STILLWATER — It's not that the Oklahoma State football team's preseason practices haven't had any hitting.
There have been plenty of “live thuds,” as coach Mike Gundy likes to say.
But the Cowboys never full-on scrimmaged during fall camp. And Gundy revealed Thursday that, for the second year in a row, OSU will not scrimmage at all before its season-opener Sept. 3 vs. Louisiana-Lafayette.
“I hope the decision we made as a coaching staff was good,” Gundy said. “To keep everybody up and running full speed, keep them healthy, keep them fresh and hope that there's enough maturity on our team that they can go play hard in the first game.”
That doesn't mean practice doesn't feature any contact. It just means that the goal is to avoid taking players all the way to the ground.
How much to tackle during the preseason is a question that every football coach constantly wrestles with. Gundy even joked Thursday that “there's probably one that I played for…saying I'm crazy.”
That would be former OSU coach Pat Jones. While Jones noted that there's no right or wrong strategy when it comes to hitting in practice, he admitted he still believes in the old-school philosophy.
“If you want to not get anybody hurt, just give up football,” Jones said. “There's obviously a trade off, and you've got to use some sense about it.”
But so far, the plan to keep OSU players healthy during the preseason has worked, as the Cowboys have not suffered any major injuries since fall camp began.
“It's so critical that we get to the ballgame with our players,” OSU defensive coordinator Bill Young said. “We feel like if we can get into a game with our players and get to a bowl game with the same guys who started the first game, we could have a tremendous year.
“We lose one player or two players, all of a sudden, we can get very average.”
Another part of the no-scrimmage philosophy is to spend more time focusing on complicated schemes rather than wearing bodies down before the season even begins. OSU defensive end Jamie Blatnick has noticed a difference between camp two years ago — where the Cowboys did scrimmage — and camp the past two seasons.
“It's really paid off,” Blatnick said of the new style. “People do better when they know what they're supposed to do, rather than just grinding, grinding, grinding.”
But the big question is, will OSU be ready to actually tackle someone when the time comes?
“We hope,” Gundy said. “Those discussions have all taken place, and that's one of the things that keeps me up at night, I guarantee you.”