In the 100 days leading up to the kickoff of the college football season on Saturday, Aug. 25, HERO Sports is ranking the top 100 teams in the FBS. Each day, starting May 17 and ending Aug. 24, a new team is revealed in the HERO Sports Top 100.
No. 37 Oklahoma State
It's been four years since Oklahoma State entered a season without Mason Rudolph as their starting quarterback. It's been six years since Oklahoma State entered a season without Glenn Spencer as defensive coordinator. The former is a bigger story but the latter might be a more important story for the Cowboys in 2018 and beyond as they look to quickly rebuild — and, eventually, enter playoff contention — following the loss of seven all-conference players.
2017 Record: 10-3 (6-3, Big 12)
Oklahoma State had the offense to contend for a Big 12 title and a playoff spot. They averaged 41 points and 557 yards in three losses, lost to Oklahoma for the third straight season (and 13th time in the last 15 seasons) and had three conference losses for the first time since 2014.
Head Coach: Mike Gundy (14th Year, 114-53)
For the second time in five years, Mike Gundy was reportedly flirting with an opening at Tennessee. And for the second time in five years, Mike Gundy passed on an opening at Tennessee. In doing so, Gundy proclaimed himself a "Cowboy for Life!"
In the 90 years of Oklahoma State football before Gundy arrived in 2005, the program had three total seasons with at least 10 wins. He's done it six times.
QB Mason Rudolph, WR James Washington, WR Marcell Ateman, TE Keenen Brown, OT Zach Crabtree, C Brad Lundblade, DT DeQuinton Osborne, LB Chad Whitener, S Tre Flowers, S Ramon Richards
Of Oklahoma State's nine All-Big 12 First- and Second-Team selections, seven are gone, a group highlighted by the best passing duo in program history: Mason Rudolph and James Washington. Rudolph's second-favorite target, Marcell Ateman, also graduated, as did their two best offensive linemen, Zach Crabtree and Brad Lundblade.
Defensively, the headliners are DeQuinton Osborne and Tre Flowers, but they also lost longtime starters in linebacker Chad Whitener and safety Ramon Richards.
Returning Offensive Players
QB Taylor Cornelius, RB Justice Hill, RB J.D. King, WR Jalen McCleskey, WR Dillon Stoner, WR Tyron Johnson, FB/TE Britton Abbott, G Marcus Keyes, C Johnny Wilson, K Matt Ammendola
Fifth-year senior Taylor Cornelius will get the first crack in fall camp at replacing Mason Rudolph. At Big 12 Media Days, Gundy called the 6-foot-6, 232-pounder — who hasn't attempted a single pass in college — the "best player we have the quarterback position at this time."
“Do I expect him to be the starting quarterback when the season starts? I would say the percentages say yes. But I don't think there's a guarantee just because we've got a couple other guys coming in that we don't know anything about."
The other guys are true freshman Spencer Sanders and Hawai'i grad transfer Dru Brown, both of whom weren't at spring practice and will be discussed in Player Additions below.
The winner gets one of the nation's best running backs in Justice Hill (below). The shifty — and surprisingly powerful given his pedestrian build (5-foot-10, 190 pounds) — runner has averaged 5.5 yards per tote each of the last two years, and along with sophomore J.D. King form a backfield that will average about five yards per carry again.
Despite the losses of James Washington and Marcell Ateman, the Cowboys are in good shape at receiver, boasting the always-reliable Dillon Stoner (highest passer rating when targeted among returning Big 12 receivers, according to Pro Football Focus) and vertical threats Jalen McCleskey and former LSU transfer Tyron Johnson. Don't be fooled by McCleskey's 12.9 yards per reception; he can fly and is terrific after the catch.
Marcus Keyes and Johnny Wilson lead a strong interior line. They just need some upperclassmen to step up on the outside.
Returning Defensive Players
DE Jordan Brailford, DE Cole Walterscheid, LB Calvin Bundage, LB Justin Phillips, CB A.J. Green, CB Rodarius Williams
Mike Gundy finally fired defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer after five seasons (he was on Gundy's staff since 2008). The tipping point was a unit that ranked 60th or worse nationally in opponents' points per play (0.384), red-zone scoring (83.7 percent) and on third downs (38.8 percent). Too often their defense couldn't stop a banana slug in mud.
Gundy hired Jim Knowles away from Duke. The former Cornell head coach and Ole Miss assistant is installing a 4-2-5 system that's a better fit for the Big 12 and should help a pass defense that allowed more than 13 yards per completion.
"He did a great job of adapting the scheme to our personnel,” Duke cornerback Bryon Fields said in February. “My first year or so, the talent wasn't great. But we were able to create pressure in different type of ways, and he was able to construct coverages to keep us competitive and help us make plays."
The Cowboys' personnel includes a lot of speed and athleticism at most positions, including linebacker, where junior Calvin Bundage (below) and senior Justin Phillips are all-conference-caliber players.
"He can run and he has a special gift when you bring him off the edge," Gundy said of Bundage. "I think the system that we're in now . . . should help him. I think our defensive staff will put him in positions that allow him to be successful."
Up front, end Jordan Brailford is their best pass rusher (and one of only two guys who had more than three sacks last year), and in the secondary, A.J. Green and Rodarius Williams are back at corner. Williams tied the program's record for most pass breakups by a freshman (10).
QB Dru Brown, QB Spencer Sanders, WR LC Greenwood, DE Brock Martin
Taylor Cornelius is the starter entering fall camp but it could become a three-man battle.
Dru Brown is experienced, having thrown for 5,273 yards and 37 touchdowns over the last two seasons at Hawai'i, but the 6-foot, 200-pound former JUCO transfer isn't scheduled to arrive in Stillwater until late July, giving him little time to learn the offense and work with skill players.
Spencer Sanders was a four-star prospect and the eighth-ranked dual-threat quarterback in the 2018 class. After a fishing outing with Sanders last fall, Mike Gundy said they're not scared to start a freshman. He also said Sanders was the most complete quarterback they've ever signed.
Oklahoma State doesn't leave Stillwater until a Sept. 29 trip to Kansas and has just two road games before November.
Their Week 3 game with Boise State is their first-ever matchup with the Broncos.
|Thursday, Aug. 30||vs. Missouri State|
|Saturday, Sept. 8||vs. South Alabama|
|Saturday, Sept. 15||vs. Boise State|
|Saturday, Sept. 22||vs. Texas Tech|
|Saturday, Sept. 29||at Kansas|
|Saturday, Oct. 6||vs. Iowa State|
|Saturday, Oct. 13||at Kansas State|
|Saturday, Oct. 27||vs. Texas|
|Saturday, Nov. 3||at Baylor|
|Saturday, Nov. 10||at Oklahoma|
|Saturday, Nov. 17||vs. West Virginia|
|Saturday, Nov. 24||at TCU|