Yesterday, I mentioned the Paul Rhoads clip as my second favorite Big XII coach YouTube clip and I hope all of you guessed that this would be number one. It’s truly an iconic rant. Honestly, I’m not even really sure how it relates to this year’s Oklahoma State football team other than the fact that… Oh no, wait nevermind I’ve got it. Last year’s team finished at a mediocre, by their standards, largely due to being young and injury plagued. However, now they have grown up some (they’re men! but still not 40), and they have potential at quarterback.
Mason Rudolph’s performance in the final two victories of the season, one of which came in Norman, is the foundation for the optimism surrounding Oklahoma State heading into 2015. Rudolph threw for over 250 yards in both games and a total of four touchdowns and two interceptions. Now the sophomore looks poised to lead the Cowboys for a whole season. If he can’t for whatever reason, J.W. Walsh should be ready to go after playing well in 2013 and keeping the Pokes in the season opener against defending champion Florida State last season, but suffered an injury that cost him the rest of the season the following week against Missouri State.
Every notable receiver returns in 2015 for the Cowboys too. All purpose back Tyreek Hill was dismissed from the team after being arrested in December for assaulting his girlfriend. However, leading receivers Brandon Sheperd, James Washington, and David Glidden are all back. Only Washington failed to top 500 yards receiving and a 60% catch rate on targets last season, but he was also a freshman last season.
The line gets a boost by dipping into the UAB transfer pool and snagging Victor Salako as an experienced replacement for Daniel Koenig. Salako now becomes the most experienced player on the line even if it isn’t experience in Stillwater. The guys lining up next to him should all have some starting experience, however. Paul Lewis or Brad Lundblade will start at center. Lewis has 13 career starts, and Lundblade started one game as a freshman last season. Junior Michael Wilson will start next to Salako at left guard and has eight career starts there. Sophomores Zachary Crabtree and Jesse Robinson will start at tackle and guard next season, both of whom received some starting experience as freshmen last season.
With Tyreek Hill dismissed and Desmond Roland graduated, there is still question marks surrounding who will be the primary ball-carrier come September. JUCO transfer Todd Mays is widely considered the guy to replace Hill in the role of all-purpose back, while many expect Rennie Childs to replace Roland as the primary running back after rushing for 83 yards and a touchdown in the spring game.
Emmanuel Ogbah and Jimmy Bean should make up one of the stronger defensive end tandems in the conference. Ogbah had 17 tackles for loss and eleven sacks last season, which was good enough to get him named first team All-Big XII and Big XII defensive lineman of the year. Bean made his fair contribution too, with 35.5 tackles, 6.5 for loss, 3.5 sacks and three forced fumbles.
The interior defensive line starters have been settled, at least according to the post-spring depth chart, although they are significantly less experienced than the ends flanking them. Vincent Taylor and Motekiai Maile should start at the defensive tackle spots this season, even though Taylor only had 10.5 tackles last season and Maile did not play at all.
Ryan Simmons and Seth Jacobs provide a solid presence at linebacker combining for 155 tackles and 18 tackles for loss last season. They will be joined at linebacker by Stephen F. Austin transfer Jordan Burton in all likelihood. At SFA last season, Burton had 55 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, an interception and a forced fumble.
A huge plus for this Cowboys’ defense is the return of the entire secondary. Corners Kevin Peterson and Ramon Richards return after combining for five interceptions and 15 passes broken up last season. Ashton Lampkin should also be in the mix after being limited to only four games due to injuries, but he did intercept two passes in those four games. Safeties Jordan Sterns and Tre Flowers are both back too, and while they had no interceptions they broke up seven passes combined and recorded 81 and 50 tackles respectively.
Prediction: Honestly no idea, somewhere between 5 and 9 wins
I’ve been tempted to predict this for several different teams now, but none seemed more baffling to me than Oklahoma State. Here’s the thing, I get that they were young and had plenty of injuries last season, but at the same time I don’t love the way their schedule sets up. The non-conference games and Kansas and Iowa State should all be wins, but nothing is guaranteed after that. TCU and Baylor are probably still a cut above, and I have a feeling the Bedlam game will be tough this year after the Sooners lost in such heart-breaking fashion last season. Kansas State at home could be a win, but I still like the Wildcats’ consistency. Beyond that, West Virginia, Texas Tech and Texas are all potentially winnable, however they are all also road games. At the end of the day, I think a 7-5 record is probably the safest call, but wouldn’t be shocked to see as low as 5-7 or as high as 9-3.