Oklahoma State Football: 5 Players with Most to Gain in Spring Practices
Spring practice is the beginning of a football team's long journey towards what is, hopefully, a BCS bowl game.
This period can make or break a program's chances at competing during the fall, and that's why head coaches like Mike Gundy put so much stock in how a player performs.
In fact, just last year, Wes Lunt won the starting quarterback spot, largely due to his performance in spring practices.
Can someone else step up for the Oklahoma State Cowboys and win himself a starting spot?
Only time will tell, but the following five players could become that guy, if they step up and have a huge spring.
With Joseph Randle's departure to the NFL, Jeremy Smith likely has the starting running back spot locked up.
However, Smith can go a long way towards showing everyone that he has what it takes to become the Oklahoma State Cowboys' next great running back with a productive spring.
Smith has the talent to be a touchdown machine at the position, but he must show that he can stay healthy while shouldering the bulk of the carries in the Cowboys' offense; as well as becoming a better pass-catcher out of the backfield.
If he can come out and have a great spring, Oklahoma State will look all the more dangerous heading into 2013.
The Oklahoma State Cowboys are losing quite a few guys from their front seven in 2013.
Regular contributors like Nigel Nicholas, Cooper Bassett, Alex Elkins and Ryan Robinson have all graduated, leaving a noticeable hole on the defense's front line.
The good news is that guys like Lyndell Johnson, Ryan Simmons and Tyler Johnson showed last year that they have the ability to get after the quarterback.
This, along with a few incoming freshmen (Naim Mustafaa, I'm looking at you), should lessen the impact of losing so many defensive ends.
However, this still leaves a hole at Alex Elkins' linebacker position.
For my money, DeMarcus Sherod is the steady presence the team needs.
He might not be as flashy as either of the Johnsons, but he'll hold down the starting spot, while those other guys rotate in to provide pressure.
Coming into 2012, Brandon Sheperd was the most highly touted freshman receiver on the Oklahoma State Cowboys' campus.
However, once the season started, Sheperd hardly ever saw the field and was supplanted by Austin Hays as the "best freshman wideout."
Sheperd must show off his big-time skill set this spring and find a way to get more playing time in the fall.
The young man has prototypical size and is simply too good not to become a major factor for Mike Gundy's squad over the next two or three years.
With Broderick Brown graduating, the starting cornerback spot opposite Justin Gilbert is currently wide open for the Oklahoma State Cowboys.
There are probably three main guys contending for that spot: Ashton Lampkin, Kevin Peterson and Devin Hedgepeth.
Hedgepeth has been with the team the longest, but he's also had both of his last two seasons cut short due to injury.
That said, if he can stay healthy, this is probably his job to lose.
Lampkin and Peterson were both solid in 2012, with Lumpkin probably being the bigger playmaker and Peterson the better overall player.
Hedgepeth needs to have a big spring and put aside the injury concerns to insure that he's in the starting position on opening day.
As mentioned in the opening slide, Wes Lunt used an excellent spring training to help him become the first true freshman in quite some time to start opening day at quarterback for the Oklahoma State Cowboys.
Granted, it's still too early to tell if we can hand out the "injury-prone" label to Lunt and it's expected that someone so young would struggle in his first few road games.
That said, Lunt needs to show off that amazing arm of his this spring and find a way to win back the starting job from Clint Chelf.
Will he pull it off? I wouldn't bet against him; after all, he's already done it once.