Editor’s note: This is the ninth in a continuing series of articles previewing Big 12 football in the coming 2013 season and the prospects for each of the 10 conference teams.
Oklahoma State Cowboys
(2012 season record: 8-5 in all games, 5-4 in the Big 12)
Oklahoma State had an off year in 2012 after 11- and 12-win seasons the two previous years, respectively, including the Cowboys’ first Big 12 championship in 2011. The Cowboys won eight games last season, but three of their five losses were by seven points or less. Don’t expect coach Mike Gundy’s group to stay down a second straight year.
One of three teams in the Big 12 which has a quarterback returning with starting experience, Oklahoma State is picked by many college football experts to return to the top of the league in 2013. Despite losing a number of key personnel after the 2011 championship season, the OSU offense didn’t seem to suffer any ill effects, leading the Big 12 and ranking second nationally in scoring. The Pokes averaged almost 46 points a game, on 547 yards per game of total offense. That was with three different starters a quarterback.
Senior Clint Chelf started the Cowboys’ final five games a year ago and most likely will get the call as the starter to begin the 2013 season, with J.W. Walsh as his backup. Joseph Randle, the team’s top running back the past couple of years, is gone, but senior running back Jeremy Smith, who shared the ground duties with Randle last season, is ready to step up into the starting role.
Under Gundy, the Cowboys never have seemed to have a shortage of fleet, sure-handed playmakers. Josh Stewart caught 101 passes last season, seven of which went for touchdowns. The Pokes also have senior Tracy Moore back from a foot injury. Moore had a four-touchdown performance against Arizona early in the season a year ago before sustaining his injury.
OSU is loaded on offense, but it will have to adjust to a new offensive coordinator. Mike Yurcich,who comes to Stillwater from Division II Shippensburg (Pa.), takes over calling the plays on offense from Todd Monken, who departed to become the head coach at Southern Mississippi. What effect this will have on the Cowboys’ offense remains to be answered, but one thing we do know is that head coach Gundy would like to see a more up-tempo attack.
“We feel that we can stretch a defense,” Gundy said recently during Big 12 Media days. The young men that are in this part of the country are in that style of offense for the most part. We think that playing fast gives us the best chance to have success in the long run at Oklahoma State.”
The Cowboys are also wanting to become more aggressive on defense under new defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer, who moves up from linebackers coach to repace Bill Young.
Someone other than Quinn Sharp will be handling the kicking duties this season. Sharp was a special-teams weapon the past couple of seasons and one of the premier punters and place-kickers in college football. Sharp’s departure for the NFL leaves a huge void that will most likely be filled by two different kickers. And speaking of special teams, OSU’s Justin Gilbert is a dangerous kick-return specialist and holds the school record with five kickoffs returned for touchdowns.
“I feel good about our football team,” said Gundy, who will be in his ninth season as the head coach at his alma mater. “We are going to move the ball and score a lot of points because of what we do and who we are. If we want to consistently compete for a championship, we have to play better on defense.”
Projected 2013 finish: 2nd, 11-1 overall, 8-1 in the Big 12
Next: Oklahoma Sooners
Oklahoma State begins the season in the Advocare Texas Kickoff game at Reliant Stadium against the Mississippi State Bulldogs. You can find tickets for the Texas Kickoff game available from PrimeSport. The get-in price is only $18 and lower level seats begin for as low as $45.