Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph (10) passes under pressure from Oklahoma linebacker Eric Striker (19) in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki) (Above)
Preview of the Oklahoma State Cowboys, Big 12 contender out of Stillwater, OK
Oklahoma State Cowboys
Head Coach: Mike Gundy-11th year (85-44)
Last Year: 7-6, 4-5 in conference
It wasn’t a good middle of the season for the Oklahoma State Cowboys last year as the win/loss record of 7-6 was not what Head Coach Mike Gundy wanted. Quarterback and offensive line injuries, coupled with playing many underclassmen and a record number of freshmen had the Cowboys suffering in October and early November. Getting off to a 5-1 start (with the only loss to the defending National Champs Florida State in a close battle), the Pokes found misery with a five game losing streak that followed. Yet, the last of those five loses the Pokes went up against nationally ranked Baylor (in Waco) with a new freshman quarterback (Mason Rudolph). That new blood boosted the injury depleted team to play a very competitive game with the Bears. What followed was a last minute upset of the Oklahoma Sooners in Norman. Getting that sixth win, the Pokes finished off the season in good form with a win in the bowl game against Washington, a middle of the road PAC team that had some very good defensive players. The O-State offense, with it’s o-line back in good form, dominated the Huskies with a overwhelming win.
Coach Mike Gundy’s team will be good in 2015, yet they are at least one year away from being a Top Ten team, many say. Expectations are very high in the program.
Offense: It starts with the quarterback and with Mason Rudolph (6’4 ), a pro drop back style signal caller that had two touchdown passes against each of his three opponents last year, (Baylor. OU, Washington) you have a big time talent. He is the future of the program and many think he will be better than former Poke quarterback Brandon Weeden. With his strong arm and nice touch, Rudolph will have the best set of wide receivers in the league. Quarterback figures to be an area of strength for Oklahoma State.
Mason Rudolph created significant buzz with his work to cap the 2014 season and has earned the right to be tabbed as the starter. Should something happen there, however, the Pokes are in the capable hands of a proven playmaker in senior J.W. Walsh. (OSU Media Guide)
Back for the Cowboys are nine of the team’s top 10 receivers from a year ago, highlighted by seniors David Glidden and Brandon Sheperd and sophomore James Washington. Of those three, think of Wes Welker in Gidden. With Sheperd and Washington, big play’s should be numerous as these two are more on the strong and overpowering side rather than the thin out-run you kind. But don’t stop there as the Pokes have at least six more pass catchers that could and would start on other major college teams. With juniors Marcell Ateman, Jhajuan Seales and Austin Hays, yes they will be called backups, but in actuality, all will be significant participants in the most important game play situations. With plenty of good options at wide receiver the Cowboys have playmakers on the outside and in the slot.
As the offensive line and quarterback play improved late last year, the talent of the receivers – most notably Brandon Sheperd – came to the fore. It’s reasonable to expect increased production from this group in 2015 (OSU Media Guide)
Oklahoma State’s running backs will be productive. Rennie Childs is the closest thing to a known commodity. Junior college transfers Chris Carson and Todd Mays will have a say in what happens here, but keep an eye on true freshman Jeff Carr, as well. Carson has been chosen as the pre-season Big 12 newcomer of the year. He is strong and fast with excellent moves. He was heavily recruited by the Georgia Bulldogs but chose OSU. He was the 4th rated JC runner in the country.
At tight end, OSU will go with proven playmakers Blake Jarwin and Jeremy Seaton and joined by Zac Veatch and Jordan Frazier, there are some options to choose from. The position has been renamed “the Cowboy Back” by Coach Gundy.
There is reason for optimism in the offensive line, a group that turned things around last year in the final three games against excellent competition in Baylor, OU and Wash. It essentially remains intact and has been bolstered by some notable additions. With this group, don’t expect the better teams in the league to dominate them like last year. OSU could have the best 0ffensive line in the Big 12 with Zachary Crabtree, Michael Wilson, UAB transfer Victor Salako, Paul Lewis, Brad Lundbrade and Jesse Robinson getting starts and significant playing time. The bench has three others that have experience and will supplement the starters. All of the above mentioned average 6’5 and 320. OSU will be excellent on the run and pass protection and fresh bodies will give the Pokes a significant advantage, one they didn’t have for most of last year.
Defense: The defensive line should be excellent in stopping the rush and putting pressure on the opponents through one of the best players in the country. Emmanuel Ogbah (6’4 275) the Big 12’s defensive lineman of the year in 2014, is a destructive force. Jimmy Bean, the other d-end, has started every game for the past two years and is an above average college player. Oklahoma State has proven playmakers and promising up-and-comers on its defensive line, but the middle of the line will still have new starters. Should OSU get production from the interior of its defensive front, the sky may be the limit for this collective unit
At linebacker, Ryan Simmons and Seth Jacobs are the leaders. Simmons is a two-year starter and has played significant time in his freshman year. Now a senior, his leadership will again be consistently valuable. It’s unclear what to expect beyond those two, but this much is certain: whoever gets the third starting spot will have earned it. There are several good, fairly evenly-matched candidates fighting for that starting assignment. Regardless of who takes that 3rd spot and who doesn’t, linebacker appears to be a position group that is deep enough to where Defensive Coordinator Glenn Spencer can roll different groups of players on and off the turf and feel that the defensive will be effective.
The defensive secondary needs to be much improved if the Cowboys want to meet expectations. The speed and experience are now set in place, yet those attributes don’t make a good group. Mistakes such as missed assignment can get you beat if they are consistent from game to game.
Oklahoma State has four perfectly good options to start at cornerback in Kevin Peterson, Ashton Lampkin, Ramon Richards and Michael Hunter. All have already logged a significant amount of starts and bring a wealth of experience at a position group that is deep with candidates for meaningful playing time.
At safety, Jordan Sterns provided reason for excitement with his performance as a sophomore. He led the team in tackles and was a consistent difference-maker in the secondary. Tre Flowers saw significant action as well filling in as a starter when Larry Stephens was lost to injury. Flowers and Jerel Morrow enter fall with the upper hand to start alongside Sterns, though Deric Robertson is not to be dismissed when considering candidates for a starting role. (OSU Media Guide)
Junior Ben Grogan headlines Oklahoma State’s group of specialists, but he is not the only returning starter in this area. Sophomore Kaleb Smith, who handled snaps on placements, is back, as is senior Josh Elias, who snaps on punts. The only specialist not returning from a year ago is punter/kickoff man Kip Smith. The decision on the kick/punt return specialists have not been made.
The OSU passing game will be potent. With a much experienced o-line coming back, and some nice running backs to compliment the passing game , the points will come fast and furious. The defensive will as fast and good. This will be Gundy’s speediest defense and Defensive Coordinator Glenn Spencer wants the Pokes to get back in the business of turning the opponent over. Last year they were one of the worst defensive teams in getting them.
OSU can do much damage and any team that overlooks them, especially the TCU’s and KSU’s and Texas’s might re-consider this group of Pokes. Still one of the youngest teams in the country, they have the quarterback and compliments to consistanly get 40 to 50 points a game. The defense should be stout and if the defensive secondary get some turnovers, OSU will be in every game. The schedule tells me West Virginia in week 6 will be the big game which tell if OSU is going to compete for the Big 12 this year. Week 4 at Texas should showcase the Cowboys and I expect a big win in Austin for the visitor. Texas does not have their game together and I for one think this one won’t be close. But at West Virginia, that is another story. Win that one and OSU can be 8-0 hosting TCU in game nine. Two weeks later in Stilllwater, Baylor comes to town and again, another chance to prove that OSU is the real deal in 2015. The final challenging game will again be at Boone-Pickens’s Stadium against Oklahoma. (9-3 is a strong possibility with but this Cowboy team has a schedule that is set up for success. Don’t bet the world that OSU is an easy win for either TCU or Baylor. Stillwater is a difficult place to play when the Pokes have the playmakers to crank it up. The difference between the top five in the conference (OU, TCU, Baylor, OSU, and West Virginia) is not that much. Home field plays a part in this conference and the prediction by Sports Illustrated that had Okla. State in the Final Four this year is a stretch, but not that much of one. It will be exciting for OSU the next three years.