With the coronavirus leading to the cancellation of all spring collegiate athletic activity, including in the Big 12, every college football program finds themselves facing some issues heading into the summer.
While there are a lot of teams in a far worse situation than Oklahoma State heading into the fall — thanks to OSU’s top-10 amount of returning production — that doesn’t mean that there won’t be an effect. Especially for some specific players.
Quarterback Spencer Sanders
The most obvious reason here is his thumb injury that required surgery and brought an early end to the redshirt freshman’s first year. While Sanders was healthy enough to play in the Alamo Bowl in December, it was obvious he was still working to rehab the injury.
But it’s more than that. It’s Sanders getting time to work with his new quarterback coach Tim Rattay and offensive coordinator Kasey Dunn. Sanders may know Dunn, but he’s never had to work with him in this way.
Also, Sanders still has a lot of developing to do as a player, especially when it comes to processing defenses quickly and getting off his first option. Maybe he can work on that through tape and sessions with Rattay over Zoom meetings. It would’ve been great for his development to have a spring where he wasn’t competing with anyone else for the starting job for the first time since he arrived in Stillwater.
Cornerbacks Jarrick Bernard, Christian Holmes
Now in his third year at OSU, Bernard has spent the last two seasons at safety, where he earned a starting job his true freshman season. Last year, especially toward the end, he was showing real improvement. Now, he’ll take on A.J. Green’s role opposite Rodarius Williams, and he won’t have the spring to help.
While playing corner isn’t foreign to Bernard, he hasn’t played the position since high school. And from all indications, he was the favorite to land the second starting spot over Missouri graduate transfer Christian Holmes.
Now, both players are in a tough spot; for Bernard a lack of spring ball to adjust to the position move. For Holmes, it will take longer before he can adjust to his new school, team and coaching staff.
One of these two will be the starter opposite Williams come spring. Hopefully both are up to speed enough to be able to.
Saftey Tanner McCalister, Cornerback Thomas Harper
With Bernard’s move to corner, two former cornerbacks will be asked to fill Bernard’s former role in the “Strike” position; junior McCalister and sophomore Harper. Both are former corners (though Harper is still listed there on the roster), but both will now be asked to fill an important role in the interior of the defense.
This is obviously bigger for Harper than McCalister, who played safety last season in a reserve role and finished ninth on the team in tackles (31).
While you would expect McCalister to handle the bulk of the work at the position, Harper would have benefited from the opportunity to learn his new role in the spring and for the coach staff to gauge their decision to move him there.
Guard Josh Sills
The West Virginia transfer’s experience (22 games) should help him be prepared to step in quickly, but he’s also coming off a shoulder injury early last season. The opportunity to go through drills and training would’ve helped to better prepare him for the fall.
Plus, you can’t overstate the value of time with the team. Being a transfer is like being a true freshman. You may now how to play the game, but not with this group of guys and for these coaches. Sills is still going to be a starter when the season opens (whenever that is), but spring ball would have been nice for him.
Wide Receiver Langston Anderson
It feels like Tylan Wallace, Dillon Stoner and Braydon Johnson will be OSU’s starting wide receivers in 2020. That’s a solid lineup with enough experience to be reliable.
But behind them? Outside of Landon Wolf, there’s not a lot of experience. With CJ Moore and LC Greenwood in the transfer portal, Anderson has the best chance of earning playing time in a reserve role.
The former four-star recruit enters his second season after redshirting year one. The talent is there and hopefully he’s ready to take the next step, but a spring to work toward locking down a reserve role certainly would’ve helped.
Wide Receiver Tylan Wallace, Safety Kolby Harvell-Peel
This is all about recovery.
OSU knows how good Harvell-Peel and Wallace are. They’re locked into their starting roles, and two of the most important players on the roster.
But both are coming off surgeries to repair ACL injuries; Wallace’s happened during a practice in late October, while Peel tore his on the last play of the Bedlam game in November.
There’s a good chance based on the recovery timeline that neither would’ve done a lot during spring ball. Neither would have participated in the spring game and both would’ve been more focused on rehab and building strength. I’d rather have them doing that on campus under the watchful eye of OSU’s medical staff and strength and conditioning coach Rob Glass.
Quarterback Shane Illingworth
While Sanders might be entrenched as the starting quarterback for 2020, there will still be a QB battle this year for the backup role.
With Illingworth’s decision to enroll early, it felt like the four-star prospect had a really good shot at the backup job. Now we head into fall with a battle between Illingworth, redshirt freshman Brendan Costello and walk-on redshirt sophomore Shaun Taylor, who backed up Dru Brown during the last few games of the regular season last year.
Not getting a spring with the team may guarantee Illingworth spends his first season as a redshirt third-stringer.