The 2021 Oklahoma State football season officially kicks off this weekend as the Cowboys will welcome Missouri State to Stillwater on Saturday night.
It’s been a long offseason, between the desire to just get back to games, tailgating, and full stadiums, and all of the Big 12 realignment talks, I think everyone is ready to actually have football games to talk about.
So, we’re going to start a new weekly series that will likely get passed around the CRFF writers room throughout the season; 3 Things I Want to See.
I’ll kick things off with a focus on offense this week.
Spencer Sanders’ Progress
Gundy spoke about the work Sanders had done this offseason at Big 12 Media Days, stating that the redshirt junior quarterback had made significant progress this Spring.
“I felt like that he improved more in the two months this spring than he did in the last two years.”
With the losses of multiple offensive weapons — including Tylan Wallace, Dillon Stoner, and Chuba Hubbard — as well as Oklahoma State’s best offensive lineman in a decade in Teven Jenkins, more pressure will now fall on Sanders’ shoulders to improve on his past issues; including progressing through his reads without a safety blanket stud like Wallace.
The other big question is turnovers. Interceptions can be forgiven (though 19 in two seasons is a lot). Fumbles, less so. Will Sanders finally do a better job at securing the football, or will we have another MULTI-turnover game (Texas Tech 2019, Texas 2020) that costs Oklahoma State a win?
The Cowboys are looking to rebound from one of their worst offensive seasons from the Mike Gundy era, and to do that, they’ll need the Spencer Sanders that Oklahoma State fans have been hoping for ever since his debut at Oregon State back in 2019.
A Lead Running Back to Emerge
During Big 12 Media Days, Gundy mentioned that they had 4-5 guys they felt could carry the ball for Oklahoma State this season.
“It’s interesting, for the first time in a while, we really feel like we have four or five players that we could hand the ball to and we’re very comfortable with them in the game... Hopefully, we’re not handing it to one guy 18 or 20 times a game. Hopefully, we’re letting four guys carry it 10 or 12 times a game.”
While a running back by committee is all the rage in the NFL and sounds really good, there’s not really a history of it at Oklahoma State. The Cowboys have typically had one running back dominate the carries, barring injury.
More often than not during the Gundy era, they’ve had at least one running back with a minimum of 200 carries. The seasons in which two running backs have split the carries more evenly have had slightly more varied success.
Granted, you can point to both the 2013 and 2015 seasons — where the Cowboys went 10-3 in both — as good examples of teams with a bit more of a committee approach that had success.
Honestly, though, the Cowboys’ best seasons come when they have at least one guy they can rely on more than the others. I just want to know who that will be.
Who Wins the Left Tackle Job
I thought for sure that Caleb Ettiene, the JUCO offensive tackle would have locked down the job by now. But here we are just days away from the start of the season and — according to the depth chart Oklahoma State released last week — he appears to still be in a battle with redshirt-sophomore Taylor Miterko.
Besides being arguably the most important position on the offensive line — save for the center — if Oklahoma State can get it right, they should have a really solid unit from the middle over the left side.
Honestly, with game one coming against an FCS opponent in Missouri State, it feels like this Saturday’s game might be a final audition for both linemen, to see who looks best in-game action.
But with so much riding on Spencer Sanders this year — and after the revolving door that was OSU’s offensive line last season due to injuries — have a locked-down starting five he can rely on to protect him would not only be really nice, it would be something Sanders will likely experience for the first time since he took over the starting job.