The Oklahoman's Gina Mizell took questions from readers in today's OSU Power Lunch Chat. Join our Power Lunch Chats Monday-Friday at 11 a.m. on NewsOK.com/Sports. Here's a recap of today's Q&A:
If Lunt doesn't start, does he play at all against KU?
The only situation I could see that happening is if he's healthy enough, and Walsh gets the start but struggles. Hard to see that happening against KU. Monken said yesterday he's encouraged by Lunt's progress--he was in pads and throwing during Sunday's practice--but it's a matter of seeing if he can run. Gundy said Lunt's reps will increase as his pain decreases, and that's hard to predict. My hunch: Walsh starts.
If Lunt is physically able to play Saturday, do you think the coaches would rather play him and get him some more game experience, or hold him out and give him another week to make sure he is ready to go for the more difficult part of the schedule coming up?
Gundy stressed yesterday that they won't bring Lunt back until he's 100 percent ready. How silly would it be for him to re-aggravate the injury against...Kansas? J.W. Walsh can beat Kansas. I think there is something to easing Lunt back into things in a game situation, but it's probably smarter to wait until he's completely good to go.
Is this the game in which the defense turns in a huge turnover game (when they probably don't need to)?
It's certainly a game that could start that trend, with Kansas already turning the ball over 12 times and their offense being generally terrible. Bill Young still believes they can come in bunches and then they'll be rolling. October was OSU's most successful turnover month last season, so it'll be interesting to see if they can get that going again in three very winnable games against KU, Iowa State and TCU.
Will Desmond Roland have a huge day?
Perhaps if Jeremy Smith doesn't play (he's still listed No. 2 on the depth chart, for whatever that's worth). Or if the game is already a blowout and Roland plays the majority of the second half. Roland has had some nice moments this season, for sure.
Is it possible for OSU to get 9 wins already down 2-2?
It's certainly possible, but will be difficult with dates at Kansas State, at OU and against West Virginia still on the schedule. Who knows, though, with how wide open this Big 12 race still appears to be. I predicted eight wins for the Cowboys at the start of the season. Seven appears more likely now. That loss to Arizona looks worse and worse each week, with the Wildcats now 0-3 in Pac-12 play.
Has Castleman been the best player on this defense so far? If not, who has been?
Lots of criticism of the D, but what areas are they excelling in compared to last year?
Taking these together, because they go hand-in-hand. The defensive tackles have been very good. I expected Calvin Barnett to be a force right away, but Castleman has been a pleasant surprise. I think he probably has been the best defensive player so far. Overall, the run defense has been very solid. The secondary, and the inability to get stops on third and fourth down, have clearly been the weaknesses.
With OSU having two good quarterbacks, is there a split locker room?
Not from what I can tell, but it's difficult to see what life is really like in the locker room when you're not there on a daily basis. Players were sold on Lunt at the start of the season, including guys like Josh Stewart, who is Walsh's best friend. But I'm sure guys are thrilled Walsh has played so well--it certainly beats the alternative of him playing poorly. We've touched on it several times, but this is Lunt's job. That's no knock on Walsh, but he just doesn't fit this offense as well as Lunt does. And Gundy talked yesterday again about that coaches can't just ignore how well he's played and the extra "something" he brings to this team, and that they need to figure out how to get him on the field once Lunt comes back. I'm curious to see how that all develops.
OSU’s offense is humming, but what can they do to improve?
The outside receivers need to get more involved with Walsh at QB. Isaiah Anderson doesn't have a catch in the Cowboys' past two games. They needed to move Tracy Moore inside against Texas to get him some more touches. Part of that is, again, Walsh just can't make all the throws to the outside like Lunt can, and throws down the middle to guys like Josh Stewart and Blake Jackson are much easier. Some of that could also be chemistry that still needs to be built between Walsh and some of the outside starters. But obviously Lunt and Moore have great chemistry, based on that Arizona game, and Anderson was Lunt's favorite target in the Savannah State game.
Why do you think OSU is so vulnerable on 3rd down, especially 3rd down and long? As a fan, it is extremely frustrating to watch.
I can understand why it would be frustrating. It can be a lot of different factors, depending on the situation. The secondary, as we've mentioned, has struggled. Bill Young wants to see more of a pass rush from the defensive line. There were a couple unlucky breaks on scheme in the first quarter against Texas--OSU blitzed, David Ash ran a screen and it went for big yards and a first down. There have been a couple missed tackles in space. Bottom line, Gundy said, is guys need to make a play.
Are any of the injured defensive players like Andrae May, Lyndell Johnson and others ready to go yet? What is L Cooper's status?
Gundy has really shut questions down on injuries, so it's hard to say. Jason Jones told me a couple weeks ago that he thought May could be ready by the Texas game, so since he wasn't, I think there's a decent chance he could play this weekend. Lyndell Johnson should be back in the next couple weeks. Voch Cooper I'm uncertain.
Do you think Brown and Gilbert are being affected by the lack of depth or by the absences of Martin?
Both, I think. I wrote quite a bit about how much Markelle Martin is missed last week. Perhaps he did more on over-the-top pass coverage than we realized. Shamiel Gary and Voch Cooper certainly don't excel in coverage, so they aren't nearly as much help to Brown and Gilbert. The lack of depth certainly doesn't help, either. Again, Bill Young points to the D-line needing more pass rush to help the secondary out. Gilbert said technique and "finishing" needs to get better. And Gundy, pretty bluntly, said those guys need to get hungrier. Another thing to ponder: How much did defending Justin Blackmon in practice help those guys last season?
How would you characterize team chemistry/morale this year compared to last year? Maybe it's my orange-colored glasses, but it sounds like chemistry is still strong despite the couple of disappointing games.
I think it is still pretty strong. The fact that the Big 12 is wide open certainly helps. But there are some good leaders on this team like Cooper Bassett, Joe Randle, Shaun Lewis, Daytawion Lowe and Brodrick Brown. And the season certainly isn't over because of a 2-2 start.
Any word on Jeremy Smith's injury and how serious it is? It would have been nice to see him instead of Roland in the 4th quarter when Randle needed a breather against Texas.
Again, Gundy has been tight-lipped about injuries. But Smith is still on the depth chart, for whatever that's worth.
West Virginia looks very beatable to me. Who beats them first?
Kansas State, perhaps, with the style the Wildcats play. I don't think any team gets through the Big 12 unscathed.
The single most important thing for OSU to do to win the Big 12 is ________?
Improve on third-down defense and against the pass. Have to do that in this league.
Any word yet on TV for the Iowa State game?
No. Should know Sunday or Monday.
Not to criticize any of the coaches currently on-staff, but how much is DeFo missed?
As far as the safeties go, I think Markelle Martin is missed more than DeFo coaching them. But we'll see how much he's missed on special teams once Sharp and Gilbert are gone. Though, punt returns have been an adventure this season, as have kickoff return coverage. Though Texas' Fozzy Whittaker returned one for a score against DeFo's special teams unit last season.