Oklahoma State is poised to have one of its best seasons in recent history, maybe even all time, and the hype surrounding Stillwater has no signs of slowing down any time soon. If the Cowboys want to meet expectations and go perhaps as far as, dare I say it, the NCAA College Football Playoff National Championship, they will have to rely on a few key players.
While every team relies on its superstars to succeed, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Oklahoma State standouts like potential Heisman candidate quarterback Mason Rudolph and pre-season All-American wide receiver James Washington will lead the way, but the Pokes will need more than the star-studded duo to make dreams become reality in 2017. Let’s take a look at some players that the Cowboys need to play prominent roles this season.
Sophomore running back Justice Hill had an incredible season a year ago as a true freshman. Playing in all 13 games, Hill ran for 1142 yards on 206 attempts, and he scored 6 touchdowns. In order for Mason Rudolph to be successful throwing the ball, the Cowboys will need to establish the run game, and Hill is the type of guy who can put up a lot of yardage in a hurry. A year, a shoulder surgery, and fourteen pounds of lean muscle later, Oklahoma State will rely on him to get it done on the ground. If he is able to find the type of success he had a year ago, the Cowboys will be one of the most dangerous dual-threat offenses in the nation.
— Cowboys Ride Against the NCAA (@CowboysRFF) August 2, 2016
Senior wide receiver Marcel Ateman returns to the field after missing the entire 2016 season due to a cracked bone in his foot, and despite not playing a game since the 2016 Sugar Bowl, he’s prepared to be a major contributor to the Cowboy offense. In his junior season in 2015, Ateman put up 766 yards on 45 receptions while scoring 5 touchdowns. If he can put anywhere near those type of numbers this season, Mason Rudolph won’t know what to do with all of the options that he will have at receiver.
Marcel Ateman's excited like a freshman to play a game after missing a year. I predict he has a big season.
— Robert Allen (@RAllenGoPokes) August 25, 2017
Senior linebacker Chad Whitener has been a defensive staple for Oklahoma State since transferring from California after the 2013 season. After sitting out in 2014, Whitener has played 25 games over the last 2 seasons, and he has recorded 164 tackles in that time. After an incredible sophomore season, he dropped off a bit last year, but the Cowboys will look to Whitener to be a leader in a number of ways on the defensive end of things.
Chad Whitener is ready for one more ride with the Cowboys in 2017! #okstate
— OSU Cowboy Football (@CowboyFB) August 14, 2017
Senior defensive back Adrian Baker comes to Oklahoma State by way of Clemson, and after not showing up on the two-deep depth chart for the Cowboys released just days ago, fans have begun to wonder what that means for him. According to Mike Gundy, it’s nothing more than he hasn’t progressed as much as some of the other guys, but he will still see plenty of play time, and he is expected to improve as the season goes on. As a fifth-year senior, Baker is the type of guy that can impact the game more than just on the field, and that type of leadership is something that will be invaluable to the Cowboy secondary.
Junior punter Zach Sinor has made some noise over the summer as he launched his own personal Heisman campaign. While it was all in good fun, the point goes to stand that Sinor has often times been one of the most valuable players for the Cowboys. Punters are not typically heralded for more than a few plays each game, but Sinor has earned all the attention he is getting these days. He is on the preseason watch list for the Ray Guy Award, and when the Cowboys need to punt the ball, they know they can count on Sinor to get the job done.
— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) July 19, 2017
Sophomore wide receiver Tyron Johnson finds himself at the top of the depth chart for returning kicks, and while he is expected to have a major impact on Oklahoma State’s passing game, opposing teams should fear what he could do in special teams. There is a lot of hype around Johnson coming out of the preseason, and some believe he’s the next big star to shine in Stillwater. Playing second fiddle to James Washington won’t be an issue for Johnson because he is sure to see plenty of passes thrown his way, but if he is able to make noise on kickoff returns, he may find himself getting far more attention than he expected.
— The Oklahoman Archive (@OklahomanArch) August 29, 2017