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Looking for a Big 12 dark horse? Oklahoma State has the pieces

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Baylor and TCU are considered the favorites, and Oklahoma's got the talent. But if OSU's 2014 was just a blip, here's another major contender.

Confused? Check out the advanced-stats glossary here.

1. After the fall

Your track record determines your benefit of the doubt. If Alabama lost 18 starters one year, we'd still assume a top-10 performance. If Oregon lost all 11 starters on offense, we'd still assume prolific point totals. And if Kansas returned its entire two-deep, we'd still assume losses.

Oklahoma State returned just seven starters heading into 2014. The Cowboys had to replace a quarterback (Clint Chelf) who'd dominated down the stretch. They lost three of their top four receivers, four of their top seven offensive linemen (and renowned offensive line coach Joe Wickline), four of their top six linebackers, six of their top eight defensive backs, and both of their stud return men.

My response to all of this? Steadfast belief: "The Cowboys get the benefit of the doubt until they prove they don't deserve it."

And it wasn't just me. The stats saw the same thing. Despite the lost starters, OSU was projected 18th last May, one spot behind perceived national title contender Oklahoma. The stats pretty much nailed Oklahoma, which finished the season 19th.

OSU, meanwhile? 75th. Just a little bit off.

The offense cycled through three quarterbacks because of injury and ineffectiveness, and the run game collapsed. The defense had to do some shuffling in the back. The 'Pokes began fine (5-1 with a tight loss to defending national champion Florida State), then collapsed, losing five conference games in a row by an average score of 40-14.

The span from mid-October to late-November was OSU's worst since either Mike Gundy's first season in 2005 (1-7 in conference, average score: 40-21) or Bob Simmons' last season in 2000 (1-8 finish with a 28-6 loss to Southern Miss and a 58-0 loss to Texas Tech). It proved the floor for Gundy's program was far lower than I (or most) had perceived, and it caused a bit of an existential crisis in Stillwater. Had Gundy lost his touch? Was recruiting producing the same talent as before?

Luckily, the Cowboys didn't wait until 2015 to begin the rebound. After the dusk of a 28-7 home loss to Texas, and after a loss at Baylor dropped them to 5-6, OSU fell behind Oklahoma, 35-21, in Norman in the fourth quarter. But freshman quarterback Mason Rudolph hit Brandon Sheperd for a 43-yard score, and return man Tyreek Hill ripped off a 92-yard score with just 45 seconds left to force overtime. Ben Grogan's 21-yard field goal sealed both the comeback win and bowl eligibility, and Rudolph threw for 299 yards in a 30-22 Cactus Bowl win over Washington.

Instead of a limp 5-7, OSU ended up 7-6 and found its quarterback of the future. Instead of simply surviving, Oklahoma State got gangrene, spent six weeks in the hospital, THEN survived. The depth of the fall was disturbing, but we already saw signs of recovery, and now youth becomes experience. How far is the bounce back?

2014 Schedule & Results

Record: 7-6 | Adj. Record: 7-6 | Final F/+ Rk: 75
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Percentile
Performance
Adj. Scoring
Margin
Win
Expectancy
30-Aug vs. Florida State 15 31-37 L 63% 7.6 47%
6-Sep Missouri State N/A 40-23 W 65% 8.9 99%
13-Sep UTSA 109 43-13 W 91% 31.0 100%
25-Sep Texas Tech 82 45-35 W 72% 13.9 90%
4-Oct Iowa State 92 37-20 W 51% 0.6 80%
11-Oct at Kansas 99 27-20 W 37% -8.0 50%
18-Oct at TCU 6 9-42 L 18% -21.5 0%
25-Oct West Virginia 40 10-34 L 40% -5.7 23%
1-Nov at Kansas State 26 14-48 L 14% -25.1 0%
15-Nov Texas 53 7-28 L 7% -34.3 0%
22-Nov at Baylor 10 28-49 L 26% -14.8 0%
6-Dec at Oklahoma 19 38-35 W 82% 21.7 78%
2-Jan vs. Washington 58 30-22 W 85% 24.5 96%

Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
S&P+ 28.1 69 28.0 63
Points Per Game 27.6 76 31.2 94

2. A late rally is better than no rally

At few points in the first 11.5 games did OSU look like the top-20 team it was projected to be. There were just too many new players in important positions. But through six games, the 'Pokes were still playing like a top-40 team, which, considering quarterback J.W. Walsh got hurt early, was an accomplishment.

Unfortunately, opponents figured some things out. With all-or-nothing Daxx Garman at quarterback, backed by a bad running game, OSU's offense grew woefully inefficient. And the green secondary was repeatedly exposed. The result was a sustained run of awful play, one that began even before the wins stopped.

  • Average Percentile Performance (first 4 games): 73% (~top 35 | record: 3-1)
  • Average Percentile Performance (next 7 games): 28% (~top 90 | record: 2-5)
  • Average Percentile Performance (last 2 games): 84% (~top 20 | record: 2-0)

There was indeed a rally.

The run game never came around -- starting back Desmond Roland averaged just 3.5 yards per carry over the final three games of his career -- but Mason Rudolph improved in a hurry. After completing 13 of 25 passes with two interceptions against Baylor, he went 36-for-61 (59 percent) for 572 yards, four scores, and two picks against OU and Washington. He developed a rapport with receiver Brandon Shepard (12 catches, 254 yards, 3 TD in the last two games).

And while the defense wasn't amazing, it was better.

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 0.91 33 IsoPPP+ 103.6 60
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 38.4% 103 Succ. Rt. + 95.5 85
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 29.2 59 Def. FP+ 102.0 44
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.5 65 Redzone S&P+ 95.7 77
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 16.5 ACTUAL 22 +5.5
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 85 68 84 60
RUSHING 102 92 101 84
PASSING 54 44 53 40
Standard Downs 67 66 74
Passing Downs 60 113 31
Q1 Rk 67 1st Down Rk 79
Q2 Rk 58 2nd Down Rk 90
Q3 Rk 115 3rd Down Rk 45
Q4 Rk 69

3. Dreadful inefficiency

When you can't run, and your quarterback is more comfortable throwing bombs than outs, you are going to struggle with three-and-outs and turnovers.

Daxx Garman showed massive potential, averaging 19 yards per completion in his first three appearances, with eight touchdowns to two picks. But when defenses adapted, and when the run game never really came around, Garman's production dropped like a rock.

  • Garman (first 3 games): 56% completion rate, 19.0 yards/completion, 9% TD rate, 2% INT rate
  • Garman (next 6 games): 54% completion rate, 10.8 yards/completion, 2% TD rate, 5% INT rate

It was all situational. His passer rating was 148.8 on third-and-10 or more, as his cannon was occasionally able to bail OSU out of trouble. But in the red zone, he was just 11-for-25 for 70 yards and a 112.3 rating. He took too many sacks, and OSU found itself in second- or third-and-long too frequently.

His passer rating was below 120 in each of his final six appearances and was below 100 three times, and then he suffered a concussion against Texas. Instead of starting a walk-on, Gundy and coordinator Mike Yurcich elected to remove Mason Rudolph's redshirt two games before the finish line. The gamble paid off, and with Rudolph looking so good, Garman saw the writing on the wall and transferred to Maryland.

Of course, part of Garman's problem was that he wasn't getting help from the run game. Only 31 percent of Desmond Roland's and Rennie Childs' carries gained five or more yards, and when they got a rare open-field opportunity, they didn't do much with it.

Quarterbacks and Tyreek Hill were the only things keeping OSU from even worse run efficiency numbers, and now Hill's gone, kicked off the team because of domestic assault allegations after his OU heroics.

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2015 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Daxx Garman
152 277 2041 12 12 54.9% 31 10.1% 6.2
Mason Rudolph 6'4, 220 So. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8977 49 86 853 6 4 57.0% 8 8.5% 8.5
J.W. Walsh 6'2, 215 Sr. 4 stars (5.9) 0.9430 20 36 233 1 1 55.6% 1 2.7% 5.9
John Kolar 6'4, 185 Fr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8987

4. Mason's the man (maybe)

When your first career win comes in Norman, you will probably struggle to corral expectations. The Rock Hill, S.C., product was disappointed that he couldn't complete his redshirt season, but his performance against OU and Washington set the table for a three-year starting run.

The run game is still scary, but at least Rudolph will have experience around him. Just about every receiver returns, as do six linemen with starting experience (42 career starts), seven if you include UAB transfer and two-year starting tackle Victor Salako.

The shuffling was a constant, but there are some likable pieces here. Most likable of all: there are no seniors. Whatever Rudolph becomes, he could have an increasingly continuous line in front of him.

The questions are how quickly the line can become something helpful, and which running back can become the most helpful. Childs is back, and redshirt freshman Sione Palelei has potential, but all eyes are on two JUCO transfers, particularly Chris Carson, once a Georgia commit.

Of course, while Rudolph is clearly OSU's man in the future tense, he still has to win the job. Senior J.W. Walsh had a few impressive moments in 2013 and nearly engineered an upset of Florida State in the season opener before he was lost for the season with injury. At the very least, he could add a mobile threat in red zone and short-yardage situations, and he could still win the job outright, too.

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Opp.
Opp.
Rate
Fumbles Fum.
Lost
Desmond Roland RB
203 770 10 3.8 3.1 30.5% 0 0
Tyreek Hill RB
102 534 1 5.2 4.8 41.2% 1 0
Rennie Childs RB 5'10, 205 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8573 78 294 3 3.8 3.0 33.3% 0 0
Daxx Garman QB
29 124 1 4.3 2.3 48.3% 4 2
Raymond Taylor RB 5'8, 195 Jr. NR NR 18 70 0 3.9 4.7 38.9% 0 0
J.W. Walsh QB 6'2, 215 Sr. 4 stars (5.9) 0.9430 14 107 2 7.6 8.2 42.9% 1 1
Mason Rudolph QB 6'4, 220 So. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8977 6 18 0 3.0 0.8 50.0% 2 1
Brandon Sheperd WR 6'1, 195 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.9002 4 69 0 17.3 15.8 75.0% 2 1
Caleb Muncrief WR 5'8, 190 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7659
Sione Palelei RB 5'10, 210 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8660
Chris Carson RB 6'2, 200 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8869
Todd Mays RB 6'0, 205 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8469







Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
%SD Yds/
Target
NEY Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Brandon Sheperd WR 6'1, 195 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.9002 63 39 737 61.9% 16.6% 60.3% 11.7 262 11.8 102.5
James Washington WR 6'0, 200 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8451 62 28 455 45.2% 16.4% 59.7% 7.3 89 7.2 63.3
David Glidden SLOT 5'8, 185 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8444 61 42 598 68.9% 16.1% 62.3% 9.8 97 9.9 83.1
Tyreek Hill RB
40 31 282 77.5% 10.6% 67.5% 7.1 -81 7.6 39.2
Jhajuan Seales WR 6'2, 198 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8115 38 18 278 47.4% 10.0% 60.5% 7.3 46 7.1 38.7
Marcell Ateman WR 6'4, 210 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9006 35 20 268 57.1% 9.2% 62.9% 7.7 21 7.6 37.3
Austin Hays SLOT 6'2, 190 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) NR 17 9 57 52.9% 4.5% 47.1% 3.4 -56 3.3 7.9
Chris Lacy WR 6'3, 195 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8472 16 4 47 25.0% 4.2% 56.3% 2.9 -16 2.9 6.5
Jeremy Seaton FB 6'2, 250 Sr. NR NR 15 13 162 86.7% 4.0% 73.3% 10.8 13 9.3 22.5
Blake Jarwin TE 6'5, 242 Jr. NR NR 11 5 107 45.5% 2.9% 45.5% 9.7 42 12.0 14.9
Ra'Shaad Samples WR
5 3 11 60.0% 1.3% 60.0% 2.2 -26 2.1 1.5
Kameron Doolittle SLOT 5'8, 200 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8500 4 2 40 50.0% 1.1% 50.0% 10.0 15 10.9 5.6
Desmond Roland RB
4 2 -5 50.0% 1.1% 0.0% -1.3 -30 N/A -0.7
C.J. Curry WR 6'2, 200 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8819 3 2 18 66.7% 0.8% 66.7% 6.0 -6 5.2 2.5
Zac Veatch TE 6'4, 270 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8609
Keenen Brown WR 6'3, 205 RSFr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8932
Jordan Frazier TE 6'5, 255 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7973
Jalen McClesky WR 5'10, 160 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8362

5. All the receivers you need

If the running game isn't a liability, and if the pass protection improves (or Rudolph gets better at making timely reads), the receiving corps is good enough to lead a major offensive rebound. Of the 10 players targeted by at least 10 passes last year, only Hill is gone.

Brandon Sheperd averaged 11.7 yards per target as a first-time No. 1 last season, and slot receiver David Glidden became a nice possession weapon for a team in desperate need of efficiency. And youngsters James Washington (four catches for 114 yards vs. Baylor), Jhajuan Seales (four for 75 vs. Iowa State), and Marcell Ateman (six for 130 against Texas Tech) -- all either freshmen or sophomores last year -- flashed big-play potential, albeit with iffy catch rates. Plus, now four-star redshirt freshman Keenen Brown is awaiting his turn. All the run game has to be is competent, and the passing game could be spectacular.

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 101.1 2.68 3.45 35.8% 64.4% 18.5% 63.1 8.2% 10.0%
Rank 66 101 46 97 90 54 124 118 105
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Career Starts Honors/Notes
Daniel Koenig LT 33
Victor Salako (UAB) LT 6'6, 315 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7000 23
Chris Grisbhy LG
21
Paul Lewis C 6'3, 295 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8634 13
Zac Veatch RG/TE 6'4, 270 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8609 12
Michael Wilson LG 6'6, 305 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.9032 8
Zachary Crabtree RT 6'7, 305 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8569 8
Brandon Garrett LT
4
Jesse Robinson RG 6'6, 310 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8364 2
Devin Davis OL
2
Brad Lundblade C 6'3, 300 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8115 1
Jack Kurzu OL 6'4, 305 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8348 0
Jaxon Salinas RG 6'4, 305 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8327 0
Lemaefe Galea'i LG 6'5, 325 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8336
Matthew Mucha LT 6'6, 285 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8210
Vaimoe Sekona OL 6'4, 285 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8631
Brandon Pertile RT 6'6, 310 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8275
Johnny Wilson OL 6'3, 295 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8591

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Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 0.90 96 IsoPPP+ 100.3 66
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 39.8% 48 Succ. Rt. + 110.8 29
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 29.7 78 Off. FP+ 101.0 51
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.6 86 Redzone S&P+ 101.2 59
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 19.0 ACTUAL 14.0 -5.0
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 93 51 30 66
RUSHING 59 44 30 61
PASSING 113 63 36 79
Standard Downs 46 30 57
Passing Downs 66 49 78
Q1 Rk 107 1st Down Rk 48
Q2 Rk 25 2nd Down Rk 69
Q3 Rk 60 3rd Down Rk 81
Q4 Rk 70

6. Same personality, more youth

In 2013, new OSU defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer had exactly the tools he needed to fulfill his philosophy. As with Pat Narduzzi at Michigan State (now Pitt), Phil Bennett at Baylor, Bud Foster at Virginia Tech, and other increasingly successful defensive minds, Spencer seeks aggression, even if it comes with allowing some big plays.

Play mean football, force mistakes and three-and-outs, and live with the occasional big gainer.

His first OSU defense was the perfect combination of speed and experience. The Cowboys put up strong efficiency and havoc numbers but had so many seniors in the back seven that they really didn't allow big plays either. OSU improved from 43rd to ninth in Def. S&P+ and helped the Cowboys improve from eight to 10 wins despite early-season offensive issues.

In 2014, the mentality remained the same, but the defense got much younger. The result: a little bit less efficiency and a lot more big plays allowed. After allowing 44 gains of 20-plus yards in 2013 (15th in the country), the 'Pokes allowed 58 (70th) in 2014. After allowing 10 gains of 40-plus (29th), they allowed 17 (91st). This still wasn't a BAD defense, but there were too many mistakes to be consistently successful.

Youth becomes experience, however. OSU now returns five of its top eight linemen, six of seven linebackers (plus a couple of intriguing transfers), and five of six defensive backs. Interior defense could be an issue following the loss of tackles James Castleman and Ofa Hautau and linebacker Josh Furman, but those are pretty much all the losses. Spencer should be able to do figure out what to do with this group.

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 98.8 2.71 3.76 38.5% 68.3% 20.2% 124.4 5.7% 7.7%
Rank 67 35 107 58 72 52 26 42 61
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Emmanuel Ogbah DE 6'4, 275 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8528 13 42.0 5.4% 17.0 11.0 0 5 1 0
Jimmy Bean DE 6'5, 250 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8615 13 35.5 4.6% 6.5 3.5 0 1 3 0
James Castleman DT
13 35.5 4.6% 7.5 3.0 1 2 0 0
Ofa Hautau DT
13 24.0 3.1% 4.5 1.5 0 0 0 0
Sam Wren DE
13 20.0 2.6% 6.0 2.0 0 0 0 0
Trace Clark DE 6'4, 257 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8701 13 14.0 1.8% 2.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Vili Leveni DT 6'3, 290 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8153 13 11.5 1.5% 4.5 1.0 0 0 0 0
Vincent Taylor DT 6'3, 300 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8944 10 10.5 1.4% 1.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Victor Irokansi DE 6'3, 240 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8478 9 2.0 0.3% 1.0 1.0 0 0 0 0
Eric Davis DT 6'3, 295 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8738
Ben Hughes DT 6'3, 310 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8839
Jordan Brailford DE 6'3, 240 RSFr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8879
Jarrell Owens DE 6'3, 265 RSFr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8735
Trey Carter DE 6'4, 267 RSFr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8807
Motekiai Maile DT 6'4, 305 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8706
Darrion Daniels DT 6'3, 290 Fr. 4 stars (5.9) 0.9032
Louis Brown DE 6'6, 210 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8707
Taaj Bakari DT 6'2, 295 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8489

7. Got tackles?

Junior end Emmanuel Ogbah enjoyed one of the most impressive breakout campaigns you're ever going to see. He had four sacks as a freshman reserve in 2013, and he and Jimmy Bean were tasked with raising their game last fall; Bean did alright, with 3.5 sacks and three forced fumbles, but Ogbah was a stud. He sacked Jameis Winston twice in the season opener, then racked up nine more and broke up five passes in the following 12 games.

Even with the loss of the Cowboys' best blitzer, Furman, it's hard to worry much about the OSU pass rush as long as Ogbah is on the field.

Meanwhile, in Ryan Simmons and Seth Jacobs, OSU boasts a pair of dual-threat linebackers; they combined for 16 non-sack tackles for loss (which suggests good run instincts) and 11 passes defensed. With a trio of well-regarded sophomores (including former four-star recruit Gyasi Akem) and two transfers -- Stephen F. Austin-by-way-of-JUCO strongsider Jordan Burton and former California signee Chad Whitener -- OSU has more linebackers than it will be able to use.

The tackle position, however, could slow the front seven down. The linebackers can only do their jobs if the tackles are occupying blockers, and losing James Castleman and Ofa Hautau leaves OSU unknown at the position. Sophomores Vili Leveni, Vincent Taylor, and Ben Hughes all come well-regarded, and Leveni showed major play-making potential last year. [Update: Leveni will miss the 2015 season with an Achilles tendon injury.] Plus, two newcomers -- JUCO transfer Motekiai Maile and four-star freshman Darrion Daniels -- could have an immediate impact. None of these players are seniors; in fact, Bean and Simmons might be the only two senior contributors in the front seven.

So as with so much of the offense, OSU has a metric ton of players to be excited about for 2016 and beyond. But there's always the chance for growing pains at tackle in 2015.

Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Ryan Simmons MLB 6'0, 240 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8778 13 81.0 10.4% 12.0 2.0 0 4 0 0
Seth Jacobs WLB 6'2, 225 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8819 13 74.0 9.5% 6.0 0.0 2 5 2 0
Josh Furman SLB
13 55.0 7.1% 14.0 7.0 1 4 1 0
Jordan Burton (SFA) SLB 6'3, 215 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8373 11 55.0 7.4% 3.5 0.0 1 2 1 0
Justin Phillips SLB 6'0, 220 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8451 8 14.0 1.8% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Kirk Tucker LB 6'2, 195 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8600 13 13.0 1.7% 1.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Gyasi Akem SLB 6'1, 215 So. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9127 10 8.5 1.1% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Demarcus Sherod MLB
7 5.0 0.6% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Devante Averette WLB 6'0, 230 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8463 3 2.5 0.3% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Kris Catlin LB 6'1, 230 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8049
Chad Whitener (California) MLB 6'1, 240 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8426
Josh Mabin LB 6'2, 235 RSFr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8737
Kevin Henry LB 6'1, 205 Fr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8904








Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Jordan Sterns FS 6'1, 205 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8658 13 81.0 10.4% 5.5 0 0 4 2 0
Kevin Peterson CB 5'11, 190 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8627 13 52.0 6.7% 1.5 0 2 11 0 0
Tre Flowers SS 6'3, 190 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8367 12 50.0 6.4% 2 0 0 3 0 0
Ramon Richards CB 6'0, 180 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8251 13 37.0 4.8% 2 0 3 4 0 0
Larry Stephens SS
8 34.0 4.4% 2 0 1 3 0 0
Jerel Morrow SS 6'0, 190 So. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8816 13 11.5 1.5% 1 1 0 0 0 0
Deric Robertson FS 6'2, 205 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8389 11 7.5 1.0% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Elliott Jeffcoat S
12 7.0 0.9% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Chris Hardeman CB 5'9, 178 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8879 10 5.5 0.7% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Darius Curry CB 6'1, 195 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8587 4 4.0 0.5% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Ashton Lampkin CB 5'11, 185 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8559 4 3.5 0.5% 0 0 2 3 0 0
DeShawn Franklin S
8 3.5 0.5% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Juwan Offray CB
7 2.5 0.3% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Miketavius Jones CB 5'10, 175 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) NR
Dylan Harding FS 6'2, 190 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8299
Antwan Hadley DB 6'3, 210 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8100
Kenneth McGruder S 6'1, 190 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8742








8. Freshmen become sophomores

When you go from corners Justin Gilbert and Tyler Patmon and safeties Daytawion Lowe, Lyndell Johnson, and Shamiel Gary in 2013 to a load of freshmen and sophomores, you're going to suffer a dropoff. There's simply no way around it.

OSU fell from 12th in Passing S&P+ to 63rd, and the drop would have been more precipitous if the pass rush hadn't been such a pleasant surprise. Opponents were far more comfortable passin.

  • 2013: 54% completion rate, 10.9 yards/completion, 3% TD rate, 4% INT rate
  • 2014: 61% completion rate, 12.7 yards/completion, 5% TD rate, 3% INT rate

OSU's secondary got even younger as the season progressed. After a titillating start (five passes defensed in four games), Ashton Lampkin was lost for the season with injury. Senior safety Larry Stephens missed five games in the middle of the year, as well. Freshmen like corner Ramon Richards and sophomores Tre Flowers and Jerel Morrow got more playing time than expected, and the results were predictably up and down.

But last year's freshmen and sophomores are this year's sophomores and juniors, and OSU returns just about everybody, including Lampkin. Toss in JUCO transfer Antwan Hadley, and you've got a crowded depth chart. The pass defense should improve quite a bit.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Kip Smith 81 41.8 5 33 25 71.6%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Kip Smith 70 59.2 14 0 20.0%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2015
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Ben Grogan 6'1, 186 Jr. 41-41 17-20 85.0% 5-8 62.5%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Tyreek Hill KR 30 24.7 2
Brandon Sheperd KR 6'1, 195 Sr. 6 21.3 0
Tyreek Hill PR 27 9.5 1
Brandon Sheperd PR 6'1, 195 Sr. 2 3.5 0
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 11
Field Goal Efficiency 41
Punt Return Efficiency 52
Kick Return Efficiency 10
Punt Efficiency 30
Kickoff Efficiency 80
Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency 62

9. So many field goals

Oklahoma State had another good special teams unit; this is nothing new. The Cowboys have ranked 12th or better in special teams efficiency in five of the last seven years, which is nearly unprecedented in such a small-sample enterprise.

Tyreek Hill was OSU's latest great return man, Kip Smith's punts were high and long enough, kick coverage was a little shaky but not too costly, and Ben Grogan showed off a powerful leg on field goals, making five of eight from beyond 40 yards.

The biggest problem, however, was related to Grogan: he was asked to attempt 28 field goals. Only eight teams attempted more. OSU's efficiency issues bled into a problem finishing drives, and Grogan was asked to bail the 'Pokes out and salvage three points too many times.

Without Smith and Hill, it might be difficult for OSU to produce another high ranking here. But at least the Cowboys have Grogan. Maybe this year they won't ask him to do quite as much.

2015 Schedule & Projection Factors

2015 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. S&P+ Rk
3-Sep at Central Michigan 91
12-Sep Central Arkansas NR
19-Sep UTSA 121
26-Sep at Texas 36
3-Oct Kansas State 33
10-Oct at West Virginia 40
24-Oct Kansas 95
31-Oct at Texas Tech 53
7-Nov TCU 18
14-Nov at Iowa State 86
21-Nov Baylor 14
28-Nov Oklahoma 10
Five-Year F/+ Rk 34.9% (12)
2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk 33 / 32
2014 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin* -8 / 2.6
2014 TO Luck/Game -4.1
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 15 (7, 8)
2014 Second-order wins (difference) 6.6 (0.4)

10. One hell of a November

One way or another, Oklahoma State is going to play a major role in the Big 12 race.

First, if the run game rebounds to a mediocre level and defensive tackle isn't a major drag, the Cowboys could use their friendly odd-year schedule and make a title run themselves. The four highest-projected teams in the conference all visit Stillwater.

But even if the Cowboys are still too flawed, what are the odds of them losing to all four of those top teams at home?

OSU gets TCU, Baylor, and Oklahoma all on November 7 or later. The Cowboys have outscored TCU by 36 points in the two Stillwater meetings since TCU joined the Big 12, OU and OSU have split their last four meetings, and Baylor hasn't come within 28 points of the Cowboys on Lewis Field since losing 24-10 in 1998.

Any or all of the conference's primary contenders could suffer a late-season loss in northern Oklahoma.

It's hard for me to see OSU rebounding all the way back into the top 20 (mainly because, wow, does the run game have a lot to prove), but it's also hard for me to see the 'Pokes remaining too far down. The passing game and a good defense should get the Cowboys back into the top 40 at least, and the schedule is all sorts of friendly.

OSU has attended nine straight bowls under Gundy, and after keeping the streak alive by the skin of their teeth, the 'Pokes should clear that bar pretty easily. And if anybody from the bottom half of the league is going to make a sudden title run, a la TCU last year, it's almost certainly going to be Gundy's squad.