DALLAS — Big 12 coaches and select players will be hit with a variety of questions at Big 12 Media Days, which begin Monday in Dallas.
Some of these questions will be insightful. Some will be downright silly. Many won't even be applicable by the time fall camp or the opening week of the season roll around.
Oklahoma State will arrive at the festivities as the slight Big 12 favorite, coming in at No. 1 in a preseason media poll that saw six teams get a first-place vote.
The Cowboys return two capable starting quarterbacks, plenty of dynamic skill players and an SEC-caliber defensive tackle. But they also have two new coordinators, a change in defensive philosophy that has not yet been tested on the field and a gigantic hole to fill at kicker/punter.
Here are five of the biggest questions facing OSU as it enters the 2013 season.
5. Which newcomers make an immediate impact?
This is always an interesting development to monitor throughout the season.
In 2012, Calvin Barnett was an immediate difference-maker and the Big 12's Defensive Newcomer of the Year, while cornerbacks Kevin Peterson and Ashton Lampkin got a considerable amount of playing time as true freshmen. The offensive side of the ball got help from new receivers like Blake Jackson, Austin Hays and Blake Webb. Now-departed quarterback Wes Lunt, of course, was a crucial contributor when healthy.
Cornerback transfer Tyler Patmon, who was a three-year starter at Kansas, has shot up the list of newcomers to watch in 2013 because of his Big 12 experience and a lack of depth at that position. Also keep an eye on defensive end Sam Wren, running backs Rennie Childs and Corion Webster, receivers Marcell Ateman and Ra'Shaad Samples, offensive linemen Brandon Garrett and Colby Hegwood and kicker/punter Ben Grogan.
4. Is there enough quality depth along the offensive line?
Coach Mike Gundy said following the spring finale that one of the reasons the offense was so vanilla during that scrimmage is because it, really, did not have enough legitimate offensive linemen to fill both teams.
The Cowboys lost three players that started last season in Lane Taylor (an All-Big 12 selection), Evan Epstein and Jonathan Rush. They do return a versatile piece in Parker Graham, plus two steady forces in Daniel Koenig and Brandon Webb and a young stud in Devin Davis.
But every backup on the post-spring depth chart — Michael Wilson, Paul Lewis, Zac Veatch, Garrett and Chris Grisbhy — is in their first or second year in the program, and only Grisbhy has game experience at this level. Five more linemen — Zachary Crabtree, Jack Kurzu, Jesse Robinson, Jaxon Salinas and Hegwood — will be in fall camp.
By now, offensive line coach Joe Wickline has a track record of mixing and matching lineman combinations and turning the group into one of the Big 12's best. But his challenge will be a little bit greater in 2013.
3. Who kicks and punts?
Kickers Bobby Stonebreaker and Kip Smith and punter Michael Reichenstein were underwhelming, at best, during the spring in their attempt to replace two-time Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year Quinn Sharp.
The good news? Incoming freshman Ben Grogan, who was rated the ninth-best kicker in the nation by Rivals, will be on campus for fall camp.
As a junior at Arlington (Texas) Martin High School, Grogan beat out Jaden Oberkrom for starting kicking duties. The same Oberkrom who now kicks for TCU and was named to the preseason All-Big 12 team last week.
It's probably safe to expect Grogan kick right away. And don't be surprised if he punts, too.
2. Are the new coordinators up to the task?
Mike Yurcich has spoken about football being football, no matter the level, and his goal to stay true to OSU's Air Raid spread system.
Glenn Spencer has spoken about his experience assisting with game-planning as the Cowboys' co-defensive coordinator, and a promise that the unit is going to play more aggressively in 2013.
Both have likable personalities and appear to work well with their players and fellow coaches. But are they ready to call plays for OSU? We'll find out.
1. Is Clint Chelf able to produce for a whole season?
Clint Chelf's rapid rise from third-string quarterback to starter during the stretch run of last season sparked the “choo-choo” movement, earning him plenty of adoration and support from those who love a good underdog success story.
But now Chelf is poised to start the season opener — whether Gundy says it or not — for the team expected to win the Big 12. That comes with a whole new level of pressure and responsibility.
Chelf is a fifth-year senior who knows the Cowboys' system, has a nice blend of running and throwing ability and has earned the respect of his teammates and coaches.
But his limitations — his accuracy, most notably — showed up at key moments last season. He will need to be better in 2013 for OSU to remain a serious title contender, though getting first-team reps for an extended period for the first time of his career should prove beneficial.