The rigorous work of the preseason complete, Oklahoma State's active football roster – the two-deep and a bit beyond in certain spots – offers clarity.
With that: the always-anticipated list of true freshmen in the mix.
Not that it's taken this long to identify some of the impact rookies.
Cowboys quarterback Brandon Weeden will tell you he's known since the summer.
“There's guys who, when the first day they get here, you say they're either going to play, or they're not going to play,” Weeden said. “You can tell. ‘He's going to be a player.' Or not.”
Of course, Weeden's eye is most focused on the offense. Not surprisingly, he immediately focused on a trio of playmakers – receiver Josh Stewart and running backs Herschel Sims and Desmond Roland.
“Those three guys really stood out,” Weeden said. “And those three guys are going to get a chance. I'm excited about them, they've got a chance to be special.”
Weeden's eye for talent meshes with coach Mike Gundy, who also pegged those three for playing time. The complete list:
Josh Stewart, IR. Cowboys offensive coordinator Todd Monken said that 10 or 15 years ago, Stewart would be playing at Northwestern State, just because of his slight size (5-10, 170). The spread changes everything, allowing smaller, yet talented athletes to run with the big boys. Not only will Stewart factor as a receiver, backing up Josh Cooper, but he'll likely get a shot to return punts, too.
Herschel Sims, RB. Sims was one of the prized pickups in the latest recruiting class. And while he hasn't just wowed with his ability – yet – he's been solid in every way, showing comfortable receiving skills and stamping himself as the No. 3 back behind Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith. And if last season is any indicator, he'll have an opportunity to show what he's got.
Desmond Roland, RB. Camp didn't start well for Roland, who struggled through some fumbling issues early. But rather than drift into the background, he came on strong to push Sims and earn a role, both on offense and in special teams. As Gundy pointed out, the really good ones – and he believes Sims and Roland are at that level – typically don't stick around for four years anyway, so you might as well play them if they're ready.