Looking Ahead To The 2013 Season

Officials with the Heart of Dallas Bowl were thrilled to get the Oklahoma State Cowboys after the crazy storm on bowl selection day. Northern Illinois managed to get into the BCS and all the different scenarios caused the Cowboys to keep sliding during the Big 12 selection hierarchy.

OSU did lose its last two regular season games but those losses were to OU in overtime on the road after never trailing in regulation and then to Baylor, which may have been the best team in the Big 12 in late November and December. The Bears win in San Diego over UCLA ranks with the OSU blowout of Purdue as the Big 12's best bowl moments so far.

The Heart of Dallas Bowl has a good organization and supports a great cause. The bowl's TV contract (biggest weakness of the bowl currently) is up and they will renegotiate. They did a great job with events and hospitality and want to be a big-time bowl. I look for this game to be a rising star that will rocket past some others in the Big 12 bowl hierarchy.

The Result
Mike Gundy, the Cowboys coaching staff and the older players on the team did a great job of pointing the focus and the reward of winning the game. The players bought in, made curfews, had no problems only fun off the field, and at practice did their jobs, in fact players got better in Dallas.

Purdue is not great but Oklahoma State dominated the Boilermakers in just about every way. The Purdue defensive line was a chore and the best part of their team, and the OSU offense line held its own. In all other matchups ,Oklahoma State was the heavy and it showed on the scoreboard.

Seniors like Cooper Bassett, Brodrick Brown, Evan Epstein, Lane Taylor, Alex Elkins and Nigel Nicholas leave with their heads held high as winners.

The younger players now have that momentum of the huge win to help carry them through another Rob Glass offseason program that will make them better. With Tracy Moore, Kye Staley and probably Michael Harrison coming back, the team will have a ton of talent and be ready for a big run next season.

The Northwestern win over Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl is making the 2013 season opener in Houston look easier.

Time to Change with the Defense
No bragging like last spring, but it's time to start thinking positive about defense. Give the Cowboys defenders and their coaches credit as they did what it took to stop Purdue and put on a great defensive performance.

Some of the problems from last season will change and a good number of the best defensive players are back. Three keys to being better on defense against Big 12-style spread offenses will be:
1) Develop hungry and nasty pass rushers on the outside at defense end. He may be undersized but start with Tyler Johnson, who really acts like he wants to get to the quarterback.
2) Continue to develop better play at safety. Shamiel Gary may be catching on but there will be new players ready to compete for that job.
3) The young and the new corners need to be ready to play more aggressive tactics and do them well. Yes, home runs will get hit but aggressive play has to be a part of the repertoire.

What Now?
Looking ahead to next season, there are four key developments for Cowboys fans to keep their on, starting with running back Joe Randle evaulating his NFL Draft evaluation. Randle says he will look it over and talk to head coach Mike Gundy. He saw what staying did for Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon and he told me he knows, "the sky is the limit for next year's team." He sounds like he wants to be a part of it.

A second development is Gundy hiring a new offensive coordinator. He has the experience of coaching the quarterbacks and being heavily involved in the offense for the bowl game to help him. Gundy might make his best hire yet and that is really scary for opponents.

The coaching staff now focuses on finishing recruiting. The Cowboys have a good class in place with room for three cherries on top of the class. All-American wide receiver Laquon Treadwell would be one of those as he is scheduled to visit on Jan. 11, and running back Altee Tenpenny, who will visit on Jan. 25 could be the another.

Shake out the quarterbacks is the fourth development. I expect a starting quarterback to be announced sometime during spring practice instead of waiting until the end. You have to let each of them compete, but yes, Clint Chelf gets first snap honors, and remember he did last spring too.

From that point on it is fine tuning and keeping the team focused and hungry for the prize. In other words, the Heart of Dallas Bowl may have set the stage for the greatest season in Oklahoma State football history. That would be a kick as the greatest season so far in Cowboy football is still a recent memory. The most important part of all of it is maintaining a positive attitude.

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