The Oklahoma State Cowboys come into 2013 a year older and, hopefully, a year better. What awaits them next season is anyone’s guess, so here is my best shot.
Could it be more awards or another Big 12 championship? While the rest of the Big 12 is in flux, with most of the teams facing rebuilding years at key positions, the Cowboys will remain intact almost everywhere. The only exception is at running back, as Joseph Randle will be gone to the NFL.
Other than that, and a few coaching positions, it appears that the Cowboys have the opportunity to establish some much-needed consistency. Using three quarterbacks was good for 2012. It showed off the program’s depth and coaching ability. However, Cowboys fans should be hoping that there are no more positional merry-go-rounds in 2013.
Josh Stewart had a breakout year in 2012, catching 101 passes for 1,210 yards and seven touchdowns. He will do even better in 2013, so much so that he will win the 2013 Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s best receiver.
This may be the boldest prediction here, as Stewart will have extremely tough competition to overcome. However, considering how much Stewart has improved already and how good the Cowboys passing attack looks to be, it is not impossible at all.
Stewart only caught 19 passes as a freshman in 2011, and few expected him to become the team’s No. 1 receiver after Justin Blackmon left. He outplayed older, more experienced receivers, and his speed and hands are by far the best on the team.
If the Cowboys can avoid the turnover at quarterback that they had in 2012, Stewart should be able to get into an even better groove and put up even better numbers.
After the quarterback position was decimated by injuries, the Oklahoma State coaching staff showed great creativity in making the most of the situation by using two quarterbacks in most of their games down the stretch.
While all three quarterbacks could very well return in 2013, there is also a chance that one could transfer. The odds are that J.W. Walsh will definitely be back, as he is almost guaranteed playing time as either the starter or in the change-of-pace role he played late in the 2012 season.
Wes Lunt is the most likely to transfer, as he has the most eligibility left and could redshirt while he sat out a year. Clint Chelf will likely be back, as he will be a senior.
The odds are that either Lunt or Chelf will be the starter in 2013, with Walsh coming in to run his special offensive set. The two-quarterback system is one that has been much maligned, but Gundy and his staff appear very comfortable with it.
With the news that Cowboys running back Joseph Randle will skip his senior season and enter the 2013 NFL draft (per Gina Mizell of The Oklahoman), the Cowboys find themselves with a bit of a hole at the running back position.
While the team will still make running the ball a priority, they will not have a 1,000-yard rusher for the first time since the 2006 season.
Backup Jeremy Smith will be a senior and will likely take the role of starter at running back. However, he has struggled to stay healthy in his career so far, and that was when he was only getting backup touches.
Other running backs on the roster include Desmond Roland and Caleb Muncrief. It is likely that while Smith will get the majority of the touches, he will share the rushing duties with Roland and quarterback J.W. Walsh. The spreading of the rushes out will result in no 1,000-yard rusher.
The team itself will rush for about the same amount of yards as it usually does. It just will not have the dominant ball-carrier it has in the past.
The fate of Bill Young as the Cowboys’ defensive coordinator has been a point of discussion among Oklahoma State fans and media since the end of the 2012 regular season. The defense did not perform well in 2012, particularly toward the end, giving up over 600 yards to both Oklahoma and Baylor in consecutive weeks.
According to Gina Mizell of The Oklahoman, there are reports and rumors out there that Young has been dismissed as defensive coordinator and that co-defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Glenn Spencer would likely be his replacement.
While Oklahoma State has yet to corroborate any of these rumors, it does appear likely that Young is on his way out. The defense took a downturn in the past season.
When you combine that with the health problems Young has had, it looks like the right time to make a change. He missed the first two games of the season, one of which was a 23-point loss to Arizona. Spencer called the defense in those two games.
This prediction looked less bold before Joseph Randle announced that he was leaving, but it is still a good bet.
Let’s think about this. The Big 12 really does not have a team that is the current leader for 2013. Oklahoma is losing a ton of talent, including quarterback Landry Jones. Kansas State is in the same boat, losing quarterback Collin Klein. In fact, Baylor, West Virginia and Texas Tech all also will lose their senior quarterbacks from last season.
The two teams that are returning both their quarterbacks and most of their talent are Texas and Oklahoma State. While most would choose Texas over the Cowboys just on name recognition, Oklahoma State does have a legitimate shot at winning the conference.
The Cowboys defense is losing very little in the way of graduating seniors, and the offense will lose only Randle and wide receiver Isaiah Anderson. The Cowboys are in great shape to win the conference, especially given the consistency and talent they will return in 2013.