2010 overall record: 11-2
2010 conference record: 6-2
Returning starters: Offense (9), Defense (5) P/K (1)
Key losses: RB Kendall Hunter, OC Dana Holgorsen, LB Orie Lemon, DE Ugo Chinasa, CB Andrew McGee, DT Shane Jarka, LB Justin Gent
2010 statistical leaders (*returners)
Rushing: Kendall Hunter (1,548 yards)
Passing: Brandon Weeden* (4,277 yards)
Receiving: Justin Blackmon* (1,782 yards)
Tackles: Orie Lemon (133)
Sacks: Jamie Blatnick (5.5)
Interceptions: Andrew McGee (5)
Three spring answers
1. Offensive vision is clear. Oklahoma State had one of the nation’s best offenses a year ago, and returned nine starters from it. Former coordinator Dana Holgorsen said goodbye, but rather than have 50 players learn a new offense that everyone in the program wanted to stay, coach Mike Gundy brought in Todd Monken to learn the system and call plays. The Cowboys offense should look very similar next year.
2. More depth on the offensive line. The line brings back all five starters this year, but that doesn’t mean all five will start. Juco transfer Michael Bowie crashed the party this spring and is competing for a starting spot, which may mean some shuffling come fall.
3. Budding star at cornerback. Andrew McGee led the Big 12 with five picks last year, but the Pokes may have another great one on their hands very soon. Justin Gilbert contributed most as a kick returner his freshman season, but he drew rave reviews throughout the spring. He gets plenty of work trying to cover the best receiver in college football, Justin Blackmon. We’ll see if that pays off soon.
Three fall questions
1. Can that offensive vision become reality? Oklahoma State knows what it wants to do on offense, but Holgorsen won’t be in the booth running the show. Can talent, which there’s no question OSU has plenty of, outweigh inexperience in playcalling? And how will Monken look as a playcaller? It’s the big variable for the Cowboys this year, and if the offense struggles, blame is likely headed his way. We’ll find out the answers to those questions pretty quick this fall.
2. Can last year’s defensive progress continue? The raw numbers for Oklahoma State’s defense weren’t pretty, but those were over a lot of possessions, thanks to the big-time offense. The defense made big strides in every way late last season, but without two of its leaders, linebacker Orie Lemon and defensive end Ugo Chinasa, will it continue? More responsibility will fall on safety Markelle Martin and linebacker Shaun Lewis.
3. Who are the linebackers? Lewis has locked down the “Star” linebacker position, but the other two spots are up for grabs this fall after Lemon and fellow linebacker Justin Gent moved on. Caleb Lavey and Tyler Johnson are still competing to replace Lemon, and three players are competing to replace Gent as weakside linebacker.