There’s no denying a young Oklahoma State football team faces an extreme test when it opens the season with Florida State on Aug. 30 in Arlington, Texas.
But among the inexperience concerns is a silver lining. Young Cowboy players are no stranger to opening a season against the very best talent around. Just ask cornerback Kevin Peterson.
The returning leader in the secondary played high school football at Wagoner in northeast Oklahoma — a Class 4A school that won its first state championship with Peterson as its star.
Who did Wagoner schedule for its season openers?
“We played 5A schools the first couple games,” Peterson said.
While college football has mostly embraced a model of softer nonconference schedules, top teams at the high school level have taken the opposite approach.
Last fall, top 6A programs Jenks and Union played two of the best programs from the Dallas area — Euless Trinity and DeSoto — to kick off the year.
Three players featured in those matchups are now Cowboy freshmen: safety Dylan Hardy (Jenks), offensive lineman Junior Galea’I (Euless Trinity) and wide receiver Chris Lacy (DeSoto).
“The top tier of Oklahoma football is good … but you’ve got to go down and prove it against a very good team in enemy territory,” Jenks coach Allan Trimble told The Dallas Morning News last September. “I’m looking forward to the opportunity.”
That type of mentality has stuck with Peterson. His confidence trumps the idea that a lesser opponent would benefit OSU in the long run.
“I’d rather play the best teams,” Peterson said. “I’m not really a fan of playing the softer schedule, getting a pounding in and getting guys’ confidence behind them. I’d rather go after the best early, to really set a standpoint to see where we’re at.”
SIMMONS: DEFENSIVE LINE ONE OF THE NATION’S BEST
Ryan Simmons is supposed to have supreme confidence in the OSU defense. It comes with his role as the Cowboys’ projected starting middle linebacker this season.
During Thursday’s press conference previewing the opener, Simmons used his platform to praise a specific position group: the defensive line.
“One of the best d-lines in the conference and in the nation, in my opinion,” Simmons said. “A lot of the things we can do can definitely put pressure on (FSU quarterback Jameis Winston).”
That’s some high praise. And quite the prediction considering the competition for those titles.
The Cowboys return a majority of their playmakers on the defensive line — including defensive tackle James Castleman and defensive end Jimmy Bean, who started every game last season.
But OU also returns a number of talented defensive linemen, and that group ranked second in the conference in sacks (33) and rush defense (137.6 yards allowed per game) last season. The Cowboys ranked sixth and fifth in those categories, respectively.
And none of the current OSU defensive linemen are considered top 2015 NFL draft picks next season — while USC, Nebraska, Michigan State, Florida, Iowa and Ohio State each have pass rushers and run stuffers who might go as high as the first round.
Simmons understands his defense isn’t getting that kind of hype, but says it won’t dictate his own expectations.
“Right now, nobody knows what we have the potential to be,” Simmons said. “The effort is there, we’re all still learning day by day. We just have to go about it and prepare as if it’s our last day.”
CBS SPORTS 2015 MOCK NFL DRAFT PLACES FIVE SEMINOLES IN FIRST ROUND
The 2015 NFL Draft won’t take place for another eight months, but that hasn’t stopped draft analysts from making their predictions for who will be chosen in the first round.
CBS Sports recently unveiled its guess at how it will shakeout. And there’s plenty of love for the Seminoles.
Staff writer Bob Rang estimates five FSU players will come off the board in the first round:
No. 5: QB Jameis Winston (Soph.)
No. 11: CB PJ Williams (Jr.)
No. 22: DE Mario Edwards Jr. (Jr.)
No. 24: OT Cameron Erving (Sr.)
No. 31: OG Josue Matias (Sr.)