STILLWATER — The Liberty Bowl does a lot for the Oklahoma State football program.
It gives guys like Taylor Cornelius and Jordan Brailford one last chance to play collegiate football. For most seniors, it will be the last time they ever play in a competitive football game. The Liberty Bowl gives OSU’s program a chance to finish the season with a winning record for the 13th straight season. But perhaps the most important thing the Liberty Bowl does for the program is it gives the Cowboys a head start on preparing for the future.
There has been a lot said about the number of players leaving OSU with eligibility left, but these Liberty Bowl practices allows replacements a chance to get reps before spring ball.
“For us to be able to get bowl eligible means a lot because of the guys that deserve to be at a bowl and to get everything that goes along with a bowl, not necessarily the guys in the two-deep,” OSU coach Mike Gundy said.
“Secondly, we need practice. We need these 16 practices. We got a heck of a break because we play really late, so we’ll have unless there’s something that happens weather-wise that’s out of the ordinary, we’ll get 16 real practices.
“In spring ball, we only get 10. You get 15, but three of them we’re in non-pads, so that doesn’t even count, and one of them is some kind of a spring game, which is like an NFL Pro Bowl, so that doesn’t count. So, you only get 10 practices in spring. Well, we’re gonna get like, I said 16, probably 14 legitimate practices and this bowl game. That’s a big deal for our team.”
The most-obvious hole in OSU’s team next season is at quarterback. Fifth-year senior Taylor Cornelius will be gone with his likely replacement being either Hawaii transfer Dru Brown and four-star freshman Spencer Sanders.
Gundy didn’t talk specifically about Sanders or Brown at his media availability Tuesday, but Biletnikoff finalists Tylan Wallace said the two are looking more comfortable in practice. Here is what Cornelius said about his two backups’ progression.
“They’re doing good,” Cornelius said. “They’ve been getting reps here and there all year. Those guys are doing great. Obviously they’re progressing, and each time they get out there, they get better and better.”
Jahmyl Jeter’s progression is also a priority. Jeter, a freshman running back, has jumped to third in OSU’s depth chart, a depth chart that started the year quite clogged. Now without Justice Hill, who is skipping the bowl game in preparation for the NFL Draft, and J.D. King who is transferring to Georgia Southern, the Cowboys could need Jeter in the bowl game.
Jeter hasn’t played in a game this season, but he’s now one of only three running backs OSU has on scholarship with Chuba Hubbard and LD Brown.
“Jeter’s out there getting a little work,” Gundy said. “He went the wrong way most of the time today, but he’s out there. We put him in there with the threes and let him run in there, and they tackled him a bunch, and he realized that he wasn’t redshirting anymore. He’s in there working, getting some quality work.
“He looks good doing it, but he went the wrong way a few times. Hopefully we can get him fixed in a couple of weeks. Works real good if you put R on their right hand and L on their left hand.”
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“He’s a big boy,” Brown said. “When he runs behind his pads, he’s going to be hard to bring down. He’s a left-hander, I noticed that. He has great hands. He’s gonna fit right in with the running back group here.”
Tuesday was the Cowboys’ second bowl practice. Gundy said a lot of these early bowl practice will be used repping younger players in preparation for the future, leaving about double the time for Missouri preparation than the team would have in a normal week.
“We’re gonna play base on base and let them go and play and bang around a little bit and watch guys compete,” Gundy said. “They get somewhat lost during the season because of two days for preparation, but now we can get them some really quality work. You take a little bit of a risk with a guy getting hurt, but I think it’s more important to let them go play and let them have some fun and let them enjoy the bowl experience.”