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Mike Gundy on Oklahoma State’s spring position battles

by Gina Mizell Published: March 8, 2012

Here are some more notes from the pre-spring practice conversation with Mike Gundy, which focus mostly on the position battles heading into the spring.

Quarterbacks

I will have a big story on this on Sunday, so I’m going to hold onto those quotes for now. But junior Clint Chelf, redshirt freshman J.W. Walsh and true freshman Wes Lunt will have equal reps in the spring. And even though Chelf is an upperclassman and the only quarterback that has taken a college snap, it’s not “his job to lose.” It truly is an open competition.

Daxx Garman, a transfer from Arizona, is indeed on campus. This was something I was honestly unsure about, because he was not included in the release announcing Lunt, Blake Jackson, Calvin Barnett and Jeremiah Tshimanga had enrolled early. Garman will participate in spring drills but won’t get any reps, since he has to sit out 2012 because of NCAA transfer rules.

Pass-catchers

This is when it was revealed that Michael Harrison had decided to leave the OSU football program. Some bullet points to keep in mind here: He was suspended by the NCAA, not Gundy or OSU; He was not kicked off the team but decided to leave on his own terms; Gundy was notified of Harrison’s decision about a week ago, not when the news first came out in mid-February that he would not play in 2012; to the best of Gundy’s knowledge, Harrison has not yet asked for a release from OSU.

When asked who will step up at receiver, Gundy basically rattled off every returning receiver on the roster—Tracy Moore, Isaiah Anderson, Josh Stewart (or “No. 5,” as Gundy likes to say) and Charlie Moore.

But then the conversation turned to junior college tight end Blake Jackson, who I wrote about in January, but Gundy offered some more insight on progress so far and style of play.

“He’s 20 pounds heavier than he was when he got here, he’s developed, his attitude’s good. He can really snatch the ball, he plays faster than he looks, he’s big and physical. He hasn’t made any plays for us, he made a lot of plays on the teams he played with before, but he has potential to be a really good player. But it’s impossible to say (how good he really is), because he hasn’t been with me.

“He’s a little more elusive than what people think, and he’s hard to get down. He should catch a lot of balls at eight yards and less, but he’s not a guy that’s limited speed-wise and stays in that area. He can run a 16-yard crossing route. He should play attached, in a wing and split out.

“He very well could be (the most versatile tight end I’ve had at OSU) with his body type and his ability to run. I’m hoping that he’s going to be a more agile (Brandon) Pettigrew. In seeing what I’ve seen so far, he’s not as far along as Pettigrew was at blocking the edge. Pettigrew was probably the best in the country his years. So that’s an unfair comparison, comparing him to a first-round pick who was probably the best blocker we’ve ever had. So he’s not going to be as far along there, but I’m hoping he’s more advanced out here (as a receiver), more flexible than what Pettigrew was. So then we have to balance where he’s at based on his strengths.”

Center

Brandon Weeden called Grant Garner the most important offensive player for OSU last season. He’s gone now, as well as backup Casey LaBrue. Evan Epstein, who began his career at Air Force before transferring to OSU in 2009, should begin the spring as the starter.

Here’s Gundy’s take:

“When Garner took over, nobody thought he was going to be on the team. He was a guy most people thought he was just a guy we were filling a hole with. He ended up being, in some people’s mind, a third-team All-American. What you’re saying’s right. Every question you’re asking is right, but I just have no concern with it. There’s guys in our program that’ll make plays.”

Defensive end

Other than quarterback, this is probably the most intriguing position battle in the spring, because the Cowboys have to replace both starters. Cooper Bassett and Ryan Robinson are expected to top the spring depth chart. Gundy spoke about Robinson, as well as youngster Jimmy Bean, who should be a key part of the rotation in 2012.

Gundy on Jimmy Bean’s potential:

“He’s 22 pounds heavier and should make some plays. Bean got thrown out there because we had a depth issue last year, and it was unfair to him. We threw him out there, we had to play him early in the year to get his feet wet, to get him adjusted to it in case we got into a championship run and lost (Jamie) Blatnick or Richetti (Jones). Somebody’s got to play. Decisions we make early in the season are based on, OK, if we’re late in the year and we’re trying to beat a team to win a championship and somebody goes down, I don’t want to throw Bean out there and he’s never played before. Unfortunately, we have to play some of those guys. We went through the same thing with (running backs) Desmond (Roland) and Herschel (Sims). We played Des because Herschel was a long ways away, because mentally he wasn’t there. Then Herschel came around about a month later, then we played him.”

On Ryan Robinson’s progress:

“He didn’t understand. He came in here from junior college, and things are a lot different. Everybody’s bigger and faster and stronger and there’s 80,000 people (in the stands) and you’re on TV and you’re tired and you’ve got to go to class. Just all the things that factor into being a kid. Now you’re playing and you’re not that strong and you don’t know the system as well and you think and you’re hesitant. Now he’s 265 (pounds)—that’s what he said he was when I saw him out the other day working. When we ran our 200s, he made every one of them. When he showed up here last year, he missed three or four of them. He was ready to quit. He’s going to be different this year. I’m just giving you an example, an illustration, or really why I’m not concerned (about the players we have to replace).”

Safety

When asked who would start opposite Daytawion Lowe at safety, Gundy immediately said Lavocheya Cooper. I found that interesting, since Zack Craig became the main guy behind Markelle Martin and Lowe and made some plays late in the season, especially after Deion Imade went down with a knee injury in November. But Cooper also missed the first part of 2011, which I’m sure hindered his overall effectiveness when he came back.

Here’s Gundy’s take:

“Johnny (Thomas) and Markelle played 70 plays a game, we all know that, and they’re both gone. But ‘Voch has played, Zack’s played, Daytawion’s played. So one of those guys (will start opposite Lowe). Would I like to have one more going into the spring? I’d like to be two-deep, but nobody is.”

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by Gina Mizell
OSU Sports Reporter
Gina Mizell joined The Oklahoman in August of 2011 as the Oklahoma State beat writer, where she covered the Cowboys' historic run to the Big 12 championship and Fiesta Bowl in her first season on the job. Before arriving in Stillwater, Gina was...
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