STILLWATER — Bob Connelly arrived for spring practice under the gun.
First, he was replacing longtime offensive line coach Joe Wickline, who left to join Charlie Strong at Texas.
Second, and more importantly, he faced a major overhaul of a line that had been ravaged by injury and defections.
Connelly can’t do anything about comparisons to Wickline. But he can – and is – at work piecing together a capable unit from the wreckage, created at least in part by Wickline, who left the cupboard somewhat barren.
Oklahoma State’s two-deep depth chart features three seniors, two of those junior college transfers; just one junior; three sophomores; and two freshman, including a redshirt freshman slated to start at right tackle. The reserves? All freshmen and sophomores.
The upper classes are thin on starters and bodies.
The good news: the line, at least the starting five, has been a pleasant surprise this preseason.
“It’s coming together,” Connelly said. “I’m encouraged.”
The Cowboys could have benefited by the return of Travis Cross and Jake Jenkins, who would have been senior starters. But each chose to move into the workforce and forego their final seasons.
Still, Connelly remains optimistic.
“The relationship process I’ve been trying to build since I got here in February has engrained some confidence in them, I think,” Connelly said. “As long as they respect who I am, understand that I have their best interests in my heart and know that the information I’m providing them will help them become better players, I think we’ll get there as a unit.
“They’re starting to buy into who I am. I think we’ve come a long way from Day 1 of spring.”
LT 58 Daniel Koenig;;6-6;;300;;Sr.;;Cape Coral, Fla.
OSU’s most experienced lineman, with 22 career starts. A two-year regular, Koenig is being counted on to be the anchor to this unit, both physically and mentally, as a leader.
74 Michael Wilson;;6-6;;300;;So.;;Aledo, Texas
A coveted recruit from a three-time high school state championship team, Wilson played sparingly as a redshirt freshman a year ago. His role should expand dramatically.
LG 75 Chris Grisbhy;;6-5;;325;;Sr.;;Clute, Texas
With eight career starts, Grisbhy is the second-most veteran offensive lineman, which punctuates the inexperience of the unit. A former juco recruit, he’s made great strides in Year 2.
76 Colby Hegwood;;6-5;;320;;Jr.;;Flowood, Miss.
A junior college addition a year ago, Hegwood played a minor role, appearing in two games. He’s moving into a key backup role this season.
57 Paul Lewis;;6-3;;295;;So.;;Houston, Texas
He earned valuable playing time as a redshirt freshman, starting one game. Now Lewis finds himself as the CPU of the unit and a key cog in OSU’s success.
50 Zac Veatch;;6-4;;290;;So.;;Broken Arrow
A tight end and defensive lineman in high school, Veatch has thrived in his move to the offensive line. A rugged competitor, his versatility makes him the backup here and the starter at right guard.
50 Zac Veatch;;6-4;;290;;So.;;Broken Arrow
64 Jesse Robinson;;6-0;;300;;Fr.;;Bedford, Texas
Probably the backup at the guard spots, Robinson carries high upside according to coaches. A lack of depth will likely rush the redshirt freshman into duty this season.
60 Zach Crabtree;;6-7;;290;;Fr.;;Mansfield, Texas
Coaches are high on Crabtree, who has practiced well, even as a redshirt freshman going against OSU’s formidable defensive front. A potential future star.
67 Brandon Garrett;;6-5;;295;;Sr.;;Deer Park, Texas
He played in 11 games and started four in his first season a year ago, after arriving from junior college. After surgery to repair a leg injury suffered in the Cotton Bowl, Garrett nearing 100 percent.
69 Devin Davis;;6-5;;312;;So.;;Nacogdoches, Texas
Would have been the starting left tackle a year ago, before a major knee injury in the preseason wrecked his season. Davis is still working his way back.
73 Grant Canis;;6-2;;275;;So.;;Midland, Texas
A walk-on who provides depth at the center spot.
66 Lemaefe Galea’i;;6-5;;330;;Fr.;;Trinity, Texas
A true freshman, Galea’i already has impressive size and strength. With continued development, he could become a fixture at guard for several seasons.
79 Jack Kurzu;;6-4;;305;;Fr.;;St. Louis, Mo.
After redshirting a year ago, Kurzu continues to develop and work toward fitting into OSU’s future on the line.
78 Matthew Mucha;;6-6;;255;;Fr.;;Seabrook, Texas
A Top 100 recruit out of Texas, the true freshman will likely redshirt in an effort to add bulk and strength.
77 Jaxon Salinas;;6-4;;305;;Fr.;;Irving, Texas
A redshirt freshman, Salinas is working to put himself into the picture.