Coming out of the 38-8 Alamo Bowl win over 10th-ranked Colorado we don't even know what the final rankings are but if the Oklahoma State Cowboys aren't in the top 10 then it's a crime. This topic will be written about over and over again between now and the start of spring football. Then more after spring and leading into the month of July and the official start of preseason.
August will get more discussion as well before the Cowboys kick off a contentious non-conference schedule on Sept. 2 in Boone Pickens Stadium vs. Tulsa.
There will be a lot to discuss and a lot to be excited and optimistic about. Even with the return of so much talent there is a lot to do as titles aren't won on potential but on accomplishment. Oklahoma State knows that so well. It seems like the Cowboys have to work extra hard over the years for the few conference championships they have been a part of.
Here is my thumbnail thoughts on what needs to happen and how the positions shape up for 2017 and a run at the Big 12 and potential College Football Playoffs.
1. I believe in the CFP committee and unlike some fans who think the committee is all about brand names only I point to Washington. If they were all about brand names then Penn State would have been in and Washington out. They could have done that. I think the committee will reward an Oklahoma State, if the Cowboys deserve it.
2. Do what you do. I think one of the best aspects of the Oklahoma State program is what strength and conditioning developer Rob Glass and his staff do between the return to school and the start of spring football. For me, it sets the stage for the team and what their personality and level of fight and desire will be. There will be a lot of veterans but also a lot of impressionable and needed first-timers in this offseason. Glass and Co. and their part of the recipe is critical.
3. It would be good if the administration and Mike Gundy could come to a resolution in their situation over the program. Oklahoma State has the potential to have a big-time college football program, but they need to run it and support it like one. The proof is there from the facilities, but look at the budgets. It is not the same and not on par with the competition. I understand that over the years the motto at Oklahoma State has been to "do more with less." If it could be amended to "doing more with a little more than less." I understand Oklahoma State doesn't have the revenue of Texas, Ohio State, Michigan, and Oklahoma. I do believe Oklahoma State needs to climb above or even with TCU, Baylor, and others at that level. If it is fiscally impossible, so be it. If it is, then get it done. The windows in big-time football for schools like Oklahoma State seem to open and close rapidly. For the second time in the last decade the window for Oklahoma State is wide open. It needs to be propped for some permanence. This is not just on administration. I know I will renew the season tickets that I often give away on the first day of renewals. All fans should and buy more if you need them.
Quarterback: Mason Rudolph gives great stability and opportunity, but make sure for the future that Keondre Wudtee and Jelani Woods get great work in the spring.
Running Back: Justice Hill is terrific but you have to see what L.D. Brown is all about, and cultivate multiple threats at running back. I still like a role for Jeff Carr. He looks good in the uniform.
Wide Receiver: Unbelievable depth with James Washington, Chris Lacy, Jalen McCleskey, and Marcell Ateman all back and young pups like Tyrell Alexander, Dillon Stoner, and Obi Obialo. The Cowboys also have a very talented recruiting class coming in.
Tight End/Cowboy Back: This is one of the only rebuild position situations as Keenen Brown and Cole Neph will step up, but new blood will have to help.
Offensive Line: I see Larry Williams stepping back in as a starter. Then watch Jesse Robinson, Shane Richards, and possibly young pup Dylan Galloway (similar in my mind to Marcus Keyes) as being prime possibilities to step into the two openings at offensive guard and tackle on the left side. I could see Zach Crabtree flipping over from right to left tackle.
Defensive End: Jarrell Owens and Tralund Webber came on to play really well late in the season and Cole Walterscheid is solid. The hope is that Jordan Brailford is back and healthy next season. Vili Leveni needs to play defensive tackle and Trey Carter could be an either/or player. The depth was so good this season and it would be great to get that going as well for 2017.
Defensive Tackle: Darrion Daniels is the guy that needs to continue to advance and be the next demonstrative playmaker inside. He has the ability. Leveni's health is critical. D.Q. Osborne is such a comfort as he will only get better and while he is short he is so quick and powerful and makes big plays. There is no substitute for making big plays. Taaj Bakari and Trey Carter could be very needed. Enoch Smith needs to be better than you would think and any other incoming recruits will be welcomed to contribute.
Linebacker: The play of Justin Phillips is a huge positive here as he combines with the stability and leadership of Chad Whitener. The trio of Kevin Henry, Kirk Tucker and Gyasi Akem have lots of potential to be contributors and play. Calvin Bundage has shown he could be the future as the star as he played quite a bit this season as a true freshman. Keep an eye on redshirt freshman linebacker Amen Ogbongbemiga.
Cornerback: Ramon Richards becomes the leader and young A.J. Green is really good, I mean really good. He will be ready and played a lot this season. Darius Curry will back up and I'm excited about Madre Harper and redshirt Rodarius Williams. Depth is my major concern after the top five.
Safeties: Tre Flowers and Kenneth Edison-McGruder are both terrific, although you can't dismiss the loss of Jordan Sterns just because McGruder is seemingly as physical. I look at Jerel Morrow and A.J. Green as back ups but depth is a real concern here. You need some junior college help or some very mature high school guys to come in and be ready to play.
Special Teams: Good shape with Zach Sinor and I really think freshman Jake McClure as a kicker will be strong. He has an NFL leg according to most and can make long field goals as well as short. I also like Matt Ammendola. Jalen McCleskey is a solid start with the return game and maybe spectacular will make an appearance there.