Coming off a 12-1 season and the departure of a couple of key players, an 8-5 record in 2012 was about what most expected from Oklahoma State. The Cowboys finished with five victories in Big 12 play, with three of their four losses coming by a touchdown or less. With 12 starters back for 2013, Mike Gundy’s team is positioned for a run at the Big 12 title. There’s a new coordinator on offense (Mike Yurcich), but Oklahoma State shouldn’t miss a beat on that side of the ball. With a schedule that features home matchups against TCU, Kansas State, Baylor and Oklahoma, the Cowboys have everything in place to make a run at 10 victories and a conference title.
Oklahoma State Cowboys 2013 Spring Preview
2012 Record: 8-5 (5-4)
Spring practice dates: March 11-April 20
Returning Starters:Offense – 5, Defense – 7
Passing: Clint Chelf, 119 of 197, 1,588 yards, 15 TDs, 6 INTs
Rushing: Jeremy Smith, 70 car., 371 yards, 8 TDs
Receiving: Josh Stewart, 101 rec., 1,210 yards, 7 TDs
Tackles: Daytawion Lowe, 75
Sacks: Tyler Johnson, 4
Interceptions: Three players tied with 2
Redshirts to watch: OL Michael Wilson, LB Jeremiah Tshimanga, LB Seth Jacobs, WR C.J. Curry, DE Eric Davis, DE Victor Irokansi, OL Zac Veatch
Early Enrollees to watch: OL Brandon Garrett, DE Naim Mustafaa
JUCO Transfers to watch: OL Brandon Garrett, DT Ofa Hautau, DE Sam Wren
Aug. 31 Mississippi State (Houston)
Sept. 7 at UTSA
Sept. 14 Lamar
Sept. 28 at West Virginia
Oct. 5 Kansas State
Oct. 12 Bye Week
Oct. 19 TCU
Oct. 26 at Iowa State
Nov. 2 at Texas Tech
Nov. 9 Kansas
Nov. 16 at Texas
Nov. 23 Baylor
Nov. 30 Bye Week
Dec. 7 Oklahoma
Offensive Strength: Where should we start? The Cowboys have three proven quarterbacks, and one of the Big 12’s top running back duos in Jeremy Smith and Desmond Roland. The receiving corps is one of the best in the conference, as Josh Stewart leads the way after catching 101 passes in 2012.
Offensive Weakness: It’s hard to find a weakness on the Cowboys offense, but the line must replace three starters, including first-team All-Big 12 performer Lane Taylor.
Defensive Strength: Despite losing Alex Elkins, Oklahoma State has to feel good about its linebacking corps for 2013. Shaun Lewis and Caleb Lavey earned honorable mention All-Big 12 honors last season, while there’s plenty of depth to replace Elkins with Lyndell Johnson, Joe Mitchell and Ryan Simmons returning.
Defensive Weakness: As mentioned above with the offense, it’s hard to find a glaring weakness for Oklahoma State’s defense. Sure, the Cowboys can play better than they did in 2012, but this unit returns seven starters, and the promotion of Glenn Spencer to coordinator assures continuity. Depth at defensive end and upgrading the performance in the secondary are two key areas to watch in spring practice.
Spring Storylines Facing the Cowboys
1. Who wins the quarterback battle? Having more than one starting quarterback is generally considered a bad thing. However, Oklahoma State has three proven options that could lead it to a Big 12 title this season. Wes Lunt began the year as the starter but suffered a knee injury against Louisiana-Lafayette and was forced to sit out the next three games. J.W. Walsh replaced Lunt and recorded three performances of at least 300 passing yards, while leading Oklahoma State to a 2-1 record. However, Walsh suffered a knee injury against Iowa State, which gave the job back to Lunt. And after Lunt was forced to leave the Kansas State game due to injury, Clint Chelf started the final five games and finished the season with 1,588 yards and 15 touchdown tosses. The Cowboys can win with any of the three quarterbacks under center, but they need to pick a No. 1 option. If Chelf is the starter, Walsh could play some time in a change-of-pace role. And considering Lunt is a true sophomore, he still has a redshirt season available. With the options and uncertainty surrounding Oklahoma State this spring, this is one of the most intriguing quarterback battles in the nation.
2. Restocking the offensive line. Considering line coach Joe Wickline is one of the best in the nation, Oklahoma State isn’t too worried about replacing three starters up front. Gone are center Evan Epstein and guards Lane Taylor and Jonathan Rush. Taylor is the biggest loss out of the trio, as he earned first-team All-Big 12 honors last season. The tackle spots should be in good shape with Parker Graham and Daniel Koenig, while Brandon Webb started the final five games at left guard last season. Jake Jenkins will get the first crack at replacing Epstein at center, while the coaching staff wants to get an extended look at tackle Devin Davis and junior college transfer Brandon Garrett.
3. Reloading at defensive end. Outside of replacing cornerback Brodrick Brown, the Cowboys biggest priority in spring practice will be finding contributors at defensive end. Cooper Bassett, Nigel Nicholas and Ryan Robinson all expired their eligibility after the bowl game, leaving Tyler Johnson (27 tackles) as the team’s top defensive end. Outside of Johnson, there’s very little in the way of depth. Sophomores Trace Clark and Jimmy Bean, along with three redshirt freshmen are under the spotlight to perform this spring. Junior college recruit Sam Wren and Naim Mustafaa will also figure into the mix and could jump to the top of the depth chart if the Clark, Bean or any of the redshirt freshmen fail to seize a starting spot. There’s a lot of names here, but Oklahoma State needs to settle on its starters, while figuring out its backup rotation for fall practice.
4. Cornerback question marks? Even though Oklahoma State’s secondary may not have lived up to its potential in 2012, replacing a three-year starter in Brodrick Brown is no easy task. Justin Gilbert will slide into the No. 1 cornerback role, while sophomore Kevin Peterson is expected to replace Brown. Peterson was solid in limited action last season, recording 20 tackles and two pass breakups in 13 games. While Gilbert and Peterson should be a solid duo, proven depth is a question mark. Cornerback coach Jason Jones left for Ole Miss in early March, so coordinator Glenn Spencer and new assistant Tim Duffie will be watching this unit closely in spring practice.
5. Who replaces Quinn Sharp? Kicker/punter Quinn Sharp was one of the best in the nation during his career at Oklahoma State and filling his shoes won’t be easy in 2013. Three kickers will vie for the starting gig in spring practice, including UCLA transfer Kip Smith, while senior Michael Reichenstein is the only punter listed on the roster. Incoming freshman Ben Grogan won’t compete until the fall, but he could be an answer at kicker or punter. Considering Sharp was the Big 12’s Co-Special Teams Player of the Year last season, replacing his production is no easy task.
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