STILLWATER — Mike Gundy often talks about the predicament surrounding junior college transfers.
Just when they're coming into their own, it's time for them to leave.
The second offseason is often where a player makes his biggest strides. Rob Glass' strength and conditioning program has whipped him into physical shape. He's gotten used to the daily mental grind of OSU's football and academic demands. The newness has worn off.
That essentially gives two-year transfers one shot at maximizing their full potential in college. And that's why Gundy has high expectations in 2013 for defensive tackle Calvin Barnett and receiver Blake Jackson, two Cowboys who have already become immediate starters and contributors since arriving at OSU.
“They generally get much better in their second year,” Gundy said of junior college transfers.
Gundy cited two recent examples in Ryan McBean, who became a fourth-round NFL Draft pick following his second season at OSU, and Ryan Robinson, who was an underrated yet consistent performer for last season's defense.
And Barnett and Jackson both have plenty to build on.
Barnett was a force in the middle for OSU last season, tallying 30 tackles (8.5 for loss), one sack and four quarterback hurries and earning Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year honors. But sometimes his aggressiveness turned to recklessness — two personal foul penalties on one play in the Arizona game serves as Exhibit A — and needed to be reeled in by coaches.
Now, Barnett is in position to become a leader on a defensive line that lost three key seniors in Robinson, Nigel Nicholas and Cooper Bassett. He said he's been working on taking better care of his body, something a player is more likely to learn in an offseason program with Glass than on the practice field during the season.
“Something as simple as eating right, you'll perform way better,” Barnett said.
Added Gundy: “He's gonna be stronger and smarter. He understands. He's got good work habits, he likes to play football and he's in better shape.”
Jackson, in many ways, was one of the more frustrating Cowboys last season. A 6-3, 235-pound physical specimen in the slot, he finished second on the team with 598 receiving yards. But his route-running ability was limited, and he had numerous problems catching the football.
Yet another offseason and spring of studying the Cowboys' scheme can only benefit Jackson. Cowboy fans also probably hope he's spent a good chunk of time in front of a Jugs machine.
This spring, OSU has a new duo of junior college transfers already on campus in defensive end Sam Wren and offensive lineman Brandon Garrett. And like Barnett and Jackson, they are both in contention to see immediate playing time.
But the Cowboys are banking on development from Barnett and Jackson, two guys who have now officially been here before.