Boone: Five Predictions for OSU Football in the 2021 Season

Before OSU’s football season starts on Saturday, we’re doing our best here at PFB to put pen to paper for all our predictions. I’ll be honest here: The risk here far outweighs the reward. Nobody remembers the great predictions but everyone remembers when you’re wrong (like when KP once thought Josh Cooper, not Justin Blackmon, would lead the team in receiving.) But I contend there is still value to be had in jotting down what I think will happen if for no other reason to reflect on later.

So that’s what I’m here to do. Behold, my five predictions for the upcoming season.

1. Spencer Sanders pushes for All-Big 12

How good this OSU team will be rests largely on the broad shoulders of No. 3 and whether he’s ready as a redshirt junior to take it up a notch. In consecutive seasons he’s attempted 247 passes and completed 155 and narrowly scooted past the 2,000 yards passing mark.

Entering his third season as the OSU starter there’s reason to be optimistic that he launches into All-Big 12 consideration. This offseason was immensely valuable after last season’s was truncated because of the pandemic and for the first time since he’s been the starter, he has the same coach — Tim Rattay — developing him. Finally: some continuity!

With Sam Ehlinger gone it wouldn’t at all be surprising if it was a Spencer-Spencer (Rattler and Sanders) All-Big 12 by season’s end at QB.

2. Tay Martin emerges as a star

Mike Gundy said in July that he doesn’t think OSU has a “marquee” player at the receiver spot before slowly tipping his hand and adding, “It will be very interesting to watch how Tay Martin develops.” I’m betting he indeed develops into that player for OSU this season. He didn’t get much opportunity last season in his first year after transferring in, but we saw flashes in the bowl game of what he can be — and what I think he can be is OSU’s go-to option at receiver. I remain high as ever on Brennan Presley (more on him in a second) and OSU’s other pass-catchers, but I think Tay Martin might just be that dude for the Pokes. 1,000-yard receiving season incoming.

3. Brennan Presley reinvigorates the return game

OSU did not have a touchdown in the return game last season. Or the season before that. Or the season before that (unless you count a Za’Carrius Green blocked punt and score). Or the season before that. In fact, the last time OSU had a touchdown in the return game from a return specialist was in 2015 when Jalen McCleskey housed a punt return.

OSU in the early years of the Gundy era was a consistent threat in this aspect but it is an area where more often than not it has punted (all pun intended), instead opting to fair catch and play it safe. But Brennan Presley brings an explosiveness and shiftiness that could change the team’s fortunes — and I think will.

“We should be really good on special teams,” Gundy said this week.” And then we have good returners, we have a home run threat at returner with Presley, and we have a returning kicker that had great success . . .”

Home run threat! In the return game! Have mercy! (Gundy is spot on here, too, just look at Brennan’s highlights from Bixby in 2019 … )

For posterity: I think Presley is the clear 1B option at receiver this season too (and maybe 1A). OSU should and will feed him the ball often, and with good reason.

4. Tyler Lacy leads the team in sacks

Calvin Bundage led OSU in sacks last season with seven and Trace Ford finished second with 4.5, despite his season ending early with an ACL tear. But third on the list — and my breakout pick for the defense — is Tyler Lacy. He had 4.0 sacks on the season and 32 tackles and the opportunity this season is there for the taking for him to emerge as the best pure pass-rusher off the edge. He’s not as shifty as Ford or Tyren Irby or even Collin Oliver, but he’s a dynamic, fundamentally sound defensive end who can win with technique and power and I don’t think it’s crazy to project that he could finish with, say, eight sacks on the year.

5. OSU has three RBs finish with 100+ carries

OSU all offseason has hinted at a committee approach to its running back room with LD Brown, Jaylen Warren, Dominic Richardson and Dezmon Jackson all slated to share the workload. Typically I’d brush this off; in most cases there’s clearly a top dog that emerges. But I’m buying into it. I think OSU really will spread the wealth. And if it does, OSU for the first time ever under Mike Gundy could have three running backs finish a season with 100+ carries. (It was very close on a run-heavy 2006 team.) The committee approach to the RB room coupled with a rebuilt offensive line that should be much improved leads me think it’s very possible the team commits to relying on the run game with all four getting big workloads this season.

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