Oklahoma State football fans got their first look Saturday at the new-look Cowboys.
The Cowboys went 10-3 and finished second in the Big 12 last season, but had so much turnover they didn't have enough players to hold a traditional spring game.
Instead, OSU's Orange Blitz consisted of about 2,500 fans watching the squad run through drills and simulated scrimmage situations, interspersed with some live interviews on the field with Coach Mike Gundy and returning alumni. The fans then had the opportunity to go onto the field to get autographs and mingle with the players afterward.
"We would all like to have a spring game, but I also have to look at what's best for our team and best for our fans," Gundy said. "For example, we only ended up with one linebacker at two positions today. It would have been hard having an Orange team and a White team. We would have been limited to a couple of formations on offense and sub-packages wouldn't have happened on defense because there's not enough bodies for both teams. So I think it's better the way we did it today."
Among the more highly-anticipated newcomers that made positive impressions were freshman quarterback Mason Rudolph and junior running back/wide receiver Tyreek Hill, a 5-10, 185-pound transfer from Garden City (Kan.) Community College, as well as incumbent QB J.W. Walsh and receiver Blake Webb, who is back after missing most of last season due to injury.
Five topics of interest as Oklahoma State heads into its final week of spring football:
1. WALSH THE FRONT-RUNNER. Gundy won't name his starting quarterback yet, but it is clear Walsh is the front-runner. Walsh, who seized the starting job in last year's opener and showed flashes of brilliance, was supplanted by departing senior Clint Chelf for the last seven games. "I think J.W. is coming along," Gundy said. "We'll finish up next week and make a decision on exactly what we want to do."
2. OTHER CONTENDERS AT QB. Also in the running is freshman Mason Rudolph, who made several impressive throws during the scrimmage portion of the practice, including a 55-yard bomb to Webb for a touchdown. Junior Dax Garman, who transferred from Arizona, is also in the running, but he did not participate Saturday due to a knee injury, the severity of which won't be known until Monday.
3. UNSETTLED OFFENSIVE LINE. One area generating questions right now is the offensive line, which Gundy said was so inexperienced, it was difficult to properly evaluate his signal-callers. "We just don't have that much depth," Gundy said. "It's not easy for the quarterbacks to function, those five guys out there have never played at this level."
4. HILL'S ROLE STILL UNDEFINED. The speedy Hill, who arrived on campus in January and already helped the OSU indoor track team win the Big 12 championship, has looked impressive at both running back and wide receiver, and Gundy is not sure which position Hill will ultimately be utilized at, or if he'll split his time between them. "We need to make a decision by the middle of August where we want to play him," Gundy said of the transfer who was also recruited by Alabama, Florida State, Oklahoma and Texas. "Part of it is how he develops. We've got to find out how much he can do and what he can comprehend and absorb to where he can play fast. We'd like to be able to have him touch the ball 10-15 times a game."
5. UNTANGLED WEBB. After making two catches for 26 yards and a touchdown in the first two games last season, Webb missed the rest of the year with a foot muscle injury, but he's fully healthy now. Saturday, he displayed impressive speed and made several difficult catches, appearing ready to assume a significant role in 2014's offense, especially with key seniors Josh Stewart, Tracy Moore and Charlie Moore all graduating. "I'm just excited to be with the offense," Webb said. "I'm really excited about this upcoming season."