Returning Starters – Offense: 8 Defense: 8
Preview: The Oklahoma State football program has been revitalized under head coach Mike Gundy who’s a solid 84-44 overall in his 10 years as the head man. Last season the Cowboys were thought to be better than they actually were for the half of the year they played against a cupcake schedule. After starting 5-1, Oklahoma State went on to lose 5 games in a row before closing out the year in impressive fashion with back to back wins coming against Oklahoma on the road and against Washington in the Cactus Bowl.
The coaching staff wanted to hold off on using QB Mason Rudolph last season, but the freshman was forced to burn his redshirt due to injuries sustained at the position. It may have been a blessing in disguise for the Cowboys as they got Rudolph some game experience and the bonus is this was the best stretch Oklahoma State played all of 2014. The Cowboys should be even better up front along the O-line with 3 returning starters including the addition of prized UAB transfer Salako. WR will also be a considerable strength on the offensive side of the ball as nearly everyone returns including playmakers like Washington and Sheperd. The questions on offense come at RB, but the team is hoping highly touted JUCO transfer Chris Carson will have an instant impact.
Oklahoma State was a work in progress on the defensive side of the ball in 2014 given their lack of depth and being forced into tough spots by an offense that struggled at times. The rebuild appears to be over as the unit returns 8 starters to a much deeper core of players. The D-line returns just two starters, but this unit is solid and ready to produce around pass rushers Bean and Ogbah. The defense has depth and young players throughout the backend of the unit. The LB corps returns 2 starters to a group that’ll be led by the veteran Ryan Simmons. The secondary will have great continuity with all 4 starters back including the talented Kevin Peterson.
Prediction: Oklahoma State is flying under the radar a bit coming into the season, but If Rudolph can be as good as advertised then this team has the ability to surprise. The Cowboys were in a rebuild last season and 2015 should start showing some of the fruits of last season’s growing pains. Although a conference title is likely out of the reach of this still young team, don’t be surprised if the Cowboys finish in the top 3 in the Big 12.
Projected Record: 9-3 (6-3)