OSU Football Notebook: Position switches
BY BILL HAISTEN World Sports Writer
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
3/13/12 at 5:19 AM
Related Story: Gundy hopes QB emerges this spring
During Oklahoma State's spring practice period, the position switches of senior Nigel Nicholas and junior Tyler Johnson are among the more prominent defensive storylines.
Both players have moved to end - Nicholas from tackle (where he was extremely effective for two seasons), and Johnson from middle linebacker (where he was Caleb Lavey's backup).
With Jamie Blatnick and Richetti Jones having exhausted their eligibility, defensive coordinator Bill Young needs new personnel at each end position. For now, Cooper Bassett rotates with Nicholas on one side, while Ryan Robinson rotates with Johnson on the other.
"The real question is whether Tyler can put his hand on the ground and be a defensive end," Young said. "He's a very athletic guy."
For the first time in the seven-year Mike Gundy era, Oklahoma State has a solid number of viable defensive tackles. As many as eight Cowboys, including junior college transfer Calvin Barnett, have a legitimate chance to rotate at the two tackle positions. Barnett is a former Booker T. Washington star.
"When we (got a commitment from Barnett), we immediately started thinking about moving Nigel back to end," Young said. "We signed four really good high school defensive ends. Who knows? Maybe they can step in there and help us."
Cowboy coaches rave about the potential of Ryan Simmons, a 6-foot, 238-pound redshirt freshman who now backs up Lavey at middle linebacker.
Jackson update: With the release of OSU's spring depth chart, it became apparent that 6-foot-3, 238-pound Blake Jackson will be used more as an inside receiver than as a tight end (the position at which he was a junior-college All-American).
"He's a great fit for our offense," Gundy said. "We'll be able to play him inside (at tight end) quite a bit, and then he has a little more breakaway speed than what you'd think for a guy that weighs 240 pounds."
Limited contact: The spring practice period includes 15 practice dates. The only actual scrimmage, Gundy says, will be the April 21 Orange-White game. Otherwise, there remains an emphasis on avoiding injuries.
"We'll continue with the plan we had last spring," Gundy said. "I believe we can have our two or three live practices, but I don't believe we have to tackle all the way to the ground. ... I thought it worked last year, and we'll practice the same way that we did last spring."