College basketball is heading down the home stretch, college baseball has started, but let’s not forget (I know many of you aren’t) that spring practice is already getting underway across the country. We will handle spring previews for every Big 12 football team and roll them out based on when their respective spring practices begin. Next up is the Oklahoma State Cowboys who will start up spring practice on Tuesday March 27th.
Most Exciting Returnee: RB Justice Hill
It’s not often that Big 12 running backs get recognition nationally, but Justice Hill deserves more national publicity. Justice rushed for 1,467 yards last season and rushed for over 1,100 yards in his freshman season back in 2016. He led the Big 12 in rushing yards, rushing attempts and rushing touchdowns last season as well. To sum it all up, the guy can flat out play football. The speed, quickness and vision separate Justice from most backs and he is by no means afraid to run it in between the tackles. The two-time all-Big 12 running back looks to terrorize defenses once again in 2018 but this time, there is no Mason Rudolph or James Washington to steal the show. The 2018 season has Justice Hill’s name written all over it in Stillwater.
Most Exciting Newcomer: Safety Jarrick Bernard
Bernard certainly is helping a position of need. Oklahoma State lacks serious veteran leadership in the back end of its defense and Mike Gundy has even cited wanting stronger, bigger athletes at the position for the Big 12’s style of play. Enter: Jarrick Bernard. Bernard looked like a man amongst boys playing for Evangel Christian Academy. He had great instincts and good jumps on balls. He also sometimes lined up at cornerback, as well as safety, and was not afraid to show his physicality on the snap of the ball. This is a very exciting addition for Gundy and should pay immediate dividends in 2018.
*Quarterbacks Dru Brown and Spencer Sanders won’t be on campus until the summer time and to me, those are the two contenders for the starting job. Therefore, I didn’t go with the quarterback position for those wondering.
This is tough for Oklahoma State fans, losing James Washington and Marcell Ateman, who were the best 2 wide receivers on the team last season. Washington had over 1,000 yards receiving the last three seasons while Ateman was a stud himself, especially in the red zone. Luckily, the Cowboys have always seemed to find great wide outs, but I expect some old faces to step up big for the upcoming season. Jalen McCleskey has been a solid option over the last 3 seasons and Dillon Stoner had a good freshman campaign as well. The guy I am most excited about is Tyron Johnson, the former LSU transfer. He had his moments last year but with James Washington and Marcell Ateman gone, I expect Tyron Johnson to be the next 1,000-yard receiver for the Cowboys. Also keep an eye on Tylan Wallace who should see more passes come his way this season.
This is a position that pretty much has to replace all but one or two starters up front. LG Marcus Keyes (26 career starts) is the one guy that has his spot locked down, but the rest could be up for grabs. Center Johnny Wilson is probably another guy to pencil in after starting 10 games last season. After that is where things get dicey. RG Larry Williams redshirted last season after getting injured and Oklahoma State hopes that the NCAA will grant him a sixth year of eligibility. If the NCAA approves, then he will more than likely be the guy at RG. Probably the biggest concern is at the two tackle spots. Look for Dylan Galloway, Teven Jenkins, Shane Richards and Arlington Hambright to battle it out there.
The Cowboys lose both their starters from last season in Tre Flowers and Ramon Richards. Thabo Mwaniki saw the field at times last year and he could be a guy that is able to land a starting spot in the spring. Other guys to watch are Za’Carrius Green, Chance Cook and Malcolm Rodriguez who all contributed on special teams but look to see the field on defense more with Flowers and Richards gone. As I mentioned earlier, true freshman early enrollee Jarrick Bernard could see some early playing time and possibly Sean Michael Flanagan who is another freshman early enrollee.