Grading The Cowboys

Everybody loves to pass out grades, and so do I. I'm sure mine might differ from the Oklahoma State football coaching staff's but these grades are based on what I saw and felt through the spring. Also, while not included in the grades, it is important to note that the coaching staff chemistry and the working atmosphere in practices, and I would assume in meetings, was outstanding.

The offensive staff seemed to all be on the same page and working well together. The defense has long been a strong and cohesive group. The two sides of the ball worked well together. The head coach seemed very comfortable in his role overseeing the entire operation. It really seemed like a strong spring from a staff relations and attitude standpoint.

Quarterbacks: A+
What other possible grade could there be? Brandon Weeden had a tremendous spring. He truly improved as a quarterback and has a lot of confidence in his working relationship with new offensive coordinator Todd Monken. Weeden seemed to improve his throwing relationship with a number of wide receivers as evidenced by his hook ups in the spring game with Tracy Moore. The backups all improved as well. Clint Chelf has taken hold of the second line on the depth chart but still has competition from an improving Johnny Deaton and young J.W. Walsh. Deaton needs to improve his decision-making in the passing game as he sometimes presses his throws into tight spots and Walsh is still learning.

Running Backs: A
What is not to like here as Jeremy Smith and Joseph Randle were dazzling all spring? Each one has his strengths, but they are both good at everything needed to hold down the job. The Cowboys are better because they both play. Kye Staley was tremendous and it is amazing in what he is doing coming off the injury. He has the doctors marveling and the respect of every player and coach, especially the head coach. The three-back formation has expended some with some new characters in big receivers Tracy Moore and Justin Horton. The only downfall were some fumbles in team, scrimmage, and the spring game. That leaves new RB coach Jemal Singleton something to preach on in August.

Wide Receivers: A
Justin Blackmon has improved. Physically he is even better, but the best thing here is the position has expanded with so many other guys looking like they are equipped to contribute. Hubert Anyiam had only one catch in the spring game, but he did well in spring practice. Outside Isaiah Anderson, Colton Chelf, Michael Harrison (before his injury), and Kevin Johnson all showed up well. Inside, Tracy Moore, Charlie Moore, Justin Horton and Christian Schroeder all showed well.

Offensive Line: A+
Joe Wickline has another really stout group. The great thing is that Grant Garner, Jonathan Rush, Lane Taylor, Nick Martinez and Levy Adock are all getting pushed as Michael Bowie, Parker Graham, Brandon Webb, and Daniel Koenig all want to play. The most depth and a lot of talent has the offensive line two deep and even three in spots.

Defensive End: B
The split of Richetti Jones and Jamie Blatnick, with Blatnick moving to the "leo" position, worked out as Blatnick, despite missing about half the practice time due to a class conflict, continually improved his pass drops. Junior college transfer Ryan Robinson has come on to make a strong influence early and he will only get better. Despite fighting off injuries, Cooper Bassett has earned the trust of defensive coordinator Bill Young so much so that he can and will play in about three positions.

Defensive Tackle: C
Steady improvement came throughout the spring from Christian Littlehead while Nigel Nicholas has pushed through the barrier of being okay to being good. After that the improvement was up and down. One day a guy might be better only to back up the next practice. It is not an unusual growth pattern at that position. The goal now has to be more consistency in the fall. The other hope is for some immediate contributions out of some of the new arrivals this summer. This is still a work in progress.

Linebackers: C+
Across the field this goes from the "star" position and an A+ to the "will" position or weak side backer and something between a C and D for a grade. Shaun Lewis and James Thomas are so good at the "star" that they might be split up some to bolster the defense. The middle is going to be okay and a B- might be the grade there as Tyler Johnson steadily improved and Caleb Lavey is in the hunt. Competition in August should push one or both to being really solid for next season. At the "will," LeRon Furr, Chris Dinkins, freshman Kris Catlin, and Joe Mitchell all saw time with the top two defenses but the coaching staff isn't sure the answer is there yet. Catlin may be the answer in the future, but going to August this is the biggest concern on the defense.

Cornerbacks: B+
The improvement of Justin Gilbert coupled with Brodrick Brown, Devin Hedgepeth, and Andrae May all continuing to progress makes this a solid position. Larry Stephens is also in the mix, but there is a good chance for the corners to be a solid two deep.

Safeties: A
The positon was watered down this spring because of injuries. But Markelle Martin will be back in the fall and the return of Daytawion Lowe from last year's season-ending injury, along with improvement from some of the young pups like Zack Craig and Lavocheya Cooper, give reason for optimism. Johnny Thomas is the other solid veteran. If the health is good in the fall, the difference of having Lowe will be huge.

Special Teams: I
Joe DeForest doesn't work special teams enough in the spring to have a final grade, and there will be some of the incoming players that will be involved. Junior college transfer linebacker Alex Elkins of Blinn (Texas) will be a big boost to the cover units as he can make open field tackles. You know that Justin Gilbert, Johnny Thomas and Josh Cooper can return and there may be more. It appears that Quinn Sharp may have to punt, kickoff, and handle placements.

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