Health, more than anything, factors into the quality of OSU’s offensive line in 2014.
And, likewise, the quality of the offense overall?
The focus of the next three months will center on the continued rehab of Devin Davis and Brandon Garrett, who ideally project as the Cowboys starting tackles. Davis blew out a knee last preseason and missed the entire season, while Garrett suffered a gruesome lower leg injury in the Cotton Bowl.
With them both, the starting unit gets an obvious boost, not only in the return of its tackles, but in strengthening the interior of the line and in enhancing depth.
Yet the return of either to 100 percent in August is hardly a given.
Without one or both, OSU’s front takes on a youthful, inexperienced look that involves sophomores Paul Lewis and Zac Veatch at center and right guard, with redshirt freshman Zach Crabtree at right tackle. Behind them: more unproven youth. While there’s optimism surrounding the youngsters — and Crabtree’s rise became one of the pleasant developments of the spring — expecting all to be Big 12 ready is a lot.
This scenario also pushes Daniel Koenig from guard to left tackle, stretching the line’s effectiveness further.
Having Davis and Garrett ready allows Koenig and senior Chris Grisbhy to man the guard spots, surrounding Lewis with a veteran presence, forming an optimum lineup and bringing the youngsters along in less-stress roles.
What to expect?
Interestingly, Garrett is ahead of Davis and projects to be in play when the Cowboys open fall camp in August. Davis’ injury, involving ligament and meniscus damage, was significant and has him on a more deliberate track back.
“Devin Davis, in my mind, I’m not sure where he’s going to be,” said OSU offensive line coach Bob Connelly. “That’s such a traumatic injury.”
Connelly, perhaps not wanting to be disappointed, is already hedging a bit.
“He’s a junior,” Connelly said of Davis, “if it’s a depth role next year, gaining confidence and working back into it, then we get him back for his senior year full go, I’ll be good with that.
“Anything we get from him right now, in my mind, is a bonus.”
Davis, meanwhile, is pushing and pressing to get ready, insisting he’ll be on time.
“That’s the mindset we want him to have,” Connelly said.
OSU’s offensive mindset may accommodate either scenario.
The Cowboys plan to play faster again, after pulling off the pedal a bit a year ago. A hurry-up tempo out of the spread, relying more on finesse, won’t require the line to be dominant. And quarterback J.W. Walsh’s mobility and run-pass threat takes even more pressure off the front five.
Still, there’s some optimistic spin in that.
More optimistically, OSU has Davis and Garrett healthy and ready.