By John Helsley
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Scanning OSU’s initial spring depth chart, three positions stand out as absolutely critical to the Cowboys’ success in 2012.
Of course, you can quickly rattle off two of them: quarterback and wide receiver. The Pokes are all-in with the spread passing offense and flinging the football all over the field. It’s who they are.
So finding someone to confidently and competently deliver the football and finding several someones to catch it – forget replicating what Justin Blackmon represented – is what this spring is all about inStillwater. Pitch and catch.
That, and identifying a center.
A center I say?
In case you haven’t heard, and you may not have – heck, some of you probably haven’t even heard of him – Grant Garner is gone, his eligibility expired following a stellar career in which he made 25 starts at the starting point of all that has been superb with OSU’s offense the past two-plus seasons.
Recall these words from Cowboys line coach Joe Wickline, when asked if Garner was worthy of All-Big 12 recognition:
“No question. First-team All-Big 12. Zero question. What he means to this team, and what it would be like without him – there’s just no question that he’s an all-conference guy.”
Mike Gundy said Garner may have been OSU’s most undervalued player last season.
Think about this, how many times in recent years can you recall a bad snap?
“Grant was so smart,” said Cowboys offensive coordinator Todd Monken. “I can’t remember too often when there were snap issues, which is the most important thing, since we’re never under center. So the snapping part is a big part of it.
“And then he was such a even-keeled personality. Even though funny and joking around, the guys respected him and what he said. And just the way he carried himself and lived his life, so there’s a lot to be said for that.
“We don’t put a lot on our quarterbacks, so a lot’s on them.”
Now, a lot is on Garner’s replacement: Evan Epstein.
Who? I know, right?
But then, that’s the life of a college center, which is to say a life of obscurity.
A senior, Epstein has played only in a limited role the past two seasons, after transferring from theAirForceAcademy. Still, Monken seemed confident in Epstein’s ability to step in.
Still, he’ll be pushed this spring by sophomore Jake Jenkins and redshirt freshman Travis Cross.
The Cowboys are hoping at least one becomes a fixture.
And it’s critical, as critical as finding a quarterback and receivers.