Four Points Of Emphasis This Spring

Oklahoma State's coaches have had a week to consider what they saw in the first three spring practices as they point to defending the Big 12 Championship for next season. Some real moving and shaping should take place in the last 12 practices of the spring. Here are some points of emphasis that we see for the next month and 12 practices of work before the April 21 spring game/scrimmage.

1. Center: This is maybe the most unsung but very critical situation to be resolved before next season's opener with Savannah State. The Cowboys coaches were spoiled by Grant Garner the past two seasons. We know we were spoiled by Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon, but we failed to realize sometimes that Garner delivered every snap of those seasons.

Remember, the only fumbled snap was in the final moments of the Troy game in 2010 when Weeden with an injured thumb went under center to take the snap and kneel and fumbled the ball. Garner was great on line calls at the line of scrimmage and the NFL is going to find out that the polite and studious Garner has a mean streak too.

The top two candidates to replace Garner and Casey LaBrue, last season's backup who has also graduated, are Evan Epstein, a senior and former Air Force Academy player, and Jake Jenkins, a redshirt sophomore out of Gilmer, Texas. Both have a ways to go in earning the job. Travis Cross is a redshirt freshman who is also at the position.

The best medicine toward getting a strong center is for those three, and especially the two older candidates, to push each other. The best part of offensive line coach Joe Wickline's system is the competition within the offensive line that pushes each player to be the best he can be.

This position is critical. A solid center will make whoever wins the quarterback job more confident, and ultimately better next season.

2. Wide Receiver Depth and Identification: Competition among the receivers will continue throughout the spring with the hope that Todd Monken, Doug Meacham and Kasey Dunn all find they have more ready to play guys than originally thought heading into the spring.

The staff knows Isaiah Anderson is fast and can run deep routes. But how has he improved in the other routes? The staff knows Tracy Moore is a rugged, physical type receiver who can run with the ball. But can he stretch a defense? How far along has Josh Stewart come since last season and is he ready to be a bellcow-type guy?

New junior college transfer Blake Jackson and redshirt freshman Torrance Carr have physical gifts but how polished can they become in this offense? All those questions need to have answers.

Here is my list of X-factor guys. These are receivers not being mentioned as much that I think could become major players on the depth chart as spring progresses. The first is Charlie Moore, who Dana Holgorsen called him "Chuck" when he was happy with him. I think Moore can play and be a big factor.

Also, David Glidden was a redshirt last season. The Josh Cooper clone has a lot of ability and despite his 5-7 height he is built strong.

3. Safety Competition: Shamiel Gary is the transfer from Wyoming who earned Freshman All-American honors in 2010. But Lavocheya Cooper, Isaac Maselera and Zack Craig are not going to step aside on this one. This could be a very competitive situation. In fact, it will be. That will make the end result that much better, and new safeties coach Van Malone is discovering that he has more pieces to move around on the game board than he even imagined coming in. The only certainty is Daytawion Lowe. He seems ready to go and ready to continue the tradition of Markelle Martin in making opposing receivers nervous over the middle and anywhere a safety roams.

4. Quarterback: You didn't think I had forgot it, did you? Simple explanation is this one has a long way to go. The good news is that all three appear to be in line to compete for the position. After a day of being lost by the increased pace and intensity of a college practice, freshman Wes Lunt joined in and the spring break will only help him process what he needs to do.

I predict that Lunt will be a factor. J.W. Walsh is just as advertised, he gets it done. It isn't always picture perfect, but passes get completed, plays get made, and the ball moves down the field. Clint Chelf is the more veteran and looks the most comfortable at what he is doing. In the end, results will make the decision for Monken and Gundy. There are 12 more practices with lots of results to be accomplished.

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