Dave Rader, who I have a tremendous respect for, called Connelly, "a technician" in teaching offensive line play and a coach that has great understanding of fundamentals and techniques on offensive line play and is a very good teacher. He also said Connelly is very good with protections, both in developing and teaching.
From another source, I learned that Connelly is an excellent recruiter that does not back down and is good at developing relationships with players, parents and coaches.
All of that is good because Connelly has been left a lot of work to do in overhauling the Oklahoma State offensive line. A couple of early departures and a couple of serious injuries, along with some past recruiting mistakes, have left the offensive line short on experience, on scholarship players, and on overall numbers this coming spring.
Below is our "to do list" for Connelly as he steps in. It would be best if he, in typical offensive line fashion, keeps his feet moving as he will need to in order to get a solid offensive line and potential two deep ready for the opener on Aug. 30 in Arlington against defending national champion Florida State.
1. Check one last time with last year's starting center Jake Jenkins to see if he'd like to pursue a master's degree.
Jenkins and Travis Cross both told the Cowboys coaching staff they were finished after the Cotton Bowl, that they would get their degrees and move on. The versatile Cross, who never played a lot, was able to play at all five positions on the offensive line and would help. However, he has law school plans and would be less likely to reconsider.
Jenkins was burned out. Even Wickline recognized it and was prepared to back off some to let him get back to normal. Jenkins could pursue a master's degree or a double major academically. He would help, even if he were in a back-up role. Jenkins is a Texan and while I don't know Connelly's personality there is the chance they could fit better than Jenkins and Wickline did. It is a longshoreman but the experience of a Jenkins could really help this offensive line group.
2. Figure out where everybody is going to line up to start spring.
This will be difficult because in some cases there is no game tape to go on and only practice video. In the case of injured redshirt freshman Jack Kurzu, there is high school tape to look at. Purely guessing in some situations it would look like Zac Veatch and Paul Lewis would be the top two candidates at center, and both may need to play, so they may both need to double dip on the depth chart.
Another center possibility might be Kurzu, who is very smart but his feet will need to help in making that decision. From there you go outside because of the huge known commodity in left tackle Daniel Koenig, the only returning starter at this point. Part-time starter Chris Grisbhy is back and that will help. Grisbhy will be a senior as he was a junior college transfer two years ago that had three years of eligibility.
The other three top tackle prospects in my mind that are healthy and ready to go for the spring are "pups" -- red-shirt sophomore Michael Wilson and red-shirt freshmen Zach Crabtree and Jesse Robinson.
Veatch and Lewis are also both good candidates at guard, along with Kurzu and red-shirt freshman Jaxon Salinas. Colby Hegwood, a late junior college transfer last August, could also help. In addition, there are several walk-ons that need to be evaluated as Chance Douthit, Zachary Hargrove and Grant Canis all look to be inside players at guard or center. Tevin Talton of tiny Preston, Okla., looks like he could play inside or tackle.
3. Evaluate the injured players and decide how soon they can realistically work back into the line-up.
There are two players that will miss spring following injuries last season. It was the fall camp injury to Devin Davis, a torn ACL with some other damage, that put the offensive line in a state of flux that lasted most of the season. Davis was likely the most talented member of the starting offensive line when he went down. The 6-5, 298-pound Davis is extremely athletic.
Brandon Garrett became the mostly correct answer at right tackle last season and was injured in the Cotton Bowl with a severe broken leg that required a metal rod and immediate surgery that night to repair. He will be out during the spring. For Connelly, the question is how soon each will be back and how soon each might be able to help out.
4. Evaluate the incoming freshmen to see if they can potentially help immediately.
There are just a few candidates. It would be a given that blue-shirt Deionte Noel will not be ready to step in immediately. The same would go for Clear Lake product Matthew Mucha unless he puts on close to 40 pounds between now and the start of fall camp in August.
Connelly might see more immediate possibilities for Lemaefe "Junior" Galea'i, who is big at 6-5, 330 pounds, and more physically mature than the other two. Galea'i comes out of that Euless Trinity program that is also pretty strong for the high school level.
5. Come up with the best protections and run-blocking schemes to fit what you will have for next season.
Dave Rader says Connelly can put together protections and loves to block the run. He has been around some really good offensive minds, even served as an offensive coordinator himself, and has extensive experience with up-tempo, spread offenses. Connelly is experienced and that is good because with the situation left for him to piece together, he will need all that experience.