Five burning questions for Oklahoma State

August, 23, 2008
8/23/08
1:48
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

 
 AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki
 The biggest challenge for the Cowboys? Keeping QB Zac Robinson healthy.

Coach Mike Gundy's 2007 season was marked by a celebrated rant that came after one of his team's biggest victories over Texas Tech.

A more sedate Gundy returns this season facing some big challenges in order to improve on his team's 7-6 record. The Cowboys finished with a victory in the Insight.com Bowl -- their second-straight bowl triumph in as many years -- and will be challenged to match that production.

Talented QB Zac Robinson is one of the nation's most underrated players. And the Cowboys should improve defensively with the addition of six junior-college players. But it remains to be seen how much of a step forward can be made in the rugged Big 12 South Division.

Heading into the season, here are five pressing questions that are facing the Cowboys as they prepare for their Aug. 30 opener in Seattle against Washington State.

1. Can Robinson remain healthy? This will be the major concern for Gundy all season. It remains to be seen if the Cowboys will be able to protect their quarterback, which will be no easy task considering his sometimes reckless running abilities. If backups Brandon Weeden or Alex Cate are counted on to take extended snaps, it will be a long season for the Cowboys.

2. Who will emerge at running back? Dantrell Savage led the Big 12 in rushing in conference games and his contributions can't be dismissed. But the Cowboys might not drop off as much as expected with a three-pronged rotation involving Beau Johnson, Kendall "Spud" Hunter and Keith Toston.

3. How will the offense develop without Larry Fedora? The Cowboys were one of the nation's most balanced and productive attacks under Fedora, the Cowboys' former coordinator who left for the head-coaching job at Southern Mississippi. Gundy and new coordinator Gunter Brewer will be challenged to do the same.

4. Will the junior-college arrivals really boost defensive production? Defensive coordinator Tim Beckman has six junior-college players he hopes can crack the two-deep roster: tackles Swanson Miller and Chris Donaldson, end Jeremiah Price, defensive backs Lucien Antoine and Maurice Gray and linebacker Donald Booker. Their development will be one of the biggest factors shaping Oklahoma State's season.

5. Can the Cowboys improve their special teams? Oklahoma State has traditionally been one of the nation's strongest teams under special-teams coach Joe DeForest, although a couple of disturbing trends were seen last season that demand immediate attention. Sophomore walk-on Dan Bailey beat back the challenge of heralded freshman Quinn Sharp for the starting kicker position. Whoever plays has to do better than OSU did last season (1 for 8 in attempts longer than 30 yards). And Oklahoma State will be challenged for better production from its  punt-return and punt-coverage teams after a minus 6.1 yard-per-return difference in 2007.

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