For some fans they may be the most invisible skill players on the team, and then again, some fans might consider them more linemen than skill position players. Losing the pair of Blake Jarwin and Zac Veatch will be the most devastating losses on the offense. Part of the reason will be the 28 receptions for 402-yards and three touchdowns, but the bigger reason will be that having either one or both on the field allow the offense to be extremely versatile. Either could play in the backfield as a fullback, either could play just off the line of scrimmage as an h-back, either could play on the line of scrimmage attached as a tight end, and Jarwin was able to play in the slot to form a four-receiver set or if both are in and Veatch is lined up as an h-back, a five-receiver set. Those two players allowed Oklahoma State with the same personnel group to show 11, 12, 20, 21, 22, and empty personnel looks and an even greater array of formations. They could do that without substituting, which meant the defense had no chance to substitute and try to match up.
“The Cowboy backs this past season were extremely important, not just in the run game, but in the pass game and getting the multiple sets and being able to play with tempo and not subbing was really a big key for us,” offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich explained earlier in the off-season. “To be able to have that vision, that personnel, and that versatility is key or was a key to us. How we adapt to the personnel will be vital. Every offense is going to be different. It can be the same system, but the personnel is going to change and you have to modify a little bit and tweak here and there to play your strengths from a personnel standpoint.”
The Cowboy back is not going away but the choices on who plays there will be different this year. Jarwin was completely versatile and even though, he came from playing offensive guard, Veatch was athletic enough to pull off everything but being a threat at the slot. In goal line or red zone, he was okay at the slot and would be respected.
Keenen Brown is the heir apparent to being the primary Cowboy back. A former wide receiver that just kept getting bigger, Brown is athletic, has good hands, and is capable of making acrobatic catches. He is a receiver that will work well in that role, but he has to be a strong blocker and will see defensive targets ranging from a 6-4 plus, 250 pound plus defensive end to a linebacker, safety, and corner. Brown is now listed at 6-3, 242 and we’ll see what his blocking looks like in the spring. Britton Abbott is the next Veatch, the former quarterback at Liberal, Kansas and a walk-on to the Oklahoma State program, Abbott is tough as rawhide and projects as the new “Veatch” and he also possesses enough athleticism to be a threat in the passing game.
Now, the options beyond Brown and Abbott are Dawson Bassett, who has been around a long time and honestly, has all the physical attributes to be good at this. This spring will be kind of a do or die for Bassett or he will end up playing kickoff return and that may be about it. Freshman walk-on Dayton Metcalf is another player that I would be curious to see where he is this spring. A red-shirt last season at 6-4, 210 pounds from Hooker, Okla., he has potential.