Who would have thought that Oklahoma State football would be in this position in the weeks leading up to the season? Many fans already had the Cowboys penciled in as Big 12 champions before there was a single snap.
Now? In the span of five weeks, Oklahoma State fans have gone from cautiously optimistic to anxious...worried...even scared of Baylor and how many points they might hang on us. Everybody has questions, but I think there are five glaring issues that are holding the Pokes back from their second conference championship in three years.
Problemo Numero Uno: Play calling, Play calling, Play calling
We are all wondering, "What in the world was Mike Gundy thinking with this OC hire?" That is a burning question, for the fanbase as a whole, in my opinion.
We can't throw all of the blame on the quarterback when that dude can throw some BB's 25 yards up the seam. J-Dub is not the problem. Watch a little bit of game tape and you will see just how effective Walsh is when throwing the ball down the middle of the field.
I don't want to think about this anymore, but FIFTEEN CARRIES FOR ONE FREAKING YARD AGAINST WEST VIRGINIA?! If the run around the right end isn't working, stop going to it. Figure something else out. My solution? Introduce Josh Stewart's open-field abilities to OC Mike Yurcich's playbook.
J-Stew is one of the shiftiest players in the conference, and his opportunities to make something happen have been limited. In the open field, he is crazy explosive. When he has gotten the ball this season, he has had little field to work with. More jet sweep scenarios could be the answer to getting to the edge quicker, especially with an offensive line struggling to block the edge...see below. The jet sweep motions have also helped produce some of the more effective running plays by stressing the defense on the edge (I like that word, can you tell?), opening up lanes through the line.
Bottom Line: Mike Yurcich must be able to draw up a better scheme to get the ball to his playmakers in space.
Problem Number Two: The Ineptness of the Offensive Line
Through the first five games of the season I've yet to be impressed with this group. They aren't getting any push off of the ball, and there were at least three instances against Kansas State where a linebacker shot through the line untouched.
There was one play that really stood out to me. Early in the second quarter, OSU began a march down the field and didn't show signs of slowing down with big gains and nice play-calling. Here's how the drive ended after moving the chains inside the K-State 15.
1st-and-10: Incomplete pass.
2nd-and-10: Read option to the left. Jeremy Seaton pulls to the opposite side and completely whiffs on the blitzing linebacker and Walsh is hit in the backfield for a loss. Had Seaton made that block, Walsh would've been free on the left side with a blocker out in front of him for a big gain and most likely a touchdown.
3rd-and-12: JW drops back to throw, and his pass is batted down at the line of scrimmage. The once promising drive stalls, and OSU settles for three. Barely.
Walsh can make plays on his feet, but he can't do it on his own. The big guys up front have to step up, and at the very least, Jeremy Seaton has to improve in picking up the blitz and keeping his quarterback safe.
Problem Number 3: Play Execution
There are so many young players on this offense that issues with play execution are to be expected. The Cowboys, however, are 5 games in and, with the meat of the schedule upon us, these young athletes need to get the hang of it pronto. These kids are showing talent (see Seales and Ateman), so the ability is there. It is just a matter of getting things clicking, and that falls on the shoulders of J.W. Walsh and OC Mike Yurcich.
Problem Number 4: Consistency
One of the most impressive moments of the last two games had to be the TD drive that gave OSU the go-ahead score against the Wildcats. Everybody, including myself, collectively screamed "WHERE WAS THAT ALL GAME?!" I have no idea. At any rate, it took 6 plays and just under two minutes to cram the ball down Snyder's throat for a 75-yard touchdown drive. Again, I go back to J-Dub's ability to throw the ball down the heart of the defense. He throws with so much confidence over the middle. If he could only get better with those three step slants.
Problem Number 5: NOT J.W. WALSH'S ARM STRENGTH
Did anybody happen to see the 50-yard dime he tossed to Josh Stewart in the 2nd quarter? Yes? Was his arm at fault there? No. That was a Brandon Weeden-esque deep ball that should be caught 100/100 times. IT HIT HIM IN THE HANDS! However, his accuracy and consistency is a problem as he doesn't throw on the money like that every time. He is sometimes inaccurate with the short stuff (slants/outs/curls etc.), missing high and behind his receiver. In my opinion, that's a confidence thing, and nothing is more of a confidence killer than not being able to throw the easy stuff.
He needs to be able to trust his arm to deliver the ball quickly and on-target. I'M confident that he is capable of figuring out the subtle nuances of those throws. He can and will lead this team, just let him do his thing. Keep in mind he is still a RS sophmore.
I don't think that the offense is quite as bad as they have appeared to be over the last two games. They are close. The reason I think they can get where they want/need to be is because they showed that they can move the ball when they have to. (See go-ahead TD drive against K-State)
These aren't permanent issues. They can be fixed. But the Cowboys are running out of time to fine-tune before the heavy hitters come calling.
If Oklahoma State comes out firing a week from Saturday and runs the Frogs out of BPS, I can guarantee nobody will be talking about J.W. Walsh's ability and/or the playcalling. (myself included)
But if the Cowboys come out and play like they did against K-State for the rest of this season, I think you can bet on these 5 problems being a large contributing factor, with the possibility of the roster getting a complete overhaul next season with a big chunk of the starters graduating. (I don't want to think about that right now)
Like I said, this is my opinion on what the main issues are for OSU, however I'm sure there are MANY others, which I would love to see in the comments. Bring it on!