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Boone: Five Storylines I’m Watching as Fall Camp Gets Underway for OSU Football

Fall training camp officially gets underway on Wednesday.

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Devin Wilber/PFB

Fall training camp gets underway in earnest on Wednesday as Oklahoma State kicks off its run-up to the 2022 football season, leaving us with many, many points of mystery and intrigue about how this team will fare coming off a 12-2 season. Questions about this iteration of the team will be answered in the coming weeks as the Pokes prepare for the season, of course, but there are many unanswered as camp gets underway.

Here are some of the key storylines I’ll be watching.

1. Who emerges at RB?

No Jaylen Warren, no Dezmon Jackson, no LD Brown. So who steps up in the OSU backfield?

The expectation is that it’s a mix of players in some sort of committee led by veteran Dominic Richardson. But which players emerge in that committee remains a larger question. True freshmen (and former four-star recruits) Ollie Gordon and CJ Brown look plenty capable, but they face stiff competition with Texas A&M transfer Deondre Jackson, who has already been turning heads since arriving on campus earlier this year, as well as from 2021 signee and speedster Jaden Nixon.

2. Spencer Sanders’ development

Spencer Sanders was a big reason why OSU made it to 12 wins last season and was within inches of winning the Big 12 championship. He was, unfortunately, also a contributing factor to why the Pokes struggled in their eventual loss to Baylor in the conference title game, as he tossed several untimely picks.

Being more consistent will be key for Sanders to take his game to the next level. Cutting down on mistakes and not compounding them is vital. It’s a high bar to clear, jumping from really good to great — remember, he was an All-Big 12 QB last year, so he’s already a star at his position — but he holds the keys to unlocking OSU’s title-winning potential. A tiny step forward could do wonders for the team as a whole.

“Spencer is very relaxed now. I watched him a little bit today, he’s very confident in himself,” Mike Gundy said at Big 12 Media Days. “He’s been around five years — maturity, you get better at doing the things. I think that it’s human nature for players, they’re performers. They want the fans, they want the media to think that they’re doing a good job, and I think that he’s starting to get a little credit for what he’s accomplished, and I think that’s helped him with his comfort.”

3. The young receivers

Like the running back position, OSU lost its biggest producer at receiver — Tay Martin — but has an embarrassment of riches in talent at the position waiting in the wings and ready to step up.

Veteran Brennan Presley is the most logical pick to make a leap into WR1 territory, but out of the slot his overall damage in terms of total yards may not be as significant as one of the unknowns on the outside. Jaden Bray, Rashod Owens and Braydon Johnson should all be considered legitimate factors in the mix to take over as top-two options in this passing attack.

4. Replacing Jim Knowles

Oklahoma State had its best defense in school history a season ago before ultimately losing its mastermind, Jim Knowles, to a higher bid and Ohio State. But former Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason has stepped right in to quarterback the defense running a similar system with no major changes. So far, so good.

“So far it’s been pretty smooth,” Brock Martin said at Big 12 Media Days. “You know, Mason and Knowles kind of come from the same coaching tree. It’s all a lot similar stuff, you know, we’ll watch the stuff that he did at Auburn and it looks really similar to what we did at Oklahoma State last year. So, the words are probably different, some coverages might be different in some certain situations, but there’s really no major changes. So, I mean, it’s made for an easy transition.”

5. How good is Kendal Daniels?

The highest-ranked player in OSU’s 2021 recruiting class — a former four-star and former Texas A&M commit — enters his second season in the program set to potentially take over a starting role at safety. With Tre Sterling and KHP gone, his emergence in the secondary is one of the most important storylines for OSU’s revamped defense. He has great size, good coverage skills and an NFL body. He’ll need to put it all together to produce, but the talent, according to well-placed moles in Stillwater, has been evident from the onset of his arrival. Very excited to see what he and the rest of the secondary can do in 2022 after an historic 2021 run.

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