Oklahoma State has a very good football team with a returning roster of starters led by Spencer Sanders at QB, Kolby Harvell-Peel and Tre Sterling at safety, Jarrick Bernard-Converse at cornerback and Josh Sills at whatever offensive line position he chooses to dominate (he’s expected to play guard). It’s likely the team has an above .500 record for a 16th consecutive year. Vegas odds have the over/under total set at 7.5 and the over is juiced.
The difference between a very good football team and a great one is a thin line, however. It takes a lucky bounce here, lucky bounce there. But it also takes players stepping up in ways perhaps not expected. Daytawion Lowe and Caleb Lavey in 2011 were prime examples of this. Joe Randle in 2010 is another that exceeded expectations and helped OSU reach the double-digit win mark. Who might fit the bill in 2021?
I’ve done some digging and found a few who fit the description. OSU no doubt needs its stars to be stars for this season, and this team, to truly be great in 2021. So consider the likes of the aforementioned Sanders, Sterling and Harvell-Peel so important their inclusion on this list is a given. But it’ll also need a few X-factors to be difference-makers in ways that, at least for now, no one really expects (though some have high hopes for). My list is below.
1. Trace Ford, DE: Mike Gundy said last month that Ford, who tore his ACL late in the season, is “doing well.” The expectation is that he’ll play this season. But can he return to his star-studded form? And if so, how quickly? He’s something of an unknown for that reason. If he’s at full health he’s OSU’s most impactful defender on a top-3 defense in the Big 12.
2 and 3. Bryson and Blaine Green, WRs: The expectations for OSU’s receiving corps this season are virtually nonexistent. No one knows what that room will produce. There’s Tay Martin, Brennan Presley and a lot of unknowns. But freshman twins Bryson and Blaine Green are generating a nuclear level of buzz about Stillwater leading into the season and both could be so electric that OSU simply has to find ways to get them the ball.
4. Caleb Etienne, OT: Caleb Etienne is a 6-foot-7 offensive tackle. I repeat: CALEB ETIENNE IS A 6-FOOT-7 OFFENSIVE TACKLE. His inclusion on this list speaks for itself. If he can get a quick grip on the offense he could be a starter at left tackle, which would be huge for this rebuilt offensive line.
5. Tay Martin, WR: I remain entrenched as one of the first inhabitants on Tay Martin island. The weather is great here and the forecast is unbelievable. Possible chance of 1,000 yards receiving in the future. Here’s the kicker: The lack of production in OSU’s offense is concerning. He had 15 catches all of last season. But my educated guess leads me to believe that at this point, that may be the only thing keeping him from being considered one of the best talents in the Big 12 at receiver.
6. Mason Cobb, LB: It’s Devin Harper’s time to shine at linebacker and Malcolm Rodriguez will remain a force because Malcolm Rodriguez is nothing if not a total force. But Mason Cobb is a star-caliber talent who should get some real run this season. Good size, plays aggressively and can move well enough to cover sideline to sideline like a hybrid linebacker/safety.
7. CB2: There’s a battle brewing for the starting cornerback spot opposite Jarrick Bernard-Converse, and whoever emerges might just hold the keys to unlocking OSU defense’s greatness. Super senior Christian Holmes has the experience but Korie Black and Jabbar Muhammad look like viable options here as well.
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