STILLWATER — Under hot and humid conditions on the Boone Pickens Stadium turf Wednesday, the Oklahoma State Cowboys opened fall football practice in preparation for the Sept. 5 opener against Georgia.
The Cowboys enter the 2009 season with high expectations, both internally and externally. OSU coach Mike Gundy has stated a goal of winning a Big 12 title, which likely will require wins over Texas and Oklahoma. Several national analysts have the Cowboys among the top 15 teams in the country.
It's the beginning of a long journey, which could be rewarding — or disappointing. With the goal of insuring success, Gundy has five things he wants to accomplish in the next month of practices.
(1) Make sure the Cowboys remain in good physical condition, yet try to avoid burnout.
Breakdown: OSU is in a tough position. They open with a great opponent, great expectations and under the early September heat at Boone Pickens Stadium. Gundy wants to make sure his players can play a full 60 minutes without fatigue. At the same time, keeping the starters healthy with fresh legs heading into the season will be a challenge.
Quotable: "There's a real fine line in working them where they can go hard the first game, but you don't want to drain their body." — Gundy
Notable: OSU will need young, inexperienced players such as running back Kye Staley, receiver Justin Blackmon, defensive end Richetti Jones, safeties Markelle Martin and Victor Johnson to provide depth on both sides of the ball.
(2) Legit backup quarterback
Breakdown: This is one of the biggest question marks heading into fall camp. Brandon Weeden and Alex Cate have been battling for the backup quarterback job since last season, but neither has taken a stronghold. Gundy wants someone to step up during August practice.
Quotable: "At some point, we want to come up with a legitimate backup quarterback. And name that guy." — Gundy
Notable: Cate was a highly regarded recruit coming out of Cottonwood High in Salt Lake City. Entering his junior year, Cate has yet to live up to that hype. Weeden returned to college football after playing professional baseball, but he has yet to take the position and run with it.