Since last week, we’ve been examining the strongest and weakest positions for each team in the Big 12 going into the fall.
We continue the series below with the Oklahoma State Cowboys:
Strongest position: Cornerback
Never before has Mike Gundy had the depth at cornerback that he'll enjoy this season, with the Cowboys boasting four corners with starting experience.
Senior Kevin Peterson leads the way, having been a key part of the secondary since his true freshman season. He has the ability to shut down even the best of wideouts, which West Virginia All-American Kevin White discovered last season. White arrived in Stillwater leading the country in receiving; with Peterson blanketing him, he left with a season-low 27 yards on three catches.
Lampkin opened last season as the starter, even picking off Jameis Winston in the opener. But he suffered an ankle injury in Week 5, and never returned the rest of the season. Lampkin has made a healthy recovery; but Gundy noted after Oklahoma State's spring game that Lampkin "won’t be able to just walk back in and be a starter on this team.”
That's in part due to the rapid development of Richards, who replaced Lampkin in the lineup as a true freshman. He struggled initially, but Richards gained confidence as the season wore on, becoming a reliable piece in the secondary by late November. Richards also produced one of the most impressive plays in the spring game, going up over wideout James Washington and intercepting Mason Rudolph's jump ball on the opening drive.
“I’m really excited about Ramon Richards,” Gundy said following the spring game. “His attitude, his swag; the way he plays the game and challenges receivers.”
The arrival of Hunter will give defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer another corner who won't be afraid to challenge receivers. The graduate transfer notched 24 career starts with the Hoosiers. With capable senior Miketavius Jones and emerging sophomore Darius Curry also in the rotation, Spencer could have the luxury of having six capable corners to mix-and-match.
"Last year we just didn't have (depth),” Spencer said. “That allows us to do what we couldn't do last year -- play different packages in different situations and different games."
That should prove valuable, especially when the Cowboys face the high-octane offenses of Baylor and TCU in November.
Weakest position: Running back
Oklahoma State graduated Desmond Roland and dismissed Tyreek Hill off last season's offense, leaving a major void at running back heading into the offseason.
Junior Rennie Childs was the only healthy full-time running back on scholarship during the spring. He made the most of that opportunity, rushing for 83 yards and a touchdown in Oklahoma State's spring game. But there are still questions as to whether Childs, who's only played a bit role the last two seasons, can be effective as the featured runner.
That's why Chris Carson was arguably Oklahoma State's most critical signing back in February. The four-star junior-college transfer flipped his commitment from Georgia to the Cowboys just days before signing day. Carson will obviously have to prove his mettle once he arrives on campus but at 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, he has the size, the explosion and the versatility to be the every-down runner the Cowboys need.
Carson, however, might not be the only juco transfer to impact the Cowboys backfield. Before suffering a minor injury, Todd Mays flashed enough playmaking at the beginning of spring ball to show he should be able to man the all-around role Hill held last season as a change-of-pace back, slot receiver and returner.
With Rudolph back at quarterback and Oklahoma State loaded at receiver, the Cowboys could have enough offensive firepower to challenge in the Big 12. But for that to happen, they'll also need someone to supply the production from running back.