2015 CFB Preview – Oklahoma State

    Oklahoma State CowboysGo to Team Page CowboysGo to Selection Page           Now it’s time for the rebound. By Pete Fiutak |

    July 1, 2015

    Oklahoma State
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    Now it’s time for the rebound.

    By Pete Fiutak | @PeteFiutak

    By all accounts it was supposed to be a bit of a rebuilding season with just ten starters returning and several key parts needing to be replaced from the 10-3 2013 season, but the Cowboys still got off to a great start.

    They pushed defending national champion Florida State hard in an opening week 37-31 loss, and they won five straight during the easy part of the slate to, in theory, build up the experience and get everything in place.

    And then the schedule happened.

    OSU started off the year 0-6 against teams that ended up bowling, with the wheels coming off in a big way offensively during an ugly midseason stretch. The team could’ve easily have packed it in, but one Tyreek Hill big play against Oklahoma changed the narrative on the way to a bowl appearance and win.

    The 2013 team was fantastic, and then died at the end. The 2014 team was mediocre, and kicked it in late with the win over the Sooners followed up by an impressive performance to beat Washington in the Cactus Bowl. The 2015 team might not be the best yet under Mike Gundy, but the returning starters and depth are there, and the cloud of concern over a variety of issues has now passed.

    Nothing too much came out of the Sports Illustrated report that could’ve buried the program – the public outcry was more like a deafening sound of dead silence – with the NCAA probation turning into a one-year kiss behind the ear. The Cowboys got in trouble for the Orange Pride hosting program and a loose drug policy – everything is fine.

    Not that it was a massive weight on the program, and the issues weren’t the reason the offense went into the tank against most teams with a pulse, but now it really is going to be all about football, and OSU is in a position to be a power player again.

    The offense still needs to come up with a steady running game, and there isn’t a Dez Bryant or Justin Blackmon at receiver, but the weapons around QB Mason Rudolph are good enough to keep up the pace. The defensive front has the potential to be a terror, the linebackers are solid veterans, and the secondary could be excellent with a little bit of time.

    Will it all be enough to overcome the firepower of Baylor and TCU? Can the program possibly catch fire like it did in 2011 and be in the mix for the playoff? This is Gundy’s 11th year, and he has built and rebuilt the team up several times, often with great success.

    Unlike last season, this year’s team is built.

    What You Need To Know About The Offense: This might not be one of the devastating OSU offenses of the past, but it should be better. Expect a big rebound after an off year. The quarterback situation was a mess with injuries and inconsistencies, and the line play was awful. The front five should be stronger with three returning starters and hope with decent depth to start relying more on. The ground game is the big concern after losing the key parts, but Rennie Childs leads a promising group that should be fine if the line is better. The emergence of QB Mason Rudolph is the big key, with the size and downfield arm to start stretching out the attack far more. The receivers might not be killers, but they’ll be good enough.

    What You Need To Know About The Defense: Look out, quarterbacks. The end tandem of Emmanuel Ogbah and Jimmy Bean should be among the nation’s most disruptive, and with the expected emergence of some big young bodies inside, the line has the potential to be devastating. Ryan Simmons is a strong veteran linebacker to work around, but as long as the line is doing what it’s supposed to, the run defense should be better. The secondary now has to do its job after getting bombed on too easily. Kevin Peterson is one of the Big 12’s most talented and fastest corners, and Jordan Sterns is a big-hitting safety, but in the pass-happy conference, allowing fewer than 269 yards per game is a must.

    What to watch for on offense: Will the offensive line be more up to OSU snuff? The 2011 offense that exploded was helped in a big way by a line that gave up just 12 sacks. The 2012 line gave up 12 and the 2013 line allowed 14. Last season, the Cowboys allowed 40 sacks while doing next to nothing for a running game that averaged a paltry 3.5 yards per carry. However, the line got better as the season went on, doing a nice job in the final few games and now welcomes back three good starters. With new O line coach Greg Adkins a pro’s pro, watch out for this to be one of the team’s biggest areas of improvement.

    What to watch for on defense: The defensive line should be far, far stronger. The pass rush was there with Emmanuel Ogbah turning into a superstar, but the run defense was a rumor at times over the second half of the season giving up 317 yards and five touchdowns to Baylor and following it up by allowing 304 yards and four scores to Oklahoma. The difference this year is in the interior with sophomores Vincent Taylor and Vili Levini two big bodies who look like disruptive forces. Getting to the quarterback even more is a must to help out a pass defense that struggled way too often, and this group should do it.

    The team will be far better if … the offense keeps the chains moving. Several Big 12 offenses score fast enough to not really care too much about third downs, but it was a huge issue for the Cowboys last year converting just 33% of the time. The ugly four-game losing streak to TCU, West Virginia, Kansas State and Texas went hand-in-hand to the inability to move the chains, scoring a total of 40 points in those four game and converting just 17% of the time on third downs. By comparison, the 2011 juggernaut hit on 49% of the third down chances, and even the 2013 team that converted 39% of the time was considered a problem. OSU has to be well above 40% to have any real hope of keeping pace with the Big 12 stars.

    The schedule: Going to Central Michigan isn’t going to be easy. The Chippewas are going to be dangerous in what should be a strange non-conference date to start the season. Central Arkansas and UTSA should be layups.
    – The Cowboys get five Big 12 home games and four on the road. The road games are spread out really, really well.
    – November should work out fine with three home games in the final four. Getting TCU and Baylor at home is a massive plus, and while the home field doesn’t really matter in the rivalry game against Oklahoma, it’s still a plus.
    – The four Big 12 road games are at Texas, West Virginia, Texas Tech and Iowa State. That’s not bad.
    – WATCH OUT FOR … Texas Tech. It’s on the road just before the showdown against TCU and coming off the likely bombing of Kansas. The Cowboys have to be ready for a shootout.

    Best offensive player: Sophomore QB Mason Rudolph. At least that’s the hope. J.W. Walsh is a veteran passer who showed this offseason that he’s still good enough to fight for the starting job, but it was Rudolph who emerged as his true freshman season went on and showed the promise to be something special. Very big, very talented, and with a huge arm and next-level upside, he could be the type of quarterback who becomes the reason Oklahoma State goes from okay to Big 12 title good. Again, that’s the hope.

    Best defensive player: Junior DE Emmanuel Ogbah. It’s not like he was a one-man gang up front for the Cowboy defensive line, but he came up with an all-star season as the star pass rusher for a line that was shaky at best overall. Very big, very active, and very tough against the run, he was explosive as well as consistent. With the OSU front for a bit more experienced and with a few emerging talents expected to shine through, the pressure should be taken off of Ogbah a bit. Expect him to blow up even bigger.

    Key player to a successful season: Junior RB Rennie Childs. Desmond Roland was okay, rushing for a team-leading 770 yards and ten scores, but he’s hardly irreplaceable. Tyreek Hill was sensational, but he was great in a jack-of-all-trades sort of way. Now it’s up to Childs to try being the main man for a rushing attack that needs help. Mason Rudolph and the passing game might be good enough to carry the team, but if Childs can be effective – and all indications are that he’s ready to be great – everything else on the offense should work.

    The season will be a success if … the Cowboys win at least ten games. There’s too much missing to win the title in an improved Big 12, but with just about every schedule break that could be reasonably asked for – including getting TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma at home – and with a world of experience returning, a ten-win season is a must. Do that, and OSU should be in the mix for big things up until the end of the regular season.

    Key game: Sept. 26 at Texas. With Kansas State, TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma at home, the Big 12 opener at Texas and the road game at West Virginia are two of the biggest landmines. The Longhorns dominated in a key 28-7 win in mid-November last season, and this year it’ll be a huge, huge game for Charlie Strong. However, if the Cowboys win, it might be the catalyst to a great Big 12 campaign.

    2014 Fun Stats:
    – First Quarter Scoring: Opponents 123 – Oklahoma State 79
    – Second Quarter Scoring: Oklahoma State 114 – Opponents 68
    – Fumbles: Oklahoma State 11 (lost 5) – Opponents 12 (lost 2)

    Players You Need To Know

    1. DE Emmanuel Ogbah, Jr.
    A nice prospect as a freshman, he was seen as a dangerous work in progress with a world of upside – it all came through last season. With 6-4, 275-pound size and great quickness off the ball, he came up with four sacks in his first year, and then last year he blew up into All-America status coming up with 49 tackles with 11 sacks and 17 tackles for loss. Not just a pass rusher and a disruptive force in the backfield, he broke up five passes and was always doing something to screw things up. Smart, he’s great in the classroom as well as on the field, and now he’s ready to blossom into more of a national superstar as well as the top lineman in the Big 12.

    2. DE Jimmy Bean, Sr.
    While he’s not the end Emmanuel Ogbah might be, the 6-5, 250-pound veteran is a dangerous all-around playmaker making 42 tackles last season with 3.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. Healthy after a rocky start to his career, he has blossomed into his immense potential with the right size, the right quickness, and the right burst to get to the quarterback when he gets the chance. With so much attention paid to Ogbah, he should be ready to do far more after failing to come up with a sack over the final nine games of last season. He doesn’t need to get to the quarterback to be great, but with his speed and athleticism, he can become an all-star pass rusher.

    3. QB Mason Rudolph, Soph.
    The whole idea was to redshirt the future star, but with injuries piling up, and with the season on the line, he was thrown into the mix late in the year. It wasn’t always a smooth ride, but he showed why there’s so much excitement with 273 yards or more in each of the last three games, closing out with a 299-yard, two score day against Washington. Also throwing two touchdown passes against both Baylor and Oklahoma, he’s a bomber who can spread the ball all over the field, but now he has to cut down on his picks after throwing four in the three games. The 6-4, 200-pound former top recruit looks the part with all the tools and skills highlighted by his huge arm. The South Carolina native got away from the SEC schools – including Alabama, LSU and South Carolina – and now the program is his.

    4. S Jordan Sterns, Jr.
    The team’s leading tackler, the 6-1, 205-pound junior made 103 tackles with 5.5 tackles for loss with four broken up passes. In on just about everything, and sensational in the open field, he came up with 20 stops against West Virginia – 14 solo – and 13 against Oklahoma. Also great on special teams, he blocked two kicks and was all over the field whenever he got his chances, flying around and getting in on just about everything. He needs to do more when the ball is in the air – he has yet to pick off a pass – but he’s on the verge of all-star status with another year like 2014.

    5. LB Ryan Simmons, Sr.
    With 6-0, 240-pound size, he bulked up over the last few seasons and can handle whatever is thrown his way in the middle. The former weakside defender moved over and came up with a good year making 96 tackles with two sacks and 12 tackles for loss, making ten tackles against Texas Tech, 11 against TCU and 13 against Baylor. A pure tackler with range, he knows how to get around the ball and make the stop as he showed what he could do after staying healthy. A big-time recruit, he got hurt early on and redshirted after looking like he was ready to shine as a true freshman. This year, watch out for possible all-star honors as a steady, tone-setting hitter.

    6. WR Brandon Sheperd, Sr.
    Is he ready to be the main man for the receiving corps? He has 6-1, 195-pound size and ridiculous athleticism with next-level speed and leaping ability. Now he has to start making more catches, finishing second on the team with 39 grabs for 737 yards and five scores, averaging a whopping 18.9 yards per grab. He blew up for seven catches for 156 yards and two touchdowns against Oklahoma, and he made five catches for 98 yards and a score against Washington in the bowl. What helped turn up the production? The emergence of Mason Rudolph at quarterback. Expect a lot more downfield pass plays now that Rudolph is cemented in the job, and expect Sheperd to be a devastating home run hitter.

    7. CB Kevin Peterson, Sr.
    One of the team’s fastest players, he went from being the guy on the other side of Justin Gilbert to the top corner. At 5-11 and 190 pounds to go along with the speed, he has the size to go along with the wheels and the athleticism. He might not be Gilbert as a playmaker, but an Oklahoma high school state champion sprinter in the 100 and 200 meters – he can move and he can attack the ball. His interception against Washington in the bowl game was the highlight to the season, but he did even more with 11 broken up passes and 59 tackles. More and more, teams are going to start avoiding him.

    8. RB Rennie Childs, Jr.
    The new key to the running game, the 5-10, 205-pound junior finished third on the team with 294 yards and three scores as a part of the rotation. Now the ground game is his with terrific quickness and the type of slashing style that fits what the Cowboys like to do. A blazer, he could become a dangerous home run hitter whenever he gets the ball in space, but he’s going to have to prove he’s a bit of a workhorse. The coaching staff is going to give him every shot to get as much work as he can handle. He’ll still have to fight off JUCO transfer Todd Mays as well as Chris Carson, but he looks the part.

    9. WR David Glidden, Sr.
    The 2014 team offensive MVP, the 5-8, 185-pound sparkplug is an ultra-reliable midrange target making a team-leading 42 catches for 598 yards with two touchdowns. The former Gatorade Oklahoma Player of the Year is a great route runner with dangerous athleticism in the open field, and while he might not be too much of a home run hitter, he can get deep. He caught five passes for 99 yards and a score against Baylor, but he failed to hit the 100-yard mark on the year. He’ll be more dangerous on the move – and as a chain-mover – with the quarterback situation likely more settled.

    10. PK Ben Grogan, Jr.
    He’s a smart, reliable kicker who overcame a bad start to be terrific. He missed three of his first five field goals, and then nailed 19 of his last 23. It took a year and two games, but he turned into a great kicker last season hitting 22-of-28 field goals on the way to a Lou Groza semifinalist status. While he doesn’t have a massive leg, he’s solid from beyond 40 yards to around 45 out – don’t try him out much from 50+, though.

    Head Coach: Mike Gundy
    11th year: 49-35
    Schedule
    Sept. 3 at Central Michigan
    Sept. 12 Central Arkansas
    Sept. 19 UTSA
    Sept. 26 at Texas
    Oct. 3 Kansas State
    Oct. 10 at West Virginia
    Oct. 17 OPEN DATE
    Oct. 24 Kansas
    Oct. 31 at Texas Tech
    Nov. 7 TCU
    Nov. 14 at Iowa State
    Nov. 21 Baylor
    Nov. 28 Oklahoma
    Ten Best OSU Players
    1. DE Emmanuel Ogbah, Jr.
    2. DE Jimmy Bean, Sr.
    3. QB Mason Rudolph, Soph.
    4. S Jordan Sterns, Jr.
    5. LB Ryan Simmons, Sr.
    6. WR Brandon Sheperd, Sr.
    7. CB Kevin Peterson, Sr.
    8. RB Rennie Childs, Jr.
    9. WR David Glidden, Sr.
    10. PK Ben Grogan, Jr.

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