What those players departing the program have left is the greatest legacy you could ever leave as a college football player, one of winning. More than that it is a legacy of rolling up your sleeves, no matter how talented you are, and putting in the work it takes to be successful.
To the credit of all in the program -- coaches, departing players, and current players -- it appears that attitude was still present throughout the spring. Head coach Mike Gundy had to stop practice just once in the spring to remind the team of the type of effort and focus it takes to win a championship. Other than that day, the fifth of the spring, the effort and tempo of the practices was to the head coach's liking.
"When you have as much success as we've had, the advantage is that they kind of pass the torch down," said Gundy of the attitude that permeates the program. "The other players learn to step up on their own, and that has really happened here this spring with the names of some of the players mentioned (Joseph Randle, Tracy Moore, Lane Taylor, Cooper Bassett, Caleb Lavey, Brodrick Brown, Justin Gilbert and Daytawion Lowe)."
You can obviously add Charlie Moore to that list. On the spring football broadcast on the Cowboy Network, play-by-play voice Dave Hunziker mentioned there had been other players in the past that had put up huge performances in the spring game that never ended up carrying through and matching in the fall. But in discussion with Hunziker, John Holcomb, and myself, it was pointed out that Charlie Moore didn't just do this in Saturdaty's Orange-Gray game.
Up until this spring, Moore had seven career receptions. His biggest highlight was catching K-State kick returner and speedster Tyler Lockett from behind and preventing a touchdown return in last season's narrow win over the Wildcats. You have to be fast to catch Tyler Lockett. Moore is said to be the second fastest player on the squad behind cornerback Justin Gilbert.
"When Justin Gilbert is chasing me you have to run pretty fast," said Charlie Moore of his longest touchdown catch of the day, a 59-yard catch and run from Wes Lunt. "I just had to see what I could do."
In the previous three and a half scrimmages this spring, he had six touchdown receptions, including a pair in the first and second major scrimmages of the spring. He caught a 45-yard touchdown pass from Wes Lunt with a full body dive in the end zone in which he nearly knocked himself out. That play becomes the play of the day in college football in the fall.
The fact that he did it consistently throughout the spring leads you to believe it will continue.
"I hope this is a growing point," said Moore. "I hope I grow and improve more over the summer. Maybe this is (an exclamation point) for the spring. It was the last scrimmage of the spring and it was my best one yet. I thought the last one over Miketavious (Jones) was my best catch of the spring. That one a week ago (Friday, April 13) nearly knocked me out, but I liked the one today better. When you jump over a guy that is my favorite."
All this talk of Charlie Moore isn't really only about Charlie Moore. It is taking one player and applying his improvement and his spring to what has happened with the entire Oklahoma State team.
All OSU fans are all dying to know who the quarterback will be next season. My guess is that Mike Gundy and Todd Monken will name J.W. Walsh the starter.
Walsh is the one quarterback that has definitely carried his nitch for next season. He can really run from the quarterback position and is a threat to throw. He will factor into a phase of the game that Oklahoma State has researched and looks to include in the overall landscape of the offense.
He is a strong leader with the respect of his teammates and a guy that it will be hard to say "no" to during the summer when he is asking for more -- more time or more effort or more of whatever it takes.
Clint Chelf has a great understanding of the offense but needs to improve his overall execution and become more consistent. His late first half drive was a thing of beauty, and maybe the best drive of the spring. But his losing the football and fumbling to the defense can't happen.
Wes Lunt is the real deal and many thought this spring would just be some early seasoning for a quarterback that would be there in case of emergency. Lunt is a legit candidate to win the job. Did you see his poise in the pocket Saturday, where he calmly sidesteps the rush moving two paces up and then fires the ball downfield? He doesn't rattle easily. He understands the offense but needs to get more squared away with all the terminology, and he has the best arm of the three competing signal callers.
"There are 100 ways to win a football game," said Monken last week. "We don't have Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon out there. We are going to look different, but we have enough players, and no matter who we go with at quarterback we will find our way to win football games."
Monken is right. Charlie and Tracy Moore are a start at receiver. Isaiah Anderson needs to be more consistent but he will help at wide receiver. Josh Stewart, Blake Jackson and Torrance Carr (with David Glidden when he gets healthy) will help at inside receiver.
Joe Randle and Jeremy Smith may be the best running back combo in the country. Then add Herschel Sims and Desmond Roland., and it may be the best running back foursome in the country. They definitely are in the Big 12.
In the fall, when Jonathan Rush is returns, the offensive line will have four players, both guards and both tackles, that have started multiple games, if not multiple seasons. Evan Epstein has won the center job, and both he and backup Jake Jenkins improved every day in spring practice.
That's the offense. But it has been the defense that has been the biggest story of the spring (other than, of course, who will be the starting quarterback).
Defensive coordinator Bill Young is happy about the depth as he has a legit five defensive tackles to rotate, and is closing in on having five defensive ends as well.
Calvin Barnett has made a huge difference at defensive tackle. While all the ends are fun to watch, Ryan Robinson has taken his game to a new level. It may be time to start the campaign for Robinson for All-Big 12, and maybe All-American. I think he will be that good next season.
Co-defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer coaches the linebackers and he has a solid three deep at every position with two quality backups behind returning starters at all three linebacker spots. Besides Shaun Lewis, Caleb Lavey (who had a great spring), and Alex Elkins, Cowboys fans need to remember the names Lyndell Johnson, Ryan Simmons, Nico Ornelas, Joe Mitchell, Demarcus Sherod, and Kris Catlin.
Each of those players had two or more tackles in the spring game, five had tackles for losses, two had sacks, two had pass deflections, and Elkins knocked two passes down. That is a lot of production.
"I think they (defense) played really well," said Young after the Orange-Gray Game. "So much of it ties together. If you have good coverage, the quarterback has to hold the ball longer and I think we got two or three coverage sacks today because we did have great coverage in our secondary and our linebackers. That's always a heck of a bonus."
Young and Spencer agreed that they will never have to play a tired player again up front with that kind of depth.
In the back end of the defense, Brodrick Brown and Justin Gilbert give cornerback coach Jason Jones all the credit for bringing them along. New assistant Van Malone has hit it off with the safeties, where Young has said that Lavocheya Cooper and Shamiel Gary have the edge on the depth chart opposite Daytawion Lowe, who is starting to look and play like a bonafide team leader on defense.
Mix in the magic of Quinn Sharp and that attitude we spoke of earlier and the Cowboys may need to pick one of the other 99 ways to win a football game other than Weeden2Blackmon. But as Monken mentioned, those other ways are out there.
With the Moores -- Tracy and Charlie -- combining for 13 receptions for 325 yards and five touchdowns then maybe the motto for the Cowboys next season, and in part the strategy, might be: We want Moore!