First of all, sorry to all for being MIA for the past week. Five stitches from a broken glass on New Year's Eve put my right hand (thumb) on the sideline until today. Not at 100%, but don't think you can tell the difference between that and 70%. The splint is off, so that's all that matters.
The obvious questions are defensive coordinator, offensive coordinator, who will be the starting QB, Joseph Randle, and who the hell is the next great OSU kicker?
- DC...Bill Young now says he will coach until hell freezes over, or something like that. Don't really know how I feel about that. For me, this season needs to see a defense that functions, at least some of the time, like the A&M and Notre Dame defenses did against OU this season. When is the last time that OSU had a defense that IMPOSED ITS WILL? I don't want to hear about statistics, I want to SEE it. I mean, seriously, watch replays of both of those games metioned above and tell me exactly when the Cowboys have had a defense that LOOKED like that? The Sooners moved the ball almost at will against OSU, yet it seemed like they had no place to go in the 2nd half of their blowout loss to the Aggies.
To get there...well, I'm not sure how much is about coaching/schemes and how much is about athletes. We need speed AND physicality, and we saw some of that from Barnett/Castleman on the DL and from Mitchell/Johnson at LB. The biggest issue will be the secondary, as usual. Will Gilbert come back? I don't know that I want him to. My guess is that, after a horrible year, he needs to in order to reestablish his prior reputation.
- OC...does it matter? Obviously yes, but how much? The mad scientist came and went in one year, but did he install a system that is so superior that it can be tweaked slightly to fit the talent pool and keep producing? Monken came in, learned the system from our QB, and seemed to make it better. The Cowboys had 3 different QB's start, and all 3 amassed more than 1,000 yards passing. However, based on a number of statements from both Monken and Gundy, it seems that only the general formation/scheme gets sent in most of the time and the QB is responsible for deciding pre-snap exactly what OSU will do. So it seems like even more important question will be...
- Who will be the starting QB? This is the soap opera that keeps on giving. Chelf and Walsh are established, but Lunt and Garman are complete unkowns. We have no idea if Garman is any good, and Lunt's status is a BIG question mark in my mind. If Chelf gets the nod (and it seems likely that could happen), then Walsh is solidly #2. I'm pretty confident you won't see Lunt sitting around playing 3rd string waterboy, so I expect him to redshirt or transfer.Say what you want about JW, but he is the superior leader among all the QB's (Chelf is no slouch), and he had better avg stats than anyone else. His efficiency rating, int-comp ratio, yards per completion or attempt, and completion % were WAY ahead of both Chelf and Lunt. Paint that however you like, but the arm we all loved to bash was the most efficient in terms of throwing the ball. Obviously the "eye test" is a big deal, and Chelf or Lunt look a LOT better doing it, but Lunt had a propensity for throwing it to the other team and Chelf''s accuracy resulted in a number of "receiver induced" interceptions.
Then again, this mess is also dependent on the OC hire. Just a hunch on my part, but I think Gundy, while not looking for a "running" QB, really liked having a "mobile" one. Lunt might be less mobile than Weeden. More on this thought a bit later...
- Will Joseph Randle be back for his senior year? While most folks sense that he won't, a few tweets on Friday got the rumor mill going that he might be back. I'm guessing Randle really wanted to go, but I think the feedback from NFL folks is that they really aren't sure what to do with him. He is definitely NOT an every down type of back that is going to take a pounding. The NFL is NOT college in that respect. He is an excellent receiver, but he is not fast enough to be on the outside, and does he have the elusiveness to be a slot/flanker/scatback type of player, like Maclin or Sproles?
I don't think Randle leaves early just to be a 3rd down type of RB.
- Dan Bailey...Quinn Sharp...???? This could be the biggest and most critical issue for the team. We saw this year what a weapon Sharp was, particularly with kickoffs and punts. OSU is spoiled. The Cowboys have enjoyed the best, if not one of the best, placekickers/punters in the country for the past 7-8 years. Do we have any idea if someone comparable is waiting in the wings? I think we are likely to return to split duty, with different guys handling FG/PAT's and punts.
Now for the question that is more important to me than ANY other...
Will Wickline's unit return to the dominance of 2010-11?
I know the Cowboy's OL didn't give up a bunch of sacks, but I don't recall our QB's...any of them...standing around like Weeden did for two years. Chelf's performance in the "nobody cares who we beat the crap out of" bowl was the first time ALL SEASON (as usual, don't count Savannah State) that our QB had "Weeden" time...not having to move, nobody in his face, scanning for the wide open play. No surprise that this was BY FAR Chelf's best performance from an accuracy standpoint.
It's one of the reasons Lunt got the crap beat out of him, and why the more mobile Chelf and Walsh experienced a lot more success. Teams were obviously more aggressive due to QB inexperience, but they also weren't that intimidated by the run. It's also why Lunt won the starting job in the spring...he got comfortable not getting drilled, just like Weeden. Let him stand around like that, and he is the best QB for this offense.
Defections and injuries definitely took a toll, but this bunch (while performing admirably) was not the stonewall we saw the previous two seasons. This needs to get rectified, and I am pretty confident in Wickline getting that done.
Stay tuned, we should have a podcast up early next week discussing a lot of this.
I know we all think it will be 8 months of wandering in the desert, but spring ball will provide plenty of fodder, along with the news of Randle's status, the OC hire, and what's happening with recruiting and defense. It's really only May-July where withdrawal will fully set in.
And, like every year, we will all come out of hibernation in late July, well rested, ready and eager for 2013's version of the journey.