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Three Storylines to Follow in Oklahoma State’s Spring Football

On Alan Bowman, health and Nardo’s defense.



[Devin Wilber/PFB]

The machine that is college football keeps cruising along, and another set of spring practices is here.

Oklahoma State kicks off its spring schedule with a practice Tuesday. The Cowboys are coming off a disappointing 7-6 campaign in 2022, but there are a ton of fresh faces in Stillwater with hope for a better 2023. Here are three storylines to follow for Oklahoma State’s 2023 spring ball.

1. Can Alan Bowman Take a Stranglehold on the Job?

On a few occasions this past season, Mike Gundy has mentioned how the Oklahoma State offense is fairly simple to get a grasp of for everyone but quarterbacks.

It makes sense. There is a lot going on for the guy behind center, but that theory will be extra interesting this season with the addition of Alan Bowman.

Bowman isn’t lacking experience. He has thrown for 5,329 career yards and has been a part of two College Football Playoff teams. But he does lack experience in Oklahoma State’s system, and it’s been two seasons since Bowman has taken meaningful snaps in a college football game.

Juxtapose that with redshirt freshman Garret Rangel, who lacks the sort of physical development and long-term experience Bowman has, but Rangel has now spent a season within Kasey Dunn’s offense with three starts coming last year.

I imagine Bowman wouldn’t transfer to Stillwater for his final hurrah of college football if he didn’t think he had a shot at playing. In a perfect world, Bowman would return to his healthy Texas Tech form and lead this ship until one of the young guys behind him is ready.

2. Can the Offensive Line Stay Healthy?

When you have 300-pound guys performing hand-to-hand combat on every snap of the ball, injuries are bound to happen, but it feels as if Oklahoma State has dealt with that reality more than any other team on the planet across the past three seasons.

Since that opening half against Tulsa in 2020 that saw two starting offensive linemen get hurt, it feels like the Cowboys have had to do a patchwork job up front ever since. The 2022 season was no different, with projected starter Cole Birmingham suffering a season-ending injury before the season even started. Then with injuries throughout the season, the dreaded game of “musical chairs” resulted in OSU rushing for 125.6 yards a game, ranking ninth in the Big 12.

It feels as if OSU will take a step forward on the offensive line in 2023. The addition of Texas State transfer Dalton Cooper should be a boon, and the Cowboys return the likes of Jason Brooks, Preston Wilson, Caleb Etienne, Jake Springfield, Taylor Miterko and Joe Michalski — a group of guys who all contributed heavily in 2022. Then with Birmingham coming back and the potential for young guys like Austin Kawecki to take a step forward, OSU offensive line coach Charlie Dickey is going to have options.

So it becomes a matter of avoiding the injury bug. That might be an impossible task because, again, it’s 300-pounders constantly running into each other, but there is a hope that OSU can have the depth in 2023 that one or two injuries don’t derail entire chunks of the season.

3. How Quick Can OSU’s Defense Get Up to Speed with Bryan Nardo’s Schemes?

With all the roster turnover in the transfer portal era, there will be a lot of new faces taking part in their first practices as Cowboys on Tuesday — one of those faces being new OSU defensive coordinator Bryan Nardo.

In some of his recent coordinator changes (going from Yurcich to Gleeson to Dunn or even Knowles to Mason), Gundy has said the new guy is coming in to run Oklahoma State’s offense or Oklahoma State’s defense, rather than overhauling things. But that doesn’t seem to fully be the case with Nardo. The buzz of 3-3-5 has been palpable since Nardo’s hiring.

How big of a transition will it be? How long will it take for stars like Collin Oliver and Kendal Daniels to feel comfortable in it? We’ll get some feel for that during spring practice.

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