Big news day for OSU football.
Bill Young, embattled defensive coordinator, apparently out.
Joseph Randle, beloved running back and an oft-overlooked key to the Cowboys offense, out — declaring himself ready for the NFL.
So, what to make of this latest movement?
Remember, Mike Gundy was already looking for an offensive coordinator and another offensive assistant, following the departures of Todd Monken and Doug Meacham for job promotions. Now Gundy finds himself involved in an unplanned makeover when it seemed the Cowboys were positioned to open 2013 as the Big 12 favorite.
Reason for concern?
Somewhat, although each issue begs a closer look for clarity.
The DC Decision.
Young had become a popular – or unpopular – target of Cowboys fans, with the Cowboys defense at the crux of four of OSU’s five losses this season. Too many points and too many third- and fourth-down breakdowns and, fans screamed, too much cushion for enemy receivers. Young’s fault? Well, the buck stops with him, at least on defense. But there were personnel issues as well, with cornerbacks Justin Gilbert and Brod Brown curiously taking a major step backward, a killer development in an offensive assault league like the Big 12. So in some respect, Young’s hands were tied. And when the takeaway train that has marked Young’s successful defenses stalled on the tracks, well, the unit revealed no teeth.
Even Gundy seemed to grow frustrated with the soft coverage approach late in the season, which hinted at the possibility of a change. And when pressed on Young’s future in the days surrounding the bowl game, Gundy never halted talk of a change, instead deferring to Young’s recent health scare as a potential factor in his future.
So here we are, although nothing official has been announced by OSU, yet. The natural move – and the likely move – will be a promotion for co-defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer, who has been a valued assistant and a stud recruiter in Georgia and Mississippi. And if that’s the course, it maintains continuity, although Spencer would implement a more aggressive style.
Wild Card: What if Young is out as DC, but still on the staff?
The Joe Randle Decision.
Randle has been a very good player for the Cowboys, an underrated player perhaps, in an offense built around the QB and his receivers. And he would have been a great piece for the 2013 system. Where he fits in the NFL, however, is unknown. Running backs are undervalued in the current draft, with the exception of elite and explosive types, which Randle is not. That NFL Draft has become about QBs and DEs and CBs and OTs. And WRs. Neither Mel Kiper Jr. nor Todd McShay currently list a running back anywhere on their big boards. None. And Randle figures to fall somewhere down the prospect list at the position. So what is Randle leaving for? Riches? Probably won’t be there. Not life-changing riches, which you need, especially at that position, which offers a short shelf life.
This reality was pressed upon Randle by the Cowboys. Insiders, however, have suggested that Randle was feeling family pressure to leave and get on with his life and become a responsible adult. But at the expense of the best year of his life? The NFL is known as the No Fun League – by those who play it – for a reason. It’s business. All business. All the time. You can only be the BMOC for a limited time. And Randle’s time was now.
What It Means: Jeremy Smith is a quality back, good enough to start on several, if not most of the teams in the Big 12. He averaged 5.3 yards a carry for the Cowboys (Randle averaged 5.2) this past season. Now he’s OSU’s starter. He’ll have to stay healthy, which has been an issue. But he can step in and thrive. Desmond Roland, with more promise of opportunity, will bear watching in the spring, as players often ramp up their preparation in times like these. Current commit Corion Webster of Atlanta, Texas, could be pressed into early duty, too.
Wild Card: Randle’s departure may aid recruiting, with prospects perhaps recognizing an opportunity to play right away. Keep an eye on Altee Tenpenny of Little Rock, Ark., and Daryl Chestnut of Miami, Fla.