March 5, 2007

Spring storylines

It seems that each successive spring in Stillwater is the most important set of offseason practices in Oklahoma State football history.

That's a hallmark of a program trying to bust out of its normal standing in the college football world.

For head coach Mike Gundy and his charges, the goal is to take the momentum afforded by OSU's win over Alabama in the Independence Bowl and maintain it through spring ball and offseason workouts this summer.

The Achilles heel of the 2006 Cowboys was the defense. While the OSU offense was among the national leaders in numerous categories, the defense was stuck (again) in the lower half of the Big 12 statistics in every defensive category. Making the Cowboy defense respectable falls on the shoulders of new defensive coordinator Tim Beckman. How the OSU defense reacts to the direction of Beckman is easily the top storyline for OSU's spring session that will culminate with the Orange-White game on April 14th. Here's a look at some of the other top storylines to keep an eye on over the next six weeks:

Defensive line - Gone are Ryan McBean, Larry Brown and Xavier Lawson-Kennedy, leaving Jeray Chatham as the only interior defensive lineman to have seen a significant number of snaps last season. Big things are expected of junior college transfer Tonga Tea and Maurice Cummings' learning curve should be smoothing out after moving down from defensive end last season. Those three should give coach Nelson Barnes a solid base to work from while he searches for a solid No. 4 man for his rotation on the interior. Sophomore Jonathan Lewis is probably the favorite entering the spring, but redshirt freshman Quency Patrick will push him. True freshman Ahmad Jones will be given a shot at working his way into playing time, but that won't come until he reports in August.

Replacing Woods - Receiver D'Juan Woods graduated and is taking his game to the next level. Woods and Adarius Bowman formed a solid receiving pair last season, catching a combined 101 balls. The rest of the OSU receivers caught 13. Someone has to step up and replace the 40+ receptions that leave with Woods. Ideally it would be one player taking most of them in a primary role, but more wide outs contributing overall than last season.

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