With the school year now over and summer coming up faster than a Chuba 40-yard dash, it’s time to start thinking about … football? I got my Big 12 Media Days credential application last week, which is always either a shocking end to one year or a shocking beginning to the next.
Regardless, OSU’s spring cotillion is in the books, and a pretty fascinating 2019 season — in which the Cowboys’ over/under for wins is currently six — awaits. I saw Robert Allen recently wrote about the OSU-OSU matchup in August, and I got legit juiced for about three minutes before remembering that Game No. 1 is still (barely) over 100 days away.
Anyway, here are four things I’m looking forward to about OSU’s upcoming football season.
1. Chuba the Great: I got some texts from a lifelong OSU friend toward the end of last season about No. 30 of which the general thesis was, You just don’t get it, he’s going to be one of the all-time greats. I was (and am) holding on to my love for Justice, but I’m starting to wonder if Lifelong OSU Fan Friend might be right.
The things we feared about Chuba coming into college — What’s his vision? Can he take a hit? I get that he’s fast, but is there legit skill there? — have all been answered as emphatically as a college player can answer such questions. Hubbard averaged over 7 yards a touch in over half his games last year, and was awesome in big games.
- 8.7 yards/touch against Mizzou
- 8.1 yards/touch against Texas
- 5.7 yards/touch against OU
- 5.1 yards/touch against WVU
So now what? Does somebody just 124 carries into his post-high school career get … better? Chuba feels like one of the few known commodities for this year’s Pokes, but the reality here is that we only know where the floor is. The ceiling has not yet been established, and that might be the most thrilling reality we face going into the fall.
2. Locked-In Gundy: The head man admitted to Bill Haisten recently that he “didn’t do a good job” from Jan. 1, 2018 to Jan. 1, 2019. I don’t think he wants to go through another six-win regular season or having to give that interview again in spring 2020. I don’t know what that means for his press conference persona or social media reach, but I certainly hope it means OSU will be more disciplined, more galvanized and more focused than they were throughout 2018.
3. Safeties in Numbers: If you’re not fired up about the young group of safeties Oklahoma State will roll out in a few months, I don’t know what to tell you. Are they perfect 5-star specimens constructed in a Tuscaloosa laboratory to wear diamond-encrusted Nike checks in late December and early January? Of course not, but for what OSU is trying to be and for what it is trying to do on defense, they’re pretty great.
One of the obvious tells of the Gundy era is whether players play snaps as freshmen. Because OSU has often had a stable foundation, this is less an indication that they need bodies and more of an indication that these first-year college bodies are in fact legitimate. I’m thinking about Tylan Wallace and Dillon Stoner in recent years, two of the three best playmakers on one of the 10 best offenses in the country. They played a fraction of the plays Jarrick Bernard and Kolby Peel did in their freshmen campaigns though.
“We had three true freshmen playing a lot for us last year at safety,” Knowles said this spring. “This is a safety-driven defense. Anytime you play with five DBs all the time it’s safety-driven. Now those guys have had a thousand reps so they’ve gone from rookies to veterans pretty quick, and it’s starting to show up. It’s going to help us a ton in terms of giving up big plays.”
4. Jelani the Great: The player I think we’ll think most differently about from May 2019 to May 2020 is Jelani. He has all the tools you need to be an elite college tight end, and to watch basically Serge Ibaka rumbling down Lewis Field with no regard for human life was a thrill, even if it didn’t happen as often as we would have liked. With Tyron ejecting for H-Town and OSU needing to fill up at least four dozen throws, I think some may go to C.J. Moss but a lot might end up going to Jelani. Maybe he doesn’t turn out to be what I’m imagining, but I believe the archetype for what a Cowboy Back should be is on the table for him in 2019 and beyond.