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John Helsley: Power Lunch Chat transcript, August 8, 2012

John Helsley answered questions from readers in today's Power Lunch Chat. Participate in our Power Lunch Chats Monday-Friday at 11 a.m. at NewsOK.com/sports.
by John Helsley Modified: August 8, 2012 at 2:24 pm •  Published: August 8, 2012
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Greetings, from the hotbox we call football preseason in Oklahoma. Your Cowboys are back at it, fresh off the best season in program history and talking about taking not a single step backward, despite the loss of Weeden2Blackmon. There are several rich storylines in camp, which is far different than a year ago when almost everything seemed settled. You’ve got questions. We’ve got answers. Let’s get going.

How is the punt returner competition looking?

This is a question that could linger throughout camp, as nobody seized the job in the spring. David Glidden could be a factor once he’s full speed; he excelled as a return man at Mustang. Josh Stewart, who has some make-you-miss skills, must prove he’s improved in catching the ball. Justin Gilbert is another option. Even true freshman Caleb Muncrief has gotten some looks. The Cowboys weren’t very good at punt returns a year ago and are committed to being better.

Have you heard anything about an injury at practice today?

I haven't heard about any practice injury today. With the team going to full pads, there are going to be more players suffering aches and pains and even injuries. Until coach Gundy reveals them to us, we're pretty much in the dark. But our radar is on.

I know basketball is a few months off, but do you think this is a make-or-break season for Travis Ford? Will Holder tire of hearing about this team's "potential" and fire Ford if he doesn't produce?

Define make or break, first. If that means getting back into the upper echelon of the Big 12 and earning a bid into the NCAA Tournament, yeah, probably. The Cowboys have an intriguing team, with a lot of great athletes, although not a lot of size. There were things to like in the play of the young guys – Brown, Cobbins, Williams, Nash – a year ago. And the team has only gotten better. I think the expectation is to be significantly better. If they’re not, what does that mean for Ford? Fans will be restless and Holder will certainly hear about it. Still, I know this, he’ll be owed a lot of money.

Your best guess on how minutes will break down for the hoops team?

Watching the Cowboys practice the other day, I couldn't help but think Ford is going to have a familiar problem in getting everyone minutes. There are a lot of players back, many who have started, including those mentioned above. Then you've got Olukemi, Soucek (who is much improved), Guerrero and the three freshmen: Marcus Smart, Phil Forte and Kamari Murphy. Smart starts immediately. Forte has a role. And Murphy has been the early surprise. Tough call on the minutes. Ford said he learned from a year ago, when playing time led to two players leaving. We'll see.

What kind of recruiting class is Holliday putting together? Who are some of the key prospects?

Baseball recruiting isn’t nearly as public as football and basketball recruiting, with coaches often preferring to keep it that way. The longer they can hold off the pro scouts, the better. That said, I know Holliday and his staff are hard at it. They’ve already gained commitments from Jenks pitcher Thomas Hatch, Broken Arrow pitcher Trey Cobb and Owasso shortstop Andrew Rosa, among others. Hatch is among the elite recruits in the nation, while the others are highly ranked as well. This is a strong recruiting staff. Expect some solid work.

What do you think about Travis Ford? Will this be his last season if he dosent produce?

From a media standpoint, which means working with Travis and dealing with him, it's pretty smooth. He's giving of time and answers every question. That's all we can ask. As a coach, I think he knows what he's doing, his first two years show that. The past two years, there have been some issues with players leaving, which he doesn't get a free pass on. I think we'll get a great glimpse of how good he is this season. Marcus Smart could be his best player yet, able to transform a young team in need of a leader -- Smart's greatest asset. The talent is there, although they could use some bulk.

Do you know how many more years Ford has left on his current contract?

We'll go back-to-back with Mike, and mix answers. His last extension goes through 2019, paying him $2.8 million annually over the final four years. That's a large chunk of change. Not sure Holder is ready to pay that off.

Last year our defense gave up a lot of yards to their opponent. Mainly because of the amount of time they had to spend on the field do to our quick scoring offense. Do you see our defense being helped out by possibly not having to be on the field quite as much?

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by John Helsley
OSU Reporter Sr.
John Helsley grew up in Del City, reading all the newspapers and sports magazines he could get his hands on. And Saturday afternoons, when the Major League Game of the Week was on, he'd keep a scorecard for the game. So the sports appeal was was...
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