One big name was missing from Oklahoma State’s spring football roster breakdown.
Safety Lyndell Johnson is no longer with the team due to personal reasons, coach Mike Gundy said at his Monday news conference.
Johnson had 54 tackles and two fumble recoveries as a junior in 2013. His departure leaves a sizable void in the OSU secondary.
“We’re really young at that position,” Gundy said. “We’re not really too deep. We’ve got young guys we have to develop and bring them on, and hopefully we’ll have a player come in from high school that can help us out in the fall.”
This leaves sophomores Deric Robertson and Jordan Sterns as the first options to take Johnson’s place. Senior Larry Stephens, who missed all of last season with a knee injury, is also in the mix.
“You’re gonna have to have guys step up and do things they didn’t have to do before,” cornerback Kevin Peterson said. “They’re just gonna have to grow up a little faster.”
COACHING STAFF BALANCES QB REPS
Juniors J.W. Walsh and Daxx Garman join early enrollee, freshman Mason Rudolph, as the main quarterbacks competing for OSU’s starting gig. But they are not the only ones in the mix.
Walk-on Jake Hubenak and Connecticut transfer Richard Lagow are also fighting for the job. With a five-man race comes the problem of how to divide practice reps.
“There’s only so many reps to go around,” offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich said. “You can’t rep all five significantly. You have to make sure you’re doing a good job selecting our top guys.”
For now, Walsh will be the primary option in spring practices.
“J.W. will be the guy who goes out there first now because he’s got the most experience,” Gundy said. “But those other quarterbacks will get a chance.”
With the past two years of quarterback controversies at OSU setting precedent, the derby is likely only beginning. Gundy said Rudolph has shown good work ethic and attitude in team workouts, Garman is known for his arm, and Lagow and Hubenak are no scrubs.
Again, deciding on one man to lead the offense is the chief issue for Gundy’s squad.
“We have a lot of work in front of us as an offensive football team at that position,” Gundy said. “But we have a plan in place, and I feel comfortable with our plan. We know what direction we want to go, and we know how to get there. It’ll just take a lot of work.”
ROLAND TO MISS SPRING
Gundy said junior running back Desmond Roland won’t be a part of spring practices. Roland is recovering from a shoulder injury.
“Des had a shoulder (problem) throughout the season, and we went ahead and repaired it, scoped it,” Gundy said. “Very easy, common procedure, but we felt like we needed to go ahead and do it now so he could be healthy in the summer. For lack of a better term, it was a nagging injury.”
Roland ran for 811 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2013 and should continue to be a major part of the OSU offense going forward.
GUNDY RESPONDS TO ‘ORANGE BLITZ’ BACKLASH
OSU drew criticism when it was announced it would not have its typical spring football game. Instead, fans are invited to “Orange Blitz,” a 90-minute open practice on April 5 at 1:30 p.m.
Gundy said the basis for the decision was wanting a young team to get another day of practice. Gundy also said OSU’s limited numbers in the spring, due to injuries, would make a full intrasquad scrimmage difficult.
“We need to practice,” Gundy said. “We’re a young football team. There’s not a lot of maturity. We think it’s best for our team, and I think it’s best for the fans in my opinion.”
As for the negative backlash, Gundy said the decision isn’t meant to slight fans.
“There’s a message out there that’s not true,” Gundy said.
“At some point, I have to make a decision on what I think is best for our team first, and fans and the people that follow second, when you take all things into consideration.”
RECEIVING CORPS SHUFFLES
With the graduation of Tracy Moore and Charlie Moore, as well as Josh Stewart’s early exit to the NFL, there are plenty of openings on the OSU depth chart at wide receiver.
The Cowboys’ new go-to option could be sophomore Jhajuan Seales, who caught 39 passes for 571 yards and three touchdowns in 2013.
Teammate Austin Hays, who is back in the swing at wideout after missing most of 2013 with an injury, said Seales should be up to the task.
“He won’t tell you that,” Hays said. “He’ll act all shy. But yeah, as far as what he did last year and what he’s capable of, there’s no doubt in my mind he can take over and be the guy he wants to be.”
There’s a long list of returning names on the depth chart. A couple of players generating buzz are redshirt freshman Ra’Shaad Samples and junior college transfer Tyreek Hill, both known for their blazing speed.
DISCHER TAKES OVER SPECIAL TEAMS
Graduate assistant Robby Discher in now the man in charge of OSU special teams after former GA Ty Linder moved on to North Carolina.
Before coming to OSU, Discher was a full-time assistant at Sam Houston State. OSU posted the job opening on footballscoop.com after it opened. Gundy said the post got 400 hits in two hours.