With so much going on in other college sports, it’s easy to forget that spring workouts are starting to ramp up across the country. The Big 12 is no exception there, with multiple teams having already started practices.
As those teams commence their NCAA-sanctioned workouts, each Big 12 squad will try to find answers to its respective questions over the course of about a month.
Here, we’ll try to look into what positions will be up for grabs. Up next are the Oklahoma State Cowboys, who began practices yesterday.
The 2018 season was not one most Oklahoma State fans anticipated. For that matter, no one who follows college football saw their roller coaster of a season coming.
The Pokes managed to go to the wire or beat some of the best teams in college football last season, but they also seemed utterly flat against squads that didn’t qualify for a bowl game in 2018.
Yet, as head coach Mike Gundy enters his 15th season as the man in charge in Stillwater, opportunities abound for the Pokes to once again make some noise in the conference. There are definitely serious questions for Gundy and his staff in 2019, but if Oklahoma State can figure a few things out, they could be back in the Big 12 hunt next season.
PRACTICE BEGINS: MON, March 11
SPRING GAME: SAT, April 20
LOCATION: Boone Pickens Stadium (Stillwater, OK)
The most impactful move Gundy made in the offseason was the hire of Sean Gleason from Princeton as his new offensive coordinator. Gleason’s schemes at Princeton were based a lot on disguise and misdirection, so it’s likely that the Cowboys will integrate many of those principles into their offense.
Gleason’s hire is well-timed. Last year, the Pokes were somewhat up-and-down on offense, but they come into 2019 with plenty to look forward to on that side of the ball.
That starts up front, where four of five offensive line starters are back. Dylan Galloway, Marcus Keyes, Johnny Wilson, and Tevin Jenkins are among a group of experienced upperclassmen who could be one of the better units in the conference.
Of course, there is a quarterback battle heading into the spring. Gundy will have to sort out the field among Spencer Sanders, graduate transfer Dru Brown, and true freshman Brendan Costello. With Sanders on the roster as a former Gatorade Player of the Year, he’s a popular choice for a lot of fans. Whoever earns the spot, there should be a good competition for a new signal caller.
At running back, redshirt sophomore Chuba Hubbard is back to most likely take over the starting role.
The most talented position group for the Pokes might be the wide receiver corps, where Tylan Wallace, and Dillon Stoner both return. One wideout spot will need to find a new starter, though, but Jelani Woods returns at one of the “Cowboy back” spots.
Defensive coordinator Jim Knowles enters his second offseason in Stillwater, so most of his personnel should have a strong grasp of his system by now.
The Pokes face a major challenge in trying to offset the loss of their entire defensive line, as three players return there from last year’s two deep, and none of them are starters. That’s not exactly the way Knowles would like to kick off the 2019 season, but the good news is that he has options in the defensive backfield.
Four of five starters return in the secondary, including All-Big 12 cornerback A.J. Green. Rodarius Williams, Jarrick Bernard, Kolby Peel, and Malcolm Rodriguez were four of the eight top tacklers for Oklahoma State last season, so they will bring back a lot of production from 2018.
Linebacker Calvin Bundage will be a senior this season, and he is one of the more experienced players on the defense. Alongside him, the Pokes will have to find a replacement.
Whoever steps into a starting role next fall will hope to bring an overall level of consistency to a team that has a lot of growing talent. The Pokes seem poised to take a step forward, but what kind a step will that be? Spring workouts might give us a few hints as to which leaders could help this team progress in 2019.