Oklahoma State Football: 7 Big Holes in the Roster Cowboys Must Fill for 2013
The Oklahoma State Cowboys have just a single game left to play before their 2012 campaign is in the books. Now is a great time to begin looking toward the 2013 season to see what holes the Cowboys will need to fill on their roster.
While some of these positions are obvious since seniors are graduating, others have become holes due to lack of production or injury turnover. Those may not be “holes” in the strictest sense, but they are in that they need to be fixed if this team is to make a serious run at another Big 12 title in 2013.
Oklahoma State football is going stronger than ever, but whether that continues is massively dependent on how well Mike Gundy and his staff can fill these holes. The 2013 season is not the only future season that will depend on it.
Let’s just get this out of the way now.
Todd Monken was one of the best assistant coaches in the country this year, as his offense continued to put up big numbers and win games despite being forced to use three different quarterbacks with three different skill sets.
Monken deserves the opportunity he is getting at Southern Mississippi, but that does not make the task of replacing him any easier for Oklahoma State. This is by far the most important hole to be filled.
The Cowboys are known for their offense, and that side of the ball cannot suffer. The defense should improve next season, but it will not be good enough to carry a team that cannot score.
The Cowboys have been deep at linebacker for a few seasons now, but they will have a big hole when middle linebacker Alex Elkins graduates after this season. The senior is second on the team in tackles with 73 total, and although he is not the flashiest player on the team, he is an integral part of what the defense does.
The prime candidates to fill his shoes at the third linebacker position are Ryan Simmons and Lyndell Johnson, both of whom have played significant time this season as backups. Both are also playmakers who each have more than 20 total tackles, at least four tackles for a loss and at least one forced turnover.
It looks like Oklahoma State is in a good position to replace Elkins, but it may not even be either of these young players. The dark horse in the race to replace him is his actual backup, DeMarcus Sherod, a freshman who contributed sparingly but effectively this season.
It still remains to be seen just how big the whole at cornerback will be heading into 2013. While senior Brodrick Brown will definitely be gone, there is also a chance that junior Justin Gilbert could leave school early for the NFL.
Junior Devin Hedgepeth has missed the entire 2012 season due to injury, and he would seem to be pretty likely to play significant minutes no matter who leaves. However, that still leaves potential minutes to be filled.
True freshmen Kevin Peterson and Ashton Lampkin have both played minutes this season, combining for 35 tackles and an interception. Between those two, Peterson is the likely choice, especially since he actually beat out Gilbert for some playing time earlier this season.
The Cowboys also have a number of defensive backs that are coming in 2013 as true freshman. Darius Curry of Flowery Branch, Georgia and Deric Robertson of Killeen, Texas highlight a good group of defensive backs that could challenge for some of those open minutes.
Unlike the previous positions in this slideshow, there are no players at the safety position who are graduating or could leave early for the NFL. The reason the position appears here is because the play from it was so inconsistent.
Daytawion Lowe and Shamiel Gary filled the roles of starting safeties, and neither was particularly impressive. Gary had the incredibly difficult task of following Markelle Martin, who was one of the best defensive players this program has ever had. After a breakout season last year, Lowe struggled to show that he was any better, likely because he no longer had Martin backing him up.
The odds are that these two players will remain the starters. However, there are a couple of other players that could get playing time. Zack Craig proved himself to be a playmaker, especially when he blocked two punts in one game. Larry Stephens also gave the Cowboys some decent minutes from the safety position.
Some might say this position was not a hole because the Cowboys had three different players who were successful behind center. However, that cannot last forever, especially if the merry-go-round at the position continues.
Developing consistency at the position is vital for this program to continue winning. That does not necessarily mean that just one quarterback will be used, but it does mean that the players will know who is playing and what the plan is.
In 2012, that was not the case: Wes Lunt, J.W. Walsh and Clint Chelf can all run the offense, but their massively different skill sets affect the offensive game plan on a weekly basis. Plus, Todd Monken will not be there to make it work next season. That certainly will not help.
These two positions have to be the most unfillable voids on this team heading into the 2013 season. Quinn Sharp will go down as a special teams legend at Oklahoma State and one of the most versatile special teams players in college football.
The senior’s backups are largely untested. Punter Michael Reichenstein seems ready to take the reins in 2013. He has punted in an actual game just once, but it was a decent punt for 49 yards. Based on the little of buzz I have heard about him, he seems like he will be a more than adequate replacement.
We actually know even less about Sharp’s backup at kicker or who will succeed him as kicker. Bobby Stonebraker is his official backup and will be a junior next season. He has not kicked a single field goal, but he did kick five kickoffs this season, averaging 62.2 yards. Redshirt sophomore Matt Green and incoming true freshman Ben Grogan could also be possibilities.