The official beginning of the 2015 season tonight allows for all of us to finally put to rest all of the speculation and preseason over-analyzing that we can’t help but partake in.
It also provides a chance to size this team up outside of practice reports and scrimmages.
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With that said, this being the season opener and all, there are plenty of things to keep an eye on against the Chippewas.
Chris Carson – The 2014 running game, along with most of the offense up until the debut of Mason Rudolph against Baylor, was a total bummer — even with Tyreek Hill doing Tyreek Hill things. It just wasn’t enough. Hill’s sudden departure made the tailback position look even more bleak. Carson’s subsequent arrival, which likely wouldn’t have happened without Hill leaving, is looking more and more like a godsend. All throughout fall camp and early season practices we have heard about Carson’s work ethic and focus, along with some insanely lofty comparisons to players such as Adrian Peterson. While that’s probably going way too far, it’s obvious that both the players and coaching staff are confident in Carson. Tonight finally gives us an opportunity to see what he can do, even if it does involve vanilla play calling.
Dec 6, 2014; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma State Cowboys quarterback Mason Rudolph (10) passes the ball against Oklahoma Sooners linebacker Devante Bond (23) during the fourth quarter at Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Mason Rudolph – Duh. Rudolph kind of took everyone by surprise last season when he was thrust onto the stage, and given the small sample size of three (big) games, the season was suddenly over despite feeling like it had just begun in a way. Now that a full eight months has passed of picking apart every single Rudolph pass on film and every quote from teammates and coaches, we will finally see a Mason Rudolph who is coming into the season as the guy — with plenty of pressure.
The Offensive Line – Duh again. The depleted and inexperienced o-line was responsible for much of OSU’s offensive ineptness last season. The front five showed improvement towards the end of the year, and return fully healthy in 2015 with more experience, and UAB transfer and NFL prospect Victor Salako protecting Rudolph’s blind side. First-year offensive line coach Greg Adkins, a long time NFL assistant, has drawn rave reviews from fellow coaches, and more importantly, his position players. CMU’s defense is a fairly stout unit, and although the Chippewas be without star defensive end Blake Serpka, they will still provide a good test for the line.
A Healthy and Matured Defense – Last season, OSU was the youngest team in all of college football, a dubious title that was made even worse with sudden injuries to players such as cornerback Ashton Lampkin, whose absence forced a young Ramon Richards into action before he was really ready. Richards had his moments in 2014, but enters this season as the backup, even though he will still see plenty of playing time. Tre Flowers returns as a sophomore after gaining valuable experience last season at safety. Linebacker Devante Avarette, who is yet to play a game fully healthy, is primed and ready to finally show what he can do.
Freshmen – While the 2014 season was marred with the necessity to play several freshmen at key positions, 2015 is the exact opposite — certain freshmen such as receiver Jalen McKleskey and running back Jeff Carr are pleasantly surprising commodities that unexpectedly bolstered their respective positions. Both are undersized true freshmen who were expected to spend most if not all of 2015 on the sidelines. However, as soon as fall camp began, it was immediately apparent that they could be valuable contributors this season, with Mike Gundy being pretty vocal about his confidence in them.
Nov 22, 2014; Waco, TX, USA; Oklahoma State Cowboys wide receiver James Washington (28) runs for a touchdown in the fourth quarter against Baylor Bears cornerback Xavien Howard (4) at McLane Stadium. Baylor beat Oklahoma State 49-28. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Wide Receivers – This group is arguably the deepest wide receiver corps in the Big 12, and should provide Mason Rudolph with plenty of options. Every single player with the obvious exception of McKleskey caught at least two passes last season, led by senior Brandon Sheperd, who ended the 2014 season playing his best football since he’s been in Stillwater. Sophomore James Washington developed immediate chemistry with Rudolph in those three games in 2014, and has improved heavily in the offseason. Senior David Glidden has proven to be the team’s most reliable receiver in a Wes Welker-like role. Jahjuan Seales, who has gotten by on raw talent in his previous two seasons, is apparently more mature and focused. And of course there is McKleskey. It will be interesting to see who Rudolph’s favorite target is early into the season.
The Kicking Game – Junior field goal and place kicker Ben Grogan has solid experience under his belt, and is finally over a nagging hip injury that hindered him for much of 2014. Redshirt freshman Zach Sinor gets his chance to show what he can do punting. Brandon Sheperd and James Washington are listed as the kick and punt returners, but don’t be surprised to see Gundy put in Carr and/or McKleskey in the second half.
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