Spring practice has officially started for the Oklahoma State Cowboys, and head coach Mike Gundy and his staff will be looking to meet certain goals.
Those goals are varied and numerous, and relate to many different positions and parts of the team. Here are 10 benchmarks the Cowboys should expect to meet during their spring practices.
The most important goal for the Cowboys in the spring is to name a starting quarterback.
All three candidates for the position, Junior Clint Chelf, redshirt freshman J.W. Walsh, and true freshman Wes Lunt, are very talented. There is no doubt that each is good enough to win games.
Considering the last two quarterbacks Mike Gundy has had, I'd say Cowboy fans are safe trusting his judgement.
The Oklahoma State special teams coordinator Joe DeForest has left for West Virginia to be the defensive coordinator. Coach Gundy must make sure that the special teams coordinating duties are taken care of by his staff.
The coach he hired to replace DeForest, Van Malone, is a defensive backs and Houston-area recruiting specialist. The special teams at OSU has been fantastic for the past decade. Hopefully, they still will be even after DeForest's departure.
The Cowboys lost a ton of receivers this past season. Justin Blackmon is going to the NFL. Hubert Aniyam, Josh Cooper and Colton Chelf all graduated. Michael Harrison was suspended for the 2012 season and elected to leave the program.
The young new receivers have a lot to prove. Their development is key to this Cowboy offense continued success. Josh Stewart, Isaiah Anderson and Tracy Moore will have to step up and take big roles.
The Cowboys lost the two most important guys on the defensive front last season in defensive ends Richetti Jones and Jamie Blatnick.
A pass rush is crucial to the turnover-forcing defense that the Cowboys want to play. Cooper Bassett, Christian Littlehead and Nigel Nicholas will all be big in developing a new rush for the defense.
There is a chance that the Cowboys might tweak the offensive playbook a bit, especially with the inexperience and loss of star power at the quarterback and receiver positions.
With the possibility of a running starting quarterback in J.W. Walsh and the depth at running back, going to a more run-centric game might benefit the team.
These changes must be made quickly if they are to be made. Even if they are made, don't expect anything to drastic.
Lavocheya Cooper is apparently going to fill the role of graduating free safety Markelle Martin. That's a big role to fill.
Cooper got some experience last season as a sophomore, and we will see if he's up to the task of taking over for the freakishly athletic Martin. If he isn't, the coaches will need to make a change quickly.
Last season, Josh Stewart was a true freshman that was able to get on the field and make an impact. Herschel Sims also was able to do similar things.
It is still unclear whether or not any of this incoming freshman class will have an immediate impact, especially since most are not on campus yet.
The best bets are quarterback Wes Lunt (who is already on campus) and wide receiver C.J. Curry.
The last couple seasons, the Cowboys have been lucky and blessed in the health department. They've had few injuries and most of the ones they have suffered were covered by their depth.
This team doesn't need any injuries anytime, but especially in the spring. Health means guys are getting out there and getting better.
Van Malone is the new secondary coach for the Cowboys, replacing the departed Joe DeForest. Integrating him into the defense will be important for the team, and I'm sure they are doing just that.
It's also important for him to start earning his keep. He was brought in to help the defense and recruit the Houston area. Hopefully, he'll do both well.
This is a broad benchmark, but it should be one for every FBS program. It is especially important for this team, which is under a much bigger spotlight after the incredible season it had last year.
Getting better is important. This team must not fail to meet expectations if it wants to make the jump to a top level program.