Oklahoma State hits the practice field for the first time this spring later today. Here’s a closer look at the Cowboys.
Schedule: The Cowboys hold the first of 15 NCAA-allowed practices today with their Spring Football Finale set for April 20 at 1:30 p.m. at Boone Pickens Stadium.
What's new: What isn’t new could be the better question. The Cowboys open spring football with a new offensive coordinator, new defensive coordinator and multiple new assistant coaches. Linebackers coach Glenn Spencer takes over as defensive coordinator replacing Bill Young, making the transition on the defensive side of the football relatively easy. On offense, former Shippensburg (Pa.) offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich arrives to run OSU’s explosive attack and will have all eyes on him this spring. Inside receivers coach Jason Ray and defensive line coach Joe Bob Clements are the other newcomers to the staff.
New faces: Junior college transfers Sam Wren, a defensive end, and Brandon Garrett, an offensive lineman, should provide depth along the line of scrimmage with Wren appearing ready to make an immediate impact this fall. Meanwhile Alpharetta (Ga.) defensive end Naim Mustafaa, an early enrollee who spurned offers from Florida, Georgia, Florida State, Ole Miss and others to sign with OSU, will also participate in spring drills.
All eyes on: Mike Gundy raised plenty of eyebrows with his hiring of Yurcich. This spring is the first look at Yurcich in action so Cowboy fans will be intriqued to see how quickly OSU’s new offensive coordinator is learning the Cowboys attack and how he will put his own stamp on the offense.
All eyes on, part II: The quarterbacks. Senior Clint Chelf opens spring as OSU’s starting quarterback but the Cowboys have three proven signal callers and the competition to become the man should be fun to watch. Sophomore Wes Lunt has several games of experience under his belt and sophomore J.W. Walsh brings a running ability that is unmatched by the other two quarterbacks. And relatively unknown transfer Daxx Garman could insert himself into the competition as well.
Question marks: The Cowboys always seem to find a way to be productive offensively while maintaining a balanced attack. So Spencer’s defense will garner most of the attention and could ultimately decide if OSU can win its second Big 12 title in three seasons in 2013. In order to do that, the Cowboys will have to find a consistent pass rush and shore up it’s secondary, which took a step backward in 2012 after a stellar 2011 season. OSU needs senior cornerback Justin Gilbert to step up and play at an elite level and senior defensive end Tyler Johnson could use a stellar Heart of Dallas Bowl performance as a springboard to become a difference maker this fall.
Breaking out: Jeremy Smith. The senior running back has quietly been one of the Big 12’s best running backs for the past two seasons and has been a contributor in OSU’s offense since his freshman year. This year he finally gets a chance to be the headliner in OSU’s backfield with Joseph Randle leaving early for the NFL. It should be a career year for Smith if he stays healthy in his final season.