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The Oklahoma State Cowboys: Defense + Special Teams = Darkhorse Candidate

OKLAHOMA STATE COWBOYS

  • While special team’s coach Joe DeForest left for West Virginia, I still expect the Cowboys to field one of the best special teams in college football behind kicker/punter Quinn Sharp and kick returner Justin Gilbert.  Sharp possesses an incredible skill in every facet of the kicking game as he made 22-of-25 field goal attempts last season, while averaging 46.3 yards per punt (38.3 net).  Sharp also had an amazing 61 touchbacks on 114 kick-offs, which led the nation by a margin of 21 touchbacks!  Meanwhile, Gilbert is a dangerous return man who averaged 27.0 yards per return last year (2 touchdowns) and is primed for an even better season in 2012.
  • Together with outstanding special teams, Oklahoma State enters the 2012-2013 campaign with the best secondary in college football.  In fact, the Cowboys led the country with 24 interceptions last season, and return seven of their top 8 from last year.  My favorite cornerback this season is Broderick Brown, who possesses incredible speed (4.35) and was a semi-finalist for the Thorpe Award in 2011.
  • Head coach Mike Gundy has been praising this year’s linebacking unit all spring, stating that it’s his best group of players in eight years.  I would have to agree with Gundy as the Cowboys have three returning starters and five of their top six linebackers from last year.  I expect a huge year from Shaun Lewis, who was the team’s #5 tackler last year as a true freshman.
  • From an offensive standpoint, Oklahoma State boasts one of the nation’s strongest backfields with Joseph Randle, who rushed for 1,216 yards last year (5.8 yards per carry, and Jeremy Smith, who rushed for 646 yards (7.1 yards per carry).  The Cowboys also possess an outstanding fullbacks in Kye Staley and David Paulsen.  With an inexperienced quarterback behind center, Oklahoma State’s backfield will pay immediate dividends in 2012.
  • The most significant blemish with this team is the loss of starting quarterback Brandon Weeden, who threw for 4,727 yards (72.4%  completion rate) with a 37-13 ratio.  Weeden was 23-3 as a starter and brought invaluable leadership to the team, but coach Gundy is very high on true freshman Wes Lunt, who was named the starter in the spring.  While Lunt is Oklahoma State’s first starting true freshman quarterback since 1993, reports from Stillwater are extremely positive regarding his athleticism and development.

Mike Gundy is one of my favorite coaches in college football, and he has led the Cowboys to 41 wins over the last four seasons, including a school record twelve wins last year.  Defensive coordinator Bill Young has his best unit yet and the Cowboys will win games with their special teams alone.

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