What good is the college offseason without speculating on what players could become the next star? Here are 10 returning Oklahoma State players in position to have a breakout season:
Ra’Shaad Samples, RS Fr., WR: The lightning-fast receiver will finally get on the field after redshirting last season. Samples’ athletic ability is off the charts, and fellow receivers say he can make an impact. Samples runs the 40 in 4.32 seconds — that alone is enough reason to watch out.
Paul Lewis, So., OL: OSU’s offensive line is not in great shape with injuries, graduation and other departures narrowing down the field. The Cowboys also have a new line coach in Bob Connelly. Lewis played in six games last season and started against Lamar. Someone has to fill in at center, and Lewis, a redshirt sophomore, could be the guy to do it.
Rennie Childs, So., RB: Childs stepped onto the stage with 45 yards on 16 carries against TCU last season and also gained 70 yards at Texas Tech. He’s a shifty runner, and offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich said he will have a role in 2014. The question is: with Desmond Roland as the unquestioned starter and junior college transfer Tyreek Hill entering the backfield, how big can that role be?
Tre Flowers, RS Fr., S: Flowers dealt with some growing pains this spring, but OSU’s free safety spot appears to remain wide open. Flowers, a redshirt freshman, has competition from Deric Robertson and Jordan Sterns, but the OSU track long jumper is the best athlete of the bunch. Now it’s a matter of turning athleticism into on-field results.
Marcell Ateman, So., WR: Ateman’s 6-foot-4, 210-pound build makes him an ideal outside target. He had 22 catches for 276 yards last season, and should get far more chances this year. But coaches have hinted Ateman struggles with work ethic, and he failed to impress in the spring. In a loaded receiving corps, Ateman will need more than size to stand out.
Seth Jacobs, So., LB: With a desperately thin linebacking corps, Seth Jacobs looks in line to start at outside linebacker. Jacobs was a high school star as a quarterback and linebacker, but hasn’t played beyond special teams at OSU. The spring proved he has work to do, but assuming he doesn’t lose his spot to incoming freshmen, he will get a starting job. Jacobs could roll with the punches and be a pleasant surprise.
Sam Wren, Sr., DE: James Castleman and Jimmy Bean are established names up front looking to become stars. As for Sam Wren, 2014 could be the year he shows the rest of the world the potential coaches have talked about for the past two offseasons. Wren had 22 tackles while playing in every game a year ago. Given the chance to start, his numbers could be much larger.
Blake Webb, So., WR: After missing the majority of 2013 with injury, Webb came back after running track in the spring to star in OSU’s practices and Orange Blitz scrimmage. He’s a strong candidate to play in the slot, and if what Webb did in the spring is any indicator, he could become a reliable target.
Ashton Lampkin, Jr., CB: OSU’s 2013 Special Teams Player of the Year is limited to special teams no more. Starting opposite Kevin Peterson, Lampkin will be thrown into the deep end and tasked with holding down the Cowboys’ secondary. Coaches are big on his ability and said he made huge improvements this spring. And with three starters in the OSU secondary gone, the Cowboys can’t afford him to have anything less than a breakout year.
Jhajuan Seales, So., WR: After 39 receptions for 571 yards in 2013, anyone who follows OSU should already know his name, but the full extents of his abilities are still a mystery. Seales has the size. He has the speed. He has the hands. Now he should get the opportunity to be Oklahoma State’s No. 1 option at receiver. With names like Dez Bryant, Justin Blackmon and Josh Stewart preceding him, that title alone bodes well.