March 8, 2012
STILLWATER, Okla. - Fresh off winning the 2011 Big 12 Championship and the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, the Oklahoma State football team opens its eighth spring practice under reigning national coach of the year Mike Gundy on Monday.
The Pre-Spring Depth Chart paints a picture of quality experience and depth returning on defense, an offense that returns a host of familiar names up front and in the running game and a full complement of returners on special teams.
After several years without much question at the quarterback position, OSU is wide open this spring with junior Clint Chelf, redshirt freshman J.W. Walsh and true freshman Wes Lunt all displaying their wares in hopes of earning the top spot. Gundy has indicated that none of the three signal-callers has an inside track to the starting job.
Chelf is the only quarterback on the roster with game experience, having completed 34-of-49 career passes (.694 pct) for 520 yards and five touchdowns against only one interception. An Elite 11 quarterback coming out of Denton Guyer HS, Walsh redshirted last season and learned the system under coach Todd Monken and departed senior Brandon Weeden. Lunt was the best high school quarterback in the state of Illinois last fall playing in spread attack similar to OSU's. He graduated early in order to participate in spring drills with the Cowboys and have this opportunity.
OSU lost consensus All-American Levy Adcock and 2011 Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year Grant Garner off last year's team, but is still in good shape up front with Jonathan Rush back for a sixth year and Lane Taylor back for his fourth year as a starter. Those two will likely hold down the guard spots, with Michael Bowie, Devin Davis, Parker Graham and Daniel Koenig all capable weapons at tackle. With Garner no longer in the fold, Evan Epstein, Jake Jenkins and Travis Cross will all bid for the starting spot at center. As is customary under offensive line coach Joe Wickline, there should be a good deal of shuffling on the line in order to get the five best players on the field.
The Cowboy backfield remains intact with perhaps the Big 12's best one-two punch in juniors Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith at running back and Kye Staley and David Paulsen back at fullback. Randle rushed for 1,248 yards a year ago and was among the national leaders with 26 touchdowns scored. Smith is a big-play threat in the running game as well, rushing for more than seven yards per carry last season and scoring nine touchdowns of his own.
With two-time Biletnikoff Award winner Justin Blackmon gone, replacing the best receiver in the nation will be no small task, but Tracy Moore, Isaiah Anderson and Josh Stewart are all proven playmakers in the passing game. They will be joined by newcomer Blake Jackson, who has drawn comparisons to New England Patriots standout Aaron Hernandez by both the Oklahoma State coaching staff and his previous coaches at Scottsdale CC.
Familiar name after familiar name returns on the defensive side of the ball from a unit that led the nation in turnovers a year ago. By looking at the depth chart, the Cowboys go three deep at nine of the 11 spots.
The linebacking corps of Shaun Lewis, Caleb Lavey and Alex Elkins and the cornerback group of Brodrick Brown and Justin Gilbert represents a large group of playmakers back for OSU. The leading tackler from 2011 returns in safety Daytawion Lowe. The coaching staff has been particularly high on Elkins, praising his athleticism and mental development in the system from the time he arrived until now.
Up front, the Cowboys boast seven players on the depth chart who have seen a good deal of meaningful game action, led by defensive ends Nigel Nicholas and Cooper Bassett and defensive tackles Anthony Rogers and Christian Littlehead.
As usual, OSU will be strong in the kicking game, with perhaps the nation's best special teams player in punter-kicker-kickoff specialist Quinn Sharp back for his senior year and return men Justin Gilbert and Josh Stewart still in the mix. A 2010 All-America punter by the Football Writers Association of America and a 2011 All-America kicker by the same organization, Sharp is one of only three players ever to earn FWAA All-America honors at two different positions, joining kicker-punter Louie Sakoda of Utah and running back-return man Reggie Bush of USC.