It’s officially game week for the Oklahoma State football program. The Cowboys will kickoff their 2018 football season a week from tonight (August 30th) when they host Missouri State.
Next Thursday’s opener will be followed by South Alabama nine days later, giving OSU ample opportunity to adequately answer the three pressing questions that they’ll enter the season with.
What is the immediate future of the quarterback position? Obviously the answer, at the moment, is senior Taylor Cornelius who took control of the position during the spring. However, Hawaii transfer Dru Brown and freshman Spencer Sanders arrived on campus during the summer and are just a call away.
Replacing Mason Rudolph isn’t going to be done by a guy playing just one season. Cornelius could very well be the answer for 2018 but most agree that the future of the position belongs to Sanders. It wouldn’t be too far out of the question to see Sanders take the reigns of the offense later in the season, or perhaps even earlier if Cornelius has some struggles.
Can Jalen McCleskey be effective at the #1 option? The senior flanker has been exceptional operating in the shadow of James Washington. To date he has racked up 152 catches, 1,710 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns, but now he becomes OSU’s primary receiving threat. He’s moving into the spotlight that Washington thrived in and must be able to do the same.
Jordan Thomas never had a chance (Justice Hill): pic.twitter.com/zylAJS5XXt
— Trevor Sikkema (@TampaBayTre) August 14, 2018
The good news is that Oklahoma State will have the Big 12’s leading returning rusher in the backfield, Justice Hill, which will prompt teams to focus on him and make a new quarterback try to beat them. That should work just fine through the first two weeks of the season, but by the time Boise State comes calling in week three the chemistry between McCleskey and Cornelius has to be magic.
How quickly can the 4-2-5 scheme improve Oklahoma State’s defense? There’s sure to be some growing pains early on in Jim Knowles first season as OSU’s defensive coordinator. With a comfortable early schedule the Cowboys will be able to handle a few defensive miscues here or there. It’s after those opening two games that they have to be on point though.
Over the last five seasons Oklahoma has ranked 53rd, 93rd, 100th, 92nd, 79th in total defense. With the offense possibly taking a step back, at least initially, this season, the defense must take a step forward in order for the Cowboys to remain a contender for the conference title.
Knowles has seven returning starters on the defense as he’s implementing his new scheme. They’ll need to grasp it rather quickly though.