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Five Players Who Need to Step up Big for Oklahoma State in 2017

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We’ve spent a lot of time this offseason talking about why Oklahoma State could win the Big 12 and potentially reach the College Football Playoff. We know what to expect from Mason Rudolph, James Washington and Justice Hill. But there are plenty of others who have yet to prove themselves.

For any team to reach its potential, some “other guys” are going to have to step up. For this team to realize its potential, there will have to be one or two unknown players step forward to carve their names onto Lewis Field.

Let’s break down the five guys who, if they have a big impact this season, will help the Cowboys reach their goals of a Big 12 title and more.

5. Matt Ammendola – Kicker

[PFB]

Regardless of your personal feelings about Ben Grogan, he was the all-time leading scorer at Oklahoma State for a reason. And he will be missed.

His probable successor stands 5-foot-9 and goes by the nickname “Philly.” His first (and only) field goal attempt tied for the fourth-longest made at Oklahoma State, but he’s had some difficulties with consistency.

With Oklahoma State expected to be ready to claim that second Big 12 title, can it really rely on a walk-on kicker with only one kick to his name? Whoever handles kicking duties for the Cowboys is going to get a lot of opportunities to put up points. Ammendola, if he is the man, had better be up to the task of at least being close to Grogan’s level.

We know he can nail 50+ yarders, but the fact that Oklahoma State still hasn’t named him the starter makes me wonder. Ammedola has the leg strength to win the job. But all the strength in the world doesn’t matter if you can’t put it between the uprights.

OSU expects to score a lot of touchdowns. When Rudolph and Co. can’t quite reach the end zone, they’re going to need to know they have a kicker they can rely on. Ammendola needs to step up and be that kicker.

4. Darrion Daniels – Defensive Tackle

[PFB]

I feel like I’ve been hearing about how great Daniels is going to be for four years. Year three is often when the best players at OSU take a major step forward. If Daniels is going to become the player everyone has raved about, now is his chance.

Daniels should get one of the starting spots at defensive tackle and be expected to replace the productivity of Vincent Taylor. Daniels, who backed up Taylor last season, is OSU’s leading returning DT despite only having 15 tackles in 13 games last season.

Taylor had 51 including 13 tackles for a loss. Those are some big shoes to fill and if OSU is going to have an historic season, Daniels is going to have to fill them.

3. La’Darren Brown – Running Back

[PFB]

A backup running back still hasn’t been decided. Redshirt freshman La’Darren Brown could be that back. We all know Justice Hill will be great, but he can’t do it alone. Someone has to be the Robin to his Batman, like Carson was last year.

From a couple of statements by Gundy on Saturday, it doesn’t sound like Carr is going to be number two. That means a freshman, true or redshirt, will be holding down the back-up running back position for the next season. It would best if the second best guy on the roster was one who has already spent at least a year in the system. Enter LD Brown who is entering his second year in Stillwater.

He looked good during the Spring Game, and will likely get carries this season whether he’s the No. 2 or not. But what the team really needs is to let the two incoming freshmen redshirt. That means one of the two redshirt-freshmen would be taking the back-up spot. If OSU is going to hit its apex on offense it will need a dynamic option No. 2.¬†They need Brown to be that guy.

2. A.J. Green – Cornerback

[A.J. Green, Bryce Balous and Rodarius Williams. PFB]

We talk a lot about Clemson graduate transfer cornerback Adrian Baker, and rightfully so. The experience he brings having started on a championship caliber team at Clemson is invaluable.

But while one side of the field may be locked down with Baker, there is still another side.

A.J. Green is expected to be named the starting corner opposite Baker. Talk about a lot of pressure. Especially early in the season, you can bet teams are going to test Green and test him often, throwing their best receivers to that side of the field and throwing his direction.

Green is going to have to be ready. Especially if the worst-case scenario happens, Baker not living up to expectations.

1. Ramon Richards – Safety

(USATSI)

Of course Richards is on this list and of course he’s number one.

The decision to move him to safety is an interesting one on OSU’s part. Whether they’re confident in the decision or not, Richards had better be ready to make it a winning one.

Oklahoma State’s crop of safeties is young so they moved Richards over, hoping his style of play would better fit the position. It left the cornerbacks at a disadvantage. Yes, Baker should help, but this move was a huge gamble for two positions on the field (although they can hedge because they have enough depth at safety to just move him back to CB).

Setting the cornerback position aside, this move has to work at safety. If Richards lets guys by him like has done in the past at corner, it’s going to be a long year. If this move works, and Richards has finally found the perfect home on the field, he will end up being one of the most important players on the roster. To be honest, I’d be happy if it landed somewhere in the middle.

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