August 5, 2009

The heat is on! First practice a scorcher

With the stunning stature of the West End Zone casting its shadow across the playing field and the muggy heat of an August afternoon smothering the air, Oklahoma State's 2009 season unofficially got underway in the form of the first practice of the fall.

Originally scheduled for the practice field, an early afternoon thunderstorm forced a move to the turf at Boone Pickens Stadium. With four rectangle boxes hanging around them in every direction, the Cowboys got back in the swing of things in preparation for what possibly could be the biggest season in OSU history.

With only the first hour of practice open to fans and media, it's tough to get a feel for too much. That said, after practice head coach Mike Gundy spoke about the initial workout of the fall and touched on a variety of topics.

The workout went about two hours and thirty minutes. With a lack of wind and the return of sweltering temperatures, the Pokes were exposed to harsh conditions their first time out for the year. But what they faced today could very well be what they face on Sept. 5, when Georgia rolls into Stillwater for a slated 2:30 p.m. kickoff.

"It was a good day to get started, Gundy said. "It was nice and warm and we had an earlier (rain) shower so we got to come and practice on the turf where it was about 125 degrees so it was perfect. But the players held up very well. Obviously coach (Rob) Glass has done a great job this summer and they're in very good condition. There was a lot of adrenaline flowing and players moving around - great leadership. We have 28 more, but we certainly have to get better. But I thought for the first day, getting everybody back in organization and the flow of practice was very good."

But that's just one practice down, a bushel to go. The true test of where the players are endurance-wise won't come just yet.

"We'll find out in about 10 days," Gundy said. "I have a feeling these guys are in good shape. There is not a lot of body fat out there. We're proud of them for what they've been able to do at this point but we've got a long ways to go."

What about their performance in drills?

"For the most part it was good," he said. "At times we start to evaluate freshmen or redshirt freshman - which is not fair - just because they know the plays because they've been here all summer and in most cases they'd be standing over there drinking water and they wouldn't be out there. So the mistakes of fundamentals and X's and O's were made by young guys. The first two units, in most cases, played pretty well."

At the start of any season, there's always the question of which player or players could step up and really make their presence known on the field. When asked who might be able to accomplish that this year, Gundy reeled off a couple of names.

"I think Justin Blackmon is going to have a chance to compete and make plays for us early. Terrence Anderson has been around a long time but has really done a nice job over the past six months. Donald Booker has done better. He's starting to show up. has done a nice job at the safety spot. So we've had a number of guys that have started to step up, but what happens is that we'll really find out in the next 10 days if they stay healthy and compete with pads and tackle and get physical and things like that."

The first day of full-pads practice is slated for this Sunday.

After practice, Gundy was asked about the status of [db]Damien Davis. He responded with a quick, head-on detailed answer of the receiver's status in the program.

"Damien is on the team," Gundy said. "He's suspended from playing. He is no longer on scholarship and he has chosen to pay for his own education and get back in good standing with the team."

Essentially, Davis is in the same "do better" purgatory as Jeremy Nethon had toiled in.

"That's exactly right. And I hope he ends up like Nethon. Damien is a good guy that just didn't abide by some things that we think are important in being on our football team. And he deserves an opportunity to correct those things and make himself better, his life better and our football team better in the future. So he's still a part of our team but he won't compete with us this fall."

Much has been made on the boards about the status of quarterback Clint Chelf - will he redshirt or not this season? Wednesday evening, Gundy sounded pretty sure of how the Enid product would spend the '09 campaign.

"I would say there's a really good chance he's going to redshirt," he said. "We're going to throw him out there though (in summer drills) and let him make a bunch of mistakes and correct his mistakes and see what he can do early in camp. But in most cases, running this offense as a true freshman is a difficult thing to do."

In the meantime, OSU fans can start learning how to say his name correctly - maybe. There's some debate as to how to say it.

"Chelf (as in chhhelf) is the last time I got it, "Gundy said. You know his brother (Colton) is on the team and he pronounces it differently. One of the boys says 'chhhelf' and the other one says 'shelf,' so I think it just depends on where they were raised in the family.

What new faces will step up to replace Steve Denning and David Washington as starters on the offensive line? A couple of names were thrown out there - Noah Franklin and Jonathan Rush were names batted about.

"I would say that those guys will be the leaders at this time, but coach Wick is going to put four guys in those two spots and he's going to make them go at it all camp," Gundy said. "They'll go back and forth, I'm sure, depending on how they play each day. It'll be really interesting to watch it. But we like those guys. We like their ability. We like the way that they move their feet; they just don't have as much experience as the other guys."

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