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OKLAHOMA STATE FOOTBALL: Spring Assessment

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While spring ball often lies to us about the future season's outlook, one thing is crystal clear as we look towards fall camp.

For most position groups, depth and experience will NOT likely be an issue in 2015.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, we are all dangerously excited about football, and by the time OSU travels to Central Michigan, they will be world beaters.

It's what we do. We are fans.

Yet, while those totally illogical presumptions about future performance will get rationalized, possibly to our detriment, there are some legit reasons to believe that 2015 at least has the foundation of a potentially special season for the Cowboys...

  • Depth
  • Experience
Two words that caused most of us to cringe in 2014.

We should have anticipated this, though, because "depth" and "experience" are the natural evolutionary products of "lack of depth" and "inexperience." Add in some good recruiting and solid coaching hires, and 2014's "not ready for prime time" roster suddenly looks like a group ready to audition for championship consideration, at least at the conference level.

Let's take a look...

DEFENSE

Nowhere is depth and experience more evident than on this side of the ball. Two positions are legitimately three deep, and everyone else is two deep.

CORNERBACKS

NO NAME POS HT WT Class
1 Peterson, Kevin CB 5-11 190 SR
3 Hardeman, Chris CB 5-9 178 SO
6 Lampkin, Ashton CB 5-11 185 JR
2 Curry, Darius CB 6-1 195 SO
36 Jones, Miketavius CB 5-10 175 SR
30 Reber, Bryant CB 6-0 185 SR
18 Richards, Ramon CB 6-0 180 SO


This is the first of the two position groups that are three deep. Of the seven players listed, 6 could see "effective" playing time, and four already have. The addition of Indiana graduate transfer Michael Hunter will only add to the depth and experience. This should definitely be a strength for the Cowboys in 2015.

SAFETIES
NO NAME POS HT WT Class
13 Sterns, Jordan S 6-1 205 JR
16 Robertson, Deric S 6-2 205 JR
5 Morrow, Jerel S 6-0 190 SO
26 Newsome, Matthew S 5-11 190 RS FR
31 Flowers, Tre S 6-3 190 SO
4 Harding, Dylan S 6-2 190 SO
11 Roberts, Tre S 6-2 202 RS FR


This group was the definition of "baptism by fire" in 2014, but should be much stronger in 2015. Five players saw significant playing time, and not a single player will be lost to graduation until AFTER 2016. That's a good thing.

Overall, the defensive backs as a group could have a couple of really good seasons on the horizon.

LINEBACKERS
NO NAME POS HT WT Class
50 Mabin, Josh LB 6-2 235 RS FR
20 Burton, Jordan LB 6-3 215 JR
52 Simmons, Ryan LB 6-0 240 SR
12 Tucker, Kirk LB 6-2 195 SO
10 Jacobs, Seth LB 6-2 225 JR
47 Ciszewski, Brian LB 5-11 200 RS FR
45 Whitener, Chad LB 6-1 240 SO
19 Phillips, Justin LB 6-0 220 SO
40 Averette, Devante LB 6-0 230 JR
9 Akem, Gyasi LB 6-1 215 SO
32 Catlin, Kris LB 6-1 230 SR


All I can say is wow. Everyone talks about the wide receivers, but this is secretly my favorite group on the team. OSU returns its starting middle LB, as well as 4 other players who have effective game experience. Kris Catlin's return from academic suspension should not be overlooked, and Devante Averette was vying for a starting spot until staff decided his injured knee should have a full season to heal. They were fairly solid overall in 2014, and should only be better in 2015.

DEFENSIVE ENDS
NO NAME POS HT WT Class
90 Clark, Trace DE 6-4 257 SR
87 Irokansi, Victor DE 6-3 240 JR
95 Leveni, Vili DE 6-3 290 SO
82 Walterscheid, Cole DE 6-6 242 RS FR
99 Carter, Trey DE 6-4 267 RS FR
38 Ogbah, Emmanuel DE 6-4 275 JR
94 Brailford, Jordan DE 6-3 240 RS FR
93 Owens, Jarrell DE 6-3 265 RS FR
92 Bean, Jimmy DE 6-5 250 SR


Another group that is arguably three deep and returns All Big 12 1st Team selection and Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year Emmanuel Ogbah. Five players have effective game experience, and four redshirt freshman have the size to contribute now. Vili Leveni has the size to rotate at defensive tackle, if needed. This bunch is the key to a defense obviously designed to NOT allow mobile and pass-happy Big 12 QB's to roam freely.

DEFENSIVE TACKLES
NO NAME POS HT WT Class
97 Davis, Eric DT 6-3 295 JR
96 Taylor, Vincent DT 6-3 300 SO
70 Hughes, Ben DT 6-3 310 SO
62 Ferguson, Tyler DT 6-1 270 RS FR
56 Maile, Motekiai DT 6-4 305 JR


The loss of Calvin Barnett after 2013 was a concern. Ofa Hautau stepped in next to James Castleman and all was good.

Now that Castleman and Hautau have graduated, defensive line coach Joe Bob Clements seems to have simply reloaded, at least in the size department. The rub here is effective game experience, with only Vincent Taylor seeing more than a couple of games. As mentioned before, DE Vili Leveni could rotate in with this bunch. Depth shouldn't be an issue, but at least a couple of them need to step up to the void left in the middle. I'm not particularly concerned here because "In Joe Bob we trust."

Overall, the defense should have a chance to return to 2013 form, and Fox Sports Southwest agrees.

SPECIAL TEAMS

KICKERS/PUNTERS
NO NAME POS HT WT Class
59 Hockett, Matt K 6-3 195 RS FR
19 Grogan, Ben K 6-1 186 JR
49 King, Kevin K 5-10 175 JR
29 Sinor, Zach P 5-11 195 RS FR


For me, this is the biggest question mark on the team, and has been since the departure of Quinn Sharp. Ben Grogan has turned into a serviceable kicker, but is coming off hip surgery that kept him out of spring drills. The only punter on the roster is Zach Sinor. Matt Hockett made a couple of FG's in the spring game in Grogan's absence, but this group feels a bit tenuous. Will Grogan's recovering hip handle kick off duties? This could turn out ok, but it could also be the Achilles Heel for the Cowboys.

LONG SNAPPERS
NO NAME POS HT WT Class
54 Elias, Josh LS 6-0 200 SR
61 Smith, Kaleb LS 6-3 255 SO


Not to be forgotten, Arizona transfer Josh Elias had a banner season handling long snaps on punts in 2014, going the entire season without a blemish. This position should be in good hands for 2015 (see what I did there?).

RETURN SPECIALISTS

This is not coming back...

Now that you've stopped weeping, here's the skinny...

I haven't listed any players here, because, frankly, there aren't any players on the team who I would point to and say "Hey, that guy should definitely be returning kick offs/punts." WR Brandon Sheperd has seen some spot duty on punts and kick offs, and WR David Glidden has handled some punts. WR James Washington returned the opening kick in the spring game. As Hill proved, this is a pretty damn critical position, and you better have someone back there who not only can field the ball successfully, but can make something happen.

I'll just leave this here. I REALLY DON'T WANT TO GO BACK TO THE DAYS OF CLOSING MY EYES EVERY TIME WE FIELD A PUNT.

OFFENSE

WIDE RECEIVERS
NO NAME POS HT WT Class
28 Washington, James WR 6-0 200 SO
81 Seales, Jhajuan WR 6-2 198 JR
7 Sheperd, Brandon WR 6-1 195 SR
80 Doolittle, Kameron WR 5-8 200 SR
17 Hays, Austin WR 6-2 190 JR
6 Brown, Keenen WR 6-3 205 RS FR
25 McKnight, Cole WR 5-10 185 SO
82 Neph, Cole WR 6-3 205 RS FR
42 Metcalf, Keegan WR 5-11 210 JR
3 Ateman, Marcell WR 6-4 210 JR
2 Muncrief, Caleb WR 5-8 190 JR
13 Glidden, David WR 5-8 185 SR
8 Curry, C.J. WR 6-2 200 JR
15 Lacy, Chris WR 6-3 195 SO

Plenty of catches coming back for a position group most feel is OSU's deepest and most experienced, maybe too much so. Good pass catchers want the ball. If it's getting spread around, the key will be the effort when the ball is NOT coming your way. We all know how Gundy is about work ethic, especially in practice, and Marcell Ateman suffered those consequences last season despite his obvious talent. Seales was supposed to be the next Justin Blackmon on the field, but unfortunately showed the same lapse in judgement off the field, which was pretty much responsible for his sophomore slump. Brandon Sheperd showed signs towards the end of the season of being that "go to" guy. David Glidden has turned into a reliable "Josh Cooper" clone. James Washington made a living snagging deep throws. Ateman, Chris Lacy, and RS Fr Keenen Brown all have the size and strength to dominate on the outside. Austin Hays has shown flashes of talent, but has had trouble staying healthy. CJ Curry came in with lots of excitement, but has yet to break into the regular rotation.

Getting the ball often will be tough enough with this group of hands. It will only get tougher because of the next group.

COWBOY BACKS
NO NAME POS HT WT Class
86 Veatch, Zac TE 6-4 270 JR
47 Jarwin, Blake TE 6-5 242 JR
48 Bassett, Dawson TE 6-4 228 SO
85 Frazier, Jordan TE 6-5 255 RS FR
41 Abbott, Britton FB 6-3 235 RS FR
44 Seaton, Jeremy FB/TE 6-2 250 SR


With the addition of coach Jason McEndoo, this hybrid position is my dark horse for Most Valuable Position Group of the year in Stillwater.

HC Mike Gundy has made a pointed effort to redevelop this position, mainly to reinvigorate the running game. But he also wanted to maintain pace of play and not give up the ability to spread the field. Even before the late season emergence of Rudolph, Jeremy Seaton and Blake Jarwin proved to be almost uncoverable, regularly roaming wide open and making tough catches down the middle of the field. Jarwin's drop in Bedlam could have been costly, if not for that punt return, but it was a rare site. With Zac Veatch and Dawson Bassett both returning to a more natural position, we should see more double tight end formations from OSU, but that won't guarantee a running play.

Bottom line here, for me, is this...they may not catch a ton of balls, but the catches they make will be huge, and the difference they will make in the running game could be season changing.

OFFENSIVE LINE
NO NAME POS HT WT Class
73 Salako, Victor OL 6-6 330 JR
71 Lundblade, Brad OL 6-3 300 SO
68 Noel, Deionte OL 6-3 315 RS FR
66 Galea'i, Lemaefe OL 6-5 325 RS FR
76 Hegwood, Colby OL 6-5 315 SR
64 Robinson, Jesse OL 6-6 310 SO
79 Kurzu, Jack OL 6-4 305 SO
78 Mucha, Matthew OL 6-6 285 RS FR
60 Crabtree, Zachary OL 6-7 305 SO
51 Pertile, Brandon OL 6-6 310 SO
57 Lewis, Paul OL 6-3 295 JR
77 Salinas, Jaxon OL 6-4 305 SO
74 Wilson, Michael OL 6-6 305 JR


Oh what a difference a year makes.

A group plagued by departures, most notably long time coach Joe Wickline, comes out of spring with optimism, and a fair amount of it. Gundy's hire of NFL OL coach Greg Adkins could go down as one of his best ever, and Adkins has already made an impression in the spring. Transfers Victor Salako and Brandon Pertile injected immediate depth, and three additional recruits will be present for fall camp. Five returning players have effective game experience, including Paul Lewis and Brad Lundblade, who split time at center. Keep your fingers crossed, as this bunch should be drastically improved from what we saw most of 2014.

RUNNING BACKS
NO NAME POS HT WT Class
23 Childs, Rennie RB 5-10 205 JR
27 Bennett, Corey RB 5-9 205 SR
30 Taylor, Raymond RB 5-8 195 JR
22 Mays, Todd RB 6-0 205 JR
37 Brown, Mark RB 5-10 185 RS FR
33 Palelei, Sione RB 5-10 210 RS FR


While there is talent present, and more coming for the fall, this group's production will hinge largely on the offensive line and cowboy backs.

That being said, we didn't see much from this group in the spring. Caleb Muncrief, a RB who converted to WR, was back in the saddle during the spring game. I don't know if that was because of injuries or lack of talent, but I fully expected to see some other names. Transfer Todd Mays is nursing a sprained knee (can't believe Gundy talked so openly about an injury!!), and I don't recall Palelei's name being called. Kansas State transfer Raymond Taylor got some mentions, but all eyes were on Rennie Childs after the departure of workhouse Desmond Roland. My concern here is that Childs strikes me more as the change of pace back, much like Jeremy Smith was. Unfortunately, also like Smith, I don't think Childs is cut out to be that every down "thumper." For that, we will be waiting for the arrival of JUCO transfer (and recruiting steal of the year) Chris Carson to fall camp. A lot is riding on him stepping into a fairly large role in the backfield, and if he doesn't then this position group will be a pretty big concern. Late signee Jeff Carr out of Temple, TX could also figure in the mix, but is designed more like Tyreek Hill (unfortunately not nearly as fast). Todd Mays had received some chatter early in spring drills, so fall camp should be rather huge for this group.

QUARTERBACKS
NO NAME POS HT WT Class
4 Walsh, J.W. QB 6-2 215 SR
10 Rudolph, Mason QB 6-4 220 SO
14 Cornelius, Taylor QB 6-6 190 RS FR
9 Kolar, John QB 6-4 190 FR


No position group garners more attention than the QB's, and Mason Rudolph has insured that won't be changing anytime soon.

But I'm not going to talk about Rudolph. We already know about him. We've seen it, or at least we hope we have. The roster says 220, but it's been confirmed that he's closer to 240. We already know about JW Patton (Walsh, for those of you not paying attention), and that he will likely see the field in special situations. No, I think the most important player on this list is John Kolar.

NewsOK's Kyle Frederickson mentioned this in some spring game follow up, and I agree 100%. It felt really good to see Kolar handle the stage with composure. It was only a spring game, but he didn't look rattled, moved well avoiding the rush and on designed runs, and made some good throws.

Keep in mind that in two of the three years since the departure of Saint Weeden, OSU has needed three QB's to get through the season. Enough said.

Let's hope he redshirts, Walsh only sees the field for his special plays, and Rudolph is not a mirage...

Overall, the offense should be improved, if only because of Rudolph and the offensive line, and that would be good news.

That's it for football, or at least we hope it is. While we may lament the lack of football news over the next few months, just remember football news can involve passing out in the Whataburger Drive Thru, so maybe no news is what we want?

GO POKES!!!