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OSU Football: Cowboys Preview Spring Session

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STILLWATER, Oklahoma -

Oklahoma State football coach Mike Gundy and selected members of the team visited with the media on Monday in Boone Pickens Stadium to preview the team's spring practice session. Their comments:

Coach Mike Gundy

Opening statement

"We're back at it. It's a fun time of the year for us to be able to get back out on the field for 15 practices with our players. We've had good winter conditioning. Obviously, we have some new guys out there with 28 seniors. We've established some leadership and a little bit of team chemistry. We've finally got our staff put together. Coach [Bob] Connelly has been here for a few weeks now and we've had to replace a few young guys; a few graduate assistants on our staff that have moved on and gotten jobs. We've got all of those guys in place. I like the attitude of our team. We've got a long ways to go and a lot of work ahead of us. We've got nice weather the next few days. Obviously, we're going to practice Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and then give the guys off for the break and bring them back and start again. A few roster changes for us: Jake Jenkins and Travis Cross have both graduated. They have good jobs and have decided to move on and go out into the real world. In fact, one of them is going to go to law school and the other one has got a job, so they're moving forward. Lyndell Johnson is not with us anymore for personal reasons. Other than that, the roster is fairly accurate by position. As I said, we're just looking forward to getting out there today and being around the team."

On the outlook of the safety position with Lyndell Johnson leaving

"We're really young with that position. In fact, we're not too deep, so we've got young guys that we've got to develop and bring along. Hopefully, we'll have a player come in from high school that can help us out in the fall. Each year, you have positions where you go through that, and that's one of them this spring."

On the center position

"We don't have a lot of experience, so we'll have guys that we'll have to get out there and give them quality experience in the spring and get them the work they need to develop for the fall. When you're young at that position, you just want to fill it the best you can and get them quality work, the fundamentals, the technique and all of those things so we can run our best offense, and vice-versa on defense. You just don't have the flexibility in the spring. We had 28 departing seniors, so when you have a big class like that, you don't get guys in until the fall, so you run into areas where you're a little thin. As coaches we have to be smart. There's a certain number of reps you want to get. When practice is over, based on that, you can't keep them out there forever. You can't wear guys down that are healthy. So there are a few positions we'll have to be careful with during the spring."

On the Orange Blitz in place of the spring football game

"We need to practice. We're a young football team and there's not a lot of maturity. We think it's best for our team, and I think it's best for the fans, in my opinion. That's why we established in that early stage what we wanted to do. We have to plan. We can't just decide one week out what we want to do. I have to make a decision. I listen to the staff, obviously, so at some point I have to make a decision based on what's best for our team first and then our fans and people that follow us second. When you take things into consideration where we're at, thin at some positions, you guys know. When you have a spring game, you've got to divide teams up and go almost two deep on each team. You start switching jerseys and it becomes not really a very attractive game for the fans. I thought what would be best for us was to have another practice. I know that that's best for our football team because we need the practice, and then it would give our fans the opportunity for our fans to see stuff they want to see, the new quarterbacks, the running backs, young receivers, the junior college transfers. That setting, in our opinion, is better than a watered down spring game."

On how new offensive line coach Bob Connelly is fitting in

"It seems to be going very well. He's experienced in coaching at a high level and he understands our tempo, our style of offense. He has the same schemes and the same philosophy with what we think is best for Oklahoma State's offense. I like his work habits. He's from Texas and he's recruited from Texas. There were a lot of things that he brought to the table that really fit our program."

On young players getting the opportunity to win spots

"We're deep at the running back spot in the fall, not right now because a couple of guys aren't playing. We're very deep at the defensive line spot. We've got some young safeties and a lot of guys who are going to get the chance to play. At the wide receiver spot we have a lot of guys running around out there. There are a lot of young guys who are going to get a lot of reps in the next three to four weeks."

On what they expect from J.W. Walsh

"J.W. always has had great leadership and we want him to have a great feel for what we want to accomplish on offense from a read standpoint, footwork fundamentals, things that he can control. That's with all of our quarterbacks. There is a number that are going to be out there in the spring and J.W. brings experience to the table. J.W. will be the guy that goes out there first this year because he has the most experience, but those other quarterbacks will get a chance. They have to bring leadership and toughness and we want the other players to rally around them. We have a lot of work ahead of us as an offensive football team at that position. We also have a plan in place and I feel comfortable with that plan and we know which direction we want to go and we know how to get there. It's just going to take a lot of work."

Offensive Coordinator Mike Yurcich

On the difficulty of having five quarterbacks in the spring

"It's difficult because there are only so many reps to go around. You can't get all five guys significant reps. You have to make sure you're doing a good job of selecting the top guys and making a run of it. Everything is important. From individual drills, to our seven-on-seven, to team drills, everything is evaluated and will all factor in to who gets the reps and how the depth chart changes."

On what he expects regarding the evolution of the offense from last season

"I expect improvement and effort. We want to make more big plays. Those are all things we will talk about and stress. That's hopefully where we will see the offense evolving – production. The offense will look very similar to last season. I'm not going sit here and predict how the depth chart will look here on day one. That will all take care of itself. Production will be rewarded at every position and we will go from there. Every day will be evaluated."

On working with new offensive line coach Bob Connelly

"We've worked together every day since he was hired, which is going on a month now. We've been working to get on the same page, talking, looking at as much film as we can and breaking it down. Those are all very important when you have any coach who is new to the program."

Defensive Coordinator Glenn Spencer

On how he feels about the defense going into the spring

"It's a 180 degree flip from when I was sitting here last year. I probably said the appropriate things, but inside I knew we had a chance to be really good. Right now, we aren't very good, but that's just today. Technically, we lost seven guys, but lost more when you factor in guys who may not have started, but played a lot of crucial snaps for us."

On the lack of experience on the defensive side

"We have a lot of guys who are unproven. In the defensive backfield, we have one guy who has been in some battles, but the rest are unproven. It starts today. It's a similar situation at linebacker. On the defensive line, it's standard for this kind of a program to have eight defensive linemen you can rotate. Two guys make one. When it's a crucial time, you make sure you have what you would consider your best out there, but the other guys still play just as much. If you asked me which part of the defense I feel best about, it would be the front four because we have guys who have done well against good competition."

On the pros and cons of coaching a unit with so much offseason turnover

"It's fun, but you worry. You worry because today, we aren't very good. However, today, we aren't keeping score. We have many opportunities to get these unproven guys ready to compete. The best part is these young guys are hungry to compete and hungry to learn. They're like sponges. As a coaching staff, with a young unit we can really hammer our core values and philosophies into these guys."

Linebacker Ryan Simmons

On the offseason

"It's going good. We had some good training this offseason and now we're about to start spring ball. The guys are ready to go. They're all motivated and hungry to be the best team."

On how the team looks

"We have a lot of new faces. They're hungry. They're very motivated to have the opportunities to show what we have. Some guys are going to have to come in this year, make a name for themselves and get an opportunity. It's wide open among pretty much every position. The entire defense, we're all together. We know that at the end of the day, when we're on the field, we're going to give it our best. We know that if we trust in one another then we know that we're going to give it our all."

On being the old guy on the defense

"It's just the way it is. I'm just going to try to carry on from what it was last year – the togetherness and the team camaraderie and making sure we stay close together as a team."

Cornerback Kevin Peterson

On the team this year

"There's going to be a transition phase because there's going to be some guys who didn't get to play last year, but then again athletes are athletes. Those guys are going to come in and there's going to be a transition phase, but we're going to play at the same level that we did."

On if there's been competition during the offseason

"Yeah. There's competition even when there aren't spots and there were more guys trying to solidify their spots, but now everybody's spot is open, even mine. We have a lot of corners coming in and so the competition in spring ball, it may take us a day or two, is going to be flying around hitting people. I think the competition is going to be at a really high level."

On keeping the aggressiveness up from last year

"Yeah, I know from last year's spring ball it's time to get guys rolling on the ball. We're going to be attacking and we're going to be more aggressive, so I think this year in spring ball is really going to show that."

Receiver Jhajuan Seales

On filling in for last year's receivers

"They taught us a lot and we get to follow in their footsteps. They taught how to play through adversity and really play together. I think our offense will be the same. People just have to step up and fill in for Tracy [Moore] and Charlie [Moore] and those guys."

On welcoming new players into spring practice

"It's great to come into spring to do it because we haven't really played with the ball much. It will be great to get around with the DBs and run around and do drills."

Receiver Austin Hays

On how he's feeling coming back from an injury

"I'm feeling pretty good right now so we're just going to take it easy. I'm excited. It's frustrating not being able to do a whole lot during the year. It's a new year and I've gotten healthy now so I'm looking forward to it."

On how frustrating it is not to play due to an injury

"It's frustrating. It just gets old because you want to be out there so bad, but at the same time if you can't do it, you can't do it. It was tough watching them on TV since you don't get to travel or suit up. It's frustrating."

On when he realized he was done for the season

"I kept thinking I was going to come back, but it just kept going on and on. Finally, I just accepted it once we got past the midway point of the season."

On what he thinks of the receiving core

"We're very athletic and young and we have a lot of people who have played, but not a whole lot. I think Jhajuan [Seales] is the only one who started every game. David [Glidden], Marcell [Ateman] and Blake Webb started a little bit and we've got Ra'Shaad [Samples] coming on so we're excited."

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