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QB Preview: Spencer Sanders’ Improvement Key to OSU Offense in 2020

Breaking down OSU’s six quarterbacks and potential recruits.



[Photo via Bruce Waterfield, Oklahoma State Athletics]

Quarterback is heralded as the most important position of any football team, but it particularly seems that way in Stillwater.

Spencer Sanders is just a few weeks away from starting his second season as Oklahoma State’s starter, and his position group is up first in our position previews.

The QB Room

Spencer Sanders: Sanders showed dashes of excellence in his first year leading OSU’s offense. He’s the unquestioned QB1 entering his redshirt sophomore season after throwing for 2,065 yards and 16 touchdowns last season. He also ran for another 628 yards and two scores. Turnovers were a major blemish on all the potential he showed, though, as he threw 11 interceptions fumbled a handful times.

Shane Illingworth: The top recruit in OSU’s 2020 recruiting class, Illingworth enrolled early, but he didn’t get far into spring ball before the pandemic shut it down. The No. 6 pro-style QB in his class, Illingworth checked into Stillwater at 6-foot-5, 220 pounds. Lately, it isn’t often Gundy gives young QBs too much responsibility, but given he came in early and there is a void at QB2 after Dru Brown’s departure, Illingworth might slot into that spot.

Ethan Bullock: Coming to Stillwater from City College of San Francisco, Bullock has had quite the journey to OSU. Originally out of Florida, Bullock went to South Dakota State out of high school before going to junior college route. In a normal, non-pandemic fantasy land, Bullock would likely be QB2 this year while Illingworth redshirted, but with the pandemic cutting practice time, Illingworth getting to Stillwater before Bullock and redshirts perhaps getting dealt to everyone this year, who knows?

Shaun Taylor: Taylor was little-known before last season when he ascended to the backup role after Sanders’ injury. A walk-on, Taylor made one appearance last season going 4-for-4 for 21 yards against McNeese.

Nolan McLean: For a time, it seemed unlikely that Nolan McLean would make it to Stillwater. He is a high-level Major League Baseball prospect who committed to the Cowboys as a dual-sport athlete. Some had him going high in the MLB draft out of high school, but he didn’t get drafted after said draft got cut mightily because of the pandemic. Now he is a Poke looking to make as much impact on the football field as he will in O’Brate Stadium next spring.

Peyton Thompson: Another walk-on, Thompson made the Cowboys’ travel roster toward the end of last season. He is now a redshirt freshman after coming to OSU with the class of 2019, turning down offer from Abilene Christian, Eastern Michigan and Colombia.

The Recruits

Barring something last-minute, it doesn’t look as if OSU will take a quarterback in its 2021 class, though Gunnar Gundy will join the program as a walk-on freshman next season.

It shouldn’t be that big a deal that OSU doesn’t add a passer in this class with the amount of youth the Cowboys’ current QB room has. Of those six guys, only Bullock is an upperclassman, and he is just a redshirt junior.

OSU does have four offers out to uncommitted 2022 quarterbacks: Garrett Rangel (Frisco, Texas), Sam Horn (Suwanee, Georgia), AJ Duffy (Moreno Valley, California) and Ty Simpson (Martin, Tennessee).

Rangel seems to be the trendy pick (for now) among that group of four to end up at OSU. He is the No. 377 player in the 2022 class and has offers from Virginia Tech, Northwestern, Houston, North Texas, Tulsa, Vanderbilt and others.

As a sophomore at Lone Star High School (alongside 2021 OSU commit Jaden Nixon), Rangel threw for a ridiculous 4,538 yards, 50 touchdowns and just seven interceptions.

A Successful 2020

Sanders cutting out the turnovers would go a long way in OSU being a true contender for the Big 12 crown in 2020.

Him simply being a facilitator in OSU’s offense could help achieve that goal, but he is more than that with how dynamic he is. The size of Sanders’ step from Year 1 at the reigns to Year 2 could determine a lot as to whether this hyped up season ends like 2011 or 2017.

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