Over the next two weeks, we’ll be breaking down the 10 best players at the moment on every team in the Big 12.
These lists won’t include junior college or freshman signees who haven’t arrived on campus. Rather, they will include only the players currently on their teams this spring. Some of these rankings might look different after the spring, but this is how we see them now. Next up, Oklahoma State:
1. DT James Castleman: Castleman is the Cowboys’ most experienced player after starting the last two seasons alongside All-Big 12 performer Calvin Barnett. With Barnett gone, Castleman will command more attention. He, too, has the ability to be an All-Big 12 player.
2. OT Daniel Koenig: In recent years, the Cowboys have developed a penchant for taking lightly recruited offensive linemen and turning them into All-Big 12 players, notably Levy Adcock, Lane Taylor and Parker Graham. Koenig appears to be the next in that growing line. He can play anywhere along the line but will likely settle in at right tackle, barring injuries elsewhere.
3. WR Jhajuan Seales: With Josh Stewart, Tracy Moore and Charlie Moore all gone, the Cowboys will be looking to Seales to take over as the team’s go-to receiver. Seales has the speed and physical tools to be a force, and he produced last season despite being the third or fourth option in the passing progressions. Seales was lightly recruited coming out of high school with a mediocre offer list. But, as they did with Justin Blackmon, the Cowboys appear to have uncovered another diamond in the rough.
4. CB Kevin Peterson: Future NFL first-round draft pick Justin Gilbert was the ace of the Cowboys secondary in 2013. Now that responsibility falls to Peterson, who has been a key part of the secondary since he arrived in Stillwater. Peterson might not have Gilbert’s elite athleticism, but he has the talent to be an elite cover corner.
5. RB Desmond Roland: Roland isn’t the flashiest or fastest running back. But when the Cowboys needed two yards last season, there was no better back in the Big 12 at getting it. After leading the conference with 13 rushing touchdowns despite starting only half the season, Roland is back to anchor the Oklahoma State backfield.
6. ILB Ryan Simmons: Simmons played on the outside last season but will slide to the middle with Caleb Lavey gone. Simmons was overshadowed by Lavey and Shaun Lewis, who were both All-Big 12 linebackers. But he still finished fourth on the team with 67 tackles, including nine for loss. With Lavey and Lewis gone, Simmons will take over as the undeniable leader of the Oklahoma State linebackers.
7. WR Marcell Ateman: Ateman played a major role at wideout as a freshman, even though the Cowboys were loaded at the position. Ateman finished fifth on the offense in receiving with 276 receiving yards. At 6-foot-4 and almost 200 pounds, Ateman has the stature to demolish smaller corners. If he builds off his first season, he could be in for a super sophomore campaign opposite Seales.
8. WR/RB Tyreek Hill: Hill is the only newcomer on this list and has never played a down on the FBS level. But it’s difficult to envision the No. 4 juco prospect in the country not making a major impact in his first season. Hill, who placed fifth in the 200 in the NCAA Indoor Championships, might be the fastest player in college football. This spring, the Cowboys have been devising ways to get Hill the ball in space. If they’re successful, look out.
9. QB J.W. Walsh: This is a big spring for Walsh. He flashed much potential as a redshirt freshman before taking a step back as a sophomore, losing the starting job to Clint Chelf. Walsh is the only quarterback on the roster with any experience, but he’ll have to perform to fend off hot shot true freshman Mason Rudolph, who is already enrolled and participating in spring ball. Walsh struggled last year, but he was also fifth in the country in the Adjusted QBR metric just two seasons ago.
10. DE Jimmy Bean: He started every game for the Cowboys last season as a sophomore and got better as the season progressed. In the AT&T Cotton Bowl, Bean finished with a career-high seven tackles, including three for loss. He also had a sack against Missouri. Together with Emmanuel Ogbah, Sam Wren and Trace Clark, Bean will lead what should be a solid rotation off the edge defensively.