CFN Preview 2013 - Oklahoma State Cowboys
Posted May 8, 2013 2013 Preview - Oklahoma State Cowboys

Oklahoma State Cowboys

Preview 2013 

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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Mike Gundy
10th year: 67-35
Returning Lettermen: 48
Off. 23, Def. 23, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 22
Ten Best OSU Players
1. WR/KR Josh Stewart, Jr.
2. DT Calvin Barnett, Sr.
3. FS Daytawion Lowe, Sr.
4. LB Shaun Lewis, Sr.
5. SS Shamiel Gary, Sr.
6. LB Caleb Lavey, Sr.
7. CB Justin Gilbert, Sr.
8. RB Jeremy Smith, Sr.
9. WR Tracy Moore, Sr.
10. QB J.W. Walsh, Soph.
2013 Schedule
8/31 Miss State (in Houston)
9/7 at UTSA
9/14 Lamar
9/28 at West Virginia
10/5 Kansas State
10/19 TCU
10/26 at Iowa State
11/2 at Texas Tech
11/9 Kansas
11/16 at Texas
11/23 Baylor
12/7 Oklahoma
The Cowboys didn't do a bad job in a rebuilding mode.

After coming oh so achingly close to playing for the 2011 national championship, the Cowboys had to replace several key pieces including the pitch-catch combination of Brandon Weeden to Justin Blackmon, a few of the defensive stars and most of the offensive line. This time around, the team has most of the personnel in place with 18 starters returning, but there's one key piece of the puzzle missing that everyone will keep their eye on.

His name is Mike Yurcich, and if recent history is any indication, he's about to get a big-time head coaching job.

Todd Monken went from the OSU OC to Southern Miss head man, and Dana Holgorsen became a star before going to West Virginia. Yurcich comes in from an impressive stint at D-II Shippensburg, where his offenses put up points and passing yards in bunches. Head coach Mike Gundy has an eye for talent, and with so many great players returning to the attack, if anything goes wrong, it'll be blamed on the new part of the puzzle.

Fortunately, there shouldn't be much to tinker with. The receiving corps is loaded with Josh Stewart the team's new pass catching superstar, and with an excellent supporting cast to be a part of the mix. Jeremy Smith and the running backs should be fine behind a nice-looking, underappreciated line, and no matter who's in at quarterback, the passing game will shine.

The defense should make some improvements, too, with a more attacking style under coordinator Glenn Spencer. The speed and athleticism are there across the board, and the strength and foundation are in place up the middle with one of the Big 12's best safety and tackle tandems to work around.

So if the coaching gets the job done, and if the players play up to expectation, there's no reason to not be right back in the Big 12 championship mix after struggling to come through with clutch performances last season. Young teams tend to have problems doing all the little things right to win the tight battles, and in 2012, the Cowboys lost to Texas by five, Oklahoma by three in overtime and Baylor by seven in a shootout. They even battled well with Kansas State, so outside of the blowout loss early on to Arizona, they did a relatively decent job of bridging the gap to what should be a far more productive season.

Oklahoma State didn't need a total transformation, but it needs to keep changing and keep improving. Yurcich could turn out to be an upgrade; Spencer's moves appear to be just what the D needs; and Gundy appears to have found his groove going into his tenth season as the head man. The expectations are high now after the success of two years ago, and that's just what the program has been shooting for.

What to watch for on offense: The wacky, wacky quarterback situation. There's not really a wrong answer, and with Josh Stewart and a loaded receiving corps returning, the passing numbers will be there no matter what. However, it's the storyline of the offseason and it could carry over deep into the year if the Cowboys don't get off to a hot start. Wes Lunt got the starting job as a true freshman, and he had the most talent and the biggest upside before choosing to transfer - he was hurt throughout his first year after being banged up too much in high school. J.W. Walsh is a dangerous runner with good all-around skills, and Clint Chelf is the fighter with senior leadership and proven production late. No matter what happens, there will be a controversy.

What to watch for on defense: Bring the noise. Defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer always likes his Ds to be active and aggressive, but now the plan appears to be to do even more. The defensive ends are a bit green, but they're athletic. The real stars could be in the back seven where everyone will get the green light to hit the quarterback once in a while. The idea is to help out the secondary by bothering quarterbacks – start being the punchers instead of the punching bag. If nothing else, it could be a hit-or-miss defense that produces big takeaways from time to time, but will get torched just enough to occasionally be a problem.

The team will be far better if … the pass defense has to lock down and come up with more picks. The secondary came up with 11 picks on the season with just four games with multiple picks. Savannah State – two picks, blowout win. TCU – two picks, blowout win. Texas Tech & Purdue, two picks against each, two blowout wins. Coming up with interceptions didn't necessarily translate into wins, but the pass rush didn't show up against Oklahoma or Baylor, and the secondary only came up with one big play against the two. The pass rush has to be more consistent and the pass defense needs to find a way to start keeping passing games to around 200 and not closer to 300.

The schedule: It's an interesting slate from start to finish, opening up with a statement game against a strong Mississippi State team in Houston before going to what's sure to be a fired up Alamodome to play UTSA – don't laugh; the Roadrunners have a good fan base. And then comes the annual Oklahoma State stat-filler with Lamar coming into Boone Pickens before getting a week off to gear up for the Big 12 season.

It's not a bad way to start out the conference campaign with a trip to West Virginia to kick things off before getting Kansas State at home. If the Cowboys can get through those two games 2-0, with a week off before hosting TCU, going to Iowa State and Texas Tech, and welcoming Kansas, a 6-0 Big 12 start is on the table before going to Texas. It's a long year, but that's a positive with a third bye week to rest up late and prepare for the Bedlam showdown against Oklahoma.

Best offensive player: Junior WR Josh Stewart. The Cowboys needed a new star to replace Justin Blackmon, and they got it with Stewart, who might not have been a big-play star, but he came up with huge games with a whopping 101 grabs on the way to First Team All-Big 12 honors. He caught nine passes or more six times, and while he didn't score like Blackmon – coming up with four of his seven touchdown grabs against Louisiana and West Virginia – he was a No. 1 target to take the attention away from everyone else.

Best defensive player: Senior DT Calvin Barnett. One a defense full of great athletes and lots of speed, Barnett is the rock on the inside for the stars to work around. He's able to use his quickness to get behind the line, too, and he's able to come up with big stops on his own, but his job is to occupy blockers and gum up the works. There might not be anything flashy about his game, but there doesn't need to be.

Key player to a successful season: Junior C Jake Jenkins. The offensive line has been outstanding over the last few years, and it should be again, but the one part of the puzzle that has to fit is Jenkins in the middle. Tackle Parker Graham might take over one of the guard spots, and sophomore Devin Davis could slip in at left tackle, and guard Brandon Webb and tackle Daniel Koenig are terrific. If the line can replace Evan Epstein, it could be among the best in the Big 12.

The season will be a success if … the Cowboys win the Big 12 title for the second time in three years. Go ahead, Oklahoma State, and shoot for big things. With Kansas State, TCU and Oklahoma at home, and with a not-that-bad road slate other than the date with Texas, the schedule works out. The offense should be more explosive and consistent, and the defense will improve. As long as the special teams are better, 10-2 isn't out of the question, and 11-1 is possible.

Key game: Nov. 16 at Texas. There was a time not all that long ago when Texas found ways to rip out Oklahoma State's heart on a yearly basis. Last year's 41-36 Longhorn win was one of the highlights of the team's season, righting the ship after two straight losses in the series, and this time around it could be for the Big 12 title. Kansas State will take a step back and Oklahoma doesn't appear to be a powerhouse. It's a good conference, but if all goes according to plan, the Longhorns and Cowboys should be the stars. The date in Austin will be a big deal on a national scale.

2012 Fun Stats:
- Red Zone Scores: Oklahoma State 67-of-72 (93%) – Opponents 41-of-53 (77%)
- Total Yards: Oklahoma State 7,111 – Opponents 5,482
- Sacks: Oklahoma State 25 for 163 yards – Opponents 12 for 70 yards
- 2013 Oklahoma State Preview | 2013 Oklahoma State Offense
- 2013 Oklahoma State Defense | 2013 Oklahoma State Depth Chart