We have documented this summer from both players, our own eye witness accounts and from comments from coaches that the summer drills led by players and the strength and conditioning work led by Rob Glass and his staff went well.
Now it is time for the coaching staff to take over. There are a number of players on the Oklahoma State squad that need to improve in order for this team to reach its potential. We have already documented the players that while they need not rest on their laurels they certainly can take steps to make sure they get to the start of the season in full health and ready to go.
This list is for the players that need to continue to improve either by learning even better how to play successfully at the Division I level, by maximizing their God-given abilities, by becoming more of a student of the game and being smarter on the field or all of the above. Great players are always striving to be just a little better. I believe the players listed here have a chance for a certain level of greatness and being listed here is not a knock but an invitation.
As we did with the players of stability, we'll list them in descending order.
10. Jerel Morrow, So., SS
Good student that had 13 total tackles last season and has started to really blossom since moving from corner to safety. He is also a major contributor on special teams. He has all kinds of athletic ability and is a player that with a strong work ethic could become one of the better defenders on the back end. In other words, how good Morrow becomes is really up to Jerel Morrow.
9. Brad Lundblade, So., OC
It is rare that a true freshman plays on the offensive line and the last one I could remember before last season was Russell Okung. That's not a bad guy to be listed with. Not only was Lundblade a freshman but as most know by now he was also a walk-on. He is smart and tough, and those two qualities go a long way when it comes to playing center. He had a slight setback with a spring injury, but he was 3/5ths through spring when it happened. He's been back all summer and working alongside a young but talented offensive line and for a new and very impressive offensive line coach in Greg Adkins. I think you can count on Lundblade and the entire offensive line to improve. Count number nine as the entire offensive line.
8. Mason Rudolph, So., QB
He's the one player that made it on both lists. Rudolph would still be the starter if he came out and picked up where he left off last January in Tempe, Ariz., but it is reasonable to expect he is going to improve off that experience and what he has worked on all spring, all summer, in Dallas at the Texas Quarterback Academy with former Cowboy quarterback Zac Robinson, and this August in fall camp. One reason that offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Mike Yurcich picked him out was he is a meeting room and practice field rat, the football equivalent of a gym rat. Combine that with senior quarterback J.W. Walsh, who is the same way, and both these guys will be loaded for the best season of their lives. If that duo played the same then this could be a good season, but if they improve as we would expect then it becomes a season that is potentially so much more.
7. Zach Sinor, RS-Fr., P
Wait a second, a punter ahead of a quarterback? What the heck is Robert Allen thinking? Here is what I am thinking. I've seen the quarterback but the punter, albeit an All-State punter in Texas, has not kicked once in a single college football game. Last fall he was a backup that was inconsistent a lot of the time. Now he will be counted upon to flip the field, at times, for a defense that giving good situations in field position could deliver a monster season. If not Sinor, then it needs to be Matt Hockett or new walk-on Lane Reazin. The Cowboys need a punter to be identified and get the job done.
6. Rennie Childs, Jr., RB
I could have done the easy thing and rated Childs (pictured above) and newcomer Chris Carson as a tie for 5th, but Childs gets an edge here as he has proven some aspects of his game at this level. He proved right off the bat that he was a tough runner as he was thrown in his freshman season against TCU. He has proven to be very secure with the football. This spring he came in after dropping five pounds and picking up some speed and he performed tough all spring making the staff encouraged about his durablility, which had been an issue with some injuries. Most of all, Childs is preaching that he understands that this is his time to be the "bell cow" back in the offense and he is acting like he is going to make that happen.
5. Chris Carson, Jr.-Tr., RB
Most fans will think either Carson or Childs will need to bust out and have a good season, but honestly, they both need to. Childs began the process in front of our eyes in the offseason and throughout the spring. Carson did too, but he was up in El Dorado, Kansas getting it done. Once arriving this summer at Oklahoma State then it was in front of the eyes of staff and teammates. Carson is a very impressive player physically and now it's time to get the full picture in practice.
4. Taaj Bakari, Fr., DT
The fourth defensive tackle in a row and the second freshman in a row. Bakari saw really good high school competition playing at Mansfield Legacy High School. The report is he had a good summer and the need with the Vili Leveni injury is that one of those freshmen at DT be ready to contribute, if not both.
3. Darrion Daniels, Fr., DT
I know the first thing you might think seeing Daniels listed is what happened to the other two defensive tackles with experience in Eric Davis and Ben Hughes. Both players could easily be listed here but we thought listing four defensive tackles back to back was plenty and to list six would be a little overboard. Defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer and defensive line coach Joe Bob Clements will take any and all help they can get at the two spots inside. The reports on Daniels this summer have been very good. We already love his personality.
2. Motekiai Maile, Jr.-Tr., DT
He is a really potent combination of strength and athletic ability. The most amazing aspect of Maile is you look at him and might guess he weighs around 260 to 265 pounds but he weighs in at 307. The summer work served him well and he is even more confident heading into fall camp than before. You can be sure he'll get some coaching from Leveni along with the staff.
1. Vincent Taylor, Jr., DT
Taylor had a really strong spring and the anticipation on the defensive staff was that he was sitting on a breakout time in his career. It's a good thing and you could say he timed it right because the Achillies injury to Vili Leveni tht end his season puts a premium on Taylor jumping up and being the leader in performance and in example at the defensive tackle position. His attitude is really good and always has been, Vincent Taylor wants to be a very good defensive tackle and that will help. The rest of the defense is really poised, so defensive tackle either kicks in and plays well giving the defense the opportunity to fulfill it's potential or it holds the defense back and keeps it from being as good as it can be.