Coming off a 12-1 SU
and 9-4 ATS record and a Fiesta Bowl victory over Stanford, Oklahoma State has plenty of work
to do if it wants to return to the national spotlight. The Cowboys have 11 returning
starters, but suffered some key losses on both sides of the ball.
football pundits have OSU pegged to win 12 games again this season although I’m
one of those folks who have them winning closer to 10 games this season. A drop
off in victories is certainly expected considering the personnel losses from
Don’t get me wrong.
The program is on solid ground and Mike Gundy is a good and charismatic head
coach with lots of T. Boone Pickens money to spend (on facilities, not
players). Don’t completely write off the Cowboys. They did a great job
recruiting plus they’ve got 11 returning starters—none though named Weeden or
Blackmon. Give Gundy a little time and he’ll have this team hitting on all
cylinders just in time for bowl season.
OSU had the nation's second ranked passing attack. Duplicating or even coming close to the numbers
produced by quarterback Weeden and Blackmon won’t be easy. Forget the
presidential race for a moment. The biggest race in Stillwater this year is to
find a new quarterback. The Cowboys have two incumbents who are short on size and experience compared to Weeden who
threw for 9,004 yards and 71 scores in his two years guiding the Big Orange
Junior Clint Chelf is
the early frontrunner to take over behind center. He’s fared well in limited
action, throwing for 520 yards and five scores on 34 completions. Although
Chelf has the most experience, incoming freshman Wes Lunt – a four-star
prospect by Rivals – and redshirt freshman J.W. Walsh will get every
opportunity to win the job this spring. Luckily for whoever takes over, the
Cowboys have a deep group of running backs that can help take the pressure off
the passing attack. Joseph Randle returns to Stillwater after rushing for 1,216
yards and 24 scores last season, and will be expected to challenge for
All-Big-12 and All-American honors.
Senior Tracy Moore appears
likely to replace Blackmon as the e the go-to receiver as two-time Biletnikoff
Award Winner Blackmon is headed to the NFL. Moore is a nice option, but talents
like Blackmon don’t come around very often.
The good news for
Gundy is he’s got eight returning starters on defense and that should help keep
the Cowboys afloat early in the season. In fact it’s probable that this group
should be better across the board in the major statistical categories like scoring,
pass, total and rush defense then last year’s squad. The linebacking corps is
rock solid headed by Shaun Lewis, Alex Elkins and Caleb Lavey. The secondary
will have Daytawion Lowe back at free safety while Shamiel Gary, the transfer
from Wyoming has two years of starting experience. Ask Oklahoma State fans to
ID the best defensive back on the team and you’ll hear Brodrick Brown’s name
mentioned most often. He’s a lock for Big 12 honors and should contend for
The biggest question
on the defense is the line most specifically how to replace Jamie Blatnick and
Richetti Jones who combined for 12 sacks last year. Nigel Nicholas has been
moved from tackle to help with the depth at end, but the Ryan Robinson, Cooper
Bassett and Tyler Johnson need to step up to make it work.
This could be the
best defensive backfield in the entire pass happy Big 12 Conference. Brown is
the top cornerback and Justin Gilbert isn’t far behind.
kicker/punter Quinn Sharp led the nation in kickoff touchbacks and also led the
Big 12 in scoring among kickers, accuracy on field goals (20 of 23) and punting
The Cowboys aren’t
going to fall off the map, but they’re going to take a step back. Last year,
Gundy’s group came within a fraction or two of lining up against LSU in the BCS
title game. There won’t be anything close to last year’s thrill a minute ride like
fans enjoyed in 2011 but it should still be a good year for OSU in 2012.