Monday, June 12, 2017

Bilo's 2017 College Football Previews: Oklahoma State Cowboys

Oklahoma State Cowboys
Oklahoma State won ten games last season, and likely should have won 11 if not for a badly officiated ending to their loss at home against Central Michigan. The Cowboys look, on paper, like a team with enough offensive firepower to run sprint for sprint with Oklahoma in the Big 12, and quietly, at least offensively, may be one of the best teams in the nation this season. I have them as an early top ten program this fall, but will they live up to it?
What To Be Excited: Offense
The biggest reason to be pumped is that the triad returned intact this season in QB Mason Rudolph, RB Justice Hill, and WR James Washington. This may be one of the best trios in the nation at the offensive skill positions in college football.
Rudolph returns as the top trigger man after passing for 4091 yards, 28 TDs, and just four INTs last fall. He averaged 314.7 yards passing per game while attempting 34.5 passes per contest. He is a quiet Heisman contender in a crowded field in 2017.
Washington was a beast last season at WR, as he collected 71 receptions for 1380 yards and ten TDs. Washington is a big play machine, and averaged over 19 yards per catch, and averaged 106.2 yards per game. Other good news comes in the form of the return of fellow starting WR Jalen McCleskey, who finished second on the team with 73 receptions for 812 yards and seven scores. Chris Lacy, who caught 31 passes, moves up one spot on the depth chart this fall, and may start in three receiver sets. Marcell Ateman came on late last fall, and could be a viable fourth receiver option. Dillon Stoner, Terry Tillmon, and Obi Obialo, all sophomores this fall, should add depth to the unit as well.
Hill returns after a 206 carry season that saw him rack up 1142 yards rushing as a freshman. He could be a major star in this offense in 2017, but does not have to be the primary weapon, and that will help his overall game and development. He averaged 5.54 yards per carry last fall, and could hit a home run on just about any carry.
The line should also be in decent shape, as three starters return in Zach Crabtree, Brad Lundblade, and Marcus Keyes.
Ben Grogan returns as the PK, and he hit 19/25 FGs last fall, and hit 60/61 PAT tries as well.
What To Be Concerned About: Offense
There is not a ton that I would find concerning, except that they Cowboys will have to find two new starters on the line, and that could throw off chemistry just a bit if the new starters are not gelling with the old by the time the team breaks camp. Larry Williams has prior starting experience, but was injured last fall. If healthy, he will reclaim his old job at RG. Arlington Hambright, a JC transfer, is in a four way battle with Dylan Galloway, Teven Jenkins, and Shane Richards for the RT job.
Another area of concern is at RB, where there is very little depth behind Hill, should he become injured at any point. Hill will definitely be the primary back, and there is no other plan, but he will need some relief behind him, and the most experienced back returning other than Hill is Jeff Carr, who carried all of 12 times last season.
What To Be Excited About: Defense
21 letter winners return on the Cowboy defense, seven more than the offense, but this side of the football has more questions than answers as we enter fall camp.
Both DEs return in Cole Walterscheid and Jarrell Owens. They combined for 11 TFLs last fall, and the team will also get DE Tralund Webber back as well. Webber should push for one of those starting spots after finishing with nine TFLs last fall. DeQuinton Osborne also returns at DT, and has experience. He finished with 5.5 TFLs as well. Trey Carter also returns to add some depth at DE.
Chad Whitener also returns at LB after finishing with 7.5 TFLS last fall. He totaled 71 tackles on the season and steps into a major leadership roled as the lone returning starting LB from last fall. Look for Justin Phillips, who finished with 42 tackles, to step into a major role as well.
The secondary returns just two starters from last fall in CB Ramon Richards and Safety Tre Flowers. Flowers finished with seven PBUs and two forced fumbles, while Richards finished with six PBUs, three INTs, and 64 tackles.
Zach Sinor, who averaged 42.77 yards per punt as a sophomore last fall, returns once again to handle punting duties, and will give the defense real estate to work with.
What To Be Concerned About: Defense
The Cowboys have got to figure out what to do with the middle of their line. Depth will not be plentiful. Osborne is back to help plug the gap, but there are only two other lettermen returning at DT in Vili Levani and Darrion Daniels. Levani played in nine games last season, and Daniels appeared in all 13 games, but had very little productivity in his time on the field.
The LB unit will need some help as well. Whitener is a two time All-Big 12 selection, and Phillips looks ready to play, but the third starting job is open and up for grabs in fall camp. JC transfer Patrick Macon may get a look, with Kevin Henry and Gyasi Akem joining the fray. Kenneth Edison-McGruder is moving from Safety to compete at the STAR LB position, but is in a fight with Kirk Tucker and Calvin Bundage.
Half of the secondary is also up for grabs as we head towards fall camp. AJ Green, Madre Harper, and Rodarius Williams are all looking for the first major playing time of their careers at CB. Ramon Richards, who is listed above as a CB, and is an exciting returning player for the Cowboys, may eventually end up at Safety, leaving both CB spots open. Malik Kearse and Bryce Balous are others who may see some action at the corner as well.
Richards could come back to CB if the Cowboys feel that Jerel Morrow and Chance Cook are ready to make some bigger contributions other than special teams play.
2017 Schedule: 8/31 Tulsa, 8/8 at South Alabama, 8/16 at Pittsburgh, 9/23 TCU, 9/30 at Texas Tech, 10/14 Baylor, 10/21 at Texas, 10/28 at West Virginia, 11/4 Oklahoma, 11/11 at Iowa State, 11/18 Kansas State, 11/25 Kansas
Final Overview
Oklahoma State may be a dark horse player for a national playoff bid in 2017. They are in a chase with Oklahoma and West Virginia for the conference title, and if the Cowboys can avoid any trap games or potential bumbles, that could very well be the result. The Cowboys have a ton of talent on offense, and the defense, although under construction in certain areas, could hold together enough to get by in this defense lacking conference known as the Big 12. Don't be surprised if some major award winners come out of this football team, and the sky could be the limit overall.

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