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February 19, 2014

Orange Prattle: Gundy makes right move for wrong reason

STILLWATER, Okla. — For one month in spring, the media finds itself cornered into the most uncomfortable media cycle of the year — spring football.

The problem with covering spring practices is that there is no news to report during the one month of drills and workouts.

No injuries will be made public — and even if they were, they wouldn’t affect the team come August unless it was a long-term injury.

There is no way to decide who the two deep will be considering there will be a summer for players to improve, not to mention they don’t have a full roster until the fall when all the newcomers arrive to campus.

And it all culminates in a useless spring game that only showcases how much work a team still needs to do before taking the field for the first time in late August or early September.

Except, this year at Oklahoma State there will be no spring game. Instead, OSU will have the “Orange Blitz” on April 5 at Boone Pickens Stadium.

We know why Cowboy coach Mike Gundy made the move. He pointed it out to the media late last season — speculation about the quarterback position.

That’s all that fans will want to know, so it will be all the media asks about. Can J.W. Walsh be the full-time starter? Does freshman Mason Rudolph have the essentials to run the offense from Day 1? If he doesn’t, do you redshirt him?

I can tell you now the gist of Gundy’s response to all three of those questions: “I’m not in any position to talk about the quarterback situation — and I won’t until after the Florida State game.” That was his response to the quarterback questions earlier this month.

By changing the public outing to a practice rather than a scrimmage, fans and media won’t get 90 minutes worth of Walsh vs. Rudolph vs. Daxx Garman speculation.

It would be one thing if your program and fan base was as crazed as an Alabama — where more than 78,000 fans attended last year’s spring scrimmage — or even in-state rival Oklahoma, which had nearly 30,000 onlookers a year ago. Last year’s spring finale at Boone Pickens Stadium had a projected 15,000 — which was a little inflated in the largely empty stadium with 60,000 capacity.

With the new approach, fans still get their fill of Cowboy football — which will include the opportunity  to interact with players and staff on the field afterward.

And in the spring, that’s really all fans should expect. They aren’t watching a polished product or a complete team, so nothing can truly be learned about the team from the event.

There will likely be plenty of special teams work — which is usually the case when Gundy opens practices for media to film or take photos — and after last year’s struggles with the kicking game, there probably should be.

But don’t be surprised if Rudolph doesn’t get the chance to showcase his arm strength, Garman doesn’t throw to first-string receivers or Walsh gets to Walsh.

At least not until after the Florida State game.

Jason Elmquist is sports editor of The Stillwater News Press. He can be contacted at jelmquist@stwnewspress.com.

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