By Wendell Barnhouse | firstname.lastname@example.org
STILLWATER, Okla. – Winning can become a habit … at least that’s the theory Oklahoma State is counting on.
Over the last five seasons, Oklahoma State has won 50 games with a winning percentage of .770. According to the Pistols Firing blog, that’s the best five-year stretch in school history.
This season’s team, though, will be missing 28 seniors who were a big part of the half decade hot streak. The Cowboys must replace its quarterback, its top two receivers and seven defensive starters from a 10-3 team.
“These players expect to win and expect to peform at a high level,” coach Mike Gundy said at Saturday’s on-campus media day. “Confidence builds success and more success builds success. We’ve got guys who have been working out and playing with guys (who have left) who played in and won bowl games.”
The challenge for any program is sustaining success over a period of time. Oklahoma State’s challenge for this season would appear to be another 10-win season despite significant roster churn.
Junior cornerback Kevin Peterson learned from Justin Gilbert, who was a No. 1 NFL draft pick last April. Now Peterson is a veteran showing the way.
“I’m just trying to be more of a mentor to guys,” said the junior cornerback. “The team philosophy is ‘You play for the man next to you’. You can’t be selfish and think so much about yourself. So you just really try to make everyone around you better.”
There is a lot of teaching to be done. Oklahoma State’s last two recruiting classes have stocked the roster with talent. But those freshmen and sophomores are sorely lacking in game experience.
“We’re pretty much back to Base 1, with where we are as a football team in a lot of areas,” Gundy said. “On average over the last four or five years, we’d go into an opener with about 45 players who we felt like had competed and practiced at a high level and played in big games. This year we have 29. So it’s a little different.
“We’re just immature. We don’t have experience in key positions. We have some talented guys out there. We think they are. They just haven’t played yet.”
Mike Gundy, a former quarterback, has not been afraid as the Cowboys coach to make changes during a season or during a game. Oklahoma State followed a great two-year stretch with Brandon Weeden as the starter with a year when three quarterbacks played and each threw for over 1,000 yards.
What will 2014 bring? Junior J.W. Walsh is the most experienced quarterback on the roster. Junior Daxx Garman, a transfer from Arizona, and freshman Mason Rudolph are pushing for playing time. And while most expect Walsh to start the season opener against Florida State, Gundy tapped the brakes Saturday.
He said using multiple quarterbacks is “a very good possibility. … Whoever we play most of the time, we hope that their play takes off. Our quarterback situation this year is a little different than what it’s been in the past and we vary our style of offense based on who’s in the game.”
* Oklahoma State will be without two home run threats in the return game thanks to the departure of Justin Gilbert (kickoffs) and Josh Stewart (punts). However, junior-college transfer Tyreek Hill could wind up returning kicks. He won the 200 meters in the Big 12 indoor track and field championship. “We’d love to use him in our return game,” Gundy said. “He’s getting quality reps back there now. We’ll just watch and see how it goes.”
* 30 days. That’s how long Oklahoma State second-year defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer has to prepare a defense that’s missing seven starters for defending national champion Florida State and Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston: “(Experience) is irreplaceable. You can’t sugarcoat it. You can’t replace it. You can’t coach it. I’m uneasy with that. It’s a challenge for me. I stay awake because of that. But I was awake last year because of other issues.”
* Last year’s top two receivers – Josh Stewart and Tracy Moore – must be replaced. Sophomore Jhajuan Seales, who is third in receptions last season, believes the Cowboys have plenty of talent: “We have a great offense. We have speed everywhere. We have weapons all over the field. I feel like we’re going to do great things.”
* Oklahoma State announced future nonconference games with Tulsa. The schools are scheduled to meet in 2017 and the three-game contract announced this week has the Cowboys playing in Tulsa in 2019 with games in Stillwater on 2020 and 2021.
Skywriters Tour, Year Seven
So what is the Skywriters Tour? It was born in a previous era of college football … and media/communications. In the late 1960s and 1970s, sportswriters and broadcasters would gather in a central location and embark on an annual conference-wide tour, traveling from campus-to-campus to cover preseason practices and conduct interviews with coaches and players. The tour provided fans with unprecedented daily coverage from each school by moving the group between campuses by charter bus or air service and thus was dubbed the Skywriters Tour. Since 2008, the Big 12 has revived the tradition and staged its own preseason campus tour to preview the football season.