Big 12: Adarius Bowman
The Cowboys have done it with a star-studded array of top players who have dotted their rosters over the last few years, most notably at wide receiver and running back. I was left with a tough choice between Adarius Bowman or Dez Bryant as the second wide receiver behind Rashaun Woods. And at running back, I went over and over as I tried to decide between Kendall Hunter, Keith Toston or Vernand Morency to go along with Tatum Bell.
After some careful deliberation, here are my choices for the Cowboys' top players of the last decade.
QB: Zac Robinson
RB: Kendall Hunter
RB: Tatum Bell
WR: Rashaun Woods
WR: Dez Bryant
TE: Brandon Pettigrew
OL: Russell Okung
OL: Corey Hilliard
OL: Sam Mayes
OL: Charlie Johnson
C: David Washington
DL: Kevin Williams
DL: LaWaylon Brown
DL: Juqua Thomas
DL: Greg Richmond
LB: Terrence Robinson
LB: Dwayne Levels
LB: Patrick Lavine
DB: Perrish Cox
DB: Vernon Grant
DB: Elbert Craig
DB: Darrent Williams
K: Luke Phillips
P: Matt Fodge
Ret: Perrish Cox
Offensive player of the decade: WR Rashaun Woods. His emergence in the early part of the decade foreshadowed the Big 12’s development into the most pass-happy conference in the nation. Despite facing constant double-coverage, he produced 293 catches and was the first receiver in Big 12 history to reach 4,000 career receiving yards.
Defensive player of the decade: DT Kevin Williams. Excelled as a mainstay in the Cowboys’ defensive front, making 42 starts in his career. He helped transform the Cowboys’ defense into a tough run-stuffing unit, making 160 tackles and 18.5 sacks over his career.
Coach of the decade: Mike Gundy. His coaching career is no longer dominated by sound bites of eruptions at press conferences. Gundy has directed the Cowboys to four straight bowl trips and back-to-back nine-win seasons for the first time in 21 seasons.
Moment of the decade: Josh Fields directs 2001 comeback victory at Oklahoma. Fields came off the bench to rifle a 14-yard touchdown pass to Rashaun Woods with 1:36 left, and the Cowboys held on for a 16-13 victory. The Oklahoma State defense notched three interceptions and seven sacks of Nate Hybl and gave Bob Stoops his first home loss.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here are 10 things I'll be watching for around the Big 12 on Saturday.
1. The matchup between Oklahoma State's offensive line and Texas' defensive front -- The Cowboys have the most underrated offensive line in the conference, keying the most multi-faceted offense in the Big 12. But OSU's talented front will be tested by Texas' surging line led by defensive end Brian Orakpo and defensive tackle Roy Miller -- two likely all-Big 12 performers if the vote was taken today. Oklahoma State must be balanced in order to give Zac Robinson a chance to take advantage of Texas' youth in the secondary with play-action passes -- something that Chase Daniel wasn't able to do last week until it was too late.
2. Texas Tech's sputtering special teams -- After benching kickers Donnie Carona and Cory Fowler in back-to-back weeks, the Red Raiders could turn to walk-on Matt Williams as their primary kicker against Kansas. Could Williams, a former winner of an in-game kicking promotion at a Tech game earlier this season, really provide a key field conversion or field goal that would extend the Red Raiders' BCS hopes? And could quirky Tech coach Mike Leach really follow through with his intention of possibly going for two points after every touchdown because of his kicking woes? We'll see.
3. Robert Griffin's interception streak -- The Baylor freshman has thrown 155 passes without an interception to set an NCAA record for freshmen at the start of his career. Can Griffin keep it going against a Nebraska defense that has produced only five interceptions this season -- a figure way below expectations when Bo Pelini took over as head coach.
4. The Oklahoma running game against the weak Kansas State run defense -- The Sooners failed to produce 50 rushing yards in two of their last three games before erupting for 206 yards last week against Kansas. The Sooners will be facing a struggling Kansas State defensive front that has allowed an average of 229.2 rushing yards and 12 rushing touchdowns in its last five games.
5. Missouri's response to its recent two-game losing streak -- Losses to South powers Oklahoma State and Texas have shown that Missouri might have been a paper tiger and virtually crushed Chase Daniel's Heisman hopes. A start for the Tigers against Colorado would be grabbing a lead, something they haven't done in the last two games. During the first five games of the season, the Tigers trailed for a total of 13 seconds. In the last two games, Missouri has trailed for a period of 92 minutes, 14 seconds.
6. Texas A&M's struggling running game -- With the return of players like Mike Goodson and Jorvorskie Lane back from last season's offense that ranked 13th nationally in rushing, the Aggies were expected to be able to consistently run the ball. But they floundered again last week, producing 20 yards against Texas Tech -- the lowest for any A&M team in nearly nine seasons. A&M's rushing offense ranks 100th nationally. Can it be resuscitated against an Iowa State run defense that ranks 95th in the country?
7. Will Oklahoma State finally break down the door against Texas? The Cowboys have blown huge leads in three of the last four seasons against the Longhorns, including a 21-point advantage early in the fourth quarter last season against them in Stillwater. OSU obviously has confidence it can make big plays and have success against the Longhorns. But can the Cowboys hold a lead if they get one Saturday in Austin with that mental baggage still around them?
8. The matchup between Texas Tech wide receiver Michael Crabtree and Kansas wide receiver Dezmon Briscoe -- Crabtree and Briscoe were almost college teammates as Crabtree considered attending Kansas before opting to go to Tech. Crabtree won the Biletnikoff Award last season and is poised for a big game against Kansas' leaky secondary. And Briscoe is coming off a school record-breaking 12-reception, 269-yard game last week against Oklahoma. The Big 12 record for single-game receiving yards is 300 yards set by Oklahoma State's Adarius Bowman against Kansas in 2006. It might be challenged by either Crabtree or Briscoe on Saturday.
9. Colorado's quarterback rotation -- Coach Dan Hawkins navigated the ticklish situation of benching his son, Cody, for freshman quarterback Tyler Hansen last week. The combination helped lead the Buffaloes to a gritty victory over Kansas State. How will Hawkins handle juggling his quarterbacks against Missouri in a virtual North Division title elimination game for the loser?
10. Josh Freeman's slump -- The Kansas State quarterback has struggled recently and has not thrown a touchdown pass since the opening possession against Texas Tech on Oct. 4. Since then, Freeman has gone 92 passes without a touchdown pass during a span that has stretched for nearly three games. He'll be facing an Oklahoma pass defense that has struggled recently before storming back to force five straight punts down the stretch to seal the victory against Kansas last week. Freeman must find his groove if the Wildcats have any hopes of notching the upset over the Sooners.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
But a funny thing happened along the way to the Biletnikoff Award presentations. Both have been outplayed by another Big 12 wideout, Dez Bryant of Oklahoma State.
Bryant's game-breaking abilities as a receiver and a returner have helped spark the Cowboys 7-0 start -- their best since 1945. And in the process he's developed into the prime breakaway threat in coach Mike Gundy's offense that ranks fourth nationally in scoring and seventh in total offense.
He's only a part of the Cowboys' vaunted "Four Aces" offense that also includes contributions from quarterback Zac Robinson, Big 12 rushing leader Kendall Hunter and tight end Brandon Pettigrew. Robinson ranks third nationally in passing efficiency and Pettigrew is just rounding into shape after missing three games with an ankle injury.
"It's fun to be a part of an offense like this," Bryant said. "They can't really concentrate on just one part of us. It helps all of us out there because of everything we can do when we get the ball."
The explosive Oklahoma State offense is girding for a massive challenge Saturday when they travel to Texas in a showdown with the No. 1 Longhorns.
"It will be fun for us playing against the No. 1 team," Bryant said. "I feel like we've got a chance, but in order to do it, we're going to have play really hard like we've done all season."
Oklahoma State has risen to No. 6 in the latest BCS standings -- highest ranking in that poll in school history.
The Cowboys stunned Missouri two weeks ago in Columbia in a game that many observers are considering the biggest victory in OSU school history. But the enormity of that accomplishment pales with the challenge of beating the Longhorns in Austin.
"Everybody doubted that we could think about beating Missouri. And it's the same way here," Bryant said. "Nobody is going to give us respect. We like that we have to go out and earn it. And we'd rather do it that way."
Gundy credited all of the weapons around Bryant as helping spark his big season so far.
"A defense set up to stop the run like that is going to give him an opportunity to make a lot of big plays," Gundy said. "Which he has done."
Bryant leads the Big 12 with an average of 115.6 receiving yards per game. That figure ranks only behind Jarett Dillard of Rice. He also ranks second nationally with 11 touchdown receptions.
The 6-2, 215-pound sophomore leads the Big 12 and ranks sixth nationally with a 20.6 yard per punt return. Included are two punt returns for touchdowns which is tied for national lead in that statistical category.
"Everybody is making plays on the offense, not just me," Bryant said. "Anything I've been able to accomplish this year is because everybody else has been helping me and everybody else out."
His biggest game came against Houston when he produced nine catches for 236 yards and three TDs and also added a 71-yard punt return for another score.
Another similar effort materialized in the Cowboys' 34-6 victory over Baylor last week. Bryant produced a career-high 11 catches for 212 yards and two touchdowns. And he had a 60-yard punt return for another touchdown wiped out by a clipping penalty.
The stage for this season was set last year when leading OSU receiver Adarius Bowman was lost with an injury for the last two games of the regular season. Bryant emerged as the Cowboys' primary receiving threat, gaining confidence with every game.
Bryant's development has only grown from there.
"I was nervous going in there thinking I would have step because I was only a freshman," he said "But once I got caught up into the speed of the game, it was easy and I've just cruised from there."
|Joe Nicholson/US Presswire|
|Mike Gundy has the Cowboys ranked for the first time since he took over in 2005.|
What a difference a year makes.
Oklahoma State is riding high with a 4-0 record and is one of six Big 12 teams to be ranked this week. An explosive offense that has hung 50 points on each of its last three opponents is bringing back memories of previous Cowboy teams when Barry Sanders was here 20 years ago after a 55-24 rout of Troy last week.
"I would say winning gives everybody a good feeling," Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. "When the guys are walking on campus, I would guess that people are telling them they are playing well. I imagine they are feeling pretty good about themselves."
Only a year ago, the prospects for the program weren't nearly as bright. The Cowboys limped home after a loss to Troy in quarterback Zac Robinson's first career start. The residue of discontent sparked Gundy's infamous rant after beating Texas Tech in their conference opener.
Fast forward a year later and it's much quieter around Stillwater. Their national ranking -- their first since Gundy took over in 2005 -- is a milestone of sorts for the program as it heads into its Big 12 opener Saturday night against Texas A&M.
"I don't really get excited about many things this time of year because our coaching staff members are firm believers on working and preparing and doing the best we can to give our players the best opportunity to win on Saturday," Gundy said. "But I do think being ranked is good and I'm excited for the team.
"And I'm also excited for everyone involved in building this football program to a championship level, which is where we ultimately want to be. I think we took a good step last week."
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here's a representative cross section of some of the letters I received over the past few days.
Isaac from Tulsa writes: If Oklahoma and Missouri both run the table in the Big 12 do you think the championship game will be bigger than USC-OSU game? It's like the media was crowning USC the champions and then was there second game. What's the deal?
Tim Griffin: First of all, it's a big "if" for both Oklahoma and Missouri to run the table. But if they do, it would set up the first potential unbeaten matchup for a Big 12 title. How big would that be? Winner would likely go to the BCS title game in Miami. The loser likely would go to the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Ariz.
But there's still a bunch of football before we consider something like that happening. I'm still thinking the national title will include some kind of three-cornered result from the winner of the Ohio State-USC game -- USC obviously -- the winner of the Georgia/Florida game and the Big 12 championship. I look for those three winners to play a game of musical chairs for the national championship berths.
Ryan from Lincoln, Neb. writes: Hey Tim, I'm sure you're going to cover this more in depth next week but I wanted to hear your take on Virginia Tech - Nebraska. After watching both teams last week it looked like this should be a pretty even match. Is containing Tyrod Taylor going to be an obstacle for the Blackshirts even with the noticeable improvement last week?
Tim Griffin: I will be focusing on that question more next week. But as expected, Virginia Tech will be Coach Bo Pelini's biggest test to date. And the big thing the Cornhuskers will need to do is stand up to Virginia Tech's physical nature from the opening kickoff. Frank Beamer's team traditionally has been successful on the road because they don't get intimidated away from Blacksburg. Containing Taylor is going to be a good test for the Cornhuskers' defense, even with the recent success that Pelini has cooked up.
This is going to be Pelini's first chance to show his program off to a wide national audience. It should be interesting.
John H. from Broken Arrow, Okla., writes: Tim, Do you think Oklahoma State can do better than 8-4 this year?
Tim Griffin: I think that might be stretching things just a little. The Cowboys have played well so far this season, but they still haven't faced competition anywhere like what they'll see in the Big 12. I'm still not sold on their defense after the way they were blistered by Houston. And I'm curious how explosive the OSU offense will be against Big 12 defenses.
After the first three weeks of the season, OSU has been one of my biggest surprises in the Big 12. I didn't think they would fill in so quickly for Adarius Bowman and Dantrell Savage. But they have, and their offense looks so far to be as potent as it was last season. But let's see how they play against Texas A&M and in tough early Big 12 road games at Missouri and Texas before we start christening them as potential South Division title contenders.
Chris from Abilene, Texas, writes: How worried should I be when my Aggies take the field against Miami on Saturday? Let me rephrase...is there any reason not to worry?
Tim Griffin: To be honest, I'm thinking that the Aggies might match up better against Miami than some might think. Remember, this isn't the monolithic "U" of the Larry Coker era. These Hurricanes rank 105th in total offense and 106th in passing offense. They do have a sturdy interior rush defense and it will be a huge effort for an underwhelming (at least so far) A&M offensive line to get much push against them.
Here's where I think the game hinges: Miami is tied for 99th nationally in net punting and 118th in kickoffs. The Aggies haven't been that much better. The team that wins the special teams will win the game.
And I'm looking for a low-scoring game, too. First team to 17 points might win it.
Steve from Belton, Texas, writes: I saw you on television Saturday afternoon from the studios. Your comments got better as the day went on. Do they have an open bar or something up there?
Tim Griffin: No, Steve, they don't. I probably could have used it. But I enjoyed my work in the studio much more than I ever would have imagined. Props to my colleagues Dari Nowkhah and Chris Spielman. They made a fish out of water feel like he could at least swim.
But I think I'm going to be enjoying covering a game again this weekend.
Roger from Oklahoma City writes: What criteria do you use for the awarding of your helmet stickers? And why did you decide not to give one to Sam Bradford (career-high five TD passes and a TD run) and give one to Robert Griffin.
Tim Griffin: I'm limited to four or five stickers each week, depending on the space we have. I was mightily impressed by what Bradford did against Washington. But I figured that setting the conference record for per-carry average was pretty special - especially when it was done in only Griffin's second career start and first against a BCS team. So that's why I awarded him the coveted sticker.
And to be truthful, the one I felt most badly about leaving out was Texas Tech S Daniel Charbonnet, who merely set a school record with three interceptions against SMU. A lot of media types were snickering when Mike Leach brought him to Kansas City for the Big 12 media days rather than Graham Harrell or Michael Crabtree. His game Saturday night proved he belonged there.
Victor from St. Louis writes: Any talk of how low it was for Missouri coach Gary Pinkel to run a fake FG up by 30 pts in the 2nd half on lowly Nevada? Now that Mizzou is gaining some respect as good football team, something like that is going to give people the impression that he's a Spurrieresque type of guy. That was pretty low budget.
Tim Griffin: I specifically asked Pinkel about that when I spoke with him earlier this week. And I agree with your premise. But Pinkel did make a good point when he said that running that fake got it out on film for every opponent during the rest of the season. They now know that Missouri is willing to gamble in that situation. Whether it should have been called in the particular game situation is debatable, but his thought about making opponents account for it has no ulterior motives.
Caleb from El Reno, Okla., writes: What was your take on the play where Oklahoma DT DeMarcus Granger got hurt? It seemed like a dirty play to triple team a player and then literally punch him while he is down, not to mention Granger was injured on the play.
Tim Griffin: The seeds for that play started on the previous play when Granger was flagged for a personal foul. As my old coaches would have said, he probably needed to "keep his head on a swivel" for the next few plays.
It was an odious play when Granger was hurt when he was down. Bob Stoops hinted that it might have been retaliation for Granger's previous play. But
he also made it clear he wasn't whining about it.
Stoops was able to take the high road a lot more easily considering all of the depth he has at defensive tackle. But it still reminded me of something from "The Longest Yard."
Jarratt from Austin writes: I agree that the Texas running back collection is not where it needs to be if we want to beat OU/Missouri/Kansas/Texas Tech. But I was actually surprised they average a collective 4.4 yards per carry. What is considered a good average? Perhaps I'm stuck in the "three yards and a cloud of dust age," but isn't 4.4 considered pretty good?
Tim Griffin: You should be able to keep collecting first downs if you average 4.4 yards per play. But considering the league average is currently 4.98 yards per carry, it would be considered something that could use some improvement. And among the league's top 12 ball carriers that average would be lower than every player with the exception of Texas A&M's Mike Goodson, who has a 4.4 yard-per-carry average.
So obviously, Mack Brown is looking for some improvement from his running backs.
Guys, thanks for the questions this week. Keep them coming and enjoy the games all throughout the week.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Kendall Hunter came to the sidelines late during the second half of Oklahoma State's victory over Houston, amazed at the kind of offense that his team was producing.
"It was really crazy," Hunter said. "I came over at one point and (OSU running backs) Coach (Curtis) Luper told us we were making NCAA history. I didn't know about it until he told me."
The Cowboys trio of Hunter, wide receiver Dez Bryant and quarterback Zac Robinson had the most prolific three-pronged offensive game in Big 12 history as they sparked the Cowboys' 56-37 victory over Houston.
In the process, they became the first trio to include a 300-yard passer, a 200-yard rusher and a 200-yard receiver in the game in Big 12 history and only the fifth in NCAA FBS history.
"Just put it this way -- I slept really well Saturday night," said Bryant, who earned national player of the weeks honors after snagging nine receptions for 236 yards and three touchdowns. For good measure he added a 71-yard punt return for a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter that iced the victory.
Hunter rushed for 210 yards, producing the first 200-yard game of his career. And Robinson passed for 320 yards to highlight OSU's mammoth 699-yard offensive effort. It was the second-best in school history, trailing only a 717-yard output against Kansas in 1988.
"We didn't realize how many yards we had made because we were just trying to play as a team," Hunter said. "But after they told me how many I had after the third quarter, I wanted to stay in there and get some more."
There were some concerns with former offensive coordinator Larry Fedora left for the head coaching position at Southern Mississippi and Adarius Bowman and Dantrell Savage both left school after last season.
Hunter has blossomed into OSU's featured back after being utilized as the Cowboys' situational back last season.
"I feel like I'm more comfortable in the offense," Hunter said. "I would just run and could adjust to what the defense was doing. I just feel better out there now."
After Bowman went down with an injury late last season, Bryant emerged as the Cowboys' top receiving threat down the stretch. He produced 24 of his 43 receptions in the final four games last season.
"I've just kind of picked up where I left off last year," Bryant said. "At first I was a little nervous, but my time is now. My confidence started building up last year and since then, I've been rolling."
If anything, the current trio appears to be just as good and might even deserve the self-proclaimed title of "Greatest Show on Earth" that OSU publicists bestowed on last year's offensive team.
OSU coach Mike Gundy said the unique statistical honor his trio accomplished is one of the most difficult to accomplish in college football.
"It's difficult to get a player to rush for over 200 yards, but it's much more difficult for a receiver to get over 200 yards, but it's much more difficult for a receiver to get over 200 yards just because it's hard to get the ball to somebody that many times," Gundy said.
The OSU coach knows a little about offense. He was the quarterback on the 1988 team that also included running back Barry Sanders and wide receiver Hart Lee Dykes. But that group never was able to accomplish a 200-200-300.
Gundy was careful to add that many other OSU players had big games on offense. Wide receiver DeMarcus Conner, who had no receptions, had 12 knockdown blocks. The entire OSU team produced 84 knockdown blocks.
"DeMarcus had 12 knock-downs. That's unbelievable," Gundy said. "I continue to talk about this because I'm a little concerned about all the attention that Dez and Kendall have gotten. But I'm happy with the effort on offense."
Let's jump right in.
Rodney from Salina, Kan., writes: Why did you not include the Kansas State and Louisville game in your links this morning?
Tim Griffin: I didn't link a story to that game because I thought the other stories were more immediate. With that game still more than a week away, I thought it was a better idea to highlight the upcoming games instead.
Ben from San Diego writes: Tim, Double-T Nation is already upset about the fact that Texas Tech is the No. 12 team and has yet to have a televised game this season. An honest question though - although Tech plays the proverbial 'cupcake' out-of-conference schedule, why do networks still air other games instead. I mean, look at some of the other games on broadcast over weeks 1 and 2 and tell me that you wouldn't rather watch Texas Tech. Love your blog!
Tim Griffin: I agree with you about Tech's lack of national exposure so far, although their game against SMU will be a FSN broadcast available through most of the southwest and Big 12 region.
But I will say this. I would have thought that the Nevada-Tech game would have been picked up by somebody. Two potential explosive offenses would have made for a good TV game -- at least as good as the Navy-Ball State game that was shown.
I've got to think that if the Tech-Tulsa game had been played earlier this season rather than cancelled, that game would have been picked up by somebody. But I think it's understandable why most television networks would steer clear of games like Massachusetts and Eastern Washington -- I think for obvious reasons.
Kenny Lyndon writes: Why hasn't Kansas State received any attention after back to back weeks of the Big 12 player of the week and national defensive player of the week in Courtney Herndon? Josh Freeman is leading the league in pass efficiency and has four rushing scores and four passing scores.
Tim Griffin: It hasn't helped Kansas State that they've played North Texas and Montana State during the first two weeks of the season. I've mentioned them a couple of times in some of my blog posts and I plan to do a lot more leading up to their game against Louisville next week. And as I said earlier this week, Freeman might have been the conference's most productive quarterback after two weeks. It will be interesting to see if that carries over when he starts playing some big boys across the conference.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
A change in the top has been reported after Oklahoma's second-straight impressive victory to start the season:
1. Oklahoma -- Surging Sooners hope for better luck -- and better officiating -- at Washington than they received on their last trip to the Pacific Northwest.
2. Missouri -- No problems with the Tigers, even though the decision to play Jeremy Maclin against SE Missouri State looks a little more dubious with the final margin of victory.
3. Texas -- A bow to the past this week as Arkansas visits. Only trouble is that Bobby Petrino is anything but the normal Razorback coach that Texas fans have loathed over the years.
4. Texas Tech -- Defense saves the Red Raiders from crapping out in Nevada, despite a career-worst start for Graham Harrell, in terms of completions.
5. Kansas -- Remember when Jocques Crawford talked about rushing for 2,000 yards? The lack of a productive running game is the Jayhawks' biggest concern heading into the South Florida showdown.
7. Kansas State -- Maybe Josh Freeman wasn't bragging. He is playing like the best of the Big 12's quarterbacks, even though he hasn't played against a competent defense yet.
8. Nebraska -- The Cornhuskers' defensive woes get more serious with the loss of top pass-rusher Barry Turner for the season. And it's coming at a bad time as pass-happy New Mexico State approaches.
9. Colorado -- The Buffaloes have work to do as they prepare for West Virginia's visit. CU's defense improved in the second half, but was still lucky to escape with victory over plucky Eastern Washington.
10. Iowa State -- The Cy-Hawk Trophy has looked good in the Cyclones' athletic offices the last few years. Gene Chizik would like nothing more than claim his second-straight win over Iowa.
11. Texas A&M -- Hold off on a potential quarterback controversy because of their week off. But Jerrod Johnson's improvisational skills might be better suited for working with A&M's young line.
12. Baylor -- Beating up on Northwestern State felt good for the Bears. It also represented Robert Griffin's impressive coming-out party as a starting college quarterback.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Oklahoma State will be the first team to begin fall practice as the Cowboys start work late this afternoon to improve on last season's 7-6 record.
Last season was highlighted by Mike Gundy's rant at an Oklahoma City newspaper columnist as much as anything the Cowboys achieved on the field. Even after finishing with an impressive 49-33 victory over Indiana in the Insight.com Bowl, the season was marked as much with close divisional losses against Texas and Texas A&M that ultimately kept them out of title contention.
Gundy has his work cut out this summer. Here are some of questions as the Cowboys start work.
1. How will the new combination of offensive coordinators replace Larry Fedora?
The Cowboys' former offensive coordinator left for the head coaching job at Southern Mississippi after last season. He will be replaced by Gunter Brewer and Trooper Taylor. Gundy promises no major changes in offensive philosophy. It will be interesting if the Cowboys can maintain their proficiency that enabled them to average 200 yards rushing and passing in each of the last two seasons.
2. Who will emerge as the featured running threat?
Dantrell Savage is gone, but Kendall Hunter is back as the leading returning rusher. Will Savage be able to withstand a charge from heralded junior-college transfer Beau Johnson for the starting job?
3. Can a backup quarterback be found? - Zac Robinson is one of the nation's most productive players, one of only tthree players along with Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow and Central Michigan's Dan LeFevour to pass for more than 2,800 yards and rush for 800 yards last season. But the Cowboys are sunk if Robinson is injured, unless either Alex Cate or Brandon Weeden really emeges during training camp.
4. Can playmakers be found to replace Adarius Bowman and Savage? - The Cowboys will be missing their top rushing and receiving threats. It will be important for Dez Bryant to emerge as a go-to receiving threat without Bowman. And whoever emerges at running back will struggle to replace Savage, who led the Big 12 in rushing in conference games and finished with 1,272 rushing yards last season.
5. Will six junior-college transfers really make a difference on defense? DE Jeremiah Price, DT Swanson Miller, DT Chris Donaldson, LB Daniel Booker, FS Lucien Antoine and CB Maurice Gray are counted to crack the two-deep roster. All but Booker participated in spring drills. If some step up it will vindicate the gamble that Gundy made in the heavy infusion of junior-college players.