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2014 Fierce 40 Previews: #38 Oklahoma State

by DJ Boyer on Jul. 2, 2014

#38 Oklahoma State Cowboys

 

2013 Recap:

The Cowboys surpassed many of the Preseason expectations and finished the year 10-3 but bigger things were within their grasp. Oklahoma State lost to Oklahoma in the last conference game to give the Conference back to Baylor, a team they had blown out the previous week. The Cowboys then lost 41-31 in the Cotton Bowl to Missouri.

 

Coaching:

Mike Gundy didn’t seem to have that abrasive side of his personality show last season and kept his feelings and emotions close to the vest, something he is not known for doing. Gundy seems to be comfortable at Oklahoma State and continues to be one of the more colorful characters in all of college football.

 

Offense

Quarterbacks/Running Backs:

J.W. Walsh has asserted himself as the starting quarterback, whereupon the only certainty at Oklahoma State in recent years has been uncertainty as to who is at the reigns. Walsh now has Daxx Garman a transfer from Arizona behind him on the depth chart and incoming freshman Mason Rudolph. Walsh is still developing but he has a lot of talented young targets to throw to and one of the more stable running games in the Big 12. Walsh is still being groomed as things like telegraphing passes and footwork need to be worked on, but he is on our radar as a future pro prospect. Walsh has adequate arm strength, presence, and touch, and by next season he looks to be one of the featured quarterbacks in the conference.

A strong running game always opens things up for the quarterback and Desmond Roland is a physical and imposing back that can chew up the clock while still having the athleticism to create havoc in the open field.  Tyreek Hill will be the change of pace back but Roland will be the focal point and could even improve upon his 13 TD total on the ground. Roland is not a huge weapon catching the football although 3 of his 9 receptions were good for scores last season. Hill, who is a JUCO transfer, could present more challenges to teams as a return man.

Best Draft Prospect: J.W. Walsh QB 6th Round 2016.

 

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:

This looks like the most stable part of the football team entering 2014 even though Oklahoma State has lost the top pair of receivers from last season. Josh Stewart and Tracey Moore have both moved on leaving Jhajuan Seales and Marcell Ateman as the starters, though there will be a host of other capable sure-handed receivers. The starting pair caught 61 passes between them a season ago, so credit Oklahoma State for getting them heavily involved in the offense while still freshmen. Brandon Sheperd has some big-play ability and may be asked to see more time in the slot this season, as the question of how the Cowboys will break in some new players at tight end has yet to be answered. Oklahoma State is a school that has traditionally used their tight ends heavily in the passing game whether making direct plays or sometimes as decoys down the field. Sophomore Blake Jarwin and freshman Jordan Frazier are unproven commodities. I don’t anticipate them seeing a lot of action out of the gate but Oklahoma State will probably still try to incorporate them into their offensive packages, especially in the red zone. Third receiver Brandon Sheperd may be asked to do a little more blocking around the edge to help the young tight ends as they get their feet wet at the college level. Seales showed a lot of promise last year and looks like another budding prospect for Oklahoma State at the wide receiver position.

Best Draft Prospect: Jhajuan Seales WR  4th Round 2017.

 

Offensive Line:

The offensive line is not one that jumps out at you as one of the better units in the Big 12 but there also is no cause for alarm. Oklahoma State shuffled the line a season ago as left tackle Devin Davis suffered a torn ACL before the season began. Davis is a big time recruit that looks to be the next leader of the line. All systems are a go for this season as his injury occurring before the season began and gave him ample rehab time. Davis is currently rated as a third round prospect for 2017 since he redshirted with the injury last season. While Davis shows the most pro potential, guard Daniel Koenig is the leader and has a spot on our 2nd Team Preseason All-Conference Team. Koenig is primarily a guard but he looks like he will slide into the right tackle spot when the season begins. The rest of the line is solid yet unspectacular although Oklahoma State only allowed 14 sacks all last season, one of the best performances for a team within the Big 12 and a very respectable total for a team that played the caliber of competition Oklahoma State did in 2013.

Best Draft Prospect: Devin Davis 3rd Round 2017.

 

Defense

Defensive Line:

Jimmy Bean is back along the line for Oklahoma State and he was a difference maker with 9.5 TFL and 4.5 sacks a season ago. Bean is also the best prospect we see along the line for Oklahoma State but the only starter along the line that is not a senior. James Castleman is a nice late round prospect and the other returning starter along the line. Ofa Hautau and Sam Wren will be the other starters on the line and they had only 8 and 12 tackles between them last season. It was a rough year for the line a season ago as they failed to generate consistent pressure and were soft against the run up the middle. Emmanuel Ogbah figures to be a key reserve at defensive end. A few other key players seem to have been lost to injury during the spring, so what was once thought to be a deep line looks a bit thinner on paper.

Best Draft Prospect: Jimmy Bean DE 6th Round 2016.

                       

Linebackers:

The Achilles heel of the defense is without a doubt the linebacker position. Middle linebacker Ryan Simmons is the only returning starter and despite being 4th on the team in tackles, his play was inconsistent at best. Simmons now goes from being the youngster to the only returning starter and is surrounded by sophomores and juniors with limited experience. Kris Catlin and Seth Jacobs don’t have the pass rushing chops that players like Caleb Levy had a season ago. This looks like it is going to put more pressure on an already thinning defensive line. Devante Averette is a junior college transfer who is inexperienced but can play multiple positions at linebacker and possibly even strong safety if needed.

Best Draft Prospect: N/A.

 

Secondary:

Kevin Peterson has to become the leader after Justin Gilbert was the first cornerback off the board during the 2014 NFL Draft. Peterson got plenty of work once teams started trying to avoid Gilbert as much as possible and he finished the season with a pair of interceptions and a total of 4 passes defensed. Peterson needs to assert himself against the run and be a little more physical in the open field. Ashton Lampkin steps into the other starting role and should do an adequate job for Oklahoma State. There is more concern at the safety position where the top four players on the depth chart have very little experience. Jordan Sterns will start at strong safety but the majority of his work came on special teams a season ago where he did excel. Deric Robertson and Larry Stephens will both see significant time at strong safety and this is a glaring hole for opposing teams to expose. The Cowboys are noticeably thin at safety and the conference has a number of big arms who should test the secondary early and often.

Best Draft Prospect: Kevin Peterson CB 7th Round 2016.

 

Special Teams:

Oklahoma State has always prided itself on being very good on special teams, especially the punting game, Yet this was not the case in 2013. Justin Gilbert was not only an All-American cornerback but he was a major force in the return game. Backup running back and transfer Tyreek Hill will be the man asked to fill his shoes. Ben Grogan and Kip Smith did not form the perfect tandem at kicker and punter a season ago but both are back and this should hopefully improve their output. The coverage units were solid overall but did allow a few big returns. If Oklahoma State cuts down on the occasional mental lapses, they will have a solid foundation on special teams.

Best Draft Prospect: N/A.

 

Schedule:

If you want to make noise and prove yourself to a national audience what a better way to do it then face the defending National Champion Florida State Seminoles at a neutral location. The last four games seem to be toughest for Oklahoma State as it features Kansas State, Baylor and Oklahoma all on the road. Hopefully Oklahoma State builds up some wins in between and does not have a crucial loss late like they did against the Sooners a year ago.

 

Draft Outlook:

Oklahoma State always offers some good talent for the next level but there is nothing we see immediately, most of the top talent on this roster is for 2016 or 2017. The return of offensive tackle Devin Davis from injury will be the focus from a draft prospect standpoint.

 

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