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Four Potential Breakout Players to Watch This Spring

Four guys to keep an eye on.



[Devin Wilber/PFB]

Every spring camp, murmurs start to fill the warming Stillwater air of under-the-radar players who have looked impressive.

This spring will likely be no different. Oklahoma State starts its spring practice Tuesday. Here are four players with potential breakout status.

Disclaimer: Just about every transfer could be on this list. Although I do mention a few, guys like Anthony Goodlow, Justin Wright, Leon Johnson III, Arland Bruce IV and Alan Bowman could all be here, but I didn’t want this to look solely like a transfer portal recap. I also tried to stay away from guys like Ollie Gordon, who the Oklahoma State fanbase is well aware of at this point.

1. De’Zhaun Stribling, Wide Receiver

De’Zhaun Stribling comes to OSU after leading Washington State in receiving yards (602) and receiving touchdowns (five) in 2022, and he enters at a good time with the Cowboys having lost four of their top five receivers in terms of yards from 2022.

Listed at 6-foot-3, 205 pounds, Stribling is one of the more physically imposing receivers on the Cowboys’ roster. It’s hard to not draw comparisons between Stribling and Tay Martin, who also transferred to OSU from Washington State. But for a frame of reference, Martin was listed at 6-3, 186 pounds — 19 pounds lighter than Stribling — on the 2021 roster.

It took Martin a year to become the guy in Oklahoma State’s offense, giving way to Tylan Wallace in 2020 before jumping up and leading the Cowboys with 1,046 receiving yards and 10 touchdown catches in 2021. But with the void left in OSU’s roster because of the transfer portal, maybe Stribling, a junior, gets going a little quicker.

Stribling will have some help on the outside. Blaine Green and Jaden Bray dealt with injuries last season after impressing as freshmen. And OSU also brings in Division-III transfer Leon Johnson III, who could also very easily be on this list of potential breakout players.

2. Lyrik Rawls, Safety

Lyrik Rawls has been a part of some deep safety rooms in his first two seasons of college football, but if the Guaranteed Rate Bowl was anything to go off, 2023 could be his year.

Rawls had a strip sack against Wisconsin in the bowl game and made a big play on the edge to force a fourth down after that. He finished that game with five tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and the sack, finishing his redshirt freshman season with 24 total tackles.

There will need to be new contributors in OSU’s safety room this season with Jason Taylor making a push to the NFL and Sean Michael Flanagan graduating. Kendal Daniels will be the star man on the back end of OSU’s defense, but look out for guys like Rawls and Trey Rucker to take big leaps in 2023.

3. Elijah Collins, Running Back

This would moreso be a re-breakout for Elijah Collins.

Collins ran for 988 yards and five touchdowns at Michigan State as a redshirt freshman in 2019 before injuries hampered his next two seasons with the Spartans. He bounced back this past season, running for 318 yards and six touchdowns with the Spartans before finding a new home in Stillwater.

The Cowboys had a tough time rushing the football in 2022, ranking ninth in the Big 12 as a team in rushing yards per game, and OSU is now without its two top rushers in Dominic Richardson and Spencer Sanders. Needless to say, the yards are there for the taking. Ollie Gordon provided some production after rushing for 326 yards as a true freshman, including a 136-yard performance in a monsoon against West Virginia.

Among Collins, Jaden Nixon and Deondre Jackson, the Cowboys will have options at running back. It’s just a matter of figuring out the puzzle that is divvying carries.

4. Nickolas Martin, Linebacker

For a few reasons, the Cowboys are going to need some guys to step up at linebacker in 2023.

To start, the Cowboys lost Mason Cobb, who had 96 tackles in 2022, to USC via the transfer portal. Secondly, with Bryan Nardo’s 3-3-5 defense, the Cowboys will use another linebacker in their base scheme after playing only two the past few seasons.

Tulsa transfer Justin Wright will likely play into things after accounting for 254 career tackles with the Golden Hurricane. Xavier Benson also started for the Cowboys last season, amassing 76 tackles alongside Cobb. But the door is open for more contributors this season.

A three-star prospect in the 2021 recruiting class, Martin chose Oklahoma State over offers from Texas Tech, Arkansas, Kansas State, Kansas, Houston and others. Listed at 6-0, 215 pounds, Martin had 15 tackles last season.

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