Big 12: Oklahoma State practice 090813

Gundy says OSU still needs good fortune to fulfill BCS hopes

August, 13, 2009
8/13/09
9:53
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

STILLWATER, Okla. -- Sometimes, it's better to be lucky than good.

Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy knows that. And he believes a healthy dose of good fortune will help his team in its quest for its first South Division title and first BCS bowl appearance.

All of those goals appeared to be pipe dreams when Gundy arrived three seasons ago.

His team is making steps to get to the level where it can be competitive every season.

"I've never strayed away from saying you need a few breaks and you need to get a few breaks at times," Gundy said. "If you look at the teams that have not been in the top five and then won it all, they were all extremely lucky."

Look back to the 2000 Oklahoma team that won the national championship. That Sooner team did not have a starter miss a game during the entire season.

The Cowboys are closer to matching the talent of traditional South powers Texas and Oklahoma.

But Gundy is smart enough to know that his team could not withstand a devastating run of misfortune and have any hopes of being ranked -- much less keep its lofty preseason ranking that ranks as the best in school history.

"I don't think we have enough depth to play a season if we had some unfortunate luck and some key injuries," Gundy said. "But we do have enough players to be in every game on Saturday."

That wasn't the case when Gundy first arrived in 2005. That Cowboy team struggled to a 4-7 record that included four conference road losses by an average of 26 points.

The talent has been upgraded with All-American starters like Kendall Hunter, Dez Bryant, Russell Okung and Perrish Cox in place. Quarterback Zac Robinson rivals Gundy and Josh Fields as the greatest Oklahoma State quarterbacks of the modern era.

But depth will be the biggest factor in determining if this Oklahoma State team lives up to its lofty early expectations.

"Our depth is much better than it was three years ago," Gundy said. "But to say we're two-deep across the board, we're still not there yet. And that's ultimately where we would like to be."

Gundy amazed at OSU's facility transformation

August, 13, 2009
8/13/09
9:28
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

STILLWATER, Okla. -- Mike Gundy never imagined he could be coaching in a facility that looks as nice as Boone Pickens Stadium now does.

It even has the smell of a new house -- from entering the coaches' offices to the player locker rooms and the new luxury suites.    

When Gundy played at Oklahoma State in the late 1980s, his school admittedly had some of the worst facilities of the old Big Eight Conference at Lewis Field. Finding a place to eat at lunchtime with his teammates at their training center was a special challenge.

"We used to find a place to get a hamburger and look to bring it back here, there just wasn't much here," Gundy said as he surveyed the Cowboys' gleaming new cafeteria inside the renovated stadium.

"This is a huge change."

That might be one of the biggest understatements in recent college football history.

Gundy is coaching at arguably the most exhilarating period in the school's athletic history with a $283 million renovation of the school's football facilities finally finishing up.

He's got the kind of tools and trinkets he could only dream of during his career as a player.

"It's very exciting," Gundy said as he sat inn expansive office that looked like it should be used for an advertising executive instead of a football coach. "The coaches on our staff, other guys who have been around here, it means more to us because we've seen it the other way.

"We've been here when we were winning with close to the worst facilities in the league. Now, we're working in a building like this."

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Booker ready to contribute to OSU defense

August, 13, 2009
8/13/09
6:08
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

STILLWATER, Okla. -- One of the revelations for Oklahoma State this Fall has been the growth of middle linebacker Donald Booker, who is thriving in new coordinator Bill Young's retooled defense.

Booker, a former junior-college All-American at Navarro Junior College, had trouble getting acclimated last season, making only 32 tackles in 13 games for the Cowboys as a junior.

"He typifies what happens to a lot of junior college players," Young said."They come in after playing in a relatively simple system and now they are in one that's a lot more complex. They are playing with guys who are bigger and faster and stronger. It's tough for them sometimes to get settled."  

But Young's new defense has brought out some of the productivity that helped make Booker one of the nation's most heralded junior-college recruits in 2007, when he led the nation with 161 tackles.

Added to returning nucleus of senior starters Patrick Lavine, Orie Lemon and Andre Sexton, it's helped make the Cowboys' quartet of linebackers a pleasant surprise for Young in his early work with the Cowboys defense.

But Booker, a physical 5-foot-11, 235-pounder who has always turned heads with his hitting, has the kind of ability that could provide more of a physical presence to the middle of the Cowboys' defense.

"It's too bad he doesn't have three years to play with us rather that two," Young said. "That ideally would have let us bring him the first year and just get him ready."

Gundy looks to toughen up Cowboys

August, 13, 2009
8/13/09
5:21
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

STILLWATER, Okla. -- The loud cracking of pads resonated across Oklahoma State's practice fields Thursday as the one-on-one hitting contest brought to an end another physiclaly grueling practice.

Coach Mike Gundy has racheted up the physical demands throughout fall practice and Thursday morning's practice was punctuated with a brutal run of "nutcracker drills" where Oklahoma State offensive and defensive players gathered in a circle at the end of practice. Almost like clockwork, players lined up in more hitting contests inside the circle while their teammates roared and cheered for their unit's victories.

"It brings a lot of toughness out of you," said tailback Kendall Hunter, who got his time in the circle despite leading the Big 12 in rushing last season. "We go against linebackers and defensive backs all the time. It's good for us to get ready for the season."

Some of the impetus to improve on toughness came at the end of last season, when the Cowboys were outhit late in their Holiday Bowl loss to Oregon.

Oklahoma State players were embarrassed by that performance and have put a priority on developing more physical play.

"They feel uncomfortable with getting outphysicaled in the fourth quarter of the bowl game," Gundy said. "They weren't exactly fired up with that."

No Cowboys are immune from their chances at the drill. Key performers like Dez Bryant and Hunter all got their their shot in the bull ring on Thursday. Bryant's excitement at the physical nature was readily apparent when he wanted to take more turns in the circle than coaches felt that he needed.

"Dez is just so competitive," Gundy said. "In the drill at the end of practice, he wanted to be in there all he could. But that drill isn't made for him. It's for young kids to develop their toughness and for our veterans to get one quick shot and get out.

"Dez had been in there two times and wanted to back in again. He wanted to be in there all he could be."

Gundy didn't aplogize for the hitting and thinks it will benefit his team as the season progresses.   

"We've been pretty physical. We've got guys who are beat up, but that's the way it is. I don't like that, but the risk reward is greater we think."

Battle over backup QB continues at OSU

August, 13, 2009
8/13/09
4:40
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

STILLWATER, Okla. -- Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said that Zac Robinson's lingering leg injury could end up helping his team in the long run.

Alex Cate and Brandon Weeden have been involved in a lengthy battle for the backup QB spot.

By giving both backups extended playing time in Saturday's scrimmage, Gundy believes that one player could emerge as Robinson's primary backup with a strong, decisive performance.

Gundy said Robinson could play immediately if he needed, but prefers to let the competition continue between the two backups through the weekend.

"This is for the other guys," Gundy said. "It's good for our staff to learn how to adjust and make changes with these quarterbacks. It's good for them that they have to do it and that won't be there to save the day."

Weeden, who played five seasons of minor-league baseball, will turn 26 in October. His college football experience has been limited to only one game with the Cowboys, completing 1-of-3 passes for 8 yards last year.

Cate played in four games last season and one in 2007, attempting a combined five passes and completing four of them for 56 yards.

"Somebody has to take the job," Gundy said. "Right now they are both competing every day."

The lack of one backup quarterback jumping past the other has been frustrating for Gundy as he tries to settle on his No. 2 selection behind Robinson.

"It does irritate me somewhat. People look at it as a plus, but I look at it that we've been doing it for two years," Gundy said. "At times, it does upset me. But that's not something I can change. They have to do that."

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