Oklahoma State Football: 5 Most Important Spring Practice Position Battles

Ricky FrechCorrespondent IMarch 11, 2013

Oklahoma State Football: 5 Most Important Spring Practice Position Battles

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    The Oklahoma State Cowboys spring practices begin this week, which means that head coach Mike Gundy and his staff are about to begin the process of evaluating their team for the upcoming season.

    This is, arguably, the program's most important time, as what happens over the next few weeks will shape the team into what it's going to be in 2013.

    That means players will be battling it out, trying to make a case for why they should be a starting player for the Pokes.

    Every position is important, but here are five critical battles that will be talked about the most during spring practices.

Defensive End

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    Players in the Mix: Tyler Johnson, Sam Wren, Trace Clark, Naim Mustafaa, Jimmy Bean

    The Oklahoma State Cowboys lost defensive ends Nigel Nicholas, Cooper Bassett and Ryan Robinson this offseason, all whom played a major role for the Pokes last year.

    This means that defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer is going to have to replace both starting ends, largely with untested players.

    Tyler Johnson is the one exception, as he earned quite a bit of playing time in 2012 due to his ability to get after the quarterback. Johnson should occupy one of the starting spots, but the other side of the line is still up for grabs.

    At this point, Sam Wren and Trace Clark are the two most likely names.

    Clark saw some action last year, and seems to have the coaches behind him.

    Wren, on the other hand, was a force at the junior college level as a pass-rusher; something he should continue to be for the Cowboys. 

    Look for both to earn significant time, but Wren to ultimately earn the starting position opposite Johnson.

Wide Receiver

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    Players in the Mix: Josh Stewart, Tracy Moore, Charlie Moore, Blake Jackson, Austin Hays, Marcell Ateman, Ra'Shaad Samples and many more.

    Depth at wide receiver is something the Oklahoma State Cowboys almost never have to worry about. In fact, this might be the deepest wide receiver corps in the nation.

    That's obviously a blessing, but it can also be kind of a curse because super talented guys might never get to see the field.

    The starters are pretty much locked in at this point, as guys like Josh Stewart, Tracy Moore and Charlie Moore are just too good and too proven to be overtaken by any newcomers.

    However, after the first three or four guys, it begins to get interesting for the Pokes.

    Will Austin Hays continue to be a factor after a solid freshman season?

    What about guys like Brandon Sheperd? A big-time recruit that has yet to see substantial playing time. Can he get on the field more often after a year in the program?

    And then there's the highly touted incoming freshmen. Will any of them be able to force their way into the lineup?

    All these questions will be answered during the next few weeks. But one thing is certain, Oklahoma State is anything but lacking for quality receivers.

Middle Linebacker

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    Players in the Mix: DeMarcus Sherod, Lyndell Johnson, Ryan Simmons

    Oklahoma State Cowboys longtime starting middle linebacker Alex Elkins has graduated, making his position an important one for the Pokes during the offseason.

    All three of the players in the mix for Elkins' spot saw action last season. However, it's DeMarcus Sherod who will likely become the starter. Sherod lacks the explosiveness of Lyndell Johnson and Ryan Simmons, but makes up for with his steady presence in the middle and ability to stop the run.

    Johnson and Simmons are still going to factor heavily into the defensive game plan as guys who get after the quarterback; they just won't be in on almost every single possession.

    That will be Sherod, who, with a solid spring, should join Shaun Lewis and Caleb Lavey in the starting lineup.


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    Players in the Mix: Devin Hedgepeth, Kevin Peterson, Ashton Lampkin

    Justin Gilbert already has one of the starting cornerback positions locked up, which shouldn't be news, considering he's been there for the past two years.

    Behind him, the Oklahoma State Cowboys are a little bit of a question mark due to Broderick Brown's graduation.

    Devin Hedgepeth has been in the system the longest but has also had problems with injuries. Those same injuries opened the door for both Kevin Peterson and Ashton Lampkin to get significant playing time in 2012. 

    This is going to be the most hotly contested position battle of the spring, as all three have legitimate claims to earn a spot opposite Gilbert.

    Currently, the edge goes to Hedgepeth because he knows the system better than the other two, which could be of even more importance than usual as the Pokes just lost their cornerbacks coach.

    However, don't be surprised to see either of the young guys step up and take the job away from him.


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    Players in the Mix: Clint Chelf, Wes Lunt, J.W. Walsh

    The second starting cornerback position might be the most tightly contested battle this spring, but you can rest assured that the starting quarterback battle is going to be the most talked about.

    The Oklahoma State Cowboys have three players who could all easily be starting quarterbacks in Division I football, which means that head coach Mike Gundy and offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich have a tough decision in front of them.

    Obviously, this is a problem that any program would gladly have, but it's a problem nonetheless.

    Wes Lunt won this very same battle last spring. However, his performance during the season left some questioning his durability, as well as his mental toughness on the road.

    Clint Chelf looks to be ever so slightly in the lead right now, as he put on a masterful performance in the Cowboys' bowl game.

    J.W. Walsh seems to be constantly lost in the mix, which is surprising given his amazing performance against the Texas Longhorns.

    In the end, this is a battle that we can't really predict heading into the spring.

    Any of these guys could step up and win the job. But if you want a prediction, I'd say that Chelf will win the job, while Walsh continues to play a large part in the team's red-zone offense.