There was very little routine about Oklahoma State football beginning fall camp Wednesday.
The media is typically permitted to watch and take photos of the first 15 minutes of the opening day of practice, but not this year due to the global pandemic.
From the closed practice to the COVID-19 precautions, which included coaches and players wearing masks and athletes having new face-mask shields, the Cowboys opened camp with no certainty of when, against whom or even if they will open the regular season.
Following the Wednesday morning practice, offensive coordinator Kasey Dunn fielded a few questions from the media via Zoom. Dunn, along with returning starters linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez and wide receiver Tylan Wallace, talked more about adjusting to football life in a pandemic than football itself.
“It's good just to be back out again, some sort of normalcy you know and yell at some guys for a little bit and watch a few dudes run around and make some plays,” said Dunn, who is also the OSU wide receivers coach. “That's pretty much what we got after the day.
“It was short, it was sweet, we're off the field already. It wasn't a long practice. Obviously, we're just trying to get guys back into the flow of things again. So it was a good start.”
One of the more notable changes the Cowboys are having to adjust to with practices is an extra piece of equipment designed with the idea of limiting the spread of COVID-19.
Oklahoma State is working out with face shields similar to the Oakley product the NFL announced for its players in July. Several other Big 12 Conference teams have also reportedly been wearing the added layer of protect for pandemic precautions.
However, after the first day of the fall camp, both Rodriguez and Wallace noted a struggle with using the new barrier built under the face mask.
“Definitely a little harder to breathe, but I mean, like I said, the procedures here are tight, and they're doing their job to keep everything safe for us, but it's just one of those things you’ve got to get used to,” Rodriguez said. “It gets foggy up in there and it’s hard to see, so yeah I think I'll have to wipe it down, but I mean, like I said, it’s just got one of those things you’ve got to play through.”
Wallace noted that due to the space-filler created by the face shield, it is a struggle to use the “pacifier mouthpiece” that he has used in previous years.
“I’m not gonna say I'm a big fan of it, but I mean we have to do what we have to do to be able to play football, so if that means I have to wear it to play, than you have to do that,” Wallace said.
The players haven’t been the only ones adjusting during the pandemic.
The coaches didn’t get the chance to work with the athletes during the spring – with OSU only holding a few practices before the pandemic shutdown sports in March – and the regular summer routine of building relationships with the incoming talent was impacted by distance coaching.
“We're dealing with it right here, it's everything's through Zoom, you lose that personal effect,” Dunn said. “When you're working with the kids, especially young guys like this, it's just hard to make that impact that you want to make over a computer. … It's a Zoom, Zoom, Zoom world and it's hard to hold our guys a little bit accountable for, you know, what they're learning and what they're getting, you know, in this technological world.
“So the best we can do is do it through computer, so that's where we are now. But, you know, it was good last couple of weeks to be able to start getting face to face again and move towards, you know, a little bit of a normal routine for us.”