Our countdown to kickoff rolls on with just eight more days until Boone Pickens Stadium is rocking again.
For the first time in several years the Cowboys have massive question marks on both sides of the ball. With that being said, this season could go surprisingly well, or it could be underwhelming compared to the past few years.
No matter if the Cowboys are able to replicate their 10 win benchmark from the past three seasons or if the Pokes struggle to make a bowl game, here are 8 things every Oklahoma State fan should have on their wish-list for the 2018-19 football season.
1. Development of Young Players
OSU fans should expect the team to be competitive and make a decent bowl game, however, this team is still young. Even if this team is able to win 10 games, imagine what they could do with another year of experience and development? Much like the 2015 Cowboy squad that made the Sugar Bowl, that team’s best years figured to be ahead of them. It didn’t quite pan out for the 2015 squad, but hopefully it will for this class of freshman and sophomore talent.
Some of the younger guys will get plenty of chances to play, especially in the first two games because of a new rule that allows players to appear in four games before breaking their redshirt. For some, there might be an opportunity to compete for a job, while others might be put in at the end of a blowout. Either way, these guys need to be ready to contribute at a high level next year.
2. It’s Time for “Bag Year” Tyron Johnson
Last year the LSU transfer struggled behind James Washington. After catching the first touchdown of the year for the Cowboys, Johnson’s season went downhill. His best game came in OSU’s biggest game, Bedlam, after Washington went down with an injury. This allowed Johnson to shine late in the game. It also left Cowboy faithful scratching their heads in the following weeks when he didn’t get many opportunities in games. Surely Gundy could find a way to get this guy involved? There’s no excuse this year after James Washington moved north to Pittsburgh.
I would love to see Johnson become a leader on offense, as well as the go-to wide-out late in games. This will be a big year for Tyron, one that will need to see him take on a larger role and become the Cowboys second most reliable playmakers on offense. I need a bag year from TJ like Cowboy fans need Gundy’s Mullet.
3. Dax Hill Joins Justice in Stillwater
This one would be huge. The Pokes lost Jordan Sterns’ younger brother Caden to Texas, where he will spearhead one of the better secondaries in college football. Dax is the pin that OSU needs to drop to continue this recruiting cycle. Savages want to play with savages, and Dax Hill is one of those guys other recruits want to play with. If the Pokes can land him, expect Dax to help reel in a few other guys on that side of the ball as well.
OSU could have something really special on both sides of the ball if they’re able to land the younger Hill. In theory, it could also aid in convincing Justice to stick around Stillwater for his senior season. Having the Hill twins flying around the field together in orange and black might be a dream realized for the Hill family, and would be a huge help for the future of the program.
Look for a potential commitment for Dax on Friday. If this isn’t his commitment, stay for the race between Justice and Dax. I’ve got my money on Justice winning this one.
4. Justice Hill Finding a way to New York City
Justice is one of the best playmakers returning to school in college football this season. It’ll be hard for Justice to find a way to the Heisman Trophy ceremony, but he is talented enough to be in the running for the most prestigious award in college sports. The Cowboys will almost certainly have to have near a 10 win season for this to be possible. I know RGIII played on an average Baylor squad but he was a quarterback. Justice will get the opportunity to have a big year, although the health and play of his offensive line will play a good role as well.
For Justice to be a finalist for the Heisman, he’ll have to get off to a fast start. While he almost certainly won’t win the award unless the Pokes have a great season, he could potentially win it his senior year with a more experienced group. It would be awesome to see another Cowboy get invited to the ceremony, and even better if he wins it. It’s fun to have a horse in the race as it is.
5. Jim Knowles Becomes a Star in Stillwater
If Oklahoma State can lock down a really good defensive coordinator for years to come, it would be huge for the program. This is much easier said than done because most of the good defensive coordinators that have rolled through Stillwater have rolled on to better positions not long after. The Pokes need to lock down a defensive coordinator like Virginia Tech has locked down Bud Foster all these years. Of course, that comes at a high price. Foster is the highest paid assistant in college football. Life as a defensive coordinator in the Big 12 is just about the least glamorous job in college football.
Remember Manny Diaz? The former defensive coordinator at UT? He got fired after the Horns gave up 679 yards to BYU in their second game of the season back in 2013. Imagine my surprise to see him leading a ferocious, turnover chain yielding Miami Hurricanes defense in 2017. Coach Knowles will have his ups and downs this season, however, if he can have a big year and parlay that into future success, the Cowboys could be one of the more dangerous teams in the Big 12.
6. Mike Yurcich Improves Play-calling
Mike Yurcich already does a good job calling the plays on offense. This has been a controversial topic over the past few seasons. Last year he should have turned Mason Rudolph loose a little more than he did, especially late in games. This season will play into his hands more with inexperience at quarterback and a talented running back group.
The margin of error is slim this year because there isn’t as much talent on the offensive side of the ball. Yurcich will also have to adjust to a different set of skills with this offense. Justice Hill will still do Justice Hill things, but Yurcich can’t rely on a good #Rudolph2Washington deep ball.
7. A Good Year from the Offensive Line
Four out of five of the starters on the offensive line started for OSU at some point last season. This is a group that lost two good players in Brad Lundblade and Zach Crabtree. This new group will need to gel together and do so quickly. They’ll have some time to figure it out against Missouri State and South Alabama before their first real test against Boise State.
This group will determine if Justice can find his way to the Heisman ceremony, while also being responsible for keeping Corn Dog, and maybe others, off their backs. This offense can only be as successful as the offensive line will take them. They might very well be the difference between a 9 or 10-win season or a 5 or 6-win season. Josh Henson impressed in his first year as head of the offensive line, and he will need to improve on last year with this group this season.
The final item on our wish list should be something every fan has on their wish list. Health is one of the biggest factors in changing a team’s season. Not to mention nobody should want to see a college athlete get hurt. Injuries are a part of the game and every team has to deal with them. For this team to have the best possible year they can, they will have to be healthy.
On the other hand, injuries allow players to shine who wouldn’t otherwise get a chance. While depth isn’t necessarily a big issue for this team, they certainly aren’t as well equipped to deal with injuries as other Big 12 squads.
No. 14 - The Changing of the Guard at OSU with No. 14 Taylor Cornelius
No. 13 - Ranking Gundy’s 13 Season Openers
No. 12 - The 12 toughtest players OSU will face from the 12 teams they’ll play this season
No. 11 - Let’s talk #11 Zac Robinson
No. 10 - Why OSU will and won’t reach 10 wins
No. 9 - 9 Interesting Stats and Numbers