STILLWATER — There's no question that Michael Bowie has the physical tools of a Big 12 offensive lineman.
A 6-foot-4, 310-pound frame. Long arms. Long legs. Speed. Balance. Sheer athleticism.
That's why he was one of the most highly touted junior college prospects in the country last season.
“He's got all the things that you look for in a dynamic edge guy,” Oklahoma State offensive line coach Joe Wickline said.
But when he transferred to OSU from Navarro Junior College this past spring, Bowie became one part of perhaps the best offensive line in the conference. All five starters returned from a unit that ranked seventh in the nation in sacks allowed (0.77 per game) last season and helped the Cowboys amass more than 520 total yards on offense per game.
Which makes Bowie's rapid ascent to the top of the depth chart even more impressive. He will start at left tackle in Saturday's opener against Louisiana-Lafayette.
“He's got as much ability as anybody in our program, so we're going to give him a chance to compete,” OSU coach Mike Gundy said.
Because he's a first-year player, Bowie isn't yet allowed to speak to the media. No matter — his teammates and coaches can rave about him instead.
“From a physical standpoint, the guy's got it,” OSU quarterback Brandon Weeden said. “He can really play. He can pass block. He can run block. He can do everything. He's one of those guys that it will be exciting to see how he progresses.”
Said Navarro coach Nick Bobeck: “He's blessed with great dimensions. He's a long-armed kid. He's got a great center of balance, and he's able to bend, which is something a lot of people his size are not able to do.”
Bowie originally signed with OSU in 2009 and participated in fall camp, but he had to start his career at Navarro after he did not qualify academically.
By the end of his second season at Navarro, he was helping lead the school to the junior college national championship. Bobeck said that was the best game he had ever seen Bowie play.
“We've had a bunch of really talented kids come through this place, and he's right up there with all of them,” Bobeck said. “We're very proud of what he's done.”
That growth continued in OSU spring ball and fall camp, where Bowie's natural talent eventually beat out the experience of senior Nick Martinez, last season's starter at left tackle who has now moved to the backup at right guard, and sophomore Parker Graham, who is slated as Bowie's backup.
Wickline knows Bowie still has work to do. He hasn't completely mastered the unit's scheme yet. He needs to improve his cardiovascular fitness for OSU's no-huddle offense.
And because Martinez and Graham also “could start at the flip of the coin,” Wickline won't rush Bowie's development.
But Wickline sees Bowie's first-career game, and start, in an OSU uniform on Saturday as just the beginning of a promising career.
“If he continues to work hard and stays diligent about assignments and his cardio, he's got a chance to be one of the better players that's played here.”