STILLWATER — Oklahoma State begins spring football practice Monday, a time for Mike Gundy and a revamped coaching staff to get their first real look at the 2013 Cowboys. For position battles to be staged. For newcomers to make an early impression.
Here's a primer on what to monitor over the next six weeks as workouts get underway
Quarterback battle — again
Could anything else possibly be No. 1? This is the second consecutive year Clint Chelf, J.W. Walsh and Wes Lunt will stage a three-man competition for the job after each started at least three games and passed for more than 1,000 yards during an injury-driven quarterback carousel in 2012.
Last year, Lunt won Gundy and former offensive coordinator Todd Monken over during practice and was named the starter as a true freshman following the spring finale. Chelf, a senior, appears to have the frontrunner this time around. But with new offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich providing a fresh perspective on the derby, get ready for another spring of QB intrigue.
Speaking of Yurcich…
The new director of the Cowboy offense admitted last week that he's spent so much time simply learning OSU's version of the Air Raid spread system that he hasn't yet gotten an opportunity to add his own tweaks.
But he'll soon see in person that he's got a lot of weapons at the skill positions. The process to figure out how to best utilize them starts this spring.
Glenn Spencer was elevated to defensive coordinator following Bill Young's messy departure in January.
Expect to see a more aggressive style, and the end of the cornerbacks' 10-yard cushions to allow the opposing the receiver to catch the ball. He'll also have to start sorting out position battles at defensive end, outside linebacker and cornerback.
And one of Spencer's biggest tasks this spring will come away from the field. OSU now has to hire a new defensive backs coach after Jason Jones left to take the cornerbacks coaching job at Mississippi last week.
Top position battles
The Cowboys have two holes to fill, with departed seniors Ryan Robinson, Nigel Nicholas and Cooper Bassett all gone.
Tyler Johnson, who had arguably the best game of his career in the Heart of Dallas Bowl (six tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles), is the early favorite to occupy the hybrid “Leo” position that will allow him to use his speed and athleticism to occasionally drop into pass coverage. On the other side, junior college transfer Sam Wren and youngsters Trace Clark, Emmanuel Ogbah, Victor Irokansi and Eric Davis will challenge.
Incoming freshman Ben Grogan is sure to compete for both jobs in the fall, but kicker Bobby Stonebreaker and punter Michael Reichenstein will try to make their mark right now. Also keep an eye on Kip Smith, a transfer and former starter at UCLA who was just added to the roster this spring. He was rated the No. 1 high school kicker by Rivals in 2010.
With mainstay Brodrick Brown now a departed senior, sophomores Kevin Peterson and Ashton Lampkin will compete to fill that void. And with Justin Gilbert's disappointing 2012 season, maybe both starting jobs are up for grabs?
Sam Wren, defensive end
The transfer from Arizona Western is in position to earn early playing time, perhaps a starting job.
Brandon Garrett, offensive lineman
A transfer from Trinity Valley Community College in Texas, the 6-6, 295-pound Garrett is best built to be a tackle. Starters Parker Graham and Daniel Koenig both return at those spots, but offensive line coach Joe Wickline said he expects Garrett to compete, as well.
Naim Mustafaa, defensive end
The longtime Georgia commit flipped to the Cowboys late and enrolled early. He could also take advantage of the holes to fill at defensive end.