- Quarterback Mason Rudolph and home-run threat James Washington anchor an Oklahoma State team that could make a darkhorse run at the Big 12. The Cowboys check in at No. 17 in SI's 2016 college football preseason Top 25 rankings.
Key returning starters: QB Mason Rudolph, WR James Washington, TE Blake Jarwin
The Cowboys return all five offensive linemen, which should help keep quarterback Mason Rudolph upright and confident. The passing offense will be fine with the return of wideout James Washington and all-conference tight end Blake Jarwin.
Key returning starters: DT Vincent Taylor, LB Chad Whitener, LB Jordan Burton, S Jordan Sterns
The secondary play will be key to the defense’s success. In the last three games of 2015 (all losses), the Cowboys surrendered an average of 50.3 points a game. Taylor and Whitener are the leaders of a strong front seven that should survive the loss of All-Big 12 defensive tackle Emmanuel Ogbah.
Leader in rushing: Chris Carson. Coach Mike Gundy called out the running game in the offseason, so look for vast improvement there.
Leader in receiving: Washington. Another year of experience will have Washington in the running for All-Big 12 honors.
Leader in tackles: Burton. The linebacker was second on the team in tackles in 2015 and should improve on his 98 stops and nine tackles for loss.
Leader in interceptions: Sterns. The safety intercepted two passes last season as part of a ball-hawking crew that forced 28 turnovers.
Opposing coach's take
“I think they will be one of the top teams in the conference, depending on what they do with the defense. If you have one elite pass rusher, like they had last year in [Emmanuel] Ogbah [second round, Browns], then you can disrupt any offense. Ogbah was getting so much attention that it freed up other guys to make plays. It will be interesting to see how they get pressure this season. Their scheme is good. It’s smart, it stresses you and it makes you earn your yards. You have to play really well to move the ball.
They have three or four outstanding wideouts, which is the strength of their team. I thought [junior] James Washington was one of their most improved players, and he hurt our team on deep balls last year. The big question is how will they replace [slot receiver] David Glidden [57 catches, 866 yards], who signed with the Falcons. [Junior quarterback] Mason Rudolph is an NFL-caliber talent. He stands in the pocket well, is accurate as all get-out and [at 6' 5" and 235 pounds] has a physical presence. If their line improves and they can improve their ability to run the football, they will be a dangerous offensive team.
Coach Mike Gundy has got a really good program, and I don’t see a reason why they won’t be there at the end. They always surprise people.”
Fans in Stillwater are curious to see if graduate transfer running back Barry J. Sanders can help the Cowboys become less one-dimensional. He never earned the starting role during his four years at Stanford (a total of 672 yards on 115 carries) but, if nothing else, having the son and namesake of the school’s greatest player on the roster will conjure memories of the good old days.
5: Returning starters on the offensive line.
20.5: Yards per catch last year for WR James Washington, 10th most nationally; he led the FBS with four 70-plus-yard receptions
32: Sacks the offensive line allowed last season, 90th most in the nation; Cowboys rushers gained only 3.58 yards per carry.
211: Tackles by safety Jordan Sterns, now a senior, over the last two seasons (108 in ’15).
|Sept. 3||Southeastern Louisiana|
|Sept. 10||Central Michigan|
|Sept. 24||at Baylor|
|Oct. 8||Iowa State|
|Oct. 22||at Kansas|
|Oct. 29||West Virginia|
|Nov. 5||at Kansas State|
|Nov. 12||Texas Tech|
|Nov. 19||at TCU|
|Dec. 3||at Oklahoma|
Top 25 rankings
|24||San Diego State|