The big 2014 Oklahoma State football guide: The next generation begins

Mike Gundy has a lot of key pieces to replace and faces a rough schedule away from home. So 2014 might shape up a lot like 2012 for OSU, in which the Cowboys take their lumps, play at a high level, and break through in an odd-numbered year.

SB Nation 2014 College Football Countdown

Confused? Check out the advanced-stats glossary here.

1. Past success predicts future success

Change is the watchword in the Big 12, which, along with its six-program conference realignment turnover, has seen five different conference champions in five years. But for college football as a whole, the best predictors of this year's outcomes are last year's outcomes. If you've been good, you'll probably be good again, and vice versa.

And few teams have been as consistently good in recent years as Oklahoma State. The Cowboys have won 9+ games in five of the last six seasons (and it took three tight losses to prevent it in the other season) and have finished in the top 16 of the F/+ rankings in five as well. The 'Pokes were an unlikely overtime loss in Ames away from a spot in the BCS Championship in 2011; they lost some of their greatest players ever and still finished 12th and eighth in F/+ the next two years. Mike Gundy has replaced assistants, quarterbacks, and award winners and has kept right on winning.

So why do we doubt the Cowboys in 2014?

OSU returns an experienced quarterback, its leading rusher, three 200-yard receivers, six offensive linemen with starting experience, most of a strong defensive line, and, perhaps as importantly, both coordinators. They still have T. Boone money. They were one of the best teams in the country after November 1 last year.

But even those who aren't predicting Oklahoma to run away with the conference are mentioning contenders like Baylor and Kansas State. The team with 41 wins in four years is a total sleeper.

Mind you, it makes some sense. The quarterback who was in charge during the late breakthrough (Clint Chelf) is gone. So are three of the top four receivers from a balanced corps. And three starting offensive linemen. And two stalwarts at linebacker. Oh, and the top five defensive backs, guys who had been longtime contributors. There are reasons to doubt, and I haven't even gotten to the cruel November slate yet.

But if track records do matter -- and outside of this silly conference, they typically do -- then OSU should have a role to play in the title race, just as it has for most of the past half-decade. The Cowboys get the benefit of the doubt until they prove they don't deserve it.

2013 Schedule & Results

Record: 10-3 | Adj. Record: 12-1 | Final F/+ Rk: 8
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Adj. Score Adj. W-L 5-gm Adj. Avg.
31-Aug vs. Mississippi State 33 21-3 W 35.3 - 14.4 W
7-Sep UTSA 67 56-35 W 47.9 - 29.6 W
14-Sep Lamar N/A 59-3 W 25.6 - 17.9 W
28-Sep at West Virginia 76 21-30 L 19.0 - 18.0 W
5-Oct Kansas State 24 33-29 W 29.5 - 19.0 W 11.6
19-Oct TCU 44 24-10 W 33.6 - 21.2 W 9.9
26-Oct at Iowa State 78 58-27 W 27.9 - 23.5 W 7.2
2-Nov at Texas Tech 43 52-34 W 32.3 - 27.4 W 6.6
9-Nov Kansas 101 42-6 W 22.9 - 24.3 L 6.2
16-Nov at Texas 35 38-13 W 33.2 - 26.0 W 5.5
23-Nov Baylor 7 49-17 W 56.6 - 16.6 W 11.0
7-Dec Oklahoma 20 24-33 L 32.5 - 21.4 W 12.4
3-Jan vs. Missouri 14 31-41 L 31.1 - 19.2 W 13.8
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk Spec. Tms. Rk
F/+ +10.2% 26 +20.4% 6 -0.7% 85
Points Per Game 39.1 14 21.6 19
Adj. Points Per Game 32.9 35 21.4 14

2. Peaking at the right time

Granted, I might be singing a different tune right now had October OSU not turned into November OSU. Like their in-state counterparts to the south, the Cowboys went from good to very good late in the season, and they almost snared their second conference title in three years because of it.

  • Adj. Points Per Game (first 9 games): OSU 30.4, Opponent 22.0 (plus-8.4)
  • Adj. Points Per Game (last 4 games): OSU 38.4, Opponent 20.8 (plus-17.6)

Through nine games, OSU was 8-1, but that was due as much to scheduling as anything else. The 'Pokes beat another late-peaking team, Mississippi State, in the season opener, survived Kansas State (before the Wildcats also began to peak), and looked solid in road wins over Iowa State and Texas Tech.

But they had more than a few shaky moments. Clint Chelf, the starting quarterback to begin the season, looked so bad against Mississippi State that he was subbed out before halftime. And the OSU offense looked so awful against West Virginia (two fumbles, two interceptions, a 43 percent completion rate, a miserable 6-for-20 on third downs) that it was hard to shake the impression that game made, even as the Cowboys were winning in Ames and Lubbock.

Beginning on November 16, though, impressions changed. OSU went to Austin to face a Texas team that had won six games in a row and thumped the 'Horns by 25. Then Baylor came to town for a Saturday night showdown. The banged-up Bears were undefeated and legitimate national title contenders; they left Stillwater the victims of a 32-point thrashing. OSU stumbled deep in the fourth quarter of losses to both Oklahoma (which cost them the Big 12) and Missouri (which cost them the Cotton Bowl), but the Cowboys of late-2013 were not the Cowboys of late-September.

Their great late form gave them an F/+ ranking of eighth, their second-best under Gundy (behind 2011's No. 3 finish).

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.17 50 IsoPPP+ 104.5 38
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 45.5% 38 Succ. Rt. + 110.9 26
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 26.9 13 Def. FP+ 107.4 6
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.7 31 Redzone S&P+ 118.4 15
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 20.8 ACTUAL 18 -2.8
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 37 27 26 27
RUSHING 64 44 25 61
PASSING 29 24 31 18
Standard Downs 41 38 46
Passing Downs 21 22 36
Q1 Rk 35 1st Down Rk 49
Q2 Rk 43 2nd Down Rk 30
Q3 Rk 51 3rd Down Rk 28
Q4 Rk 38

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2014 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Clint Chelf 164 291 2173 17 8 56.4% 9 3.0% 7.0
J.W. Walsh 6'2, 205 Jr. 4 stars (5.9) 113 190 1333 9 5 59.5% 4 2.1% 6.8
Daxx Garman 6'2, 205 Jr. 3 stars (5.5)
Mason Rudolph 6'4, 217 Fr. 4 stars (5.8)

3. Talent vs. system

2013 OSU switched offenses ...

A year ago, when offensive coordinator Todd Monken left to take the head coaching job at Southern Miss, Mike Gundy made waves by replacing him with unknown Shippensburg O.C. Mike Yurcich. He discovered Yurcich by scouring stats on the Internet, then handed over the reins of one of the nation's most consistently strong offenses.

Yurcich's first year was not without its growing pains. His pass-first system was more well-suited for Clint Chelf, but when Chelf looked lost (3-for-6 for 11 yards) against Mississippi State, he was demoted. The nimble J.W. Walsh replaced him and had some exciting moments -- 13 carries for 125 yards against Mississippi State, 24-for-38 for 245 yards against Kansas State -- but when the then-sophomore threw two first-half picks against TCU, Chelf entered and looked just steady enough to regain the starting role.

Chelf thrived late in 2013, but he's gone, leaving the job (for now) back in the hands of Walsh. This doesn't appear to be a perfect match of personnel with system, but Walsh does have his strengths. He wasn't as successfully aggressive as Chelf in 2013, but he still completed 60 percent of his passes, and with Walsh behind center, the run game gets a bit more interesting. Chelf was a well-timed scrambler, but Walsh is more of an every-down run threat. With Walsh and returning running backs Desmond Roland and Rennie Childs, the run game has potential.

Still, a 60-percent completion rate with only 11.8 yards per completion is sub-optimal for a pass-first attack. And OSU's most efficient receiver, Josh Stewart, is now in the pros. (Well, sort of; he injured his Achilles while trying out for the Tennessee Titans.) We'll see what a full offseason does, both for Walsh's comfortability in Yurcich's system and for Yurcich's play-calling tendencies.

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Carry
Opp.
Rate
Desmond Roland RB 6'2, 210 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 176 811 13 4.6 5.2 33.0%
Jeremy Smith RB 122 485 9 4.0 4.7 32.0%
Clint Chelf QB 54 433 7 8.0 8.8 50.0%
J.W. Walsh QB 6'2, 205 Jr. 4 stars (5.9) 54 304 3 5.6 3.5 55.6%
Rennie Childs RB 5'10, 205 So. 3 stars (5.5) 41 189 1 4.6 5.7 31.7%
Josh Stewart WR 10 49 0 4.9 2.5 60.0%
Kye Staley FB 9 32 2 3.6 0.9 44.4%
Caleb Muncrief RB 5'8, 190 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 6 18 0 3.0 0.5 16.7%
Corion Webster RB 5'11, 208 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6)
Tyreek Hill RB/WR 5'10, 185 Jr. 4 stars (5.9)
Devon Thomas RB 5'11, 210 Fr. 3 stars (5.7)





Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
%SD Yds/
Target
NEY Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Josh Stewart WR 87 60 710 69.0% 19.4% 67.1% 8.2 8 8.6 100.5
Tracy Moore WR 86 51 738 59.3% 19.2% 59.0% 8.6 94 8.8 104.5
Jhajuan Seales WR 6'2, 198 So. 2 stars (5.4) 61 39 535 63.9% 13.6% 53.7% 8.8 61 8.3 75.7
Charlie Moore WR 59 35 468 59.3% 13.2% 63.0% 7.9 26 7.5 66.3
Marcell Ateman WR 6'4, 210 So. 4 stars (5.8) 38 22 276 57.9% 8.5% 50.0% 7.3 -5 5.8 39.1
Brandon Sheperd WR 6'1, 195 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 30 14 223 46.7% 6.7% 77.3% 7.4 21 5.8 31.6
David Glidden IR 5'7, 185 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 23 15 173 65.2% 5.1% 35.0% 7.5 -7 7.4 24.5
Jeremy Smith RB 17 11 37 64.7% 3.8% 64.7% 2.2 -96 2.1 5.2
Desmond Roland RB 6'2, 210 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 14 9 116 64.3% 3.1% 50.0% 8.3 7 6.4 16.4
Jeremy Seaton FB 6'2, 250 Jr. NR 8 6 56 75.0% 1.8% 57.1% 7.0 -11 7.3 7.9
Blake Jackson WR 7 6 98 85.7% 1.6% 0.0% 14.0 34 2.0 13.9
C.J. Curry WR 6'2, 205 So. 4 stars (5.8) 2 1 10 50.0% 0.4% N/A 5.0 -4 0.0 1.4
Blake Webb IR 5'11, 190 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 2 2 26 100.0% 0.4% N/A 13.0 6 0.0 3.7
Austin Hays IR 6'2, 185 So. 2 stars (5.2)
Blake Jarwin TE 6'5, 240 So. NR
Ra'Shaad Samples IR 5'11, 178 RSFr. 4 stars (5.8)
Keenen Brown WR 6'3, 205 Fr. 4 stars (5.8)
Jordan Frazier TE 6'5, 242 Fr. 2 stars (5.4)

4. The kids could be pretty damn good

Oklahoma State must replace four of its steadiest, most well-known skill position players in 2014: running back Jeremy Smith and wideouts Josh Stewart, Tracy Moore, and Charlie Moore. Three of the four played roles in OSU's 2011 Big 12 title, and all four were steady and relatively dependable.

But on a per-touch basis, all four were replaceable. Smith was a powerful between-the-tackles option, but so are Des Roland and Rennie Childs. Meanwhile, Stewart, Moore, and Moore all averaged between 7.9 and 8.6 yards per target -- above average but not spectacular.

The top four returning receivers combined to catch 90 passes with a per-target average of 7.9 yards, so the cupboard isn't exactly bare (benefits to passing a lot: you can lose three prolific receivers and still return three or four more). And a trio of youngsters provided quite a bit of hope. Jhajuan Seales caught 13 passes for 197 yards and two scores in OSU's four-game surge to finish the season; plus, he caught four for 87 yards against Kansas State. Marcell Ateman caught five passes for 107 yards in the KU-UT-BU portion of the schedule. Brandon Sheperd caught four passes for 73 yards against UTSA, then caught five for 99 yards in the last three games.

Granted, these three need to improve their efficiency numbers -- Ateman and Sheperd combined for just a 53 percent catch rate. But Seales, Ateman and Sheperd, with help from David Glidden, could very much reproduce the numbers of last year's top receivers. And if four-star redshirt freshman or electric JUCO transfer Tyreek Hill* can offer something of value, this receiving corps could trump last year's despite the relative inexperience.

* Electric? Yes, electric. The guy can, and probably will, line up everywhere.

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 97.8 2.68 4.04 37.8% 64.3% 22.2% 256.6 1.6% 2.8%
Rank 81 99 11 82 89 109 6 5 8
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Career Starts Honors/Notes
Parker Graham RG 31 1st All-Big 12
Daniel Koenig RT 6'6, 300 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 22
Brandon Webb LG 18
Jake Jenkins C 14
Chris Grisbhy LG 6'5, 325 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 9
Brandon Garrett LT 6'5, 295 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 3
Travis Cross RG 2
Devin Davis LT 6'5, 312 So. 3 stars (5.7) 2
Zac Veatch RG 6'4, 290 So. 3 stars (5.6) 1
Paul Lewis RG 6'3, 295 So. 3 stars (5.5) 1
Colby Hegwood RG 6'5, 320 Jr. NR 0
Michael Wilson LT 6'6, 300 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0
Zachary Crabtree RT 6'7, 290 RSFr. 3 stars (5.7)
Jack Kurzu OL 6'4, 305 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6)
Jaxon Salinas C 6'4, 305 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)
Zachary Hargrove LG 6'2, 356 Jr. NR

5. A new era up front

I have absolutely no idea what to expect from Oklahoma State's offensive line. For years, I assumed extreme quality from this unit, simply because it was coached by Joe Wickline. OSU would lose four starters, and its line stats would continue to thrive simply because Wickline's really good at his job. But after falling to 50th in Adj. Line Yards in 2012, a banged-up line fell to 81st in 2013. The sack rates stayed strong, in part because of the quick-passing nature of the offense, but for the second straight year, OSU stunk in short-yardage situations, and the Stuff Rate (run stops behind the line) was horrendous last fall.

Thanks to injuries, by the end of 2013, 10 linemen had started at least one career game. Six of them return, including two-year starting tackle Daniel Koenig and tackles Brandon Garrett and Devin Davis, who are both coming off of injuries. But all-conference guard Parker Graham is gone, as is Wickline, now the offensive coordinator at Texas.

Gundy, never scared of making a non-traditional hire, replaced him with Bob Connelly (no relation), a journeyman and former line coach at Arizona State, UTEP, UCLA, Alabama, Washington State, San Jose State, CS-Northridge, and Texas A&M-Commerce who spent 2013 as a high school assistant.

It wouldn't be difficult to surpass last season's run blocking numbers, but with a new, relatively unknown coach and some mix-and-match experience, there's just no telling what to expect here.

Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.08 34 IsoPPP+ 108.9 23
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 35.9% 11 Succ. Rt. + 114.3 18
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 33.0 12 Off. FP+ 105.5 9
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 3.3 5 Redzone S&P+ 113.0 23
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 31.4 ACTUAL 33.0 +1.6
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 53 13 18 29
RUSHING 32 17 25 30
PASSING 80 12 16 40
Standard Downs 20 20 39
Passing Downs 9 17 13
Q1 Rk 19 1st Down Rk 40
Q2 Rk 19 2nd Down Rk 8
Q3 Rk 7 3rd Down Rk 11
Q4 Rk 44

6. Year 1 of the Glenn Spencer experiment: a rousing success

The offense eventually picked up steam under Yurcich, but it took a while. The defense, on the other hand, started off strong under new coordinator Glenn Spencer, then got even better. I was a bit skeptical of Spencer's use of the word "aggressive" last year, but his tweaks helped OSU improve from 24th in Def. F/+ to sixth.

This was a unique, exciting defense. OSU's front seven was excellent against the run; the Cowboys ranked 11th in Adj. Line Yards, sixth in Stuff Rate, and 17th in Rushing S&P+. But they didn't have much pass-rush presence, often choosing to rush just four defenders, drop linebackers into coverage, and press cornerbacks with reckless abandon. The result: you couldn't run on OSU on standard downs, and you couldn't pass on OSU on passing downs.

Returnees up front suggest that OSU's run defense might again be stout in 2014, but Spencer will probably face a couple of new challenges this fall. First of all, the obvious: linebackers Caleb Lavey and Shaun Lewis (combined: 20.5 tackles for loss, 15 passes defensed) are gone. So are the top five tacklers from last year's well-seasoned secondary, including top-10 draft pick Justin Gilbert (14 passes defensed) and stalwart safeties Daytawion Lowe, Lyndell Johnson, and Shamiel Gary (combined: eight tackles for loss, 21 passes defensed). That's a lot of play-making going out the door at once.

Plus, OSU was quite lucky when it comes to injuries in 2013. The top seven linemen played in all 13 games, as did the top four linebackers and five of the top six defensive backs. Luck is random, and OSU could be super-healthy once again, but the odds of that aren't great. Attrition will test depth in 2014, and injuries could test it even further.

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 118.9 2.61 2.31 34.8% 58.7% 25.5% 65 2.9% 4.1%
Rank 11 23 5 26 20 6 113 107 112
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Tyler Johnson DE 13 44.5 5.5% 10.5 3.5 0 1 3 1
James Castleman DT 6'2, 300 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 13 29.0 3.6% 5.0 1.0 0 1 1 0
Jimmy Bean DE 6'5, 250 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 13 27.5 3.4% 10.0 5.0 0 0 0 0
Calvin Barnett DT 13 24.0 3.0% 7.0 3.0 0 1 1 0
Emmanuel Ogbah DE 6'4, 270 So. 3 stars (5.6) 13 18.0 2.2% 5.5 4.0 0 0 0 0
Sam Wren DE 6'2, 255 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 13 15.5 1.9% 2.5 0.5 0 0 1 0
Trace Clark DE 6'4, 255 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 13 7.5 0.9% 2.5 0.0 0 1 0 0
Ofa Hautau DT 6'2, 290 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 12 7.0 0.9% 2.0 1.0 0 0 0 0
Davidell Collins DT 13 3.5 0.4% 0.0 0.0 0 1 0 0
Eric Davis DT 6'3, 290 So. 3 stars (5.7)
Vincent Taylor DT 6'3, 290 RSFr. 3 stars (5.7)
Ben Hughes DT 6'3, 310 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6)
Vili Leveni DT 6'3, 270 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5)
Jordan Braliford DE 6'3, 225 Fr. 3 stars (5.7)
Jarrell Owens DE 6'3, 240 Fr. 3 stars (5.7)
Trey Carter DE 6'4, 250 Fr. 3 stars (5.7)

7. Options up front

Eight OSU linemen finished the season with at least 2.0 tackles for loss, and six return in 2014. The pass rush could stand to improve, and it might do just that if sophomore Emmanuel Ogbah and junior Jimmy Bean continue to develop; four of their nine sacks came in the last four games.

But OSU's success against the run should continue even despite the loss of Lavey and Lewis, especially if junior Kris Catlin or four-star sophomore Seth Jacobs can pretty quickly start making some plays. There might be a twinge of worry at tackle, where OSU got away with basically playing two guys (James Castleman and Calvin Barnett) for a high percentage of snaps, and where the 'Pokes must replace one of the two. But I still like what I see here.

Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Caleb Lavey MLB 13 77.0 9.5% 12.5 2.5 4 3 3 0
Shaun Lewis SLB 13 63.5 7.9% 8.0 0.5 3 5 2 0
Ryan Simmons MLB 6'0, 235 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 13 58.0 7.2% 9.0 1.0 1 2 0 0
Joe Mitchell SLB 13 37.5 4.6% 2.0 0.0 0 1 1 0
Kris Catlin WLB 6'1, 225 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 11 11.0 1.4% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Deion Imade LB 13 10.5 1.3% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Seth Jacobs WLB 6'2, 220 So. 4 stars (5.8) 6 9.0 1.1% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Dominic Ramacher MLB 6'3, 230 So. 3 stars (5.7) 12 4.5 0.6% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Demarcus Sherod
(2012)
MLB 6'0, 225 So. 3 stars (5.7) 12 6.0 0.7% 1.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Devante Averette WLB 6'0, 235 Jr. 3 stars (5.6)
Gyasi Akem LB 6'1, 210 Fr. 4 stars (5.8)
Josh Mabin LB 6'2, 227 Fr. 3 stars (5.7)

Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Daytawion Lowe FS 13 78.0 9.7% 2 0 2 7 1 0
Lyndell Johnson SS 13 48.0 5.9% 4 0 0 3 0 0
Shamiel Gary SS 11 43.5 5.4% 2 0 0 9 0 0
Justin Gilbert CB 13 39.5 4.9% 0 0 7 7 0 0
Tyler Patmon CB 13 29.0 3.6% 4 0 1 9 1 1
Ashton Lampkin CB 5'11, 180 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 13 21.5 2.7% 0 0 0 1 0 0
Kevin Peterson CB 5'11, 185 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 12 20.5 2.5% 3 0 2 4 0 0
Zack Craig FS 13 20.5 2.5% 1 1 1 3 0 0
Larry Stephens
(2012)
FS 5'10, 185 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 13 13.5 1.7% 1 0 0 0 0 0
Miketavius Jones CB 5'10, 175 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 13 13.0 1.6% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Jordan Sterns FS 6'1, 195 So. 3 stars (5.5) 12 10.5 1.3% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Deric Robertson SS 6'2, 195 So. 3 stars (5.7) 8 3.5 0.4% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Jerel Morrow FS 6'0, 180 RSFr. 4 stars (5.8)
Darius Curry CB 6'1, 190 RSFr. 3 stars (5.7)
Taylor Lewis CB 6'0, 180 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6)
Tre Flowers SS 6'3, 180 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5)
Josh Furman
(Michigan)
NB 6'2, 202 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 8 9.5 1.3% 0.0 0.0 0 1 0 0
D'Nerius Antoine NB 6'0, 230 Jr. 3 stars (5.6)
Kirk Tucker DB 6'2, 190 Fr. 3 stars (5.7)
Chris Hardeman DB 5'9, 178 Fr. 3 stars (5.7)

8. A smoking crater in the back (maybe)

Hey, we finally joined Facebook!

Depth in the secondary has long been a strength for Gundy's OSU defenses. We'll find out just how much of a strength it may be this fall after attrition skimmed off the entire 2013 first string.

Part of the Cowboys' success in 2013 came from stopping the run and forcing passing downs, and that might again be a strength. But what happens on said passing downs? Will new starting cornerbacks pull off the same level of successful pressing? Will a green set of safeties be able to prevent big plays at a similar rate? Probably not.

Granted, this defense isn't completely inexperienced. Corners Kevin Peterson, Ashton Lampkin, and Miketavius Jones all saw action last year as sophomores, and Peterson showed some extreme play-making potential (three tackles for loss, six passes defensed). Plus, knowing this level of attrition was coming, Gundy went DB-heavy in the 2013 recruiting class, and it is probably a safe assumption that at least one redshirt freshman will be ready for extensive playing time. Throw in senior safety Larry Stephens (who missed 2013), sophomores Jordan Sterns and Deric Robertson, Michigan transfer Josh Furman, and a couple of decent true freshmen, and you should have a competent starting four/five in the back.

The problem is that last year's secondary was far beyond competent. There will be regression here; we're just waiting to see how much.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Kip Smith 6'1, 235 Sr. 79 39.6 7 30 24 68.4%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Kip Smith 6'1, 235 Sr. 90 60.0 21 2 23.3%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2014
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Ben Grogan 6'1, 186 So. 67-68 9-13 69.2% 2-5 40.0%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Justin Gilbert KR 18 25.2 1
Desmond Roland KR 6'2, 210 Sr. 7 22.1 0
Josh Stewart PR 22 16.7 2
David Glidden PR 5'7, 185 Jr. 5 1.2 0
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 85
Field Goal Efficiency 118
Punt Return Efficiency 38
Kick Return Efficiency 7
Punt Efficiency 109
Kickoff Efficiency 43
Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency 63

9. Some questions to answer on special teams

For the first time since 2007, Oklahoma State actually had a shaky special teams unit last fall. After ranking in the top 10 in each of the last three seasons, the Cowboys fell to 85th in Special Teams F/+. They were, as always, dangerous in the return game, but place-kicker Ben Grogan was quite shaky, and the coverage unit didn't help out punter Kip Smith very much.

Grogan and Smith are back, but return men Justin Gilbert (kicks) and Josh Stewart (punts) are not. Was last year an aberration here, or are more struggles on the way in 2014?

2014 Schedule & Projection Factors

2014 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. Rk
30-Aug vs. Florida State 1
6-Sep Missouri State NR
13-Sep UTSA 64
25-Sep Texas Tech 46
4-Oct Iowa State 80
11-Oct at Kansas 104
18-Oct at TCU 31
25-Oct West Virginia 71
1-Nov at Kansas State 41
15-Nov Texas 38
22-Nov at Baylor 14
29-Nov at Oklahoma 17
Five-Year F/+ Rk 25.9% (7)
Two-Year Recruiting Rk 28
TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin* 15 / 10.6
TO Luck/Game +1.7
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 7 (4, 3)

10. A top-20 team goes 8-4 or 9-3

It is kind of a specialty of mine to call a team underrated, then mention how tough the schedule is. It is my go-to hedge. That said ...

... Oklahoma State is going to be better than you think in 2014, and it might not matter. Because holy crap, that schedule is brutal. At least, it is at the front and back. Instead of Mississippi State, OSU begins the season on a neutral field against the defending national champions. And instead of getting Baylor and Oklahoma at home to finish the regular season, the 'Pokes will finish with trips to Kansas State, Baylor, and Oklahoma among their final four games.

A top-20 team would likely go 8-4 against this schedule, with losses to FSU, Oklahoma, Baylor, and either Kansas State or TCU. I fully expect OSU to play at a top-20 level once again, but this schedule certainly tamps down expectations.

So in the end, this perhaps becomes another 2012, in which new pieces are broken in and suffer a few growing pains before breaking through the next season. With this home-road split in the Big 12 rotation, the odd-numbered years should continue to be very good for OSU, but this is an even-numbered year, one in which the Cowboys are probably replacing a few too many defenders to steal big road wins.

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