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OSU Football: 10 Things to Watch in Spring Practice

10 things to look for as OSU spring ball starts.



The unofficial start to one of the most anticipated football seasons in Oklahoma State history is here. The Cowboys kicked off spring practice on Monday with palpable optimism surrounding a team that brings a lot back. But there are still plenty of questions that needed answered before summer break.

The PFB staff convened to come up with a list of questions, concerns and points that are on our minds as things get started.

1. Running Back Depth (Kyle Cox)

OSU is set at starting RB maybe as good as its ever been in back-to-back seasons and as good as any program in the nation. But what about RB2? Or 3, or 4?

LD Brown was Chuba’s backup last year but only carried the ball 40 times. To put that into perspective, Mason Rudolph carried it 67 times in 2015 — the year J.W. Walsh was playing QB1b.

There are other candidates like Deondrick Glass and Dezmon Jackson and others but they are all mostly unproven.

Chuba was the first Cowboy since Barry to tote the rock 300 times in a season and was fortunate enough to stay healthy throughout. I’m not sure you want to go into another year of that without a better backup plan.

2. O-Line Continuity (Kyle Cox)

My second point also concerns the running game. With the loss of longtime starters Marcus Keyes and Johnny Wilson, the Cowboys will be working in a couple of fresh faces in a couple of crucial spots in the interior.

This is where Charlie Dickey should be able to show his worth. At Kansas State, he churned out consistent offensive line groups that lived up to and above their recruiting stars year in and year out. He’s got plenty of big bodies and plenty of potential. I’m curious, and excited, to see what he can do in Year 2 at OSU.

3. Does Spencer make the leap? (Kyle Boone)

In 11 games, Sanders last season wasn’t a world-beater. But the combination of his passing upside and rushing ability kept him relevant as a lethal dual-threat talent capable of breaking down a defense on any given play. The key for him this season will be to make a jump as a passer (because the running is natural for him). He completed 62.8% of his attempts last year, but missed a lot on short area attempts. With Kasey Dunn at the helm, perhaps we’ll see more of this in 2020:

The question of whether he can make an advancement as a passer won’t be answered until the fall, but the work he puts in this spring and summer will ultimately determine just how much he improves year over year.

4. Just how good can the safety position be (Kyle Boone)

I’m already high on the cornerback depth (more on that in a bit), but if I’m high on cornerback depth I’m soaring over the moon and stars about the safety spot. It’s going to be elite. Barring injuries, I think Kolby Harvell-Peel, Tre Sterling, Jason Taylor II should all be in the running to be All-Conference caliber players. And then add in Sean Michael Flanagan, Kanion Williams, Tanner McCalister as depth … whoo boy.

5. How impressive is Illingworth? (Kyle Porter)

There’s a world that exists where Illingworth is the starting QB of the opposing team in the spring scrimmage (or whatever it is OSU is doing these days to cap spring ball). I’m not saying it’s going to happen, but it does exist. Gundy likely won’t name a backup until August regardless, but we’ll probably know more or less who that will be based on how Trill plays this spring. If he’s great, it will likely be him. If he’s not great, it will likely be transfer, Ethan Bullock, who will arrive later this year.

6. D-Line a Year Wiser (Marshall Scott)

OSU’s defensive line was probably it’s weakest spot in 2019, but the group was so young.

Trace Ford, Israel Antwine, Cameron Murray, Brock Martin, Brendon Evers, Samuela Tuihalamaka, Tyler Lacy (and just about everyone else apart from Mike Scott) are back in 2020. Given how well the group finished out last season, that’s probably a scary thought for opposing quarterbacks.

The Cowboys also added two could-be plug-and-play pieces in Collin Clay, a transfer from Arkansas via Putnam City, and junior college transfer Tyren Irby. Clay should get a waiver to be immediately eligible as his path to Oklahoma State is quite similar to that of Antwine’s from last season, but you never know with the NCAA.

7. Who kicks? (Kyle Porter)

Maybe we don’t care about this, but maybe we should. The two kickers on OSU’s roster right now are Jake McClure (who handles kickoffs) and Alex Hale (who is a walk-on who did not play football in high school, according to his college bio). Technically, Hale was listed as the place-kicking backup as well as the backup to McClure for kickoffs at the bowl game, but how does this play out in reality? Is OSU — which has been so good in the kicking game for so long — really going to go into its most optimistic season in several years with a walk-on kicker who didn’t play high school ball? That seems dubious.

8. Turning Tylan (Kyle Porter)

It will be intriguing to see how much of Tylan Wallace we see this spring. I can’t imagine it will be much (if any). Gundy’s most recent update on No. 2 came at the end of January, when he told The Oklahoman this about his future.

“His prognosis is really good at this time,” Gundy told The Oklahoman. “The main thing is him just not trying to do too much. We’ll be very protective of him until about the middle of August, then we’ll really turn him loose.”

We might not even get more than Tylan and Tracin playing long toss on the sideline, and he certainly won’t be hit in any capacity. But still, just a glimpse of Tylan catching passes — even if he’s wearing a t-shirt and shorts — will be a nice reminder of what lies ahead later on this year.

9. Cornerback depth (Kyle Boone)

Call me crazy, but when I think about OSU’s cornerback depth this upcoming season, I’m …. optimistic. Losing A.J. Green stings, sure, but Rodarius Williams is back, Thomas Harper has shown promise, Missouri transfer Christian Holmes should help, and then there’s Jarrick Bernard, who switched from safety to corner and has the speed and cover skills to make a difference. This isn’t Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu in the same defensive backfield good, but I think this unit could be a real strength in 2020.

10. How Does Calvin Bundage Fit Back In? (Marshall Scott)

OSU’s linebackers were a major question mark entering last season when Amen Ogbongbemiga and Malcolm Rodriguez stepped into starting roles.

The group had myriad injuries early in the year with Calvin Bundage, Devin Harper and Kevin Henry all being absent in the Oregon State game. Harper and Henry came back, but Bundage missed all season with a back injury.

Bundage is back for his redshirt senior season, but with how well Rodriguez and Ogbongbemiga played, how will OSU’s defense look with the return of the hit-stick artist. It’s possible that Rodriguez can move back to safety, where he started two seasons ago. That could be more a possibility with Bernard being listed as a corner.

Jim Knowles has options and it’s the first time in a long time that it feels that way for the Cowboys on the defensive side.

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