STILLWATER — Players like Jacob Lacey are the motivation behind head coach Mike Gundy's philosophy in building the Oklahoma State football program. When Gundy looks at his senior cornerback, he sees a player whose game could be ready to make the jump to all-conference level — just in time for his college career to end. "I think he's ready to perform at a high level,” Gundy said. "It's just a shame we couldn't have redshirted him when he got here.” If Lacey had come along a couple years later rather than in Gundy's first season on the job, maybe the program would have been in good enough shape to redshirt a player like him. Then, instead of having a player reach that all-conference level as a senior, Gundy would have two years to enjoy that talent. "If you get far enough in your program, a guy like Lacey has two years left,” Gundy said. "That's where you want to be.” Heading into his fourth season as the Cowboys' coach, Gundy hasn't quite reached that point in the program, but he's getting closer. Only five true freshmen played last year, and even fewer could avoid being redshirted this year. Of course, this year's number will be heavily impacted by the group of nine incoming junior-college players on the roster, many of whom will fill spots on the two-deep that could have been available to true freshmen. At this point — with the first day of fall camp three days away — it appears only one true freshman can definitely expect to be on the depth chart come Aug. 30. That's Quinn Sharp, the place-kicker out of Mansfield, Texas, who was rated by Rivals.com as the No. 1 kicker in the nation. Without an experienced kicker on the roster, Sharp is a virtual lock to win the job. After that, a freshman's best chance might be at tight end, where three rookies will vie with redshirt freshman Wilson Youman for playing time behind senior Brandon Pettigrew. And that's really the only goal of the other true freshmen in this class — providing depth. Markelle Martin or Victor Johnson could do it in the secondary. So could Guthrie product Kye Staley, though he wants to play running back. At every other position, it likely will take an August surprise for anyone to break into the two-deep. So maybe, three years from now, Gundy won't have to be saying, "What if we could have redshirted that guy” with this group of rookies.
Oklahoma State's Jacob Lacey, left, intercepts a ball intended for Texas' Jordan Shipley during the Longhorns' win on Nov. 3, 2007. by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman archive