STILLWATER — Oklahoma State's 2013 season is in the books, a 10-3 campaign that ended with two down-to-the wire, disappointing losses in Bedlam and the Cotton Bowl.
There's still plenty of time to evaluate and reflect on the season that was. But here are five early questions the Cowboys face as they head into 2014.
1. Who's the starting quarterback?
For the third consecutive spring, the Cowboys will stage a quarterback derby.
J.W. Walsh, who started five games in 2013 before being replaced by Clint Chelf in mid-October, will try to win that job back. His task, again, is to prove he's become a more consistent passer, particularly on throws to downfield and to the outside.
Incoming freshman Mason Rudolph, who will enroll early to participate in spring ball, should immediately challenge for the job. The 6-4, 215-pounder had a monster senior season at Rock Hill (S.C.) Northwestern, capping a Class 4A state championship run with eight touchdown passes in the title game. His high school runs the same system as OSU, the Air Raid spread.
Also in the mix are Daxx Garman, a strong-armed junior who seems to have settled in at OSU after bouncing around during his high school and early college career, redshirt freshman Richard Lagow, a surprise transfer from Connecticut who arrived during fall camp, and redshirt freshman Jake Hubenak, a walk-on who suffered a season-ending knee injury as a high school junior before staging a big senior campaign at Georgetown High near Austin.
2. How does the defense rebuild?
Glenn Spencer did a masterful job in his first season as coordinator, turning an experienced group into arguably the best unit in the Big 12.
But the Cowboys lose seven starters — tackle Calvin Barnett, end Tyler Johnson, linebackers Caleb Lavey and Shaun Lewis, cornerback Justin Gilbert and safeties Daytawion Lowe and Shamiel Gary — plus key reserves like linemen Davidell Collins and Anthony Rogers, linebacker Joe Mitchell and cornerback Tyler Patmon.
Returning starters in tackle James Castleman, end Jimmy Bean, linebacker Ryan Simmons and cornerback Kevin Peterson will need to immediately take on a leadership role. Guys like tackle Ofa Hautau, end Emmanuel Ogbah and cornerback Ashton Lampkin need to emerge as consistent producers.