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August 14, 2012
Notebook: Barnett, Johnson step up for D-Line
Roland emerging as third running back
The occupants of Oklahoma State's starting running back spot are well known. Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith's one-two punch took the Big 12 Conference by storm in 2011, as the two amassed 1,862 rushing yards and 33 touchdowns combined.
When games got out of hand, the two were pulled and freshman Herschel Sims received playing time, but due to off-field issues with Sims that ultimately led to his dismissal from Oklahoma State's team, the Pokes found themselves searching for a much-needed third running back.
"We really need three and a freshman," coach Mike Gundy said. "Desmond Roland is a guy that has changed a little bit. He's not arrived yet, but he's considerably different than this time last year."
Roland posted stats in three games last season, with his most prominent performance being in the season opener against Louisiana-Lafayette when he rushed for 61 yards and 8 carries. As the season wore on, Sims passed Roland on the depth chart, but with his departure Roland has returned to the third overall spot.
"He's taken some hits, he's receiving the ball, and he's making it through practice," said Gundy. "He's not acting like it's the end of the world. Another couple of weeks of practice and he can really solidify himself as the third guy."
Junior College transfer Calvin Barnett has pleased his coaches in camp this fall, and has Gundy watching him very closely.
The defensive tackle has already established himself as one of the mainstays on the defensive line without obviously even playing a game yet, and the hype surrounding the tackle continues to build as camp goes on.
"One area we're really pleased with him on is he plays more like a veteran player," Gundy said.
Barnett, who's entering his junior year, transferred from Navarro College in Waxahachie, Texas this past offseason after a two-year career, but was initially committed to Oklahoma State, but signed with Arkansas. One thing led to another, and Barnett eventually ended up at Navarro instead of Stillwater.
"Once he didn't qualify [for NCAA football out of high school], I knew we'd have a chance to get him because I felt like he wanted to come to school here," said Gundy.
Once Barnett arrived on campus this past January, he immediately captured the attention of both players and coaches, and has earned his playing time so far according to those around him.
"When these two-year players come in, they have to be in shape, understand the speed, and need to be mentally tough enough to compete," Gundy said. "I think he's further along than any two-year player we've ever brought in."
Two Cowboys receive scholarships
Gundy announced Tuesday that the coaches had awarded scholarship to two players who were currently serving as walk-on athletes.
The players who received scholarship were linebacker Tyler Johnson and receiver Nick Rockwell.
"Rockwell and Johnson are two of the guys that walked on who we put on aid when school starts," Gundy said. "It's a pretty big deal not to have those bills come in."
Johnson is a former professional baseball player, and spent six years with the Angels in their farm system before missing most of the 2004 season with an injury. He was said to be in contention with Caleb Lavey for the starting linebacker job at the beginning of 2011, but suffered a minor knee injury that kept him out during fall camp.
"Some of them don't play as much on Saturday as others, but we can't do it without them," Gundy said. "Tyler has been on the field for us more than Nick. Nick has been with us for several years and has been a great contributor in practice for us."
Rockwell, also a junior, is from Fort Worth, Texas and has worked his way up the depth chart at the inside receiver position. Rockwell blends speed with a 5'7 frame, and has a knack for finding space according to his coaches. He participated in six games last season, but did not register any statistics.