Monday, March 7, 2011
Opening spring camp: Oklahoma State
By ESPN.com staff
Schedule: Practice opens today, and continues through the spring game on April 16. All 14 practices between now and then are closed to fans and media.
What’s new: The guy calling the plays, but the Cowboys hope the offense isn't. Todd Monken is back in Stillwater for a second term after serving as receivers coach and passing game coordinator under Les Miles. He says he plans on keeping the same system as departed coordinator Dana Holgorsen, and is getting a lesson on the intricacies from his quarterback, Brandon Weeden.
On the move: Punter Quinn Sharp missed the Alamo Bowl, but his duties may be fairly comprehensive after this spring. He already handles punts and kickoffs, and he'll be battling for the starting placekicker job this spring, too.
Key battle: Oklahoma State returns all five starters from last year's offensive line, but that doesn't mean the same five guys will start the season. Early-enrolling juco transfer Michael Bowie is listed as co-No. 2 at right tackle in the pre-spring depth chart and could make a play for a starting job this spring.
New faces: Freshman quarterback J.W. Walsh enrolled early and should take part in a three-way battle for the No. 2 spot behind All-Big 12 quarterback Brandon Weeden with fellow passers Clint Chelf, last year's backup, and Johnny Deaton.
Breaking out: Running back Joseph Randle was a great compliment to Kendall Hunter last season, but enters the spring before his sophomore year as the starter ahead of the bulkier Jeremy Smith. Randle caught 37 passes last year, second-most among running backs in the Big 12 behind only Oklahoma's DeMarco Murray. He'll see a big boost in his carries this time around. He had just 81 last year.
Question marks: Oklahoma State lost both defensive tackles, Shane Jarka and Chris Donaldson from last year's team, and Nigel Nicholas and Christian Littlehead, among others, will try and fill their voids. Dominant interior defensive line play isn't necessary to win in the Big 12, but teams that have it can be great on a national scale.
Big shoes to fill: Linebacker Caleb Lavey. He enters the spring as the starter at middle linebacker, and is in line to replace Orie Lemon, one of the defense's leaders in 2010 and the Big 12's No. 2 tackler with 133 stops. Lavey was one of the jewels of the Cowboys' 2010 recruiting class, and as a sophomore, it's time for him to make good on that potential.
Don’t forget about: Receiver Hubert Anyiam. He led the team in receptions after Dez Bryant was suspended for the final nine games of 2009, but battled an ankle injury throughout 2010 while teammate Justin Blackmon raced to a Biletnikoff Award-winning season. If he can stay healthy, he could develop as an underrated, but very valuable compliment to Blackmon as a senior.
All eyes on: Quarterback Brandon Weeden. He came out of nowhere last season to become Oklahoma State's first all-conference quarterback since 1932. The 27-year-old went eight years between starts, but looked like he didn't miss a beat from the start. He'll have to try and build off last year with a new coordinator, and him doing so will be necessary for the Cowboys to capture the Big 12 title that narrowly eluded them in 2010.