Leaders Are Showing Up

We are about to launch a series, "Players We Expect to Jump Off the Roster Page in 2014." But before we do, it is only proper to identify the leaders on the team that are showing up this summer, pushing the younger and less experienced players into being those players that will jump off the roster and into prominent roles his season.

Mike Gundy and his staff did lose a lot of experience and a lot of leadership with players using up their eligibility, like Daytawion Lowe, Shaun Lewis, Caleb Lavey and Calvin Barnett on defense and players like Clint Chelf, Jeremy Smith, Parker Graham, and Kye Staley on offense.

After watching the spring and then taking in a players-led metabolic practice on Thursday I feel like I've easily identified six leaders. There are more I feel sure but here are the seven that I have really seen pushing themselves to lead and push others.

J.W. Walsh
This is his fourth summer on campus, and while there is no published depth chart there is no secret he is the starting quarterback if the team lined up today, and he is likely the starter for the Florida State game unless something were to happen.

Walsh has learned well from his dad, Denton Guyer head coach John Walsh, from his college coaches, and from Brandon Weeden and Clint Chelf in past summers. He is a natural leader that holds himself highly accountable making his lead even more effective with the rest of the offense.

He is quick to include himself in noting how everybody needs to work hard and improve. He is on time, prepared, and always seems to be ready with a plan and an answer. He is enthusiastic in the right way and quick to compliment his teammates.

Daniel Koenig
I wasn't sure I would ever be writing something like this in reference to Koenig. He has always been a good player. He works hard, but he has also always been quiet and played with a edge of emotion that was more inclined to popping off and starting a fight in practice than it was to encourage a fellow offensive lineman or, especially, a defensive lineman.

Koenig showed me something when I saw how helpful he was with the younger offensive linemen during the coaching change from Joe Wickline to Bob Connelly. He bought in immediately and helped give Connelly creditability early with the group. In the spring he stood in front of the entire offense one day before practice and gave an impassioned speech about making the most of each moment and each practice.

During summer workouts he is the unquestioned leader and is quick to help the younger players and new freshmen, whether that means a push or a compliment. He has done both. He is also not afraid to push his fellow veterans but does it in a way that is accepted.

Jhajuan Seales, Desmond Roland and Kevin Peterson
All three are grouped together because their leadership is very similar. The one that might stand out a little is Desmond Roland as he is a player that Mike Gundy will tell you had the light come on for him last season.

Roland's path is not all that different from a running back that came before him in Jeremy Smith. Some people may not know but there was a spring early in Smith's career where he went AWOL for several practices and almost a week. He wasn't sure he wanted to play college football. Now it was never that extreme for Roland, but Gundy and others will tell you that Roland kind of just got by and wasn't grabbing his opportunities and pushing himself.

Gundy likes to refer to loving football. Roland does love football now and he is spreading the love and leading by example. That is where Seales and Peterson come in with how they are similar to Roland. Seales and Peterson have embraced football earlier in their career, in fact all of their career, but leadership for all three is more by example.

The other day I heard Seales get vocal several times in the drills with the receivers, but they work so much with the quarterbacks that Walsh can handle some of the direction. Peterson has to be a little more vocal as he is the leader of the secondary, but he is still mostly example. If defensive backs, corners or safeties, do as Peterson in effort, enthusiasm, and drive toward proper technique then the young pups in the back end of the Oklahoma State defense will advance pretty quick.

James Castleman
He was late for last Thursday's workout because he was helping an injured mother in a traffic accident that had two children in the back seat, and that explains Castleman because that is about the only reason he would be late. Castleman is not a yeller but he is the kind of guy that teammates understand means business and he holds himself to a higher standard than he does anybody else. That makes it hard for any teammate to argue with his expectation in practice. He brings it each day.

Ryan Simmons
A natural leader, he may have more on his leadership plate than any of the other players identified including Walsh. The linebacker position is a little desperate from a depth chart standpoint. Freshmen are going to have to play and as defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Glenn Spencer has said the new rule allowing coaches time in the meeting room each week with players came at a beneficial time for the Cowboys and the linebackers.

But Spencer expects Simmons, with his experience and his responsible nature, to carry out more on the practice field and in non-coach related situations. The good thing is Simmons is good at this and he has been prepared well for it. Losing three seniors and then three other potential players at the position is tough, but having Simmons to help break in the young players and transfers like Josh Furman is fortunate. It also helps that he has played at both the weak side and the middle linebacker positions.

There are the leaders and in the coming days we'll introduce you to the players that will jump off the roster and help Oklahoma State keep the ship steady in 2014.

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