Following what it seems everyone is now calling the spring “cotillion,” (aka game, which OSU staff refuses to call it), media and fans are left with three distinct items…
One…the defense will definitely play more aggressive in 2013. Combine that attitude with an extremely vanilla offensive plan, and the spring “cotillion” was easily won by the defense, with the final score being 17-7.
The Cowboys’ normally potent offensive attack mustered just 17 points (1 defensive TD), and were constantly harassed and hurried by what should be a strong defensive line, including the ends. The trio of QB’s that led OSU through injuries last season collectively completed less than 60% of their passes and found it difficult to find receivers running open downfield. Individual stats were:
Take away the 34 yd flea flicker completion on the 2nd play of the game, and Chelf’s stats look like this
Sacks are a bit of a nebulous thing in the spring, where “hitting” the QB is a prohibited activity, but OSU would have registered at least 5 legit sacks on this group alone. Calvin Barnett (DT) and Jimmy Bean (DE, held out last year due to injury), were extremely disruptive and pretty much had their way with the first team OL. Not really worried about the “hogs” along the offensive front as Coach Joe Wickline always produces.
The running game was equally stifled, however Jeremy Smith and Des Roland saw very limited action with only 9 carries between them. There is some concern about this position due to Roland’s inexperience and Smith’s struggles with injury, but the Cowboys have bodies and two more solid recruits coming this summer.
The receiving corp showed off their “3 quality deep at every postion” rotation. If Blake Jackson’s display of good hands proves to be permanent, he will be an absolute beast. His drops in 2012 overshadowed the fact that he was often uncoverable and almost impossible to tackle.
Josh Stewart and Tracy Moore, along with Jackson, headline a large group of receivers that brings a tremendous combination of size and speed, and will easily be the most talented top to bottom in the Big 12, if not in the country.
The post spring depth chart is pretty much as expected, with solid, “two deep” depth across the defensive front 7, but not so much along the back 4. While the Cowboys are 2-3 deep across the back line, they only have 3 players at CB and 3 players at Safety with proven game experience, and one of those is a converted LB (Lyndell Johnson).
While everyone talked about the defense’s performance, spring game or not, the proof will be in the pudding on August 31, and not before.
The second distinct item to come out of spring in general was…the kicking game.
After what felt like a decade of Dan Bailey and Quinn Sharp, the Cowboys have yet to find a solid replacement for either place kicking or punting. Summertime will bring a nationally ranked place kicker to camp (Ben Grogan), so OSU faithful are willing to wait and see before becoming anxious about two positions that for years have been viable weapons.
Now, on to item #3…the quarterbacks.
Based on how 2012 ended, Clint Chelf entered the spring with Gundy’s blessing, getting almost all the reps with the first team. However, once everything was done, Gundy completely backtracked, stating that they had made no definite decisions about QB and would not discuss the starting position until AFTER the first game.
Last spring, Gundy demanded a starter be named so that the team could rally around his leadership over the summer. Guess he’s not worried about that this time.
Gundy hid the status of that position as often as he could in 2012 after injuries caused a bit of juggling, thinking it gave his team a competitive advantage. After all, each QB commands a slightly different game plan, and opponents only had a few days to truly prepare.
But as we settle into these long 4 months, waiting for football to emerge from summer hibernation, I wonder where exactly is that advantage?
Gundy himself clearly stated in a post “cotillion” interview that there weren’t really any secrets. There is plenty of game film on all three QB’s. While there is a slight difference in game plan for each guy, that is way more meaningful for OSU’s offense and much less so for the opponent’s defense. It’s not like OSU is playing Mississippi State next week. Which leaves me wondering…
Let’s not forget last spring, when, after a healthy competition between Chelf, Walsh, and Lunt, Chelf ended up THIRD. There had to be a reason for that. Gundy made the decision based on consensus from the staff.
Let’s also not forget that 2012 season stats showed J.W. Walsh to be the clearly more efficient QB, as I noted in this post.
If we take a look at the spring game’s numbers, we see something that was a major issue at times for Chelf in 2012…accuracy. None of the QB’s were great, but their completion %’s mirror 2012’s results…Walsh #1, followed by Lunt, then Chelf.
Could there be a lack of consensus among the staff this time around? Maybe new OC Mike Yurcich has expressed some concerns? Maybe, just maybe, Chelf showed again why he shouldn’t be the starter, and Gundy didn’t want to embarrassingly demote him immediately following spring. Maybe they are giving themselves the wiggle room to make a different choice later this summer.
Then again, who knows.
Gundy was absolutely right when he said there are really no secrets. It will be impossible to hide who is getting the lion’s share of snaps with the first team come August. Media and blogs will sniff that out no matter how much everyone tries to keep it quiet.
If I had to guess, it will either be Chelf or Walsh, and unless Lunt shows some otherworldly development, he will likely redshirt. It really shouldn’t matter a whole lot, as all three are capable of leading the offense and are well liked by teammates, media, and fans.
The main fact in the Big 12 for 2013 is this…
TCU and Texas are the only teams other than the Cowboys to return solid, experienced starters at QB . TCU’s Paschall didn’t play last season due to suspension, and the Longhorn’s David Ash isn’t scaring anyone, so the advantage clearly goes to OSU.
Kansas State, Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Texas Tech must all replace veteran, long time starters (Klein/Jones/Smith/Doege). Iowa State’s Sam Richardson got a little time at the end of 2012 but faced competition this spring from Grant Rohach, who shined in the Cyclones’ spring game. Kansas doesn’t even merit a mention at this position.
The end result is that OSU should be favored to win the Big 12, but it likely won’t be a consensus. I think there are enough question marks to keep some folks off the bandwagon for the time being.
Robert Whetsell of Cowboys Ride for Free provided the information for our Oklahoma State Football 2013 Spring Wrap Up. For more OSU football information, commentary and analysis, you can follow Robert on Twitter @MFC_CRFF.