Okay, we've analyzed last season, we've reviewed each position, and now you can see more and more videos with Anna-Marie Ahrberg and I naming and discussing the 15 most interesting players coming into spring football at Oklahoma State.
For a few minutes let's get serious. The Oklahoma State Cowboys have 15 allotted spring practice days from the NCAA. The first two days are acclimatization days and then there are only a few days where they can really set the ball down and go full speed. Cowboys head coach Mike Gundy would likely enjoy seeing the full package working more often than what is allowed, but his team can accomplish plenty working in smaller parts.
Here are the areas that we see on the offensive side of the football that will get plenty of attention from Gundy and his staff.
No surprise here as Oklahoma State was challenged in the running game and after the 63 rushing yards in the Sugar Bowl ended up averaging less than 3.5 yards per carry on the ground. The offensive line also was in part responsible for allowing 32 sacks. That is not a terrible number but in the past the Cowboys on the offensive line have prided themselves in a much smaller number in sacks allowed.
The first big difference will be junior college All-American Larry Williams. Williams arrived at mid-year and has had a successful offseason impressing teammates and the strength staff with his work ethic and ability. He will plug in at guard even though he has been a tackle so far in his career. Guard is the trouble spot for the Cowboys and center has to approve as well.
All of the starters are back on the offensive line and appear to have improved strength and quickness in the offseason. I like Victor Salako, who had some medical issues to rehab from after the season, and Zach Crabtree. Young linemen like Lemeafe Galea'i, Matt Mucha, Johnny Wilson, and Marcus Keyes should all contend and make for greater competition at all of the offensive line positions. Competition will go a long way toward overall improvement in the offensive line.
This is the other part of the equation when it comes to improving the run game. Chris Carson has looked the part since arriving from Butler County C.C. last summer but his performance did not match up. Rennie Childs spoke of wanting to be the main guy and he never did what was necessary to make that happen.
Raymond Taylor emerged from being a walk-on to actually getting the starting job in three of the last four regular season games. Carson started the Sugar Bowl. Freshman Jeff Carr played some but wasn't ready and all four had a chance to push themselves and improve over the off season.
No one is shutting the door on any of those four but there are two names to keep an eye on for the spring and summer.
Everybody now knows that Barry J. Sanders is coming to Oklahoma State as a "super senior" transfer from Stanford and will arrive this summer. Sanders has had limited opportunities at Stanford but has been productive and he is talented. He can't duplicate his dad's Hall of Fame and Heisman Trophy winning-performance, however he can make a difference. I think Barry J. Sanders is hungry and that could make a huge difference.
The other name to keep your ears and eyes opened for emergence is former Cowboy defensive end Tyler Johnson's little brother as Jakeem Johnson was an impressive part of the scout team last season and drew strong reviews from the defensive staff and players. Johnson ran with sharp elbows and knees and ran really hard showing he might deserve a look this spring. There are no concrete or for sure answers but at this stage you are going to look under every crack and in every corner of your roster for a potential contributor to improving the run game.
It doesn't get much attention but losing senior David Glidden is huge. The mighty mite from Mustang finished last season as the leading receiver in receptions with 57 catches for 866 yards. He finished his career with 115 catches for 1,653 yards and six touchdowns.
Who will pick up that slack? I like sophomore Jalen McCleskey as in his true freshman season last fall he showed extreme courage and confidence in returning punts and catching them and not allowing for so much lost yardage on punt exchanges. He got better on decision making on returns and fair catches as the season went on. He had 29 catches for 253 yards and got his feet wet enough to show that he has big-play ability in the passing game and also was featured on several reverses as well. He is one of the fastest players on the team and has inherited a lot of moxie from his father and former NFL veteran J.J. McCleskey.
Don't panic! The unquestioned starter is Mason Rudolph. Rudolph is eager to be the every-down quarterback in the offense.
The huge void going into spring is who will back him up? In the spring it is a two-man competition between walk-on Taylor Cornelius and red-shirt freshman John Kolar. Cornelius was solid last season although he only played in two games. He is 6-6, and now 225 pounds, athletic and not your average walk-on quarterback. The Cowboys have overachieved in a huge way in walk-on quarterbacks and the sophomore from Bushland, Texas is another example.
Kolar red-shirted last season and worked on the scout team, but last spring after he reported early at mid-year he surprised and made plays and led a scoring drive in the spring game. He is 6-4 and over 200 pounds and has solid running ability. A leader for the job needs to emerge from spring and be ready to compete with talented incoming freshman Keondre Wudtee in the fall for the second line of the depth chart at the position.