Mike Gundy is replacing two of the biggest stars in school history, yet he seems to have the answers to everything.
Zac Robinson, Brandon Weeden, and Mason Rudolph. Hell, even J.W. Walsh wasn’t horrible. Mike Gundy always seems to have a star QB to run his offense. This year, however, that seems to be in for a change. There are four QB’s vying for the staring spot, most noteworthy Dru Brown, the former Hawaii quarterback, who passed for 37 TD’s while playing for the Rainbow Warriors. Despite the hype for all the other players, if Gundy is to be believed, the front runner is the least heralded of all: fifth year senior Taylor Cornelius.
Prestige Ranking: 5*
I will likely take some flack for this ranking, but I value the consistency that Gundy has brought to the Cowboy program. Since 2010, Oklahoma State has only won less than eight games once. I would go as far to argue Gundy as the second best coach in the conference, behind Gary Patterson
Returning Starters: 15
WR Jalen McCleskey, WR Dillon Stoner, LG Marcus Keyes, C Johnny Wilson, TE Britton Abbot, RB Justice Hill
Obviously the main concern for the Cowboys is who exactly is going to play QB. In what is now considered a three man race, the main two were expected to be Dru Brown and stud recruit Spencer Sanders. Sanders is obviously the future of the position for Oklahoma State, but if Gundy is to be believed, Taylor Cornelius is “our guy”. Entering his fifth and final year in the system, it makes sense that Cornelius is the favored option. With the talent on offense, all the Cowboys really need is a game manager who knows the system. My guess is that he starts the year and Sanders takes over towards the end of the year or next year. This seems to be the safest plan in what could be a transition year.
Thankfully for the QB, they have an amazing running back to hand it off to. As a sophomore(!!) Justice Hill rushed for 1,476 yards and 15 touchdowns. If the quarterback play struggles, and it very well might, the Cowboys may become more of a run first team, as Hill has proven he can shoulder the load, leading the BIG 12 in rushing last season.
James Washington is not walking back through that door, but the receiving corp is not in horrible shape. Jalen McCleskey will likely slot into the #1 role after being the second option a year ago. He’s proven, totaling 645 yards last season, and should draw team’s number one corners throughout the season. Dillon Stoner is the perfect slot receiver, and should be the perfect safety blanket. He totaled 576 yards last season along with 6 touchdowns.
The offensive line returns two starters, headlined by all conference guard Marcus Keyes. Gundy seems not be worried, saying he counted eight players capable of starting on the O-line.
DE Cole Walterscheid, DT Darrion Daniels, DE Jordan Brailford, LB Justin Phillips, LB Calvin Bundage, CB A.J. Green, CB Rodarius Williams
Could Oklahoma State have a good defense? We have thought they would before and been burnt (not unlike the defense). However, the hiring of DC Jim Knowles away from Duke could mean good things for this year’s group. The D-line returns three of four starters, including the leading pass rusher from last year, Jordan Braildford. Brailford had five sacks last season and should contend for all-conference honors.
Linebacker Justin Phillips will likely be the leader of the defense after leading the team in tackles a season ago. He and Calvin Bundage make up a monster duo that should control the middle of the field for the Cowboys.
In the secondary, the team must replace all three of the starting safeties, but return both starting corners. A.J. Green, the number one guy, had four interception last year, and should be one of the best corners in the conference. Knowles scheme promotes aggressiveness, so there is emphasis on turnovers. The three safety look should also help in the spread-heavy Big 12.
Special Teams: 2
Kicker Matt Ammendola made 23 field goals last year, which was best in the conference and ranked 5th in the nation. His presence should help what could at first be a shaky offense.
Punter Zach Sinor is a veteran of the team, but needs to rebound after a somewhat disappointing 2017 season.
Tyroil Smoochie-Wallace All Name Team Member: Dillon Stoner
Key Losses: Mason Rudolph, James Washington
These were two of the best players in program history. They tore up the Big 12 for the better part of three years, at two of the most important positions on a Gundy offense. Rudolph’s absence has potential to be felt much more if the team cannot settle on a QB this season.
Five Year Recruiting Rank: 36
If we would all recall, Gundy was criticized earlier in the summer for his recruiting tactics. Of course, it is hard to recruit against schools like Texas and Oklahoma in that region, so he goes after recruits that aren’t as sought after. That reflects in the recruiting rankings. Of course, he consistently finishes in the top 25, so there is no real reason to complain.
Alcohol Prediction for Fans: Natty Light
Have you all seen Mike Gundy? The man has a mullet. You cannot tell me he doesn’t wish he could be slamming brews in the parking lot before he coaches a game.
Against my better judgement, I am going to drink the OSU kool-aide this year. Aside from Oklahoma, no one really knows what is going to happen. TCU is replacing practically its entire offense, West Virginia is literally one bad break away from going like 4-8, and no one knows what the hell Texas is gonna be. This is by no means me saying Oklahoma State is going to win the conference, or even go to the title game, but a nine to ten win season is within reach, especially with Justice Hill in the backfield and a (hopefully) improved defense.
But if they can’t find a quarterback, Gundy himself may trot out there and play the position.