STILLWATER — The Oklahoma State football roster endured at least one hit to its depth chart last week when wide receiver Kevin Johnson transferred to Lamar.
It could end up being two blows after defensive tackle Christian Littlehead was arrested on a complaint of public intoxication, his second run-in with the law in six months. It's important to note that no disciplinary action has yet been taken against Littlehead following the arrest. But we can use the past as a guide — he was suspended for the Fiesta Bowl after being charged with misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia in December.
Which position group can best withstand the loss of a player? Let's rank them all — other than quarterback and specialists — from most quality depth to least quality depth.
Lyndell Johnson had one of the best springs of any Cowboy, and Ryan Simmons is generally regarded as a rising star. Both of those players are backup linebackers.
OSU returns all three starters in Shaun Lewis, Alex Elkins and Caleb Lavey and legitimately goes three deep at each linebacker spot.
Mike Gundy calls this the best group of linebackers he's seen at OSU during his time as a coach or player. He especially likes the speed at the position and those players' ability to cover ground from sideline to sideline.
2. Running back/Fullback
This easily could have been No. 1 on the list, as Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith could be the best 1-2 running back combination in the Big 12. Randle compiled more than 1,200 rushing yards and 24 touchdowns last season, and Jeremy Smith averaged more than 7.1 yards per carry.
Herschel Sims' role should increase in his sophomore season, and running backs coach Jemal Singleton wants to really count on fellow sophomore Desmond Roland, as well.
Fullbacks Kye Staley and David Paulsen are both seniors with plenty of game experience.
3. Defensive tackle
It's pretty remarkable how this has quickly gone from a position of weakness to a position of strength.
With or without Littlehead, the Cowboys have a combination of experience and young talent on the interior — enough to move Nigel Nicholas back to his natural position of defensive end.
Junior college transfer Calvin Barnett impressed during the spring and should start the season opener, as should returning starter Anthony Rogers. Davidell Collins also has experience, and coaches are high on sophomore James Castleman and redshirt freshman Mike Mustafa.
4. Offensive line
Let's lump all of these positions into one category, given the way offensive line coach Joe Wickline likes to mix and match different guys at different positions.
Guard Lane Taylor is the most experienced player on the Cowboy roster with 36 career starts, and Jonathan Rush, Michael Bowie and Parker Graham all have at least five career starts.
Rush's limitations during the spring because of his knee injury gave reserve Brandon Webb a large bulk of reps, and redshirt freshman Devin Davis has shown immense potential.
Center, of course, is still a question mark until senior Evan Epstein snaps a ball in a game. And behind him is a ton of youth in sophomore Jake Jenkins and redshirt freshman Travis Cross.
The Cowboys must replace one of their biggest defensive leaders in Markelle Martin but return last season's leading tackler in Daytawion Lowe.
Zack Craig and Lavocheya Cooper both have significant game experience. So does Shamiel Gary, who was a Freshman All-American at Wyoming before transferring to OSU.
Why so low for a group that has two stout starters in Brodrick Brown and Justin Gilbert?
The corners behind them are almost entirely unproven.
Junior Larry Stephens has experience. The other backups — Miketavius Jones and Jonovan Griffin — have displayed great athleticism but are both redshirt freshmen.
When Devin Hedgepth will return from his torn Achilles is unclear, and Andrae May's torn anterior cruciate ligament during the spring was another blow to the depth at the position.
The fact that Kevin Johnson — who had zero catches in his OSU career — was listed as a backup on the outside shows the number of inexperienced players in the receiving corps.
OSU has a solid top three in seniors Tracy Moore and Isaiah Anderson and sophomore Josh Stewart, but the Cowboys need at least eight pass-catchers in their spread offense.
Charlie Moore was the breakout star of the spring finale (nine catches, 243 yards, three touchdowns), but will that carry over to the fall? Torrance Carr and David Glidden have shown promise, but both are redshirt freshmen who have never seen the field in college. Tight end/inside receiver Blake Jackson is expected to contribute right away but struggled at times during the spring.
It's likely the Cowboys will need one or two of their six true freshman receiver signees — most likely C.J. Curry or Blake Webb — to play right away.
8. Defensive end
The Cowboys will have two new starters here and had to convert Tyler Johnson from linebacker and move Nicholas back to the outside during the spring to help with depth at this position.
Gundy has been high on the development of Ryan Robinson, and Cooper Bassett has the leadership qualities to step up as a starter.
Sophomore Jimmy Bean will also be in the rotation, and one of OSU's four defensive end signees will likely play as a true freshman.