Taking A Peek At Non-Conference Opponents

Oklahoma State finished fall camp Saturday with a 74-play scrimmage. After days off Sunday and Monday, the Cowboys will get into a routine of afternoon practices as they close in on the Sept. 3 season opener at Central Michigan. The Cowboys non-conference foes all open on that first Thursday night of the college football season: Central Arkansas is at Stamford, and UTSA faces Arizona.

It would figure that all three of the Cowboys non-conference opponents would be about the same place in their preparation for the season, but that is a little hard to read as two of the three are very limited in the news coming out of their fall camps preparing for the season. Here is a capsule of what we've learned about OSU's first three foes for in the 2015 season.

Central Michigan Chippewas
OSU at CMU, Sept. 3, 6 p.m.
Information in limited in what is coming out of Central Michigan. Former Detroit Lions special teams coordinator and Central Michigan alum John Bonamego takes over in Mt. Pleasant. The Chippewas reported about the same time as Oklahoma State but with limited newspaper coverage in the area and the school website really only releasing features it is hard to know how they are progressing.

We do know that Bonamego is inspiring his players as the coach learned earlier this summer that he had a very curable case of tonsil cancer. He is getting up every day and flying at 4 a.m. to the University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor and then flying back to conduct practices.

Bonamego kept offensive coordinator Morris Watts off the previous coaching staff, and that makes sense with three-year starter and junior quarterback Cooper Rush back. Continuity there although the word is Bonamego wanted the tempo on offense pushed up a few notches and that has been a priority at practice. Rush threw for 3,157 yards last season with 27 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

The run attack took a hit when expected starter Saylor Lavalli was injured in the spring game and is out for the season. Martez Walker, a junior, and sophomore Devon Spalding combined to run for 636 yards and a 4.7 ypc last season. That tandem will need to carry the load. Spalding is the bigger, more physical back at 5-11, 203 pounds. There is also 1,000-yard rusher Jahray Hayes that transferred in from City College of San Francisco. The offensive line has a few veterans including Lombardi Award and Rimington Award candidate Nick Beamish.

Defensively, Bonamego hired Greg Colby as his defensive coordinator. Colby most recently served as defensive line coach at Illinois for former Oklahoma State defensive coordinator and current Illini head coach Tim Beckman. Colby has been a coordinator at Northwestern and I think you will see a defense similar to what Beckman ran in Stillwater with a hybrid linebacker (star) and a dominant and athletic-type of defensive end (Leo) if they have the players to fit those roles. It's a rebuild on defense with veteran safeties Tony Annese and Kavon Frazier being the leaders on that side of the ball.

Central Arkansas Bears
UCA at OSU, Saturday, Sept. 12, 6:30 p.m.
Here is where the most information is coming out as head coach Steve Campbell seems comfortable with his team and gave them a day off Sunday following an extensive scrimmage on the purple and gray stripped field in Conway. It was the first scrimmage for the Bears this fall and Campbell characterized it s a balanced scrimmage with things he liked on offense and defense.

Quarterback play was solid as three quarterbacks combined for five touchdown passes with junior and expected starter Taylor Reed throwing for two scores, an 11-yard touchdown to Jatavious Wilson and a 25-yarder to Brandon Cox, who also caught a 23-yard scoring pass from backup Hayden Hildebrand.

Just s the Cowboys had a pair of touchdown runs with their top two backs during Saturday's scrimmage, UCA got a 40-yard touchdown scamper from Blake Veasley and a four-yard touchdown burst from Antwon Wells. The offensive line is solid and bigger then you would think for an FCS school.

On defense, All-American defensive end Jonathan Woodard only plyed a handful of snaps in the scrimmage, but Campbell said defensive end Jordan Tolver and outside linebacker Dalvin Simmons made a number of plays and while the secondary allowed more than a few catches he liked the aggressiveness that they showed going to the ball.

Kicking game doesn't get mentioned a lot but the Bears had two kickers going on Saturday that were perfect on PATs and then each hit a 52-yard field goal. No word on the punt game.

UTSA Roadrunners
UTSA at OSU, Saturday, Sept. 19, 2:30 p.m.
Veteran head coach Larry Coker is also being close to the vest with reports out of fall camp, although everything opened up on Friday with an open practice on campus to try and prop up the excitement for the start of the season. A season that opens with a trip to Arizona, but includes a home date with Kansas State prior to the Roadrunners returning to Stillwater on Sept. 19.

Last week was a rough one health-wise for Coker as he missed a practice on Wednesday, attended practice on Thursday, but left before practice began on Friday. Questions as to why he missed went unanswered, according to the San Antonio Express-News. Coker's former assistant at OSU and recent head coach at Arkansas and Mississippi, Houston Nutt of CBS Sports was there for the Friday practice. The attendance for the ppen practice was just over 300.

The practice was dominated by turnovers and injured players sitting out. The quarterback combination of redshirt freshman and expected starter Blake Bogenschultz and senior Russell Bellomy split snaps with the first team offense. They combined to throw three interceptions that were snagged by defensive tackle Baylon Baker, senior safety Mauricio Sanchez, and freshman cornerback Deandre Williams.

Offense is a rebuilding job for coordinator Kevin Brown with only five senior starters and just 47 returning starts on that side of the ball. That compares with seven seniors and 87 previous starts on defense. On offense on Friday, senior receivers Aaron Grubb and Kenny Bias both sat out as did two of the starting offensive linemen. Tight end David Moore is a major weapon and they are also counting on tailback Jarveon Williams to be productive.

On defense the most experienced standouts include Sanchez, fellow safety Michael Egwuagu and corner Bennett Okotcha. The Roadrunners may have to really lean on that defense in the first three games at Arizona, Kansas State, and at Oklahoma State.


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