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Fleming: Five Questions for Oklahoma State Football in 2019

Who backs up Chuba? and other big questions for next season.

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It’s too early to start giving in-depth coverage to the Cowboys’ upcoming football season with this one not yet complete, but there are multiple question marks regarding the 2019 season, especially in light of many recent developments.

Here are my five major questions for the Cowboys headed into next season.

1. Who will take over the backup running back spot?

With the departure of Justice Hill and J.D. King, one of the Cowboys’ deepest offensive position groups is suddenly not nearly as strong. Chuba Hubbard has all but sealed his starting spot, but who will be the No. 2 and No. 3 backs behind him? The Cowboys landed junior college bruiser Dezmon Jackson, which will boost a stable that includes LD Brown and rising sophomore Jahmyl Jeter.

2. Will the defensive line find a way to produce?

The Cowboys lose Jarrell Owens, Cole Walterscheid, Enoch Smith Jr. and Trey Carter to graduation. Junior Jordan Brailford is headed to the NFL draft, and Darrion Daniels appears to have played his last game at OSU, leaving the defensive line without any returning starters for 2019. Cameron Murray and Brandon Evers in the interior and Mike Scott and Brock Martin as the Cowboys’ returning players. Brailford was able to have a career year in defensive coordinator Jim Knowles’ system, but will someone be able to produce in a similar role, or will the Cowboys’ pass rush take a step back after this season?

3. What will the role of the Cowboy Back look like?

Here’s yet another position that has to find replacements, as Sione Finefeuiaki and Britton Abbott are both gone, leaving former quarterback Jelani Woods as the returning player with the most experience. Woods has proven the ability to be a downfield passing threat, and with redshirt freshman Baron Odom likely to compete for time, the position could have more of a pass-catching threat in 2019. But that doesn’t mean the position won’t be used in the run game, as Jake Ross and Logan Carter will both compete as a primary blocking back.

4. What will the offense look like in 2019?

Mike Yurcich spread the field horizontally through formations and spacing more than he ever has at OSU in 2018, specifically in the back half of the year with the use of more 10 personnel formations. The Cowboys’ spread attack was able to gash teams like West Virginia on the ground by facing light five and six-man boxes, and the quarterback got more involved in the run game as the season went on.

Will the Pokes incorporate this philosophy into 2019, or will they go back to their two-back pro-style philosophy of the past, using the Cowboy Back in the backfield on more plays and increasing the use of three-receiver sets? Additionally, what will it look like if Yurcich decides to leave for another job and Mike Gundy has to find a new offensive coordinator? Recent reports have Yurcich denying the claims of his move to Tennessee, but others suggest he is the frontrunner.

5. Will the Cowboys rebuild or contend in 2019?

The Cowboys have a lot going for them in 2019. The possibility of an electric young quarterback-running back duo at the helm, the return of a strong receiving corps, and a favorable conference schedule set up the team for a chance to contend for the conference title.

But the Pokes also have a ton of question marks at a number of positions, as highlighted above. Will the defense play well enough to keep the Cowboys in games? Will Spencer Sanders, if he were to start, live up to the hype? And will the team be able to find adequate replacements for the bevy of transfers exiting the program? Obviously, these questions won’t be answered for a long while, but the Pokes enter 2019 with both uncertainty and a cautious optimism.

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