.”
Offensive lineman Dylan Galloway has been impressive.
“… I think his credentials, measurements, movement, cerebral capability to learn and understand, his toughness is all very good,” said Gundy. “He’s showing some promise there, and we hope that he stays healthy because he’s got some of the numbers of a guy that could play early. We’ll need him to play early.”
Offensive line coach Josh Henson returned to Oklahoma State, his alma mater, in February.
“Things are going well,” Henson said. “The kids are working extremely hard and I like their passion and the way they’re into learning and getting better. We’ve got a lot of work to do. A lot of technique work. We’ve also got to work on finishing and getting our intensity up, but I like the way they’re working and that’s all you can ask.”
Henson understands that lineman love it when their work pays off in big plays.
“When you’re an offensive lineman and you only have to pass protect one time and it goes 80 yards for a touchdown, that’s pretty nice, as opposed to having drop back 10 times,” Henson said. “It’s a pretty good deal for us to have so many great skill players, but it’s our job to make it easier for them too.”
Henson is glad to be back in Stillwater. He left LSU after former OSU coach Les Miles was fired.
“I hated the timing of it just for the way things worked out, but this is my home and this is where I want to be,” Henson said. “This is a dream come true for me to play on the offensive line here and to now be those guys’ coach. Now it’s about transition to getting those guys to work and making it the best that it can be.”
On defense, Ramon Richards has moved to safety this spring.
“We can tell a little better because we do a lot of 7-on-7 where they don’t have pads on and he seems to be doing fine,” Gundy said. “My personal opinion, I’m not a defensive guy, but he’s better out there roaming around than he is locked into a certain area. He’s like one of those people that you work with that you’re talking to and they never look at you because they’re thinking about something else and working over here on something. That’s how Ramon is, so he’s better roaming around and freelancing and seeing what’s going on out there.”
OSU defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer wants improvement in the Cowboy pass defense this fall.
“They’ve got some ability, but they need to be tested,” Spencer said of his defensive backs. “They need to get thrown in the frying pan and Lord knows they are out here with the guys that they are practicing against. I’m very pleased with them though. We gave up way too many big plays a couple of practices ago, but we trimmed that down quite considerably the next day so they’re learning. Like anything in life, you learn from failure and your mistakes, but that’s why we practice. I’m very happy with their effort.”
Spencer’s strategy is to foster a culture of toughness on defense in spring drills.
“You hear it a lot these days, but it’s about the process of establishing our culture and exploring the dynamics of how we play and how fast and violent we are on our side of the ball,” Spencer said. “Learning how we chase the ball down is the first thing that has to happen. We always want to be a team that hawks the ball and finds ways to get turnovers and change the field. We also want to get the new guys involved so that we can establish some depth and find out who is ready to have a role in the fall. That’s a work in process, but after 15 practices you’re closer to that at least.”
Trey Carter has switched from defensive end to tackle this spring.
“We changed my position from defensive end to nose guard,” Carter said. “Basically, it’s just learning the plays and getting in the reps at the position. I talked to Vincent Taylor about the position a little bit because it’s a new position for me going from outside to inside. Mostly it was about the physical part for me though.”