Big 12: Dantrell Savage

Mike Gundy had a front-row seat to see two of the best backs in Oklahoma State history, Thurman Thomas and Barry Sanders, the latter of whom has a case as the best back in college football history. Few, if anyone, knows more or saw more of the so-called "glory days" of Running Back U in Stillwater. Both of those Oklahoma State backs went on to be NFL MVPs.

As Oklahoma State's head coach, Gundy oversees an offense that isn't shy about being a pass-first scheme. Despite that, he's still watching some of the best days running the ball in Oklahoma State history. The best, one could certainly argue, in the Big 12.

Joseph Randle led the Big 12 in rushing by more than 400 yards with 1,417 yards and 14 scores in 2012, electing to leave Stillwater a year early and enter the NFL draft. Quietly, it was Oklahoma State's sixth consecutive season with a 1,000-yard rusher, despite churning out great quarterback play over that same period with passers like Brandon Weeden and Zac Robinson, who was a strong runner as well.

That ties Pac-12 power Oregon for the nation's third-longest streak, behind only a pair of programs from the run-heavy Big Ten, Penn State and Wisconsin, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

But compared to the rest of the Big 12, it's even more impressive. The Pokes have had a 1,000-yard rusher every season since 2007, and four different backs (Dantrell Savage, Kendall Hunter, Keith Toston, Joseph Randle) have helped extend that streak.

Over that same period, here's how many 1,000-yard rushers the Big 12's other teams have had (with a hat tip to Oklahoma State running backs coach Jemal Singleton):
  • Kansas State (4)
  • Baylor, Oklahoma, West Virginia (3)
  • Kansas (2)
  • Iowa State, Texas, TCU (1)
  • Texas Tech (0)

For all its prowess throwing the ball, you've got to respect Oklahoma State's ability to run it, too. Baylor's streak of three consecutive seasons with a 1,000-yard rusher is the closest to the Pokes' streak of six, but with senior Jeremy Smith stepping up to collect the majority of the carries in 2013, I wouldn't bet against OSU making it seven consecutive years in 2013.

Wild game, even wilder rants boost OSU-Tech game to No. 14

June, 23, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

No. 14

The day that press conferences were bigger than anything on the field.

Date: Sept. 22, 2007
Place: Boone Pickens Stadium, Stillwater, Okla.
Score: Oklahoma State 49, Texas Tech 45

Oklahoma State's wild victory over Texas Tech started the 2007 conference race with one of the most memorable games in Big 12 history.

The two teams combined for 94 points, 62 first downs, and 1,328 yards. There were also three lead changes in the final 12:25.

And that action was upstaged by the comments of both teams' coaches in the post-game press conference.

OSU coach Mike Gundy quickly became a celebrated national figure after he defended his backup quarterback Bobby Reid, who he felt had been unfairly portrayed before the game in a column in the Daily Oklahoman.

Texas Tech coach Mike Leach had a similar eruption where he questioned the toughness of his defense after it had been gashed for 366 rushing yards.

It was a wild scene unlike anything that has been seen -- before or since -- in Big 12 history.

Earlier, the action on the field was nearly as memorable.

Tech wide receiver Michael Crabtree had helped stake the Red Raiders to a 35-28 halftime advantage with three early touchdown grabs. But OSU stormed back to tie the game on Zac Robinson's 3-yard keeper with 1:15 left in the third quarter.

Early in the fourth quarter, OSU's defense came up with a huge play when Tech wide receiver Edward Britton fumbled at the Tech 38. On the next play, OSU took the lead when Seth Newton hit Jeremy Broadway on a 33-yard option pass for a touchdown to give the Cowboys the lead.

Tech stormed back to tie the game four plays later when quarterback Graham Harrell threw his fifth touchdown of the game -- a 41-yard strike to Danny Amendola.

The Red Raiders withstood OSU on the next drive as Robinson was stopped on fourth down at the Tech 40 by Joe Garcia. Tech then marched 58 yards on a scoring drive capped by Alex Trlica's 19-yard field goal that gave the Red Raiders a 45-42 lead with 4:49 left.

After an exchange of punts, OSU had one final chance. And on the first play from scrimmage, Robinson hooked up with tight end Brandon Pettigrew on a 54-yard TD reception that gave them the lead for good with 1:37 remaining.

Tech marched to the OSU 15, but Crabtree dropped a touchdown pass in the end zone with 19 seconds left after OSU cornerback Ricky Price had flashed in front of him.

It provided Gundy with a victory in his first conference game of the season, emboldening him to make perhaps the most celebrated rant in college football history.

Factoids to note: Harrell's 646 passing yards was the fourth-best single-game total in college football history at the time of the game as he completed 46 of 67 passes. OSU had three backs who rushed for 100 yards for the first time in the same game in school history -- Dantrell Savage with 130 yards, Robinson with 116 yards and Kendall Hunter with 113 yards. Crabtree and Amendola both had huge games as Crabtree produced 14 receptions for 237 yards and Amendola snagged 14 catches for 233 yards ... It was only OSU's second victory in a Big 12 opener in nine seasons.

They said it, part I: "Come after me! I'm a man! I'm 40!" OSU coach Mike Gundy's comments after he felt backup quarterback Bobby Reid was unfairly attacked in a newspaper column before the game.

They said it, part II: "We got hit in the mouth and acted like somebody took our lunch money. All we wanted to do was have pouty expressions on our face until somebody dabbed our little tears off and made us (expletive) feel better," Tech coach Mike Leach on his defense's inability to contain OSU's offense.

They said it, part III: "If I put it on the other shoulder, he's going to catch that easily and we win. If I put it a foot on the other side of him, we catch the ball and win. It's probably my fault. He played a heck of a game," Tech QB Graham Harrell on Michael Crabtree's late drop that cost the Red Raiders a game-winning touchdown.

They said it, part IV: "That was my Superman," OSU tight end Brandon Pettigrew describing his leap for the end zone on his game-winning touchdown.

The upshot: Gundy became a cult figure after his 3-minute 20-second outburst, which has been replayed on YouTube millions of times after the incident. Robinson claimed the starting position after the comeback victory and Reid never started at quarterback again. He eventually started at wide receiver later in the season, but transferred to Southern University after the season for his final year. In an interview with ESPN the Magazine's Tom Friend, Reid said that Gundy's rant "basically ended my life."

Leach fired defensive coordinator Lyle Setencich the following day and inserted Ruffin McNeill into the position. The move worked as the Red Raiders' defense improved markedly and helped spark them to a 9-4 season punctuated by a 31-28 victory over Virginia in the Gator Bowl. That triumph helped boost Tech to a No. 22 ranking in the final Associated Press poll that season.

OSU used momentum from the comeback victory to charge to a 7-6 record during the rest of the season, capping the season with a 49-33 triumph over Indiana in the Insight Bowl in the Cowboys' second-straight bowl victory under Gundy.

The countdown:

15. Rout 66: No, that score wasn't a typo.
16. Kansas State finally slays the Cornhuskers.
17. Kingsbury and Long hook up in a passing duel for the ages.
18. Henery and Suh make Colorado blue.
19. Stunning OSU rally leads to Stoops' first home loss.
20. It's never over for Texas Tech until it's over.
21. Reesing to Meier. Again and again.
22. A Texas-sized comeback -- Texas over Oklahoma State in 2004.
23. A Border War unlike any of the rest -- Missouri over Kansas in 2007.
24. Seneca Wallace's wild TD run vs. Texas Tech in 2001.
25. Baylor's "So Much for Taking a Knee" against UNLV in 1999.

Quieter Oklahoma State facing less turmoil in 4-0 start

October, 1, 2008
Posted by's Tim Griffin
 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."

(Read full post)

Tim's mailbag: Imagining an OU-Missouri title game

September, 16, 2008

Posted by'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 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.

Three-pronged OSU offense makes history against Houston

September, 9, 2008

Posted by'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."

200 Yards Rushing and Receiving in Same Game
DateTeams (score)RushingReceivingPassing
Nov. 4, 1995 San Diego St. vs. New Mexico (38-29) George Jones
Will Blackwell 210 Billy Blanton 328
Oct. 21, 2000 Pittsburgh vs Boston College (42-26) Kevan Barlow
Antonio Bryant 222 John Turman 332
Nov. 15, 2003 Wisconsin vs. Michigan St. (56-21) Dwayne Smith 207 Lee Evans
Jim Sorgi
Oct. 13, 2007 Houston vs. Rice
Anthony Aldridge 205 Donnie Avery 346 Blake Joseph 318
Sept. 6, 2008 Oklahoma St. vs. Houston (56-37) Kendall Hunter 210 Dez Bryant
Zac Robinson 320

Oklahoma sneaks past Missouri into top Big 12 slot

September, 8, 2008

Posted by'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.

6. Oklahoma State -- Forget about Adarius Bowman and Dantrell Savage. The Cowboys might be more talented this season offensively with replacements Dez Bryant and Kendall Hunter.

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.

Five burning questions for Oklahoma State

August, 23, 2008

Posted by'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 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.

Five questions for Oklahoma State

July, 31, 2008

Posted by'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 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.