The Oklahoman’s John Helsley took questions from readers in today’s Oklahoma State Power Lunch Chat. You can join our Power Lunch Chats Monday-Friday at 11 a.m. on NewsOK.com/Sports. Here’s a look at today’s Q&A.
ON OKLAHOMA STATE FOOTBALL:
If you had to guess, who starts at DE for OSU this year and two primary backups?
This is going to be one of the better competitions of the spring — and summer. Tyler Johnson seemed to really come on at the end of last season and can be a pass-rushing force. I think Sam Wren, the juco addition, gets a jump on a job by being here early and seemingly more advanced than the pups, although those guys will be very much in play. Keep an eye on Jimmy Bean, Trace Clark, Victor Irokansi and even Naim Mustafaa.
I've been so focused on basketball I can't recall if Gundy has hired a special teams coordinator ... has he? If so, who?
Nothing new on the special teams front. When DeForest left for West Virginia, Gundy opted not to use a full-time staff position for special teams, instead piecing it together, to mixed results. Appears that will be the path again for 2013.
With the shroud of secrecy surrounding the new OC Yurcich and spring football fast approaching have you received any feedback to how well he's meshing with rest of the staff?
All early reports on Yurcich have been positive, although that's what you'd expect at this point. If you've seen his videos, he's a charismatic, funny and engaging personality. He did some good things at Shippensburg, some dynamic things on offense. He'll have to adapt to OSU's offense, but will surely get to make his imprint on the attack, as Gundy saw things he liked in him.
With 4 or 5 guys in the race for quarterback at OSU, do you foresee any of them transferring if they don't win the starting position?
That's always a popular question. And with good reason. Kids generally are less patient these days, especially at the QB position, although Chelf proved that it pays to hang in there a year ago.
For OSU, this will be an issue worth monitoring. If Chelf doesn't win the job, I could definitely see him leaving, as he's a grad student who would be eligible immediately elsewhere — Southern Miss perhaps?
As for Lunt and Walsh, I don't have a great feel for either one of them, although if either slipped to No. 3 or below, you'd have to think it would become a consideration. Garman won't be going anywhere, as he's already transferred and would have to forfeit another year by moving again.
Does OSU have a legit threat at the running back position?
I actually like Smith as Option A. Yes, he's different from Randle and doesn't catch the ball as well, but he's been very good when given opportunity. The thing with Smith will be staying healthy, which hasn't always been easy for him. I do expect a time share, whether that's Desmond Roland or one of the incoming freshmen. They should be in good hands, again.
Do you think the defense will be better under Spencer? I've heard more aggressive defense and I've heard much of the same as Young. Do you think it was the timing of play calling that was more of a factor for the losses compared to scheme?
I do expect more aggressiveness, although that doesn't always mean better. It's players who make things better. Rough years by the CBs last season contributed to the struggles, and Young's demise. I'd expect more press coverage. Lyndell Johnson moving to SS should help. The talent and athleticism overall should be better, too. None of that has to do with coaching ...
Do you think that after OSU’s horrible 6-5 record last season, (I don’t count the two high school teams) Gundy is in the hot seat?
Not a chance. They won the school's first Big 12 title in 2011! A step back was expected last season, now OSU or TCU should be the favorite to win the conference in 2013. And TCU visits BPS.
OSU was just two plays short (defensively), from beating both Texas and OU last year. Does Glen Spencer improve our defense this year?
Another way to look at it is they were two offensive plays short of beating those teams. It'll be interesting to see what Spencer changes, as far as approach and aggressiveness. I don't expect it to be drastically different. But I think the defense improves, mainly because the talent proves better. The front seven should be stout.
What do you think about the receiver position? Who do you think could have a breakout year, like Josh Stewart last year?
It may prove difficult for anyone to have a breakout, with the experience that returns, unless you count Michael Harrison as a potential breakout guy. Stewart, Blake Jackson, Tracy Moore, Harrison, Charlie Moore, Austin Hays ... all those guys return. Still, you're on to something, as there are youngsters pushing. Keep an eye on Blake Webb, C.J. Curry, Torrance Carr, Jhajuan Seales, Brandon Sheperd. And that's before the true freshmen arrive.
ON OKLAHOMA STATE BASKETBALL:
Will Travis Ford continue to run a 9-man rotation moving forward?
I do see Ford continuing to use an 8- or 9-man rotation. Forte and Williams will get the heaviest activity.
Early in the year I asked if I was crazy to think Markel could have a breakout All Big 12 junior year like Desmond Mason had. You assured me I was sane. Markel is making us both look good. He is playing exactly as I had hoped.
Indeed, we've been validated. For anyone who says Travis Ford doesn't develop players — a crazy assertion by the way — Brown is Exhibit A. He's gotten better every year, and his improved shooting has elevated him to All-Big 12 consideration. He's a major reason for this team's rise in the Big 12 and nationally.
OSU is ranked #13 and #14. Do you see OSU as a solid 4 seed as long as they split the two games this week?
A split should ensure the Cowboys as a solid No. 4, I would think. Beat Kansas State, which is slotted higher than OSU, and maybe beat them or KU in the Big 12 Tournament, and maybe the Cowboys climb as high as a No. 3. Much still left to play for.
How much do you think the trip to Spain and tourney in Puerto Rico helps a team with no NCAA tourney experience? Do you think it hurts that they have had few mostly Wednesday-Saturday games? The last time OSU played two games in three days they played poorly at Baylor.
Good observation. I think the trip to Spain was huge, as it allowed Smart and Forte and even Murphy to get a jump start on forming a bond with the veterans. And going forward, that and the success in Puerto Rico should benefit the team on a neutral floor. The Cowboys have played a lot of Wednesday-Saturday games, so that's actually more of the norm for this team. Oddly, they've played six league games against teams who had extra rest in the Saturday games. And they've beaten most.
With Williams rounding into form, what are the prospects for OSU to win the Big 12 tourney?
I think their chances are even with KU and K-State, even though those teams figure to have a crowd advantage in Kansas City. These Cowboys suddenly play well on the road. And in a roster comparison, I think they've got the best talent. I see the tourney as a tossup.
Really like the improved contribution and intensity from Nash recently. I think he is key to OSU’s tourney run(s).
It sure wouldn't hurt if he continues to play at this level. I believe that Nash is finally settling into his "role." He may even be relieved that he doesn't have to be the man, finding comfort in the freedom to be himself, which is a capable slasher and matchup problem for many teams.
Can Williams' pressure on the defensive side limit Iowa State's 3-pt shooting tomorrow?
I expect to see a heavy dose of Brian Williams in Ames, perhaps his heaviest play of the season. Williams is a strong defender and a guy who relishes the job of shutting down the top scorers from other teams. Now, against Iowa State, that's easier said than done. The Clones really move the ball well, finding shots. And they've got five, even six guys who can shoot it. So the emphasis has to be on everyone playing solid defense. It'll be a tough task in Ames, on Senior Night, with a large group of seniors. But it's doable.
What is it about Ames, Iowa that makes it such a tough place to play? Not just OSU, any team.
Well, Hilton Coliseum is always full and always lively. What else is there to do in Iowa in winter? Seriously, they have a great fan base. And teams typically shoot better at home, so ISU's shooters thrive in their friendly confines. It's a dangerous game, no doubt. Will be a difficult task.