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|QB Bobby Reid is happy with his development late last season.|
Those strong numbers are a big improvement from his injury-riddled freshman season, when he completed only 48.1 percent of his passes and threw more interceptions (four) than touchdown passes (two).
"He was in a difficult situation when he got here," Gundy said. "He was one of the top five recruits in the country, and everybody expected him to everything fast. He got better last year, but what we accomplished last season is over with."
Big 12 notebook
"I made a big jump when I looked at the film of the first game to what we looked like against Alabama," Reid said. "I've been watching my cutups [film study] and saw how I held the ball or how I could have done things differently early in the season. Towards the end of the year, I started understanding how things are. It showed. I was pretty happy with my development."
Reid's productivity mirrored that of the OSU offense. The Cowboys improved by 15 points and 85 yards per game from 2005 to last season. OSU joined Boise State as the only team nationally that averaged more than 200 yards rushing and passing last year.As much excitement as Reid may have taken from last season's 7-6 finish, he realizes how close the Cowboys were to accomplishing something very special. OSU lost four games in which it had a chance to win the game on the final play. Gundy has used the close losses as one of his primary teaching points throughout the winter. "There's no doubt we were really only about six minutes away from winning 10 games last year," Gundy said. "We use that to make our players realize how close we came to winning the South Division. We want to put ourselves in position to win those kind of games." The Cowboys have gravitated to that mantra, emphasizing their near misses as they prepared for the spring. "Everything we did was based on those six minutes," Reid said. "[Strength coach Rob Glass] emphasized it in every drill we had -- six minutes for this or that. It made us work harder and really stuck in our heads. Guys were [angry] about how close we were last year and the fact we didn't quite get there. We really used it to hype us up."
A big spring will be important as the Cowboys prepare for a difficult 2007 schedule. Included in their first three games will be tough road games at two opponents who made bowl trips last season, Georgia and Troy.As much firepower as the Cowboys have coming back, their season will depend on the improvement of the defense, which returns seven starters but has ranked no higher than 64th in total defense nationally since 2000.
|Reid was a threat running the ball in 2006 (500 rushing yards and five TDs).|
"We want to be a tougher football team," Gundy said. "That starts with the way the defensive team plays. I want the other team to know they have been hit when we strike them. We want our defense to chase the ball, hit and block. I want a tough defense that will force plays."The Cowboys are in the middle of an on-campus construction boon funded by gifts headed by billionaire OSU supporter T. Boone Pickens, who donated $165 million to the school's athletic program last year. "Things are moving fast with our facilities, and we've been able to put together a couple of strong recruiting classes back-to-back," Gundy said. "They are aware they are going to have some of the best football facilities, and winning has started making a difference. The excitement level around the program is higher than it has been before."
Pickens flatly predicted when interviewed on the sideline during the Independence Bowl that the Cowboys one day would be frequent participants in the Bowl Championship Series. That would be a huge step for a program that has made just one trip to a current BCS bowl -- an appearance at the 1974 Fiesta Bowl long before that bowl was considered among the most prestigious postseason games.Even with that pressure, Gundy is excited about the future of his program. "That's exactly what you want -- people who are involved to support the team. We want them to think the same way we do," he said. "We have a plan to develop into a consistent Top 25 team that plays in BCS bowls. With the addition of our new facilities and the commitment we have, we've got a way to get there. And if we stay on track and not get in a hurry, we'll develop into a Top 25 team. It can happen."
Tim Griffin covers the Big 12 for the San Antonio Express-News.