OKLAHOMA STATE (10-3, 6-2 Big 12 in 2016)
Returning starters on offense (8)
QB Mason Rudolph (Sr.), RB Justice Hill (Soph.), WR James Washington (Sr.), WR Chris Lacy (Sr.), Slot Jalen McCleskey (Jr.), RT Zach Crabtree (Sr.), OC Brad Lundblade (Sr.), LG Marcus Keyes (Soph.)
Note: There are three other players returning with significant starting experience on offense (a full season) that either were out with injury or lost a job last season.
Returning starters on defense (5)
DE Jarrell Owens (Jr.), DE Cole Walterscheid (Jr.), MLB Chad Whitener (Sr.), SS Tre Flowers (Sr.), CB Ramon Richards (Sr.)
Circled Non-Conference Game in 2017
Oklahoma State plays Pittsburgh at Heinz Field on Sept. 16 a team they beat at home last season that beat Penn State and went on to beat Clemson on the road. The Cowboys open at home with Tulsa and go to the home of the Pro Bowl Ladd Peebles Stadium to play South Alabama.
5 Who Could Surprise (redshirts, non-starters in 2016 vying for starting spots):
WR Marcell Ateman (Sr.) – No surprise here as he missed all of last season with a foot injury and is healthy. He is a major target when healthy and an NFL prospect.
CW Keenen Brown (Jr.) – The CW stands fro Cowboy back or TE/FB hybrid and Brown, a former WR at 6-3, 242 has all kinds of athletic ability.
QB Keondre Wudtee (RS Fr.) – He won’t be needed, you would hope, but Wudtee is 6-4, 215 and reminds you of all kinds of former really athletic dual threat quarterbacks.
FS Kenneth Edison-McGruder (Jr.) – He should take over for Jordan Sterns and there has never been a situation like this as close to a clone taking over that I have seen.
CB A.J. Green (Soph.) – I couldn’t decide whether to go with Justin Phillips at LB that most people have seen or Green, who played some and is a young, big corner that really has a chance to seal off a side in coverage.
3 Reasons for Concern:
Reason #1 … The defensive line, especially the tackle position was so explosive but they lose Vincent Taylor a year early to the NFL, Mote Maile was a senior, and even though you didn’t hear about him a lot Eric Davis was a good hand. Vili Levini needs to come back healthy and it still won’t be as deep at DT as it was last season. D.Q. Osborne is still there.
Reason #2 … Chris Carson was ideal to play off freshman running back Justice Hill and you will need to have someone be able to do that. The most likely looking suspect is incoming freshman running back J.D. King from Georgia. That would be asking a lot of a freshman. Look for a graduate transfer big back, because Oklahoma State would be a good locale for a guy to land.
Reason #3 … It is only two positions and there are two players there with starting experience that could plug in, but offensive line chemistry and building is so tenuous at OSU. They need to get it right and get it right before the opener.
Why this team could win big:
They have experience and they will bring momentum into the off season, spring, and summer off the 38-8 pasting of Colorado in the Alamo Bowl. Anytime you have a quarterback that knows what he is doing, can make big plays, teamed with this kind of embarrassment of riches at receiver then there is a chance. There is concern on defense with the tackle position, but the rest should be just fine, even improved. Schedule is tough with road games at Pitt, Texas, West Virginia, and Iowa State.
Offensive Player to Watch:
Take your pick between Mason Rudolph, James Washington, Justice Hill and even Marcell Ateman
Defensive Player to Watch:
LB Justin Phillips – He is a big-time hitter and made game winning plays down the stretch last season when he took over as a starter.