Additional Previews | Cowboys Ride For Free
2010 Record | 11-2 (6-2 in Big 12)
Returning Starters | 13 (9 on offense, 4 on defense)
Key Losses | Offensively, the Cowboys lose an integral part of their offense, RB Kendall Hunter, who I thought was just terrific for them last year, rushing for over 1,500 yards and 16 touchdowns. Other than that, there is little gone, except for maybe WR Bo Bowling who was third on the team in catches. The defense loses a handful of key contributors, one of my favorites to watch was LB Orie Lemmon (101 tackles, 9.5 TFL, both leading the team) and fellow linebacker Justin Gent (77 tackles, 3rd on the team). The defensive line does lose some good talent (not great) including DT Chris Donaldson, DT Shane Jarka, and DE Ugo Chinasa (probably their most significant loss. From what I could tell, CB Andrew McGee is the only person the Pokes lose in the secondary.
Key Additions | I don't think that there's really any incoming player that could make a significant impact for the Cowboys offensively, although I probably wouldn't rule out freshman Herschel Sims, a 4-star running back from Abilene. Gundy did recruit a handful of JUCO defenders, including LB Alex Elkins, DT Maurice Hayes, and DE Ryan Robinson.
Impact Offensive Player | You can take your pick, but I'll go with QB Brandon Weeden. It's not revolutionary to think that so goes the quarterback, so goes the team and I do think that this is the case with Oklahoma St. If Weeden is spot-on all year, then I don't think there is necessarily a better quarterback in the conference. I think that Landry Jones and Weeden are comparable with Tannehill a bit (an ever so slight bit as they have more of a track record and Tannehill will be starting a full season this year) below the two of them.
Impact Defensive Player | Sophomore LB Shaun Lewis was pretty darned good last year as a true freshman, finishing the season with 58 tackles, 8.0 TFL, 3 forced fumbles and 1 INT.
|Texas St. Bobcats
|@ New Mexico Lobos
|@ Kansas Jayhawks
|Texas A&M Aggies
|Kansas St. Wildcats
|@ Oklahoma Sooners
|Iowa St. Cyclones
|@ Texas Longhorns
|Oklahoma St. Cowboys
|@ Missouri Tigers
vs. Texas Tech | There are a reason why people are split between thinking that the Aggies or the Cowboys will be competing with Oklahoma for the top spot in the Big 12 or if they will be be fighting it out for second in the conference. They're nearly identical. The Cowboys, like the Aggies, return all of their offensive line. They both have an all-conference receiver with a slight edge, in my opinion, to OSU. They both have more running backs than they know what do with, and an edge to TAMU. They both have a quarterback who put up big numbers, I like Weeden a bit more. They both have questions defensively, each losing two of their best three linebackers, but have a young linebacker ready to step up. They both return quite a bit of their secondary.
I still think that the Aggies lose bigger playmakers on defense, but Oklahoma St. didn't really have that significant playmaker on defense (i.e. Von Miller) but had pretty good success defensively without that playmaker. Nevertheless, you get where I'm going with this. They're similar.
The biggest question mark, and it's a question mark that I think that Oklahoma St. fans think that it won't be that big of a deal, but I do tend to disagree. Last year, current West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen called the plays for Oklahoma St. and I thought he was wildly successful. Now comes Todd Monken, who has called plays previously, but has been mostly a position coach (running backs and receivers coach earlier in his career), most recently with the Jacksonville Jaguars as their receivers coach. From what I can tell, Monken has a clean slate, and it's tough to criticize a guy that you don't know about. I can't say for sure how Monken will do replacing Holgorsen, but what I can say is that no matter what you think, it will be different and will most likely take a step back. I don't think I underestimated how different it would be when Leach was terminated, but I was hopeful with the hire of Brown and to be completely truthful, Brown wasn't awful, but for most fans, he wasn't Leach. I don't think that the Oklahoma St. faithful have the same affinity for Holgorsen since he was only there for a year, but I'd just say that you cannot expect the same type of success.
Despite this, there are talented players for Monken to coach and I could gush about the talent on the offensive line, which may be one of, if not the best in the country, but it's usually the skill positions players that know how to make plays that put teams over the top and OSU has that in spades with QB Brandon Weeden, WR Justin Blackmon and I'll even add RB Joseph Randle.
Defensive ends Jamie Blatnick (5.5 sacks, 5.5 TFL) and Richetti Jones (4.5 sacks, 7.0 TFL) will supply the pass rush and they should be pretty good, but the two defensive tackles graduated.
For Texas Tech, I'm more hopeful about this game and the Texas A&M game because Texas Tech has each of them at home, but this is a really good offense. And I know the thought that these two teams don't win on the other's home turf, but until we get a little further into the season, I don't know if and how much the Texas Tech secondary will improve and I also don't know if the Texas Tech will be more consistent. Had Holgorsen returned for OSU this year, I could have definatively said that I don't think that Texas Tech could have kept pace with Oklahoma St., but now I'm not sure.