STILLWATER — Early bowl practices are as much about next season as they are about the next game, especially where Oklahoma State’s secondary is concerned. For OSU defensive backs Jacob Lacey, Ricky Price, Quinton Moore and T.J. Bell, the Dec. 30 Holiday Bowl will be their last game, and they’re taking a lot of experience with them. So these early practices have been particularly crucial for players such as Markelle Martin, Johnny Thomas and Victor Johnson — all of whom played in a limited capacity as true freshmen this season. But they’re the secondary of the future for OSU. "They were in the film room with us all season,” Price said. "They were asking us how to make themselves better, so hopefully they will mature for next season. "Victor and Johnny, they both love to hit, they’ve got good speed and they’ve got decent ball skills, so there’s not a lot of weaknesses that they have. They’ll be a big part of the defense next year.” Cornerback Perrish Cox will be the only returning starter in the secondary next year. Safety Lucien Antoine will be back after tearing his ACL early in the season, and cornerbacks Terrance Anderson and Maurice Gray will be seniors, though only Anderson played a significant role this year. Here are a few other areas where young players are getting important work during the early bowl practices: →Defensive line: Redshirting freshman Nigel Nicholas has added about 10 pounds and has developed into someone who could play both defensive end and defensive tackle. He impressed coaches as an end in the fall, and for a while they considered using him as a true freshman. Now, he’s ready to contribute, adding both depth and versatility. →Offensive line: There could be as many as three openings on the offensive line, and that’s a big deal, considering that the starting five played virtually every meaningful snap this season. After playing as a true freshman, center Grant Garner was able to redshirt this year, so he still has three years of eligibility. Tackle Andrew Mitchell continues to develop after coming in from junior college. Guard Jonathan Rush has made perhaps the most growth of any of the backups. →Wide receiver: None of OSU’s current players graduate, but Jeremy Broadway was dismissed two weeks ago, and it’s hard to project how William Cole will perform in his return from ACL surgery. So the Cowboys could use some more depth. Ardmore product Justin Blackmon has stood out during the year. Both Isaiah Anderson and Adrian Richards have grown up, too.
Holiday BowlOklahoma State vs. Oregon →When: 7 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 30 →Where: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego →TV: ESPN (Cox 29)