5 Thoughts: Recapping Spring Football at Oklahoma State

first_imgThere isn’t one outstanding headline decisions heading into fall camp and the 2017 season for the Oklahoma State football team, but there are several key secondary decisions that have potential to have major impacts on the product we see next season.Here are five of them:1. Backup Running Back Could be More Important Than You ThinkThe Cowboys are one Justice Hill injury away from becoming an extremely one-dimensional offense, unless a backup running back separates himself from the rest.Two more backs are heading to Stillwater this summer — Chubba Hubbard and JD King — but in watching spring practices and covering the spring game, Jeff Carr didn’t blow away his competition. And that was disappointing given he was up against three scout teamers.It’s not breaking news that a good run game can set up a passing attack. Last year, Mason Rudolph seemed at his best every time Chris Carson was. Defenses knew they had to respect Hill’s explosiveness, but Carson added a bit of deception. Whether that was because he had underperformed at OSU since he arrived or because he provided that drastic change in power and style, it will be much easier for defenses to prepare for Rudolph and Hill if no one else in the backfield demands attention.My guess is that Hubbard will be the No. 2 and King will serve as a third-down back from time to time.2. Second Cornerback Remains a MysteryThe Adrian Baker commitment was possibly the most important news to come out of spring practice, but the most vital item in the fall should be who will play opposite him.Much like the backup running back story, none of the cornerbacks pulled away as the favorite to land that second starting spot on the defense. At times, redshirt senior Darius Curry looked better than usual. At others, it was redshirt freshman Rodarius Williams. Then sophomore A.J. Green. It was never clear.OSU signed just one corner in the 2017 class. Lamarcus Morton came in as an early enrollee, but he didn’t catch my attention, and I would expect him to be redshirted given the surplus of underclassmen at the position.The moves of Ramon Richards to safety and Kenneth Edison-McGruder to linebacker appeared smart when they were announced, but I’m afraid they will cause more problems than solve.With that, I project Curry will begin the season as the game 1 starter, but by week 4 or 5, Richards will be back at corner and Edison-McGruder back at safety.3. Receiver Rotation Will Go One of Two WaysEither Marcell Ateman, Chris Lacy and Tyron Johnson will each have 30+ catches in 2017, or at least one of those guys will have their feelings hurt.There are only so many catches to go around. Last year, Rudolph completed 284 passes. That number will probably rise to at least 300. James Washington will grab about 70. Jalen McCleskey will have another 70ish.That leaves about 160 for Ateman, Lacy, Johnson and the inside receivers and the running backs and the cowboy backs.Coach Mike Gundy has said that Ateman and Lacy will split time, each playing about 40 snaps, which leaves Johnson to back Washington. With that depth chart, 30 each is possible but unlikely. In 2016, only Washington, McCleskey, Lacy and Jhajuan Seales had 30 grabs. Add in another top receiver, Dillon Stoner, Tylan Wallace and the other freshmen, Rudolph might need to throw a pair of balls every down.4. The Future at Quarterback is Extra UncertainThe orange team quarterbacks went 19-for-28 with 298 yards and two passing touchdowns.The black team quarterbacks went 2-of-10 for 13 yards and two interceptions. Together, they have 11 years of eligibility left. The orange teamers have seven, and four of those are for a walk-on freshman named Josh Green.It’s not even close to time to turn the page and cut the losses, but it’s time for concern. Keondre Wudtee could potentially (though unlikely) be Rudolph’s backup, and he looked like a deer in the crosshairs during almost every play of the Cowboys’ spring game.OSU already has its 2018 quarterback commit in Denton Ryan’s Spencer Sanders and recently hosted Houston-born ’19er Grant Gunnell, who said the Cowboys had the “best visit.” But will Gundy start a freshman again? That’s only one of about 38 unanswered questions at the No. 2, 3, 4 and 5 quarterback spots.5. Mason Rudolph Could Win the Heisman if Everyone Else Does Their JobThe not-so-passive-aggressive campaigning has already begun for Rudolph’s Heisman candidacy, but attention needs to be dispersed.Rudolph will be Rudolph. He will deliver beautiful deep balls, find McCleskey across the middle and pull it down from time to time on third-and-2. But Rudolph can only go from a possible candidate to legitimate candidate if the offensive line improves, the running backs provide that extra dimension, the receivers are as advertised and the defense can hold it together.The last true pocket passer to win the Heisman Trophy was Jameis Winston in 2013. He threw for more than 4,000 yards with 40 touchdowns, 10 picks and (most important) an undefeated championship-winning season.Rudolph’s yardage was over 4,000 last year. He had 26 touchdowns with only four interceptions, but the Cowboys lost three (yes, three) games last year. No, OSU doesn’t have to win a national championship for Rudolph to win the Heisman, but it’s probably realistic to think that the Cowboys need to contend for the College Football Playoff if he will have a viable shot.And that’s only possible if everyone not named Rudolph plays like their own Heisman candidacy is on the line. (Also if Rudolph learns to get his short game figured out.) While you’re here, we’d like you to consider subscribing to Pistols Firing and becoming a PFB+ member. It’s a big ask from us to you, but it also comes with a load of benefits like ad-free browsing (ads stink!), access to our premium room in The Chamber and monthly giveaways.The other thing it does is help stabilize our business into the future. As it turns out, sending folks on the road to cover games and provide 24/7 Pokes coverage like the excellent article you just read costs money. 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