EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the 15th in a series of previews on West Virginia and Marshall football opponents.
n Date with WVU: Saturday, Oct. 25, time TBA
n Site: Boone Pickens Stadium (60,218, Astroturf 3D), Stillwater, Okla.
n Series: WVU leads 3-2
n Last meeting: WVU defeated Oklahoma State 30-21 on Sept. 28, 2013 at Mountaineer Field.
n Coach: Mike Gundy (10th year, 77-38)
Checking them out
There are no great expectations for Oklahoma State this season and here’s pretty much the reason: Not a single Cowboy made the preseason all-conference team selected by the media, and when Phil Steele published his preseason all-league picks, there were also no OSU players on the first unit and only three who rated as much as second- or third-team honors.
Still, in the last four years, the Cowboys have won 41 games and haven’t finished lower than third in the Big 12 standings, so to expect this team to just fall off the edge isn’t wise.
The reason for that is that even though OSU doesn’t have proven playmakers, it still has talent. On offense, running back Desmond Roland was the primary back only for the second half of the season, but still rushed for 811 yards and 13 touchdowns. At receiver, Jhajuan Seales is one of a handful of younger guys who began emerging last season and they’re joined now by junior college transfer Tyreek Hill, a world-class sprinter who can play receiver and running back, as well.
The quarterback situation is a bit more settled now, too, or at least it could be. With Clint Chelf gone, J.W. Walsh is clearly the most experienced and a veteran now, but Mike Gundy refuses to name him the starter, saying only that he’s the one getting most of the first-team reps. Walsh has some mobility to go along with his 6-foot-2, 205-pound frame and he might need it because the offensive line is rebuilding.
Defense could be a bigger issue. Seven starters are gone from a group that led the league in fewest points allowed.
The front four is the strong suit as far as experience and depth are concerned, with starters James Castleman and Jimmy Bean returning. Behind them, though, Ryan Simmons is the only linebacker returning and he’s playing a new position, having been moved to the middle. There are a couple of cornerbacks who have played and have potential, but all the starters in the secondary are gone and the safeties don’t even have much time as reserves.
The good news as far as special teams is concerned is that both the kicker and punter are back. The bad news is OU ranked last in the league in field goal percentage and eighth in net punting.
n Offense: RB Desmond Roland, WR Jhajuan Seales
n Defense: DL James Castleman, LB Ryan Simmons, CB Kevin Peterson
n Special teams: KR Tyreek Hill
Oklahoma State doesn’t play a true road game until Oct, 11 and has four straight in Stillwater prior to that. But to say the Cowboys ease into the schedule isn’t true, since they open against defending national champion Florida State in Arlington. And then they close the season on the road at Baylor and Oklahoma. … Poor kicking isn’t the only special teams issue facing OSU. Return men Justin Gilbert and Josh Stewart are also gone, leaving what is traditionally one of the best special teams units anywhere in transition.
Date Opponent 2013
Aug. 30 Florida State (Arlington, Texas) DNP
Sept. 6 Missouri State DNP
Sept. 13 Texas-San Antonio W 56-35
Sept. 20 Open
Sept. 25 Texas Tech* (Thursday) W 52-34
Oct. 4 Iowa State* W 58-27
Oct. 11 at Kansas* W 42-6
Oct. 18 at TCU* W 24-10
Oct. 25 West Virginia* L 21-30
Nov. 1 at Kansas State* W 33-29
Nov. 8 Open
Nov. 15 Texas* W 38-13
Nov. 22 at Baylor* W 49-17
Nov. 29 Open
Dec. 6 at Oklahoma L 24-33
* Big 12 Conference games
n 2013 record: 10-3 overall, 7-2 Big 12 (lost 31-41 to Missouri in the Cotton Bowl)
n Dropped: Mississippi State (W 21-3), Lamar (W 59-3)
— Dave Hickman