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Coming in January: Early Enrollees Can Make a Big Impact in 2018

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Oklahoma State signed 22 players on the first day of the early signing period, meaning the 2018 class is mostly complete.

Of those signees, five are expected to enroll early in January and participate in spring ball — tight end Jake Ross, offensive lineman Hunter Anthony, safety Jarrick Bernard, linebacker Blake Barron and defensive back Sean Michael Flanagan.

While enrolling early isn’t a new thing, doing so could allow these five players to make a big impact, especially at positions of need for OSU.

Take offensive tackle Hunter Anthony for example. Offensive line is widely considered one of the most difficult positions to play, because of its complexities. The more time you have to prepare and learn an offense, the better the offensive line will be (a reason NFL offensive lines are so bad since they’ve reduced practice time).

Oklahoma State is losing five senior linemen, including three starters and one true backup.

POSITION Player 1 Player 2 Player 3
LT Cochran SR Galloway RS FR
LG Keyes RS SO Noel RS JR
OC Lundblade SR Wilson RS SO Schneider RS FR
RG Wilson RS SO Jenkins RS FR Galea’I RS JR
RT Crabtree RS SR Richards RS SR

Left tackle Aaron Cochran, center Brad Lundblade, and right tackle Zach Crabtree are all gone next season. Redshirt senior right tackle Larry Williams, who missed most of the season to injury, may be gone (unless he’s awarded a medical hardship waiver). That means coming into next season, OSU’s right side of the line will likely look completely different.

While it’s likely offensive line coach Josh Henson will move someone over, having Anthony come in early means he has the opportunity to fight for one of those open spots, and at worst, end up as the back-up at right tackle.

Then there’s defensive back Sean Michael Flanagan and safety Jerrick Bernard, two guys who play in the backfield, where the Cowboys are desperate for depth and talent.

POSITION Player 1 Player 2 Player 3
SS Richards SR Cook SO Z. Green RS SO
CB Green SO Kearse SR
CB Williams RS FR Curry RS SR Schneider RS FR
FS Flowers RS SR Morrow RS SR Mwaniki FR

Gone are both starting safeties Tre Flowers and Ramon Richards, as well as back-up safety Jerel Morrow. Gone are both back-up corners Darius Curry and Malik Kearse.

Green and Williams looked to be getting better as the season went on. That was until November, when it became obvious that the lack of talent behind them forced the coaching staff to keep both players on the field too long, thus wearing them out by the end of the year.

Flanagan — the third-highest ranked recruit in OSU’s 2018 class and a three- or four-star recruit, depending on the site — has the talent to come in and compete for a spot in the two-deep from Day 1 anyway. Now with the losses mentioned above, he’s likely to be called on early to make a significant contribution. Don’t be surprised if you see him starting at one of the two safety positions when the Cowboys take the field in August.

Bernard, a three-star recruit out of Louisiana, looks to be more of a project and I expect him to redshirt. However, coming in early gives him the chance to bulk up and start learning the system and maybe earn himself some playing time he wouldn’t have otherwise gotten.

Tight end Jake Ross comes into a position with four seniors next season.

  • Keenen Brown RS-Sr.
  • Luke Hupp RS-Sr.
  • Britton Abbott RS-Sr.
  • Sione Finefeuiaki Sr.

Behind them, will be two redshirt sophomores and two true sophomores. I’m of the opinion that in 2018 the Cowboy Back position will be used more like it was in 2016 than 2017 with more opportunities to be involved in the offense beyond blocking (the CW position totaled five catches for 64 yards this year compared to 30 catches for 459 yards and three touchdowns in 2016). So far, none of those players have risen up as a go-to target in the passing game.

Ross’ coaches raved about his hands and ability to catch the football, something the Cowboys could really use at the position.

Even linebacker Blake Barron, who plays a position that has depth, could find himself on the field with the Cowboys losing their top two middle linebackers in Chad Whitener and Gyasi Akem.

Obviously, there’s still a lot up in the air. Coming in early doesn’t guarantee anything. But it doesn’t hurt. We won’t know anything for sure until the coaching staff (and Coach Glass) get their hands on theses players and get them onto the practice field. But there’s a good chance these five early enrollees can make an impact next year, and their early arrival will help make that impact even bigger.

 

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