I have to admit there was some concern going into the offseason. A year ago the Oklahoma State program was sporting a 7-6 record but launched the offseason with the momentum of the Cactus Bowl win over Washington and on the heels of a Bedlam win over Oklahoma that pulled a bowl bid out of a situation that very easily could have been the end of the season and the end of the program's bowl streak dating back to the 2006 season.
You just knew the momentum would be strong in the offseason, but give strength, conditioning, and speed coordinator Rob Glass and his staff credit as they seem to know the buttons to push with the squad to light the fire for one of the hardest periods of the year with lots of lifting, workouts, and leading to spring football with 15 workouts and no opponent yet in sight. This winter those workouts were coming off a three-game losing streak including a loss in the Sugar Bowl to Ole Miss.
The coaching staff, which has watched the workouts since the end of recruiting, has been highly complimentary of the work output and the attitude.
The usual Tuesday "Competition Day" was fierce and spirited again this year with Team Crabtree for captain and offensive tackle Zach Crabtree winning the eight-team bracket where the events include tractor tire flip, weighted sled pull, agility drills, team and individual tug-of-war, bag drills, and an obstacle course.
Crabtree's team was coached by offensive line coach Greg Adkins. It included among others linebacker Gyasi Akem, center Brad Lundblade, defensive tackle Vincent Taylor, defensive tackle Taaj Bakari, fullback Britton Abbott, wide receiver Chris Lacy, running back Jeff Carr, and safety Winston Westbrooks.
There is no doubt that Carr looks like he has put on some needed muscle. Offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich told us the other day that backup quarterback Taylor Cornelius is looking good and said he is up to 225 pounds from 190 pounds a year ago. That is packing on some muscle.
"Everybody does things (in offseason) just a little bit differently and changes it up," Yurcich started. "There is a lot of commonality in the conditioning and it is really about effort and making yourself a tougher team this time of year. Seeing who is going to step up and lead the team.
"Offensively speaking, we lost receiver David Glidden, who was one of if not our best leader. It is just interesting and fun to see that leadership develop and to see what guys are emerging physically. That is a lot of it along with evaluating guys and look and see where guys are at going into spring. I'm looking at it personnel-wise and it is a fun time of year for us."
The workouts will continue through next week and then on Monday, March 7, it is time for the first spring practice.
Yurcich said the staff has analyzed all of last season. They have discussed and tracked the way they did things and looked at options and other schemes that might help. In the end Yurcich has always cautioned that being the purveyor of much can make you the master of none and spring, even with Mason Rudolph back as a veteran quarterback, will be kept basic and fundamental.
"We looked at what we did good, what we did bad, what we can improve on, what was expensive (investment of meeting and practice time) and what kind of return we got and look at what was very productive for us," Yurcich said. "Spring is still about fundamentals and we don't want to go crazy with running a lot of material.
"The primary goal in spring is getting better at fundamentals, catching, route running, blocking, being assignment sound, and knowing our schemes so that when we get back in the fall it is all about reps and repetition."
Trust me there will be some new material, although not a lot, and there will be some personnel experiments. But the offseason work will lead back to fundamentals and hopefully a team that is even stronger and more prepared than last season to get off to another great start but combine it with a better finish.