I know, I know, this is a Baylor site and I try to stick to Baylor football. But it’s the dead middle of the offseason and there just ain’t much to cover right now, so I figured I’d talk to some fellow Big 12 writers whom I respect to get some more info on Baylor’s future Big 12 opponents. First up is Adam Lunt who writes about Oklahoma State. He’s a great follow and has always been very cordial, nice, and a great resource. With that said, here’s our Q&A:
Travis — What’s the 30,000 foot view of OSU this year on offense and defense?
Adam: OSU fans are accustomed to high flying offense and underperforming defense, and the tide is certainly shifting as the 2020 team was basically inverted of the norm. The defense is in good shape with many key players returning, a significant amount of depth and a Defensive Coordinator in Jim Knowles that has proven to be a quality coach and play caller. The devil’s advocate in me will tell you the defense lacks a true star/playmaker, but makes up for it with a balanced roster with no real notable weaknesses.
On offense, most of the trajectory lies with how far QB Spencer Sanders can progress year over year, and how much creativity OC Kasey Dunn can inject into the offense because of Sanders’ evolution. OSU loses star power at RB and WR to the NFL, however the roster is still stocked full of quality skill players. Bottom line, if Sanders can take the next step, the offense could be really good.
Travis — What’s something positive and negative you think you understand about OSU that outside fans might not understand well? E.g., “I don’t think most realize how good X position group will be.” or “Scheme change here, will be interesting to watch” etc.
Adam — This could be applied to really any team in the Big 12, but both are listed below:
Positive: OSU has a talented, well coached defense that was #1 in the nation in 3rd down defense in 2020. This isn’t a flash in the pan, they’re here to stay as long as Jim Knowles is in town. Given some recruiting tweaks to find the right profiles to fit the scheme, this could be a consistent top 30 S&P+ defense. Given the fact that OSU has won 8 and 9 games with a floundering offense, if the other side of the ball were to figure things out that would be a pretty complete football team.
Negative: OSU is no longer a team that scares people in the pass game. A variety of changes have caused OSU to be relegated to more of an average passing team - OC turnover, QB inconsistency, defensive adjustments across CFB. We don’t really know yet what the reasoning is behind the simplicity of the OSU pass game that has been rolled out the last 2 seasons. Could be because simply Spencer Sanders needed more time to develop to roll the entire offense out, or could be a lack of creativity in general from the staff. Sanders is likely the reason, but 2021 should tell us the answer, it’s now or never.
Travis — Overall, reasonable expectations for the team? You can define them anyway you’d like.
Adam — I think the expectations are to make the Big 12 Championship Game, make OU beat you twice. I don’t think there are any excuses at this point. QB returns for his 3rd year as starter, entire coaching staff returns, 2 deep that is loaded with experience, impact transfers at WR, RB, OL. There are a few areas of concern - finding a true #1 Cornerback, a few key players returning from injury (Trace Ford, Collin Clay, Devin Harper), but quality depth behind them.
Travis — OSU is a program that, hopefully you’ll agree with me on this, is in the “non-blue blood tier” where expectations are more to capitalize on things coming together (usually with upperclassmen at the right spots) every few years as opposed to winning the conference every year. Is this an OSU team that can capitalize?
No question on your analysis of the program. The OSU strategy isn’t too different from many others in the league, considering OSU doesn’t have the resources to consistently recruit in the top 25. The idea is to be smarter about the way they approach scheme and talent, finding raw high potential athletes and molding them into a specific profile that fits into the scheme. One issue with this strategy there is a bigger margin for error if you miss on an athlete (transfer, injury, just doesn’t develop etc), so there is a huge burden on upperclassmen. 2021 is certainly a year I would highlight as one where the stars could align, but as listed above a lot of that depends on quality QB play.
Travis — Might be repeating a bit here, but SP+ has OSU 29th nationally and 4th in the conference (well behind OU and Iowa State, about 3 points behind Texas and a couple points ahead of TCU and WVU). Does that feel right to you?
Adam — I don’t see a lot of separation between the teams behind OU. I think OU is clearly the best team in the conference, maybe by a large margin. Behind them, I think OSU, TCU and ISU are in a group by themselves. I see Texas as a step behind those 3, I think there will be a transition year given the landscape there with the new staff and breaking in a new QB. (although I do think Sark probably gets it going eventually)
I think we know what to expect from Iowa State. In terms of one of the other teams jumping them , the big questions will be on offense for both OSU and TCU. Both teams return QBs who have tons of talent and potential, just need to put it together on the field.
Travis — And for fun, how about one offense and one defensive recruit from this most recent class that you think are worth knowing for other fans to keep an eye on for when they pop in a year or two?
Adam — I’m going to cheat a little bit and pick 3 (2 on offense, 1 on defense)
Offense: I can’t answer this question without listing JUCO Caleb Etienne (#2 JUCO OT via 247). He is a huge, long, lean Offensive Tackle who should slide right into the rotation at LT once he arrives on campus. He has limited tape out there, but if he can show up ready to play that would be huge.
My more longer term answer is Silas Barr, also an OT recruit. He is a great example of the type of players that Gundy and his staff are trying to uncover. He played both DT and OL in HS and was primarily recruited as a DT, he originally committed to North Texas and is OSU’s lowest rated signee. Barr played at roughly 250 lbs in HS, and is already up above 280+ as an early enrollee. Finding OT’s with good foot quickness is incredibly hard as a non-blue blood, and Barr gives OSU the option to “build” them by putting weight/strength on while trying to maintain quickness.
Defense: This one is pretty easy. Kendall Daniels fell into OSU’s lap after deciding to opt out of his LOI with Texas A&M. Daniel is one of the highest rated players OSU has ever signed (97 on 247) and is an instant impact, rangy Safety that should thrive in Knowles system. He should see the field on a limited basis in 2021, but has a great shot to start in 2022 if things go to plan.
Travis — Any other random things?
Adam — Brennan Presley should be a name that most people around the Big 12 should be aware of. He is tremendous in space, and will be a focal point of the OSU offense.
OSU’s defense could be better than the 2020 version, but if that is the case then that means they will have shored up the 2nd CB spot that Christian Holmes occupies now. Either Holmes has a great offseason and runs away with the spot, or Jabbar Muhammad/Korie Black need to step up. But this is a position to watch that will have a huge impact on the ceiling of the defense. If they don’t find a steady #2 CB, I don’t see them reaching 2020 levels.
Many thanks to Adam for all the info, this should provide some more insight into what we can expect from the Baylor - Oklahoma State game this year.