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Notebook: Dunn Talks Quarterback Competition, Wide Receiver Turnover ahead of Season Opener

‘Let’s face it, we’re all just trading players.’



[Devin Wilber/PFB]

STILLWATER — Since taking over as Oklahoma State’s offensive coordinator in 2020, Kasey Dunn has had to direct a rotating cast of characters.

Offensive line injuries, quarterback injuries, wide receiver injuries, the transfer portal, a freaking pandemic — it feels as if it has been one thing after another. With Dunn calling plays, the Pokes have gone 27-11. The roller coaster has included highs of a Fiesta Bowl win in 2021 and lows of losing five of six to finish last season 7-6.

Dunn enters 2023 without a named starting quarterback with Alan Bowman, Garret Rangel and Gunnar Gundy battling. Mike Gundy said multiple quarterbacks will play in the early parts of the year.

Although it might seem difficult that Dunn has to adjust to different styles of play among the three, Dunn said the difference isn’t nearly as drastic as switching between Spencer Sanders and Shane Illingworth — like Dunn had to do in 2020. Sanders was a prototypical scrambler while Illingworth was a pocket passer. Sanders has 1,956 career rushing yards; Illingworth has -76.

The Sanders-to-Illingworth spectrum shortened a little in 2022 when Illingworth transferred to Nevada and Rangel and Gundy backed up Sanders, but those two young pups were inexperienced, leading to a different set of issues.

Dunn said that spectrum is even smaller entering 2023 with Sanders leaving and Bowman joining, making game-planning with each quarterback similar.

“We’re rolling now,” Dunn said. “They’re all real similar. It’s not like it was a couple years ago where it was Spencer, who’s on one side of the spectrum and Shane Illingworth, who’s on the other side — pure drop-back passer. That was different. It’s not like that. Our quarterbacks now are much more similar to each other.”

The Cowboys’ offensive line enters 2023 as healthy as the unit has been in a long time. Dunn said he thinks OSU is a lot better on the line given the health and the experience the group has gained over the past two years.

Also the Cowboys’ receivers coach since 2011, Dunn has had to deal with a ton of turnover in his position room this past offseason. Gone are John Paul Richardson (TCU), Bryson Green (Wisconsin), Stephon Johnson Jr. (Houston), Braylin Presley (Tulsa) and Langston Anderson (Texas State). Those outgoing transfers accounted for 111 receptions for 1,475 yards and 11 touchdowns last season, or 38% of OSU’s receptions, 41% of OSU’s receiving yards and 46% of OSU’s receiving touchdowns.

Dunn brought in a trio of transfers: De’Zhaun Stribling (Washington State), Leon Johnson III (George Fox) and Arland Bruce IV (Iowa), but some misfortune has already struck there with Bruce being away from team activities after being named in a gambling investigation stemming from his time with the Hawkeyes.

The group also gets back Jaden Bray, Blaine Green and Talyn Shettron — a trio that contributed just eight catches for 85 yards and one score last season with all three missing significant time because of injury. All three are expected to play significant roles in 2023.

Dunn said he had a great time going and getting fits in the transfer portal and preached the group staying healthy will be huge for OSU’s 2023 outlook.

“Let’s face it, we’re all just trading players,” Dunn said. “At the end of the day, I don’t know how many more portal guys we lost than the next team. I think it’s all relatively close. We just basically exchange players around. ‘You wideouts go over there. We’ll take those wideouts.’ We just shift them around. But we’ve got some good ones in, and I’m thrilled about that. A couple of those kids are gonna see significant time coming up.”

The Cowboys have averaged 30.7 points a game in 38 games with Dunn at OC. In Big 12 play, the Pokes have put up 29.7 points in Dunn’s 28 games. But 2023 might be the first time Dunn is playing with a full deck.

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