As players prepare to report for fall camp, predictions abound.
Oklahoma State embodies the general consensus in the Big 12...
Nobody's quite sure what will happen.
Only 3 QB's will take the field that have seen significant playing time in conference, and I don't think David Ash is going to suddenly turn into...well, I don't know who he could turn into, but it's safe to say that there are plenty of options that would mean improvement. The other two QB's are on the same team.
And therein lies the biggest question mark hanging over the Cowboys.
Prognostication for the Pokes runs the gamut, from favored conference champ to bottom half of the league, from top 10 nationally to NR from Sports Illustrated.
The uncertainty has several sources, and for me, the defense is not one of them. Lots of starters return from a group that gave us migraines last season, and until that changes I will expect the same. Glenn Spencer has been a main assistant on that side of the ball, so I'm pretty confident we are not going to look up during the Miss State game on 8/31 and say "Did Holder trade Coach McGraw for Bama's starting D?" Hope to see improvement, but same personnel plus a new DC that's been in the program awhile doesn't scream overhaul to me.
The offensive line will be the constant it has been for what seems like forever, although I would like to see a little improvement from last season, which seemed like a little step back from 2011.
The receiving corp could possibly field a second starting rotation for any team in the Big 12.
But that's where I jump off anything resembling certainty, and unfortunately that leads us to several positions that have been HUGE for OSU over that past decade.
We know "who," but "what" is the bigger question here.
Jeremy Smith is a veteran of the offense, but not the every down back. Can a player that has struggled with injury while playing a limited role survive the pounding that Keith Totson, Kendall Hunter, and Joseph Randle endured? Desmond Roland could be a huge key to what happens this season for this position.
Still, given our past, just about everyone expects this position to be productive.
SPECIAL TEAMS - KICKER/PUNTER
And we thought life after Brandon Weeden would be tough.
After what seemed like 20 years of Bailey/Sharp, we got a shanked 25yd FG attempt in the Spring Cotillion.
Boone needs to hire bodyguards for Ben Grogan's right leg.
This is by far the biggest "who & what" question for this team, as the kicking game has been a weapon for as long as most folks can remember. OSU can't afford for any part of it to become a handicap.
And now, without further ado, we move on to the question that has been absolutely beaten to death since the end of last season...
WHO THE HELL WILL BE THE STARTING QB, AND WILL HE BE ABLE TO CARRY THIS TEAM WITH HIS ARM?
Of all the questions, all the unknowns, this has to be the most impactful on the preseason predictions.
I won't go near any debate on who I think it should be (not a secret...), but instead will pose the question...
Did either of the worthy candidates prove that they could carry the load with their arm? Say what you want about the running game and a running QB, but this offense is geared towards pitching the rock, and I think this question is what has the Cowboys' preseason rankings producing such variety. Can Chelf consistently hit a 60+% completion rate? Walsh produced the best numbers, but it never felt like he stretched the field. We saw what happened last season...can Daxx Garman have an impact if called upon? If the QB's can't carry the load, is the running game or the defense prepared to shoulder the responsibility?
Yes, there are a number of new faces among the coaches, but when you add the most notable change (OC Mike Yurcich) to the above, I think you end up with the opposite of what many consider a given...that OSU's offense will keep churning.
Weeden and Blackmon were churning. Last year's offense did not churn.
Don't get me wrong, they produced numbers, but Weeden/Blackmon ate other defenses for dessert, often savoring it like a fine chocolate. This current group struggled mightily at times, and if not for Joseph Randle becoming impervious to injury, this offense was not a fully functional juggernaut, which exposed the defense for what it was.
2010-11 was the blueprint. When the spread can stretch the field, it is deadly. A QB who could throw it anywhere, on the money, and a receiver that could catch whatever was thrown his way, no matter if he was covered or not.
Weeden, a QB who wasn't recruited, and Blackmon, a receiver who came out of nowhere, may have collectively ruined our expectations. Most teams are lucky to get ONE player on the field at any given moment that can take over a game. We saw what happens when a team has TWO on the field at the same time.
Let's hope our offense finds at least ONE of those guys for the fall of 2013, and I think "who" the lead QB turns out to be will have to be a big part of that.