STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) — Oklahoma State's decision not to hold a traditional spring game has been met with some criticism.
Coach Mike Gundy feels he knows best. Of the 70 players who traveled to the Cotton Bowl, 37 will not be with the team this spring for various reasons. Because of the low number of available players for the spring, Gundy doesn't think the fans would get their money's worth out of a "watered down" spring game. Oklahoma State instead will hold an "Orange Blitz," a 90-minute practice on April 5 that will be open to the public.
"At some point, I have to make a decision on what I think is best for our team first, and then our fans and the people that follow us second," Gundy said Monday before the first spring practice. "When you take all the things into consideration, with where we're at — we're thin at some positions — we thought it would be best for us to have another practice. I know that's best for our football team, because we need the practice."
Not only are the numbers low, but the majority of the holdovers lack experience. Oklahoma State will return just six starters on offense and four on defense.
"We're a young football team, and there's not a lot of maturity," Gundy said. "We think it's best for our team and I think it's best for the fans, in my opinion, and that's why we established at an early stage what we wanted to do."
There are more issues. Last year's starting center, Jake Jenkins, and another offensive lineman, Travis Cross, had eligibility remaining but chose to join the workforce. Safety Lyndell Johnson chose not to return for personal reasons.
Several players are dealing with injuries. Running back Desmond Roland (shoulder) and offensive lineman Brandon Garrett (leg) will miss the spring entirely and safety Larry Stephens (leg) and linebacker Demarcus Sherod (leg) will see limited action.
One thing to watch will be the quarterback race. J.W. Walsh, who started five games last season as a sophomore, is the front runner. He passed for 1,333 yards and nine touchdowns and ran for 294 yards and three scores last season.
"J.W. has always had great leadership," Gundy said. "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."