Robert Allen of PokesReport.com wrote this pre-season analysis for VYPE. Check out all of the Robert’s OSU coverage at PokesReport.com
You’ve probably noticed it. We live in a society where everything is sped up with patience taking a huge backseat and immediate results and response being the desired results. Even college football is living in that disposable kind of speed dating world. Players want to know how much NIL they will be getting. Players and coaches are both seeking better outcomes in the transfer portal. In the case of Oklahoma State football, they are looking for a different outcome than 2022. Gundy and his staff went through an injury riddled season that started in fall camp with 23 players in the two-deep depth chart missing significant time or in the case of seven players over half, if not all the season.
Then to Gundy’s surprise 12 prominent players went into the transfer portal including quarterback Spencer Sanders (Mississippi); receivers John Paul Richardson (TCU), Bryson Green (Wisconsin), and Stephon Johnson, Jr. (Houston); linebacker Mason Cobb (USC); cornerback Jabbar Muhammad (Washington), and the most controversial in oft-injured defensive end Trace Ford (Oklahoma). Gundy turned to his director of recruiting Todd Bradford and his staff and used them like an NFL player-personnel department and challenged them to gain from the portal. They came through from quarterback Alan Bowman to offensive tackle and Prague, Okla. native Dalton Cooper to the Tulsa defensive tandem of linebacker Justin Wright and defensive end Anthony Goodlow. Meanwhile, injured players got healthy.
What surfaced for this season from a bang-up spring that saw the Cowboys spend way more time playing 11-on-11 and scrimmaging rather than drills or any abbreviated work, was a different looking team that benefitted from healthy players and some radically talented newcomers out of the transfer portal. It is different, but it is still Cowboy cultured the way Gundy wants his program to be,
Most team previews start with the quarterback, but this one starts with the guys catching the ball. I think there are two position groups that Oklahoma State fans are going to go crazy for early. On defense it will be the defensive line and the man in the middle. On offense it will be the guys catching the football.
Richardson, Johnson, and Bryson Green represented 102 receptions for 1,380-yards and 11 touchdowns. That’s a chunk! Gundy and offensive coordinator and receivers coach Kasey Dunn believe they are likely better at receiver for 2023.
“On paper, I think so,” Gundy replied. “This spring, it looks like it.”
“I think so,” answered Kasey Dunn. “But I don’t know until we actually get out there and it’s really on. But, yeah, I think so.”
The offense gets back Jaden Bray, who missed all but parts of three games last season. The former hoops standout at Norman High School is a freaky athletic talent at 6-2, 205-pounds with electric speed and ball skills honed by his basketball experience. Dunn believes he is a future NFL receiver. Add Washington State leading receiver De’Zahn Stribling and he is 6-3, 210-pounds with major sprinter’s speed and awesome ball skills.
There is addition by subtraction as Gundy put the end to the “Cowboy back” concept of players performing multiple tasks from tight end to h-back to fullback. Oklahoma State now has tight end and fullbacks. That moved Blaine Green (6-1, 220), who has proven to be the more talented of the twins from Allen, Texas, and Rashod Owens (6-2, 220) back to receiver. High school All-American Talyn Shettron of Edmond Santa Fe has progressed.
At slot receiver you have returning leading pass catcher and Bixby native Brennan Presley along with another portal get in former Iowa Hawkeyes receiver Arland Bruce IV.
Dunn will tell you Presley is the leader, but the talent phenomenon is Bray.
“I already talked about it, we missed him, no question, last year,” Dunn said of Bray. “He’s just a big, physical, strong guy that can go get it. I don’t know if he can dunk from the free-throw line or not, but I’ll be he’s damn close. He can jump and he can run. He’s got great speed and he’s fearless. So, I’m excited to see him back out there.
“But, there’s a lot of guys that we missed last year that are back now. Blaine (Green) being one of them,” Dunn added. “We’re excited to have guys out there that can catch the ball, that are big and strong and all of that. And more depth. We can rotate guys through.”
“Bray is a guy that’s got a lot of tools,” added Gundy. “If he can stay healthy throughout the year, now that he’s more mature, it should really give us an added dimension that we haven’t had in a couple years. He’s got size. He’s got range. He’s got length. He’s a basketball player. He can go up and get the ball.”
So, who throws the ball. It is likely Alan Bowman. Did you know that in two games at Boone Pickens Stadium playing for Texas Tech back in 2018 and 2020 that Bowman completed 66-of-92 passing for 72 percent, 781-yards, five touchdowns, and three interceptions. You’d like to skip the oskies, but the rest is awesome. Bowman kicked off the rust and by the end of spring looked good. Garret Rangel competed and is clearly in the top two. Gunnar Gundy and talented freshman Zane Flores give the Cowboys a complete quarterback room in an era where few schools can say that.
Transfer Elijah Collins from Michigan State joins speedster sophomore Jaden Nixon and bull-like sophomore Ollie Gordon to form a running back trio that will benefit from more gap schemes in the rushing attack.
The offensive line returns former starter Cole Birmingham, who missed all of 2022 with a torn ACL the last week of spring practice a year ago. Add transfer Dalton Cooper and junior college signee Jarrett Henry to Jason Brooks, Jake Springfield, and joe Michalski and I can find an offensive line in there. Veterans Preston Wilson and Taylor Miterko, and younger players Austin Kawecki, Calvin Harvey, true freshman Jack Endean, and transfer red-shirt freshman Noah McKinney improved in spring. The line also will benefit from new run schemes.
Tight ends will be different and UMass transfer Josiah Johnson (6-5, 240) along with Division II transfer Ian Edenfield (6-5, 272) bolster the tight end position. The fullbacks are fine with fired up Braden Cassity, Prague, Okla. native Jake Schultz, and Stillwater home grown Luke McEndoo.
Okay, are you ready for the other surprise? Defensive line with a lot of losses including Brock Martin and Tyler Lacy to moving on to the NFL, has one huge newcomer. Justin Kirkland came through the portal from lightly regarded Utah Tech, but the 21-year-old nose tackle that has served his two-year mission for the Church of Latter-Day Saints is 6-3 and 345-pounds. He tested by throwing up the NFL rep test of 225-pounds 34 times. He is a 500-pound bench presser with some unique side-to-side mobility. He is an offensive line’s nightmare, similar to Baylor’s nose the past three seasons in Siaki Ika.
Gundy noted that in the new odd-man front scheme the Cowboys will use defensively there is a need for a nose tackle that can push the middle of the line back into the offensive backfield.
“He’s doing good. He’s changed his body,” Gundy said of Kirkland after arrival. So, I’m not sure where he’s at weight-wise right now. I know that he’s changed the physical part of his body. Muscle weighs more than fat, so he’s probably not lost much weight, but he looks really good. His conditioning is better. I was worried about his conditioning, because I think when he arrived, he was 350 (pounds). I was concerned about (stamina), but we’ve seen him out there now in six, eight, even 10-play stuff and he has done just fine.”
Better than fine, his influence will make all 10 of the other defenders on the field better.
Up the middle, Oklahoma State will have veteran linebacker Justin Wright coming over from Tulsa and then the rover safety in the defense. The player new defensive coordinator Bryan Nardo will count on as his defensive quarterback will be Freshman All-American Kendal Daniels from Beggs High School.
Upfront the Cowboys have tackles like NEO A&M product Iman Oates, Collin Clay, Zavier Ross, and coming back from injury Adam Kelley. Defensive ends like Kody Walterscheid, transfer Anthony Goodlow, Nathan Latu, and DeSean Brown.
At linebacker is the name you probably wondered why it was missing from the defensive line. Collin Oliver is now a linebacker and one of the most athletic players on the team will be able to make more plays as the Sam backer. Oliver will help this defense get going and will enhance his NFL prospects for the future with the move.
“I think this will be good for me in a lot of ways,” Oliver told us.
Add ultra-athletic Nick Martin, returning from injury Jeff Roberson, Del City product Donovan Stephens, and Stillwater walk-on Chance Clements. There are a lot of options.
In the secondary veteran cornerback Korie Black returns to lead with Daniels. Expect to see Cam Smith, D.J. McKinney, De’kelvion Beamon, and Arkansas State transfer Kenneth Harris playing corner.
In the back with Daniels Lyrik Rawls, Trey Rucker, Nick Session, Muskogee product Ty Williams, and Ray Gay II all look to factor into playing time.
The kicker should be Alex Hale, a veteran, but the punter and snapper will be new.
But for Gundy, who is determined to run his program the way he has, new is not an issue. The Cowboys have learned since last season that the right new players can make them better. The veterans that stay keep the Cowboy culture the way it needs to be.
Cowboys Need Bowman to Flash Back
By Robert Allen
The first couple of weeks of spring practice my observations were that red-shirt freshman Garret Rangel, who started three games including the Guaranteed Rate Bowl vs. Wisconsin was the leader. Rangel is talented, he was a four-star rated prospect by some. His play and progress have been encouraging. Alan Bowman came in through the transfer portal after two seasons in mostly inactivity at Michigan. I thought he looked okay the first two weeks of spring, but that is to say he looked like a quarterback shaking off the rust.
Bowman, prior to Michigan and in between injuries at Texas Tech, had played 19 games. You can read in the preview story on the Cowboys what he did in two starts against OSU at Boone Pickens Stadium, but overall Bowman completed 67 percent of his passes (478-of-713) for 5,260-yards with 19 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
I believe that head coach Mike Gundy saw the same things from his 23-year-old transfer quarterback.
“He brings maturity. He’s had a lot of reps in a lot of games,” head coach Mike Gundy said in spring. “Been around good coaching, in my opinion. When he came in and we spent time with him, I really liked his appearance and the way he carried himself. He’s very humble. He’s acting very mature, handles himself extremely well, we’re rotating him in with all three groups, never says a word.”
Then he started to get more comfortable. You could see it. You also knew that this was different than the previous four seasons of Spencer Sanders.
“He has the ability to avoid rush, move around well, and make a play,” Gundy added. “When I was evaluating him the other day, very similar to Spencer, except Spencer chose to make plays with his legs. So far, Bowman is choosing to make plays, buying himself time, and using his arm. Gunner (Gundy) and (Garret) Rangel are progressing like you would think freshmen would moving into their next year.”
Offensive coordinator Kasey Dunn showed excitement.
“We’re actually deeper at quarterback,” Dunn said without throwing all the attention on Bowman. “We’re looking at two guys who have experience now. We have two more quarterbacks coming back for this season who have had experience.”
It took a visitor to practice to really convince me that Bowman was back in his earlier, and successful collegiate form. The way he played at Texas Tech from 2018-2020.
Troy Kema is the father of recent Oklahoma State offensive line signee in Isaiah Kema, and All-State lineman from Frenship High School in Wolfforth, Texas. Kema is also the associate athletic director of player engagement at Texas A&M. When Bowman was at Texas Tech, Kema was the associate athletic director for player development for the Red Raiders.
“Oh yes, that’s the Bowman I remember,” Coach Kema said watching the April 15 spring practice. Kema was there with Isaiah and all his family as his son chose to go to Stillwater for a final trip before leaving for New Zealand and his religious mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
“That is the way I remember Alan throwing for us at Tech,” Kema continued. “He did it twice right across the street over there (pointing to Boone Pickens Stadium).”
The rust came off and late in spring Bowman was a different quarterback. The one that Gundy and Dunn hoped they would see when they pulled him out of the transfer portal from Michigan.