Big 12: Ryan Robinson

Turnover is an annual tradition in college football, but with that, teams' strengths and weaknesses constantly shift, too. Today, we'll continue our look at the biggest strengths and weaknesses for each Big 12 team.

Next up: Oklahoma State.

Strongest position: Pass-catchers

I'll have to apologize to Oklahoma State's trio of safeties in Daytawion Lowe, Shamiel Gary and Zack Craig here, but I'm going with the guys hauling in balls in OSU's pass-first offense as the strongest position. I don't care to debate whether Blake Jackson is a receiver or a tight end (he's the former), but I'm obviously including him in this group. He'll be an interesting guy to watch this year after struggling with drops but clearly possessing loads of potential and averaging better than 20 yards a catch on his 29 grabs.

Oklahoma State had nine players with at least 12 catches and 150 receiving yards last season and returns six of those players, including Tracy Moore, who was given an extra year of eligibility. He won't be joined by Michael Harrison, who sat out 2012 and was expected to return, but won't be doing so after a strong 2011 season under Justin Blackmon.

Somehow, we've gotten this far without mentioning the unit's headliner, breakout star Josh Stewart. He was overshadowed by a trio of superstars in Baylor's Terrance Williams and West Virginia's Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, but all three are gone and Stewart is easily the Big 12's best returning receiver. He caught 101 balls for 1,210 yards and seven scores last season, which is more than 150 yards more than any other returning receiver in the league. Stewart's underrated for now, but that could change soon, even though Oklahoma State has a ton of depth at the position with guys like Austin Hays and Charlie Moore filling out the position and Blake Webb emerging late in the season. Will incoming freshmen like Ra'Shaad Samples and Marcell Ateman find space to make an impact right away? It won't be easy, because this is Oklahoma State's biggest strength.

Weakest position: Defensive end

I've got nothing against juco transfers, who can walk on campus and be game-changers immediately, but if you're bringing in guys to do that, it shows a weakness at the position. Oklahoma State is doing that with Sam Wren, the nation's No. 16 overall juco prospect, after the Pokes lost three defensive ends from last season's team in Nigel Nicholas, Ryan Robinson and Cooper Bassett. Tyler Johnson is a solid player who made six tackles for loss a year ago, but OSU needs to find him help on the other side or opponents will be able to shut him down with double teams. Kansas State's Joe Bob Clements is a new addition to the staff who'll coach the position and try to sort it out this spring, but look for guys like Trace Clark, Jimmy Bean and early enrollee Naim Mustafaa to try to earn a starting spot, too.

More Weak and Strong.
We're moving on with a new series today looking at the players across the Big 12 who have to replace program legends. We might as well call this the Nick Florence Memorial team, but let's talk Texas Longhorns.

Big shoes to fill: Oklahoma State's defensive ends

This unit will be getting used to a brand-new position coach in Joe Bob Clements, who came over from Kansas State this offseason. The Cowboys are losing three of their top players at the position in Nigel Nicholas, Ryan Robinson and Cooper Bassett, and behind them is a bit of a messy situation. Tyler Johnson is the only guy I'd lock into a starting spot after making four sacks, six tackles for loss and 27 stops last season as a reserve, along with an interception and a pair of forced fumbles. Still, with a new position coach, you can never know for sure. Beyond him, it's a crap shoot. We might see sophomore Trace Clark emerge, or junior Jimmy Bean and sophomore Taylor May. The Cowboys might even slide a guy like Davidell Collins over. Either way, it's a huge spot for the Cowboys next season. You can't underestimate the importance of a pass rush in a league full of great quarterback play and high-powered offenses. Johnson must grow into his increased role if Oklahoma State's defense is going to have a better 2013 under new coordinator Glenn Spencer.

More big shoes to fill:

Spring superlatives: Oklahoma State

March, 26, 2012
3/26/12
2:30
PM ET
Time to continue our series breaking down each team's best and worst positions entering the 2012 season. Oklahoma State is up next.

More spring superlatives:
Strongest position: Running back

Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden threw the ball more than all but one quarterback (Case Keenum, Houston; Seth Doege, Texas Tech) in college football last year, but look for those pass-attempt numbers to dip a bit in 2011 for the Cowboys.

First, Weeden is gone. Second, Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith have more than proved they're capable of producing big numbers. Look for the offense to lean on the junior duo next year a bit more as Oklahoma State breaks in a new quarterback, whoever wins the competition between Clint Chelf, J.W. Walsh and Wes Lunt.

The pass attempts may go down, but look for Randle's 1,216 yards (second in the Big 12 in 2011) to go up next season. He also ran for 24 touchdowns. Smith added 646 yards and nine touchdowns, and those numbers could go up, too. OSU won't suddenly shift to a completely different offense, but these two are going to make the QB transition much easier. Sophomore Herschel Sims should add even more depth after a strong freshman year with extremely limited touches.

Weakest position: Defensive line

Oklahoma State lost two great pass-rushers in Jamie Blatnick and Richetti Jones, who combined for 12 sacks last season and were first and second on the team. There are no elite pass-rushers or players with a ton of potential waiting in the wings. Getting a pass rush will have to be up to some crafty blitz packages. Cooper Bassett and Ryan Robinson, both seniors, will get the first crack at replacing Blatnick and Jones, but it's tough to see the duo coming close to what its predecessors did.

Inside, defensive tackle was a weakness for OSU last year, and Nigel Nicholas returns, but he's moved to defensive end. Power rushing attacks like Texas A&M, Stanford and Texas gave Oklahoma State tons of trouble last year. Anthony Rogers and Davidell Collins begin the spring as starters, but James Castleman and Christian Littlehead should be major contributors, too. We'll see if juco transfer Calvin Barnett can make an impact in a much-needed position.

Thoughts on the Big 12 champs' depth chart

March, 9, 2012
3/09/12
10:30
AM ET
Oklahoma State kicks off spring practice next week, but the Cowboys released their pre-spring depth chart on Thursday.

You can see the full chart here.

A few thoughts:
  • Gundy made it official on the depth chart: It's a three-man race for the QB job, and right now, junior Clint Chelf doesn't have the advantage. Chelf and freshmen J.W. Walsh and Wes Lunt will compete for the job in the spring and are all separated by an "or" on the chart.
  • Junior college All-America tight end Blake Jackson just signed with OSU and has already earned a bit of pre-spring hype, and he'll enter the spring as a starter. Not at tight end, though. He's starting opposite Josh Stewart at inside receiver. That's an interesting selection. Not many 6-foot-3, 238-pound inside receivers in the Big 12. Jackson was listed at 220 when he signed, too. Looks like he's packed on a lot of muscle.
  • Grant Garner leaves a huge hole in the middle of OSU's offense at center, but Evan Epstein will start the spring as his replacement. Parker Graham played a lot in 2011, but he'll replace Levy Adcock at right tackle after playing left tackle last year. Senior Michael Bowie will move to left tackle after playing a reserve role in 2011.
  • Cooper Bassett and Ryan Robinson slide up, as expected, to replace OSU's pair of departed defensive ends, but those jobs aren't settled. Nigel Nicholas and Tyler Johnson are newcomers to the position. Nicholas played DT last year and Johnson was a linebacker. Nicholas is a co-starter with Bassett and Johnson is No. 2 behind Robinson.
  • Lavocheya Cooper gets the first crack at replacing Markelle Martin at safety, but he's probably going to have a battle on his hands with Zack Craig for that spot. Cooper missed time with an injury last year, and Craig was the top reserve at the position.
  • Sad to see Michael Harrison not on the depth chart. A personal issue prompted the NCAA suspension and his decision to leave the team, but I hate to see potential go unfulfilled. Harrison had a whole lot, and he was my pick to be the next big-time receiver in the program.

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