At this time last year, when student athletes across the country were pouring into their schools and preparing for fall football practice to begin, the Oklahoma State Cowboys were little more than a laughing stock in the Big 12.
But after a season that all Cowboy fans will remember, their name Oklahoma State puts fear in the minds of coaches nation-wide.
Oklahoma State roared into the national spotlight last season thanks to the efforts of quarterback Brandon Weeden and Biletnikoff Award winner Justin Blackmon, offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen, and an overachieving defense.
Though the Cowboys fell to the Nebraska Cornhuskers (now of the Big Ten) and Bedlam rival Oklahoma, they still produced a historic year finishing 11-2 on the season.
Now the Cowboys enter the season with a No. 8 ranking, a nightmare inducing tandem at quarterback and receiver, and an athletic secondary.
Yes, I did say an athletic secondary. The strength of the Oklahoma State defense will fall upon the shoulders of senior safeties Johnny Thomas and Markelle Martin, senior cornerback Brodrick Brown and sophomore linebacker Shaun Lewis.
The Cowboys seem poised to take a run at a BCS bowl game, but to do so they'll have to find a way to survive a loaded Big 12.
The Cowboys are chasing the likes of their nationally top-ranked rival Oklahoma, and are being chased by Texas A&M, Texas and Missouri. Also don't forget about Baylor with star quarterback Robert Griffin, and the Texas Tech Red Raiders.
Gundy has all the tools he needs offensively to make a run at not only a conference title but the national title, even with the addition of Todd Monken at offensive coordinator to replace Holgorsen.
But for the Cowboys to stand any realistic chance, their defense will have to grow up and do so quickly. The secondary for the Cowboys is the only area with any experience, with a young linebacking core and a young defensive line.
Defensive ends Richetti Jones and Jamie Blatnick are the only seniors on the entire defensive line and have the most experience. However, what the Cowboys do have now is depth and talent, something they have lacked historically.
Defensively, the Cowboys must grow up and quickly or else the pressure on the offense will grow substantially. Luckily they have more than just Blackmon and Weeden.
Alongside Blackmon in the receiving core are seniors Josh Cooper and Hubert Anyiam, juniors Tracy Moore and Isaiah Anderson, and sophomore Michael Harrison. Also junior tight end Justin Horton and senior Wilson Youman will be featured in the receiving core as well.
Also, even with the lose of All-American running back Kendall Hunter, the Cowboys (who have consistently produced quality running backs) return with two potential stars.
Sophomores Jeremy Smith and Joseph Randle both are poised and capable of replacing the hole that Hunter left behind. The Cowboys also have freshman Herschel Sims to compete for playing time this season as well.
All together, the Cowboys look extremely dangerous offensively and should cause a majority of their opponents' defensive coordinators to have sleepless nights. But for the Cowboys to truly stand a chance at a BCS game, it all falls upon the young shoulders of their defense.
The Cowboys can only go so far behind the talent of Blackmon and Weeden. The dynamic duo needs some help, and it has to come from the defense.
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