July 30, 2008

Final Caravan makes stop in OKC

OKLAHOMA CITY - With the summer doldrums of no-sports season winding down for Oklahoma State fans, Tuesday's Cowboy Caravan inside Bricktown's Coca-Cola Events Center was a welcome oasis signaling that football season is closely approaching. And the Caravan was a chance to hear all about it from the head coach himself.

For anyone who hasn't been to a Caravan before, it's an interesting deal. Think Watermelon Feed from Friday Night Lights, just with no watermelon and a bar in the back. Typically featuring several speakers, it's an evening for those fans sporting the orange to find out the latest information inside OSU athletics. It's kind of a pep rally for alumni, complete with Pistol Pete and the band to get the emotions flared up.

With emcee Dave Hunziker running things, the evening got started with comments from Craig Clemons and Kyle Wray. The pair focused mainly on updating the fans about the ongoing renovation of Boone Pickens Stadium and touched on the budget of the athletic department, as well as progress the POSSE has made. Clemons, associate vice president for athletic development, said the new West End Zone project is 1.1 million square feet - about the size of two Wal-Marts (or twice the size of the Chase Tower in downtown OKC). Both Clemons and Wray, director of marketing, talked up how the POSSE has grown this year, jumping from 6,000 members to 8,000 in about eight months. They added that there will be new ways for members to accrue points, including bonuses for getting friends to sign up. The goal for POSSE is 10,000 members.

While both baseball coach Frank Anderson as well as OSU president Burns Hargis spoke, the man of the hour was head football coach Mike Gundy. After a highlight reel from the 2007 season, Gundy was introduced to the crowd and received a loud ovation.

Talking about the state of the program, Gundy said it was good and the first thing the coaches needed to do next month was determine who would be the No. 2 behind Zac Robinson, either Brandon Weeden or Alex Cate. He added that he hopes to have this cleared up by the middle of August.

He touched on the wide receiver position, headed up by Dez Bryant. He added that there is a batch of talented wideouts behind him, albeit inexperienced. He also brought up the recovery of Artrell Woods saying he is healthy and will play against Washington State on Aug. 30. Speaking of that game, Gundy said that the Cougars are used to playing in Seattle. They do it once a year and average 55,000-60,000 fans at Qwest Field and that they wouldn't be rattled by the atmosphere.

On the defensive side of the ball, Gundy said that he believes Tim Beckman and Co. are on the right track. The combination of redshirted players and junior college transfers could have an immediate effect on this unit in the fall.

If you were looking for anything earth-shattering out of the Caravan, you're out of luck. Everything here was pretty direct and vanilla, though Gundy's answers during his Q&A session with the fans were pretty entertaining. More than anything, this was a chance for OSU fans to get together and hear the sermon of the leaders in orange. And considering how packed the pews were yesterday, Orange Country fans are ready to believe in a program that can get to the next level.

With the final Caravan out of the way, the next big date for the football program is this Thursday, when fall practice begins. The next big date for the fans is this Saturday, when fan appreciation day takes place. There will be an open practice at 8:15 a.m. and that afternoon from 4-8 p.m.

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