Let’s start with some ground rules: I’m not including Cowboy Backs because it almost seems weird to group them together with how different certain guys are there than others. Just know Jelani Woods is good.
Although the secondary was looked at together in my, “What We Learned” series, I’m going to separate corners and safeties here. Also, I’ll be excluding kickers, punters and long snappers. So here we go.
1. Wide Receivers
Negatives: There’s only one ball
Explanation: To start, Tylan Wallace is back for what’s sure to be a stellar junior season. Then there is a returning Dillon Stoner (who is somehow only a junior) and Landon Wolf. Returning three of four starters in itself is good, especially when one is coming off a Biletnikoff-level season.
C.J. Moore dropped everybody’s jaws at the spring
game practice, but the depth Kasey Dunn has to work with is also quite impressive with guys such as Patrick McKaufman, Braydon Johnson, Jonathan Shepherd and Tyrell Alexander. If for some reason those guys don’t work out, there’s also transfer Jordan McCray and four-star prospect Langston Anderson on the way.
2. Running Backs
Positives: Chuba Hubbard, depth
Negatives: The unknown
Explanation: Like Tylan Wallace, Chuba Hubbard has a legit shot at being the best player on any field he steps on this season. He has some dudes behind him, too.
LD Brown has been solid in his first two seasons in Stillwater, but he hasn’t quite made the jump from solid reserve to a second featured back. Dezmon Jackson and Jahmyl Jeter each bring some power to the Cowboys’ backfield, and incoming freshman Deondrick Glass could be the Cowboys’ next superstar. However, all three of those last guys are unproven at the DI level, so for now, the No. 1 spot goes to the pass-catchers.
Explanation: I think A.J. Green and Rodarius Williams are going to do great things for OSU’s defense this season. The two have been the Cowboys’ everyday starters for the past two seasons and have been baptized with fire only the likes of Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray and Will Grier could throw.
As good as those two should be in 2019, there are question marks behind them. The Cowboys need good snaps from Kemah Siverand and Bryce Balous in the fall, and if that doesn’t happen, those snaps could end up going to true freshman Thomas Harper. They could all be fine, but it’s a bit unknown for the time being.
4. Offensive Line
Positives: Good returning core
Negatives: Some unproven spots
Explanation: The Cowboys bring back five returning starters from 2018, and the group should be more of a singular unit based simply on the time spent with each other. Johnny Wilson and Marcus Keyes are in their fifth years in Stillwater, and Teven Jenkins’ upside will continue to show as a redshirt junior.
The Pokes bring back other semi-proven guys in Dylan Galloway and Ry Schneider, but those two got a lot of their work late in the 2018 season. It’ll be interesting to see if they have the staying power to last the full schedule. With those guys and Charlie Dickey’s promising group of redshirt freshmen, there is a lot to be excited about up front.
Positives: A year wiser
Negatives: Still young
Explanation: This might be my first point of controversy, as I’m open to a discussion that the quarterbacks could take this spot, but I’ll give it to the more experienced group.
Malcolm Rodriguez, Kolby Harvell-Peel and Jarrick Bernard took their fair share of lumps in 2018, but they came out better for it. With the safeties as much as any group, you could see their development week to week. That all led up to Harvell-Peel tripping up Drew Lock on a game-clinching fourth-down play in the Liberty Bowl.
The group will be better in 2019, but OSU’s safeties are still young. Rodriguez is the only upper classman on the roster, so let’s not expect senior season Tre Flowers.
Negatives: The unknown
Explanation: Spencer Sanders or Dru Brown could be really good at running this show. The thing is, we just won’t know it until we see it.
Both can run and throw. Sanders has potential flowing out of the holes in his helmet, while Brown has some DI experience, but it will likely take a second for either to adjust to life as QB1 in the Big 12. At the end of the season, this position group could be in the Top 3, but we’re going to have to wait and see.
Positives: Solid returners
Explanation: I’m worried one or two injuries or a targeting call can take this train off the rails.
Calvin Bundage, Devin Harper and Kevin Henry all picked up starts in 2018, but none of those guys started together. That brings Amen Ogbongbemiga into the fold who is more of the Justin Phillips-type, but his exposure to in-game action has been fairly limited to this point.
Those four guys have to hold it all down, which is definitely possible, but it’s another wait and see.
8. Defensive Line
Explanation: The Cowboys lost six contributors from their 2018 offensive line, so it’s obvious why this is a position of worry.
With that said, the staff has done a great job reloading as best it can. Enter Israel Antwine and Kyle Junior from the transfer portal to join returners like Mike Scott, Brock Martin, Brendon Evers and Cameron Murray who played some in 2018 but are unproven with a starter’s workload. The group has some big shoes to fill, but there are plenty of feet to cram into those shoes.