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Breakout Star? Comeback Kid? A Superlatives Preview of the 2018 Season



As we cast our eyes forward across another football season, the horizon is much more hazy than in recent years.

The ceiling for OSU’s 2018 team isn’t quite as high  — and its ground floor is undoubtedly lower — than when Mason Rudolph and James Washington were starring in OSU’s high-flying offensive act.

But the unknown is sometimes more fun than the known, or at least that’s what we tell ourselves when we have no say in the matter. So here are some things that I think I know about the Cowboy’s upcoming season.

Breakout Guy: Chuba Hubbard (RB)

Hubbard came to Stillwater with world-class speed, but now he’s turned himself into a football player after putting on nearly 20 pounds and growing accustomed to the Division I level.

“I think Chuba has improved the most of the running backs,” Justice Hill said at Big 12 Media Days. “He came in and wasn’t the strongest guy, I mean he was always fast, but he was more of a track guy when he came in. Now he’s more of a football guy. He’s put on a lot of weight and he’s strong and he’s still fast.”

Don’t bother me with the fact that he currently shares an or at RB3 on OSU’s depth chart, or that he’s not listed on the two-deep for either returner spot. Chuba will be unleashed on the Big 12 this year. I’ve never been more sure of anything since I predicted Tyron would earn all-conference honors in 2017.

Comeback Kid: Kevin Henry (LB)

Henry played in every game as a redshirt freshman in 2016 and was penciled in the two-deep at the start of his sophomore season before a knee injury in between Games 1 and 2 ended his 2017 campaign. But Henry is healthy now and seems poised to make an impact at weak-side linebacker behind Calvin Bundage and Devin Harper.

Justin Phillips, now the starting middle linebacker, had Henry as an understudy at the Will position through last season.

“Kevin, he’s the same dude,” Phillips said in an article by The Oklahoman. “He’s quick off the ball. He reads and reacts so well that it allows him to make plays. I’m just happy he’s healthy again.”

That speed and those instincts should serve him well in OSU’s new aggressive defensive scheme.

Rising Star: Tylan Wallace (WR)

Wallace was OSU’s highest-rated freshman receiver since Dez Bryant. I still don’t know if any of us truly comprehend that statement. His obvious talent allowed him to see time as a true freshman even among a stacked receiver corps the likes most D-I coaches would kill for.

Now with a couple of NFL draft picks departed, Wallace is set to start for the Cowboys. He has the athleticism, speed and ball skills to line up anywhere on the field. Wallace has next-level potential and he might just be the best receiver currently on the roster.

Don’t Forget about: Brock Martin (DE)

At this time last year we were hearing about this true freshman from Oologah that was already turning heads — on the defensive line. That doesn’t happen often, especially in Stillwater. And it doesn’t happen with someone who came out of high school at 6-3 and 210 pounds.

An already deep group ahead of him and a season-ending shoulder surgery relegated Martin to a redshirt year. In the mean time, his work ethic is apparently second to none and the now 242-pound edge rusher is ready to elbow his way into the rotation.

This past spring, Justice Hill talked about Martin, who has earned a reputation as a tough tackler.

“Brock always made plays since he got here back in the fall,” Hill said. “He wound up redshirting, but I really thought he was gonna play. I’m pretty sure he’s hungry to get back out there after his surgeries.”

Needs to rebound: Cowboy backs

I’m going with the position group as a whole. I wouldn’t say that either Britton Abbott’s or Sione Finefeuiaki’s performances were sub par last season. But the group as a whole could offer so much more to the offense with a featured pass-catching tight end, a la Blake Jarwin.

If you would have asked me a couple of months ago, I would have thrown out names like like NEO transfer Jake Ross and redshirt freshman Baron Odom. Both are still very much in the picture, but the depth chart OSU released last week has a starting spot filled by walk-on Logan Carter from Henrietta, Oklahoma or QB-turned-Cowboy back Jelani Woods.

We are familiar with Woods and what his size and athleticism could bring. Carter is a converted defensive lineman who has apparently turned some heads in camp. Whoever earns the lion’s share of reps, a featured weapon in the passing game could be huge for Taylor Cornelius as he gets comfortable in the captain’s chair.

Dark horse: Enoch Smith Jr. (DT)

The former Michigan State defensive tackle took a year off of football before settling in Stillwater prior to last season. Once he got to OSU he was productive, grabbing 2.5 sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss in a reserve role.

With the Cowboys needing to replace the production of DeQuinton Osborne, Smith could be the man. He possesses the right amount of strength and athleticism to be that type of game-changer in the middle.

Under the Radar: Mike Scott (DE)

His conversion from Michael to Mike notwithstanding, I am excited to see what Scott can bring to the Cowboys defensive end rotation. He’s currently listed as an alternate with Martin for the No. 2 spot behind Jordan Brailford at defensive end.

Scott also played wide receiver in high school and can use that type of athleticism to get into opposing backfields. He played four games at SMU before transferring to Trinity Valley Community College where he thrived in one year.

During his time in Stillwater, Scott has quickly moved up the depth chart in a deep D-Line group and could be the next playmaker to come out of no where for OSU.


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