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Jul. 20, 2015 - DJ Boyer

2015 Fierce 40 Previews: #35 Oklahoma State

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#35 Oklahoma State Cowboys

2014 Recap:
Oklahoma State opened the year as one of the darling stories in college football. After losing their opener in a tough 31-37 dogfight against then topped ranked Florida State, the Cowboys won five consecutive games. Just then the heart of the Big 12 schedule came into play and Oklahoma State lost five consecutive by margins of 36,24,24,21 and 21 points. Oklahoma State ended the year by beating Oklahoma in overtime and then scoring a 30-22 win over Washington in the Cactus Bowl, but 7-6 was a long way down from where the season first teased us as to where it could go.

Mike Gundy will be entering his 11th seasons as the Oklahoma State head coach. Gundy still holds the OSU mark for career passing yardage, and his exploits as a coach have also been very successful. Gundy has twice been named Coach of the Year with the Big 12, and in 2011 he was the National Coach of the Year. This year should prove a little more challenging, but Gundy has risen to the test before. Even if he has rubbed a number of people the wrong way during his tenure, he gets results.

Mike Yurdich will be entering into his 3rd season as the Offensive Coordinator with a unit that ranked 82nd overall national, its lowest ranking in nearly ten seasons. Glenn Spencer came aboard the same year as Yurdich and is the defensive coordinator. The defense was 91st overall a season ago and finished with a meager -8 in turnover ratio, a mark that was 109th in the nation. The coordinators at Oklahoma State will be looked at closely on both sides of the ball, because the team is not accustomed to finishing this low as a team on either side of the football.


Offense Analysis

Quarterbacks/Running Backs:

J.W. Walsh has started games during all three of his years at Oklahoma State going between being the starter and being the backup. Walsh is back for his senior season, but it will be in a backup capacity to start the season with sophomore Mason Rudolph at the controls. In just three games to close out the season, Rudolph showed he was the most capable quarterback on the roster, averaging nearly 290 yards per game and throwing for 6 touchdowns. The tape is very limited on Rudolph, but thus far he looks like a solid QB prospect for the NFL down the road. Oklahoma State has had their share of NFL caliber quarterbacks but unsteady play and injuries seem to be the norm over the last pair of seasons, and it’s been hard for the offense to maintain a rhythm with the carousel of quarterbacks.

Rennie Childs is the starting tailback, but this was supposed to be the year Tyreek Hill would ease into a starting role and have a big season. Hill was dismissed from the football team last season and leaves a gap at running back and in the return game. Todd Mays transfers in from East Mississippi Community College and looks like he will be the change-of-pace type back that Hill was for this team in 2014. Mays had some gaudy numbers at the lower level, and the Cowboys are hoping that plays transitions at the higher level of competition..

Best Draft Prospect: Mason Rudolph QB 4th Round 2018.


Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:

The second and third leading receivers in terms of catches from a year ago are back in Brandon Sheperd and James Washington. Sheperd has some big play ability and at 6’1” has decent size. The key to the passing game should be getting tight end Blake Jarwin more involved and not just by becoming a red zone target. Jarwin is built more like an h-back at 245 pounds, while Jeremy Seaton is listed as a fullback. However, you will see him lined up often as an h-back type player. These players had 18 catches between them a season ago, and that number should double for 2015. The top receiver from last season is also back in David Glidden, although he is not a starter. Glidden is a slot receiver that will continue to see a lot of action. This a deep receiving core that seems to be lacking the big play threat or leader like we have seen in past years.

Best Draft Prospect: Brandon Sheperd WR 7th Round 2016.


Offensive Line:

The offensive line may hold the key for the overall performance for the offense and the season in general. No doubt we have some serious players along the line, but with the right side of the line manned by a pair of sophomores in guard Jesse Robinson and tackle Zachary Crabtree, there is some uncertainty. Crabtree has all the tools and ability you are looking for in a prospect for the next level, but he remains a little green and has been battling some nagging injuries since his arrival in Stillwater. Left tackle Victor Salako arrives via the UAB transfer wagon after the school saw it’s football program stopped (and now it is a program again….2017 being the likely time we will see Blazers back on the field). Salako looks to be in great shape, and at 325 pounds it looks like he could add more weight to his frame and not be affected. Salako is inconsistent but remains yet another prospect with dynamic ability and upside. This is a line full of promise, but we will see if Oklahoma State reaps the rewards in 2015 or if 2016 is more likely.

Best Draft Prospect: Zachary Crabtree OT 5th Round 2018.


Defense Analysis

Defensive Line:

The defensive line is a bit perplexing, as it contains the strength and the weakness of the defense all wrapped into one unit. First, the rough stuff, and that involves the inside of the line where Oklahoma State has to replace tackles James Castleman and Ofa Hautau. These hombres were not only tough, but they freed up the ends to make a ton of plays and work some inside gaps. The Cowboys will also be missing production to the tune of 75 tackles with 12 for loss and five sacks. Those numbers are relatively impressive for working the inside, but the ends got the glory and it starts with Emmanuel Ogbah who looks like he will be a top 10 pick overall in this draft class if he declares.

Ogbah does play the same position as Ohio State’s Joey Bosa, the player many contend to be the top talent in this draft class (again…he also needs to declare). Ogbah is a solid second in the defensive end field, and he may have shown more improvement than any defensive lineman in the country last season between his freshman and sophomore campaigns. Ogbah delivered 17.5 tackles for loss and a total of 11 quarterback sacks. Fellow end Jimmy Bean contributed 3.5 sacks and 42 stops as he was the beneficiary of the terrific athletes around him. Can Bean still produce with new tackles Vili Leveni and Vincent Taylor? How will new blood in the middle affect the blocking schemes teams will use on Ogbah? Many questions will need to be answered once the season begins.

Best Draft Prospect: Emmanuel Ogbah DE 1st Round 2016 (early declaration).



The linebackers are pretty solid for the Cowboys, and we have a definite draft prospect in Ryan Simmons, who has been starting since the tail end of his freshman season. Simmons has over 180 tackles during his Oklahoma State career, and he should hit the 100 tackle plateau season. Seth Jacobs gives Oklahoma State two very capable linebackers, and both have a chance to be All Big-12. Jacobs had 92 tackles in 2014, but he is called upon to stay with opposing tight ends and running backs out of the backfield in pass coverage. Jacobs is a definite prospect for the 2017 draft, as he is only a junior entering this season. Jordan Burton should have the other linebacker spot nailed down, but beyond these three the roster is a bit thin. Oklahoma State can ill afford an injury at linebacker, as it is without question the thinnest on the depth chart.

Best Draft Prospect: Ryan Simmons LB 5th Round 2016.



We have a few more prospects in the secondary, and the back of the defense looks the strongest on paper when you look at all the starters. Three of the four starters are returning from a season ago. Kevin Peterson blossomed before our eyes in 2014 and looked like a player that could declare for the draft due to his late season play. Peterson may be the best cornerback in the conference aside from Oklahoma Sooner underclassman Zack Sanchez. Ashton Lampkin looks like he will man the other cornerback position, but that is actually still in the air, and no official announcement has been made. Lampkin will need to come up big if he is the starter so that teams don’t blatantly ignore Peterson and his side of the field. Inexperience will not be a problem for the safety, as 2014 leading tackler Jordan Sterns is paired with fellow returning starter Tre Flowers (Tre without a “y” unlike the Arkansas defensive end from a season ago). Sterns and Flowers combined for 159 tackles but had no interceptions. Again, Oklahoma State and the defense needs to find a way to generate more turnovers this season and avoid the -8 turnover ration they sported a season ago.

Best Draft Prospect: Kevin Peterson CB 3rd Round 2016.


Special Teams

The kicking game was up-and-down a season ago, and the Cowboys need to start by finding a new punter. They have a three way competition. No winner has been announced for the spot when this article came to publish. Matt Hockett is the player that looks like he may hold the edge at punter, but there are a number of coaches who have been very vocal speaking about freshman Zach Sinor. It was already mentioned that Tyreek Hill had been dismissed from the team, and the Cowboys leaned on him in the return game a season ago. Todd Mays, the player that is essentially the Tyreek Hill replacement, could wind up being the special teams return ace.

Best Draft Prospect: N/A.


2015 Schedule

Oklahoma State needs to gets as many wins early in the season as they can, as three of the last four games come against in order TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma. The only solace the Cowboys can take with this schedule is that all three of these games are at home. It seems that Oklahoma State winning one of these games is nearly a given, and if they can take two they should be in contention for a Big-12 crown.


Draft Prospects & Outlook

Emmanuel Ogbah puts this team on the map instantly, as it looks like a near lock that Ogbah will declare barring a horrendous season or some type of injury situation. Kevin Peterson established himself as a rock in the secondary, and if that continues we are talking about him during the second day of the draft festivities. The linebacker play will be fun to watch with Seth Jacobs and Ryan Simmons. If injuries are avoided we should see a huge improvement on defense, and that will spark some terrific individual performances ensuring we hear multiple Cowboys during the draft process.

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