The atmosphere throughout the streets of Stillwater are buzzing. Not just because it is the beginning of a new school year, but because football season is just around the corner. One week from Saturday, the Oklahoma State Cowboys will be kicking off the 2011-2012 campaign for a BCS Bowl game and a shot at a National Championship.
Obviously the Cowboys road to either of their goals isn’t easy, with top ranked bedlam rival Oklahoma in their path along with the likes of Baylor, Texas A&M, Missouri, and Texas along with the rest of the remaining Big XII teams.
Luckily the Cowboys return one of the best quarterback and receiver duo’s in the nation, with Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon both returning for another season. The Cowboys also return their entire offensive line, a solid core of receivers to remove pressure of Blackmon, and two talented back up running backs from last season.
Running along side Blackmon this season will be seniors Josh Cooper and Hubert Anyiam, juniors Tracy Moore and Isaiah Anderson, and sophomore Michael Harrison. Anyiam, Cooper, and Moore have all had very productive spring and fall practices and look poised to take pressure off their highly targeted teammate.
Sophomore running backs Jeremy Smith and Joseph Randle both look to attempt to replace the shows of All-American Kendall Hunter.
But it’s not the offense that Cowboy nation will be worried about, because the Cowboy defense is looking to rebuild yet again. However this time, it’s not the entire defense, it’s just the defensive line.
After losing Ugo Chinasa, Shane Jarka, and Chris Donaldson, Cowboy defensive coordinator Bill Young will have to rely on his defenses youth more than ever. Luckily, senior defensive ends Jamie Blatnick and Richetti Jones are able to fill the voids on the outside while junior Nigel Nicholas and redshirt freshman Christian Littlehead wil be looked at to plug the interior along with a core of other underclassman to patrol the second unit.
The Cowboy secondary brings everyone back from last season. Seniors Markelle Martin and Johnny Thomas return at both safety positions, and ESPY nominee junior cornerback Brodrick Brown returns with a host of other experienced cornerbacks, Junior Andrae May and sophomores Devin Hedgepeth, Justin Gilbert, and Larry Stephens.
The Cowboys also return star sophomore linebacker Shaun Lewis and junior James Thomas. The other starting linebacker appears to be sophomore Caleb Lavey.
Head coach Mike Gundy seems excited however about the depth of his team and how they are becoming truly fundamentally sound on both ends of the ball. And though Young preaches turnovers, being fundamentally sound will be the key for the Cowboy youngsters to truly improve defensively.
The Cowboys are more than capable of putting up explosive numbers offensively, but can they truly be considered a BCS contender without their defense exceeding expectations? One week until Cowboy fans will finally find out.