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OKLAHOMA STATE OF THE PROGRAM: Looking to 2016

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One thing stands between the Cowboys, Mason Rudolph, and not only the top of the Big 12, but also the college football playoff.

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Just so we're clear....

The 2015 season was a success. If you are upset with "mediocre" football," then you need to read a different post.

How good was OSU in 2015? Defensively, they were ok. Good enough to handle weak and mediocre teams, but not nearly good enough to hold it's own against top tier offenses without some help.

Offensively, they were also ok, but this is where things get murky.

What do we know? We know that the offensive line is MIA. Pass blocking was generally adequate, but teams quickly discovered that they didn't need to over commit to the blitz in order to get pressure on the QB. I don't think I need to describe the state of the run blocking.

With the offensive line providing little assistance, how did the rest of the offense perform? Quite predictably, the running backs struggled, especially Chris Carson, who came in on the magic carpet that was supposed to reinvigorate the Cowboys' rushing attack. You would also think, since opposing defenses didn't have to commit to blitzing and could drop 7-8 into coverage, that the passing game would also experience difficulty.

Let's check on sophomore Mason Rudolph's Big 12 stats in his first full year as a starter:

-YPG...3rd
-Total Yards...2nd (Boykin would have been 2nd had he played 9 games)
-Comp %...5th (60.7%)
-Attempts...3rd
-Completions...3rd
-TD's...4th (16)
-INT's...6th (8, ranked from fewest to most)
-TD/INT ratio...6th (2/1)
-YPA...T3rd (8.7, with Boykin)
-YPC...2nd (14.4)
-Comp/TD ratio...7th (11.5-1)

For those of you who would shake your head at these numbers and say Rudolph isn't good enough to take this offense to the next level, let's just say I disagree with you. Put even a mediocre offensive line in front of him, with 100-150 ypg rushing, and watch all of those numbers improve.

These stats were accumulated behind a non-existent offensive line, constantly throwing into 7-8 man coverage due to the complete lack of run support. If you add Walsh to the mix, the QB position basically saved the season. Rudolph and Walsh accounted for 48 out of the 60 offensive TD's (that would be 80%).

Enough of that though, as the 2015 season is now past, and we focus our attention on national signing day and spring practice.

I'm not up on all the latest hits on the recruiting trail, but here's my amateur assessment of the state of the program:

PLEASE FIND AND OFFENSIVE LINE!!!!

If you work your way around the roster, there is only one area of major concern.

-Special teams is generally ok. Grogan is a serviceable kicker, Sinor stepped in nicely as a true freshman punter, and the return game is in decent hands. Blocking in the return game, however, is in need of improvement.
-Defensive line loses big, but depth will mitigate the losses of Ogbah and Bean.
-Linebacker is not a concern.
-Corners and safeties are always a concern in the Big 12, but depth will bring back some experience. It remains to be seen whether or not talent comes along with that.
-Wide receiver is fine, although OSU could use that "go to" guy. Washington is the closest they have, although Ateman improved quite a bit this season.
-Cowboy backs...receiving-wise, this group is solid, but they need to go to blocking school with the offensive line.
-Running backs are ok, but the Cowboys desperately need to find someone capable of making something out of nothing.
-Quarterback is in good hands, although backup is now a question mark.
-Offensive line desperately needs depth and size, as well as a toughness that was not present the past two seasons. Hard to tell how much is scheme and how much is talent, but it is abundantly clear that OSU will not be able to compete with the big boys unless the offensive line improves. Better production from Rudolph, as well as the running game, will depend completely on this. This was a major part of the defensive collapse at the end of the season, as the offense couldn't sustain possessions when the defense was getting pounded by Baylor, OU, and Ole Miss.

Let us also not forget the coaching staff.

I have no issues on defense. For all you folks suddenly calling for Spencer's head, you need to lay off the meth. I mean, that's just plain silly.

The offensive side of the ball is another matter.

Across the board, blocking is an issue. Route running and pass catching are fine (although not against Ole Miss, but that was an aberration). Yurcich has done a good job developing Rudolph. The running backs just lack overall talent and vision, but their impact is muddied by the poor performance of the line and the Cowboy backs. For me, McEndoo and Adkins were the two most important hires, and we didn't really see anything from their position groups in promoting Gundy's stated preference to improve the running game. Both coaches will need better output in 2016 or their stay in Stillwater could be in jeopardy.

Most importantly, however, is the state off the playcalling. Much debate has occurred in regards to Yurcich's capabilities as an OC, as well as Gundy's role in shaping the offense. Yurcich, in my opinion, is an adequate D1 coordinator. He has shown the ability to game plan and attack teams. His schemes have ripped apart some really good programs. I continue to echo what many fans think, and that is Gundy is the culprit in killing this offense. His stubborn adherence to "balance" was blatantly obvious this season, even when it was clear OSU had NO ability to run the ball, with the grand exception of the Walsh package. Gundy has shown that he is very conservative when it comes to field position, playcalling, and QB's. Unless he is willing to completely take his hands off the reigns of the offense, it won't matter who is functioning as OC. Gundy will never hire another Holgorsen or Monken. Unfortunately for Yurcich, he may end up taking the fall for that.

Are there coaching changes waiting in the wings? If so, maybe some minor positions, but not the major ones, unless someone gets hired away. Signing day is imminent, so I wouldn't expect anything until afterwards in regards to letting someone go, although I'm pretty confident that's not going to happen. Gundy is comfortable with the status quo and the stability that comes with it. There were also a number of changes last year, so you need to sit tight for at least one full recruiting season to see what transpires. As we saw with a number of other big time bowl games, you need big time recruits to consistently compete. OSU needs to start landing some of these.

That's it for me. I'm sure you guys will have plenty to say in the comments, so let it fly. Enjoy the football tidbits, revel in any moments of basketball joy (and the women's team looks to give plenty of those), take in some wrestling, get ready for baseball and golf, and store up plenty of football "fat" for the long drought between spring practice and Saturday, September 3, 2016.

Hat tip to a 10th consecutive winning season and bowl game, not to mention the 3rd time in the last five years that OSU has played OU with a chance to win the Big 12 title.

GO POKES!!!