A recap of what we learned about Oklahoma State this spring as the Cowboys try to replace a senior-laden defense and find a quarterback.
Three things we learned in the spring:
1. Big 12 defensive coordinators aren’t going to like Tyreek Hill. The junior college transfer made a smooth transition into the Oklahoma State program after starring on the track earlier this semester. Hill showed he can be a game-breaking threat as a running back or receiver and should be one of the centerpieces of the offense this fall.
2. J.W. Walsh is the best option at quarterback. True freshman Mason Rudolph stepped on campus with all the accolades and Daxx Garman impressed during spring drills, but Walsh brings veteran maturity and experience to the offensive backfield. His experience was apparent during the spring as he operated the offense like someone who has started eight games during the past two seasons. Coach Mike Gundy says the competition rages on, but Walsh looks like a clear favorite.
3. The Cowboys’ defensive line should be pretty good. Defensive tackle James Castleman, defensive end Jimmy Bean and defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah look as if they could be the foundation of a disruptive defensive front. There are major question marks at linebacker and in the secondary, but the Cowboys defensive line is a great starting point.
Three questions for the fall:
1. Rebuild or reload? The Cowboys have won 50 games in the past five seasons but has Gundy raised the level of this program to simply reload instead of rebuild after losing so many seniors? In addition, a lot of the players who helped build the program are no longer in Stillwater, Okla. Do the new players understand what it will take to win 50 games in the next five seasons at OSU?
2. Will the young Cowboys mature quickly? They had better. If Oklahoma State's young players aren’t ready for the big stage, they are likely to be embarrassed by Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston and Florida State in the season opener. Oklahoma State has upgraded its talent in the past five years and features a deeper and more athletic roster, so a loss is not a certainty. But those players will have to show they’ve matured and are ready to produce in order to knock off the reigning national champions.
3. Is Walsh the answer? Walsh is the clear favorite to start the season at quarterback, but is he the long-term answer? He can prove doubters wrong with a strong start to the season. But if he stumbles out of the blocks, he can expect Cowboys fans to start calling for Garman or Rudolph to take over.
One way-too-early prediction:
The Cowboys will have an up-and-down season but will show an competitive nature and resolve after being humbled early in the season. Oklahoma State will finish the 2014 campaign strong, thus setting up the Cowboys to be considered one of the Big 12 favorites in 2015, with several key playmakers returning.