As the opener is a mere 110 days away(!), what better time than to start looking ahead? Today we'll examine our first opponent, Oklahoma State, in their post-spring state, to get an idea of what we're in for August 30th.
Last year - The 'Boys finished 7-6, culminating with a big 49-33 win over Indiana in the Insight Bowl. QB Zac Robinson capped his breakthrough season with 5 TD's as the Okies rolled up over 500 yards of total offense in the blowout win.
Offensive Scheme - They are a very balanced team, with the ability to spread you out in the shotgun or run right at you via the I-formation. They throw a lot of different looks at you. How balanced are they? They were the only team in the nation to average at least 240 yards passing AND 240 yards rushing per game. Now that is BALANCE. However, the OC from last year, Larry Fedora, has moved on. He took the head coaching job at Southern Miss. They go forward with CO-offensive coordinators this year in an attempt to keep things as they are.
Defensive Scheme - The bad news, and one of the main reasons they only went 7-6 last year, was the defense. They finished ranked 101st in the nation in total D, including 103rd in pass efficiency defense. Part of it can be blamed on the adjustment to first-time d-coordinator Tim Beckman, who came from Ohio State as their secondary coach. But it was a long, tough season trying to stop Big 12 offenses.
Top Returning Offensive Starter in '08 - It all starts with QB Zac Robinson (pictured). The junior-to-be absolutely exploded last year in his first go of it as a starter. Robinson threw for over 2800 yards, with 23 TD's and only 9 INT's as a true sophomore. But he gets it done on the ground, too, as he ran for 847 yards and 9 TD's! All as a sophomore? He took over the job after the first game in place of Bobby Reid (he's the kid who was the subject of the "I'm a MAN!" rant), and was only sacked five times, completing over 60% of his passes with a QB efficiency rating of 148.98. They brag about Jake Locker around these parts, but this guy was simply amazing. Excellent size at 6-3, 210, and obviously athletic, he has to be right there as one of the top dual-threat QB's in the nation coming back in '08. Don't believe me? Check out the speed and moves:
Top Returning Defensive Starter in '08 - MLB Patrick Lavine is a monster tackler in the middle. The 6-3, 225-pounder had a big sophomore year, racking up 81 tackles, just 1 tackle from being #1 on the team. He also defends the pass pretty well, with 6 pass-breakups, good for third on the team and tops among linebackers. Lavine was huge as a frosh, too, starting the last 9 games in '06 and was #2 on the team in tackles with 70. Lavine is going to be on a lot of pre-season All-Conference and All-American lists this year, no doubt about it.
Other Top Player To Watch: Center Andrew Lewis - Remington Award watch list guy, Lewis was a large key to their success last year. He slid over from guard to center for the last 10 games on '07, and developed into a force. The Cowboys were #7 in total offense, #8 in rushing and allowed only 11 sacks in 13 games last year. Lewis got a lot of the credit for bringing the o-line together as the leader up front.
Bottom Line: These guys were a machine in '07 when they had the football, but did lose a lot of offensive firepower from last year's team, including leading receiver WR Adarius Bowman and leading rusher RB Dantrell Savage. But Robinson is a star, and there is a lot of talent back. JC All-Everything RB Beau Johnson sounds like the real deal, and from all reports had a decent spring. He should emerge as the starter at RB in the quest to replace Savage. WR Dez Bryant was an emerging talent down the stretch last year, as the 6-1, 200lb frosh lit up Kansas for 8 balls and 155 yards, and Indiana in the Insight Bowl with a season-best 9 catches for 117 and two scores. With Robinson in charge, they should still be able to score with anyone this year. This is going to be a major challenge to slow these guys down in our first game this year. Defensively they have a leader in the middle in Lavine, but there are holes up front and in the secondary. They should improve with another year under Beckman, but after last year there is nowhere to go but up!
In a quick analysis, you have to wonder how will they handle the new WSU offense led by Gary Rogers, Brandon Gibson, a veteran O-line and good depth at RB? This isn't the time for predictions and we still have an entire fall camp to go through before we even see accurate depth charts, but it's clear that these two teams could put up a lot of yards and points on 8/30!
Happy Mom's Day to y'all (Hi Mom!)!