STILLWATER — Oklahoma State concluded spring practice Saturday with an Orange-White spring finale that featured a vanilla offense and a dominant defense.
After 15 practices, here are three things we've learned about the Cowboys and three questions that still remain as we head into the summer and fall camp.
What we learned
The defense is more aggressive
Sure, the Cowboy offense wasn't operating as quickly as it will in the fall and barely dipped into the playbook. But there were still several signs of the more aggressive defense that coach Mike Gundy has been pushing for since elevating Glenn Spencer to defensive coordinator. The OSU pass rush tallied eight sacks, three quarterback hurries and one forced fumble. The defensive backs consistently played closer to the receivers and were responsible for two interceptions and nine pass breakups. It's also worth noting that two projected starters — end Tyler Johnson and outside linebacker Ryan Simmons — did not play Saturday.
Young talent at receiver and cornerback
Tracy Moore and Josh Stewart made their expected plays, combining for 10 catches for 119 yards and a touchdown for the Orange. But redshirt freshman Jhajuan Seales led the White with six catches for 49 yards and sophomore Brandon Sheperd was just behind with five grabs for 43 yards. At cornerback, senior Justin Gilbert's inspired performance — where he collected two interceptions and 108 total yards on those returns — was particularly encouraging. But sophomore Ashton Lampkin was impressive with three pass breakups, while fellow sophomore Kevin Peterson is the projected starter.
Depth needed on offensive line
When addressing how splitting the squad into two teams for a spring game most impacted the Cowboys, Gundy pointed to the lack of offensive linemen. Just look at converted tight end Zac Veatch suddenly playing center. But help is on the way, with four incoming freshmen on the line arriving this summer. Running back and cornerback are two other positions in need of depth that will come once fall camp begins.
Who starts at quarterback?
Unlike last year, where Gundy named Wes Lunt the starter for Game 1 the week following spring practice, the coach proclaimed Saturday that he will not discuss the details of this position battle until after the Cowboys' first game against Mississippi State. That won't stop the questions, though.
Who kicks and punts?
Kip Smith, Bobby Stonebreaker and Michael Reichenstein combined for a lukewarm performance, at best, in Saturday's spring finale. Highly touted incoming freshman Ben Grogan will add himself to the competition this fall. Finding a reliable replacement for punter/kicker extraordinaire Quinn Sharp is perhaps the most pressing fall camp storyline.
Which incoming freshmen will make an early impact?
As mentioned above, the Cowboys need depth at offensive line, cornerback and running back. Names to keep an eye on that could push for immediate playing time: running backs Rennie Childs and Corion Webster, corners Taylor Lewis and Darius Curry, receivers Marcell Ateman and Ra'Shaad Samples and “athlete” Jerel Morrow. Fall camp begins in August, but summer workouts provide an even earlier opportunity to make a good first impression.