With fall camp well underway and the season fast approaching, Mike Gundy and his staff are encroaching upon deadlines on which to make big decisions about playing time, roster construction and how not only the two-deep will look — but also how practice reps will be handled among those players.
So with just over two weeks to go until the start of the season, we’re back for another PFB roundtable as a check-in on fall camp to answer some questions. What are the strengths and weaknesses of this team? Which players (on both sides of the ball) will step up? What areas does OSU still need to address in the next two weeks?
Marshall, Cox and I set out to answer some of those questions below.
What is the strength of this OSU football team?
Marshall: The absolute dogs coming off the edge of the defensive line. The Cowboys led the country in sacks last season and return four of their five-leading sack-getters. Collin Oliver is bigger, Trace Ford is back and Brock Martin is still the toughest dude on the field at all times. Opposing quarterbacks aren’t going to have a ton of time in 2022.
Cox: Since Marshall took the obvious one, I will go with OSU’s big men on the other side of the ball. The Cowboys’ offensive line is poised to be deeper than it was at this time last year, despite the loss of several would-be starters. A lot will depend upon how newcomers to the starting lineup perform — and even more will be determined by the Cowboys staying healthy — but the O-line could be a sneaky strength for the Pokes.
Boone: I think it’s the quarterback position. It’s so important to have someone who is more than just a game-manager but a game-breaker, and OSU has that in Spencer Sanders. He can make plays with his arms and his legs. Coming off an All-Big 12 First Team season, he is another year more familiar with the system and has the weapons around him to again be the best in the league at the most important position. That’s a huge asset for the Cowboys.
What is the weakness (or weaknesses) of this OSU football team?
Marshall: I’m bullish on OSU’s offensive line being better in 2022, but it will definitely be a question mark. But I’ll go with experience on the back end of the defense. Two new starting corners, two new starting safeties, two new starting linebackers. I think all of those guys are going to be good, but it’s hard seeing that group pick right back up where OSU’s 2021 defense left off.
Cox: The loss of Blaine Green to injury definitely dampens my enthusiasm for the Cowboy Back position. OSU still has Braden Cassity returning and adds another talented pass-catcher in true freshman Tabry Shettron, but Green was to be OSU’s second-leading returning receiver. He’ll be missed.
Boone: It’s difficult to point to one specific area — this team looks pretty well-rounded on paper — but I’ll go with the linebacker position. Losing Malcolm Rodriguez and Devin Harper is a tough blow. There’s gobs of talent in the middle primed to replace those two, but no one has the combination of mobility and experience to replace that duo one-for-one.
What position group has the most question marks?
Marshall: I’ll say the offensive line. I think this group is as deep as they’ve had in a while, but it’s hard to know that until I see it. It’s difficult to say that Preston Wilson is going to instantly be as good as Danny Godlevske at center or whoever plays at left guard (Taylor Miterko, Tyrone Webber) is going to instantly be as good as Josh Sills. But for the first time in a long time, I think if there is an injury somewhere on the line Charlie Dickey isn’t going to have to play “musical chairs.” I think it’ll, for the most part, be plug and play.
Cox: I think it has to be linebacker for me as the Cowboys try to replace both Malcolm Rodriguez and Devin Harper. I think OSU coaches like the options that they have in guys like Mason Cobb, Xavier Benson, and a handful of others, but that’s a lot of production and leadership to replace in one offseason.
Boone: For me it’s the running back position. After losing Jaylen Warren, Dezmon Jackson and LD Brown, OSU is effectively replacing its entire RB room (save for returning RB Dominic Richardson). There’s whispers that Richardson is primed to take over the top spot, and Texas A&M transfer Deondre Jackson has apparently impressed, but the split of carries remains a big question mark. Can Ollie Gordon get some run in as a true freshman? Will second-year speedster Jaden Nixon break into the regular rotation? Gundy has said he wants to use a committee approach, it’s just very unclear what that will look like and how many will be involved.
Who will be the (non QB) team MVP on offense this season?
Marshall: I want to say Brennan Presley or Jaden Bray, and one of those two are probably the right answer, but for fun, I’m going to say Braydon Johnson. After missing almost all of last season, Johnson seems as locked in as ever heading into 2022. It feels like ages ago that he had 124 yards and two touchdowns against Texas A&M in the Texas Bowl, but I think this could be a big year for him.
Cox: I will go with Dominic Richardson. I think he has an opportunity to break out as OSU’s RB1. I don’t know if it’s fair to expect the overnight success story that we saw from Jaylen Warren last year, but Richardson has shown he’s more than capable of making plays and I think an improving Spencer Sanders and offensive line leads to a nice productive year for No. 20.
Boone: I’ll go with Jaden Bray. It’s kind of a dart throw because outside of Brennan Presley, the receiver room seems pretty wide-open. But Bray gives off some major Justin Blackmon vibes because of his size, speed, mobility and catch radius. I like him as a potential second-year breakout candidate.
Who will be the team MVP on defense this season?
Marshall: Collin Oliver, and I’m not particularly sure it’s close. He had 11.5 sacks a year removed from playing an away game against Enid High School. He’s 25 pounds bigger this year. I haven’t been as excited to watch and OSU defensive lineman since Emmanuel Ogbah.
Cox: I guess I’d have to say Oliver, as well. For fun, I’ll add Trace Ford as an honorable mention. If he is in as good of shape as Mike Gundy said, there’s no reason to think he can’t continue where he left off a couple of years ago. Either way, OSU’s EDGE group is going to be scary.
Boone: I mean, is there even a doubt? Collin Oliver is that dude. He was a freshman All-American a year ago and has bulked up and been one of the stars of training camp. Even under a new defensive coordinator he will be one of the most lethal edge-rushers in America this season.
Read this original article at Pistols Firing Blog.