What We Know
Returning Starters: Offense - 7, Defense - 7
Mike Gundy Plans to Remain Balanced
Throughout the years Mike Gundy has slowly built a program in Stillwater. The recent success has manifested itself through the use of a balanced attack. Each and every year, the Oklahoma St. Cowboys find reliable playmakers on offense. The combination of a Brandon Weeden to Justin Blackmon with Joseph Randle in the backfield proved to be the winning mix. Last season it was a trio of quarterbacks with Randle and Jeremy Smith on the ground. The formula is there but some of the key components have yet to reveal themselves. Even with a new offensive coordinator, there is no need to panic as you can be assured that Gundy will stick to his guns.
Appears Clint Chelf Is the Front Runner
After a carousel of quarterbacks was put through the ringer a front-runner emerged in freshman Wes Lunt who was the best pure passer of the group with the most upside. Due to injury, Lunt was forced to the sideline as was J.W. Walsh allowing Clint Chelf to take over the offense. Now, with Lunt transferring, the competition has been narrowed to two. While the door is still closed on who will officially start once the fall hits, for there to be anyone but Clint "Choo Choo" Chelf named as the starter would be a surprise to many as he finished 2012 with strong performances in a driving offense.
With the second highest amount of returning starters in the Big 12, this is still a team that will have a revamped look on the field. Head Coach Gundy has hired on a new offensive coordinator, moved his LB coach up to defensive coordinator, and added multiple new position coaches.
Can This Defense Win Games?
The 2012 season proved to be a rebuilding year for the Cowboys. However, it was the offense that remained a strong suit for OSU. Behind a trio of quarterbacks and a solid rushing attack, Oklahoma St. found themselves winning games but the defense remained a liability. With an improved Justin Gilbert anchoring the secondary, this should be an team that creates turnovers once again. But the loss of defensive ends Nigel Nicholas, Cooper Bassett and Ryan Robinson, a group who found themselves in the backfield often yet unable to get to the quarterback leaves a few questions marks still up in the air. You simply cannot ask the secondary to cover receivers to extended periods of time without at least one of them getting open.
Will 2013 be the Breakout Season for Jeremy Smith?
I am sure Smith did not have the Spring performance that he , or many others for that matter, expected. Held to just two yards on six carries, there is much room for improvement. With Joseph Randle departing early for the NFL, Smith becomes the de facto starter. After contributing to the offense since his freshman campaign, Smith will likely be handed the reigns as he plans to have himself a career type season.
Who Will Replace Quinn Sharp?
Quinn Sharp was one of the most well respected kickers in the nation throughout his tenure at Oklahoma St. Not only did he start as the place kicker but Sharp was also named the starting punter and kick-off specialist. Now the Cowboys will be without him on the roster and will need to fill all those positions. Much of the speculation is the Ben Grogan will be the best of the group when he arrives on campus. If that's true he will likely start out on the bench then move into a starting role several games into the season. That means Gundy will have to put a player out there in the mean time.
Mobile quarterbacks have taken over the collegiate ranks as some of the most productive in history. It just so happens that Clint Chelf possesses those skills as well and displayed them through the latter half of 2012. With weapons such as Josh Stewart and Jeremy Smith playing the role of playmakers, you'd think Chelf takes the cake as my top threat for OSU. However, I am going with Justin Gilbert this season. After a disappointing 2012, he will be out with a vengeance leading the charge as the Cowboys hope to return to the ranks of creating turnovers. Gilbert has the experience and will be heavily leaned upon as a defender in this pass happy league. Not only will he be a factor in the secondary, Gilbert will need to be accounted for the in the return game as well as the return man.