By JASON ELMQUIST
STILLWATER — Oklahoma State freshmen got a rare experience on the football team’s first day of fall practice.
With Friday morning’s weather bringing wind and overcast skies, it was near perfect conditions to open camp on the practice field next to Gallagher-Iba Arena.
“They got really lucky. My first year it was too hot, and we were on the turf,” senior running back Jeremy Smith said. “But I’m actually happy they got this day, because at least they will know what to do when they get out here and when the heat comes they’ll just keep pushing.”
But it will be a rude awakening for the first-year college players when temperatures are expected to rise over the next week.
“I’m pretty sure this is the only day it’s going to feel like this all camp long,” junior wide receiver Josh Stewart said. “When we came out here and they were talking about how good it felt and were like, ‘We don’t know what you’re talking about.’ They are going to see one of these days and going to feel that heat.”
Fortunately for the OSU football team — which was ranked No. 14 in the USA Today Coaches Preseason Poll released Wednesday after being picked by the media to win the Big 12 Conference — they now have an indoor practice facility at their disposal in case of inclement weather.
Cowboy coach Mike Gundy said it is likely that practices could be moved inside before OSU’s opener against Mississippi State in Houston’s Reliant Stadium — a domed NFL arena.
“Since we are playing inside the first two games we’ll go in there if we get any rain or lightning. If we were playing outdoors then we would practice in the rain,” Gundy said. “There isn’t a reason to practice in the rain because the first two games will have a cover, and we won’t be playing in the rain.”
While Friday’s practice brought cool conditions, it also brought the entire Cowboy team together for the first time since the OSU spring game in April. Coaches got their first glimpses of how players have improved over the summer workouts, as well as what the incoming class of freshmen have to show.
“I was really excited to watch our D-line and some of the new guys. They moved around well,” Gundy said. “And you always like to watch the freshmen no matter what position they are.”
What will be different for this year’s version of the OSU football team will be its preparations for the first game. With the Cowboys scheduled to face an SEC opponent — as opposed to a Savannah State that turned into an 84-0 rout in last year’s opener — the Oklahoma State team will have to be ready to play from the first kick.
“What it forces us to do is be more physical in practice than what we would be or what we have been over the past few years,” Gundy said. “Then you have to have a feel of what your game plan would be more so than if we had a different opponent. Whether we like it or not, we have to be ready to play and try to hit all cylinders in all three phases.”