Oklahoma State Football: 5 Cowboys with Something to Prove in Spring Practice
With the excitement of National Signing Day officially out of the way, it's time for the Oklahoma State Cowboys and their fans to begin looking toward spring practices.
For the third year running, there will be a significant battle at the quarterback position; however, many other spots across the field should see players slugging it out for playing time as the Pokes try to replace quite a few starters on both sides of the ball.
Obviously, every single young man will be trying to make their case this spring, but the following five players must prove to the coaches that they have what it takes to make strides in 2014.
Austin Hays, WR
The Oklahoma State Cowboys regularly boast one of the deepest wide receiver corps in the Big 12, if not the nation, and 2014 will be no different.
Austin Hays is one of those talented receivers. However, after a promising freshman campaign, the young wideout missed most of last season due to injury. In his absence, guys like Marcell Ateman and Jhajuan Seales stepped up to take his place.
Hays must come into the spring healthy and prove he's ready to take the next step and build upon his freshman season. If he can do that, the Oklahoma State Cowboys' receiver corps will be that much more dangerous.
Kevin Peterson/Ashton Lampkin, CB
Oklahoma State lost both Justin Gilbert and Tyler Patmon to graduation this offseason, giving the team a massive void at the cornerback position.
Obviously, replacing a potential top-10 NFL draft pick in Gilbert is going to be difficult, but the Pokes might have a few guys who can make the transition easier than one might think.
Kevin Peterson and Ashton Lampkin have both played significant minutes over their past two seasons. With that said, neither have been the No. 1 guy in the secondary.
This spring should go a long way toward showing if these two cornerbacks have what it takes to replace a stud like Gilbert.
Tyreek Hill, RB/WR
Tyreek Hill comes into Oklahoma State as quite possibly the fastest guy to ever step onto the field at T. Boone Pickens Stadium
That means Hill could see immediate playing time for the Pokes at multiple positions. You just can't keep speed like that on the sideline.
However, it will be important for head coach Mike Gundy and his staff to determine just where they'll insert Hill into the lineup. He could come out the backfield, play the slot, or return kicks; heck, he will probably do all three of those things at some point.
Either way, it'll be interesting to see what happens with this talented young man during his first semester on campus.
Ryan Simmons/Demarcus Sherod, LB
You've probably noticed a recurring theme throughout this slideshow that several Oklahoma State players are being tipped to step up and fill spots vacated during the substantial loss of talent this off-season.
Both Shaun Lewis and Caleb Lavey were major contributors last season and will be hard to replace.
However, Demarcus Sherod and Ryan Simmons will definitely try. Simmons has more experience at the position, given that he played significant minutes last season. Sherod, on the other hand, didn't see the field much, but has the skills to man the middle and take Lavey's place.
Sherod and Simmons must prove that they have what it takes to become defensive leaders in 2014. It will be tough, but these young men seem to have what it takes.
J.W. Walsh, QB
Finally, we have the interesting case of J.W. Walsh. Before injury, Walsh was a quality playmaker in 2012 after starter Wes Lunt went down with injury. And then in 2013, Lunt left Oklahoma State and Walsh found himself in a quarterback battle against Clint Chelf.
Ultimately, Chelf would win that battle, but Walsh replaced him a few possessions into last season and was the starter for a few weeks. However, the offense never really clicked and Walsh was replaced by Chelf, leading to a string of wins that almost saw Oklahoma State win the Big 12.
Now, Walsh has yet another quarterback battle in front of him as freshman phenom Mason Rudolph is on campus early and will attempt to push Walsh for reps with the No. 1 offense.
Walsh will have to prove himself yet again and show the coaching staff that he has what it takes to be the Oklahoma State starting quarterback for the entirety of the 2014-15 season.