1. We’re pretty sure this season is going to fall somewhere between rebuilding and reloading for OSU, how surprised would you be if they won the Big 12?
Oh, not all that shocked. The truth is, Oklahoma’s flaws are only growing, and as that happens, the league title race only becomes more and more wide open. Everybody’s got flaws. If Wes Lunt plays well, I don’t think OSU will have any glaring flaws, with the exception of the defensive line. Honestly, it’s anyone’s guess how TCU and West Virginia handle the transition, even though they’re both really talented. Kansas State’s issues have been well-chronicled, and OSU could be simply better than the Cats this year.
Texas, well, look no further than the QB spot for that flaw, which is equal parts enormous and mind-boggling, considering the Longhorns’ resources on the recruiting trail and history at the position under Mack Brown.
The only question is how good Lunt will be, and if he’s good enough and doesn’t turn the ball over, OSU may be in the mix to win this thing again. I’m not picking it to happen, but I mean it when I say there are really six teams in this league good enough to win the Big 12 without needing anything supernatural to do it.
2. Which unit (LBs, RBs etc.) outside of QB is most important to OSU’s success this year?
Like I mentioned above, I’m going with the defensive line. We know what most everyone is bringing to the table, but you need new faces to have big years if you want to turn the so-called rebuilding year into a reloading year. Richetti Jones and Jamie Blatnick were ridiculously underrated last year, as was Nigel Nicholas. Those losses will be huge. Ryan Robinson and Cooper Bassett have a very important task ahead of them, as does Nicholas. OSU needs Calvin Barnett to be the kind of player they hoped they recruited, too. Bill Young was pretty bullish on him when I visited Stillwater this spring.
Justin Gilbert and Brodrick Brown are great. So is Shaun Lewis and Caleb Lavey and Alex Elkins. Ultimately, none of that matters in coverage or in run defense if the guys up front can’t get a push. I don’t care how good your corners are. None of the good offenses in this league can be stopped if they aren’t facing a legitimate pass rush. If you start facing really good QBs (and in the Big 12, there are plenty), blitz at your own risk. They’re more likely to turn those into big plays than sacks or turnovers.
That reason is the same one why I’m skeptical of what West Virginia can do this year and why I think Texas, who has the luxury of just throwing four guys on the line and applying pressure, could win the league, too. Everybody’s got pieces. Nobody’s got it all. That’s why there’s no real favorite to start the season. OU’s injuries on the offensive line all of a sudden turned one of its biggest strengths into a big question mark with no depth behind the first unit. That’s equalized this league.
3. We talk a little bit behind the scenes about which guys you like covering (and which ones you don’t like covering) in the Big 12, who are your favorite OSU players to interview and why?
Oh, I really just like guys who will offers some insight beyond the cliches and offer thoughtful answers, not just ones that they’re sure won’t get them in trouble. I think the climate scares some guys from showcasing their personalities over their careers. It’s so easy for one quote to be taken out of context and all of a sudden end up on another team’s infamous bulletin board when that wasn’t a player’s intention at all. Teams are all too often looking for some perceived slight in a quote.
Loved dealing with Weeden last year. He was all of those things above, and unbelievably patient with what was an absolute crush of media interviews last year. Dare I imply Weeden and RG3 had something in common, but RG3 used to talk a lot about how he never minded the interviews. He saw himself as more than a player, he was an ambassador for the school and it was his responsibility to get out and be the face of the team and do all the interviews he could. Weeden never talked as explicitly about it, but I think he thought much of the same thing.
I’m still getting to know this year’s team, but Jonathan Rush is a great guy to spend some time with. Offensive linemen are consistently the best interviews on football teams. A vastly underused resource. Joseph Randle’s come into his own this year. I spent some time with him at Big 12 media days and got to know him a little better. He’ll be fun to cover this year. Expect him to be the face of this year’s team in Lunt’s media absence.
Speaking of, I’m fascinated to see if Gundy sticks to that through the bowl game. I’m betting he does at least one or two interviews by season’s end if he plays well.
Your boy Justin Gilbert’s a great interview, too. OSU’s got some great personalities on this team.