Heading into the 2013 season, the Oklahoma State Cowboys are young and talented, appearing poised to make another run at a Big 12 title. However, a few players will need to improve for that to happen.
Ideally, every player would want to improve and would do so every offseason. We all know that is not going to happen for everyone, though.
Oklahoma State has five players who need to improve the most. They are playmakers whose improvement will boost the team enough to bring it back to the top of the national college football landscape.
2012 Stats: 63 total tackles, two tackles for loss, nine passes broken up
Justin Gilbert is still one of the best playmakers the Cowboys have on their team. His decision to come back for his senior season was a great one, but he has improving to do, not only before he is ready for the NFL, but also before he is ready for the 2013 college football season.
After getting beaten out for a few games by true freshman Kevin Peterson at cornerback last season, Gilbert needs to start refining his talent into a more polished whole.
He has great potential, but he needs to work on technique. If he does that, he will not only be one of the Big 12’s best defensive players, but also one of the best corners for the 2014 NFL Draft.
2012 Stats: 70 rushes, 388 yards, eight touchdowns
The departure of Joseph Randle to the NFL makes Jeremy Smith much more important to the success of this team in 2013. However, that does not mean that he can simply fill the starting running back role as is.
The biggest problem Smith has had over the past few years is staying healthy. While that may not be completely under his control, he must do everything he can in the offseason to get as healthy as possible. He also must work on improving his speed and blocking.
2012 Stats: 30 total tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, one sack
Calvin Barnett was named the Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year for the 2012 season, becoming the first Cowboy to ever win the award.
Still, he has plenty of room to improve before the 2013 season gets here.
One of the biggest areas Barnett needs to do some work in is his own composure on the field. He committed far too many penalties for comfort, especially in the Cowboys 23-point loss on the road in Arizona. If he can get that under control while also improving in other areas as a young player should, he has the potential to be a very special player.
2012 Stats: 20 catches, 259 yards, four touchdowns
A medical redshirt will give senior wide receiver Tracy Moore a fifth season as an Oklahoma State Cowboy. He needs to use the 2013 offseason to get ready for a major depth chart battle.
While injuries did primarily derail Moore this past season, the Cowboys also found plenty of replacements that appeared to be as good or better than he was. Austin Hays and Charlie Moore played big minutes late in the year, and young players like C.J. Curry and Brandon Shepherd will also be fighting for time. Moore has to get better if he wants to get much playing time in his last season in Stillwater.
2012 Stats: 75 total tackles, 58 solo, three tackles for loss, two interceptions
Daytawion Lowe has been one of the most talented player on this defense for a few years now, but he needs to take the next step into stardom if this team is going take the next step in 2013.
While Lowe has led the team in tackles for the past two seasons and looks good statistically, he has not been as good in games. As a safety, he is the last line of defense between the offense and scoring points. Losing Markelle Martin hurt him this past season, and in 2013, he needs to become the leader that Martin was for this Cowboy defense.