BREAKING DOWN THE 2016 SCHEDULE

Sept. 3 • FSOK • 2:30 p.m. • vs. Southeastern Louisiana

The last time OSU opened the season at home, it beat Savannah State 84-0.

Sept. 10 • FS1 • 11 a.m. • vs. Central Michigan

The Chippewas will have one of the best quarterbacks OSU will face all season in Cooper Rush.

Sept. 17 • ESPN • 2:30 p.m. • vs. Pittsburgh

This is the first-ever meeting between the schools; Oklahoma State travels to Pitt in 2017.

Sept. 24 • TBD • at Baylor

Mason Rudolph is 12-3 in 15 starts, but 0-2 against the Bears.

Oct. 1 • TBD • vs. Texas

The road team has won five straight games in this series, including a 28-7 UT win in 2014.

Oct. 8 • TBD • vs. Iowa State

If all goes well and OSU starts out 5-0, Mike Gundy will be sitting on 99 wins heading into this one.

Oct. 22 • TBD • at Kansas

The Cowboys won by just seven and six points in their last two trips to Lawrence.

Oct. 29 • TBD • vs. West Virginia

Can you believe it has already been six years since Dana Holgorsen was OSU’s offensive coordinator?

Nov. 5 • TBD • at Kansas State

The Wildcats’ home-field advantage is real: OSU is 1-8 in Manhattan dating back to 1990.

Nov. 12 • TBD • vs. Texas Tech

The scoreboard operator will earn his or her paycheck: OSU has averaged 58.4 points per game in the last five meetings.

Nov. 19 • TBD • at TCU

OSU is 3-1 against TCU since it joined the Big 12, but has not won at Fort Worth since 1947.

Dec. 3 • TBD • at Oklahoma

The Cowboys won consecutive games in Norman just once — in 1995 and 1997.


COACHING STAFF

Mike Gundy

Head coach, 12th year, $3.775 million

Mike Yurcich

Offensive coordinator/quarterbacks, fourth year, $500,000

Glenn Spencer

Defensive coordinator/linebackers, ninth year, $600,000

Marcus Arroyo

Running backs, second year, $325,000

Kasey Dunn

Receivers, sixth year, $325,000

Jason McEndoo

Cowboy backs, second year, $225,000

Greg Adkins

Offensive line, second year, $355,000

Joe Bob Clements

Defensive line, fourth year, $364,652

Tim Duffie

Cornerbacks, fourth year, $339,347

Dan Hammerschmidt

Safeties, second year, $275,000


STARS

James Washington: He might not even be 6 feet tall, but Washington plays big. He could be the first OSU receiver with consecutive 1,000-yard seasons since Justin Blackmon.

Mason Rudolph: There have been 14 400-yard passing games in Oklahoma State history. Rudolph had three of them in his first full season as a starter. Give him a run game, and he could be a dark horse Heisman candidate.

Jordan Sterns: Sterns is as reliable a player as the Cowboys have, and with some depth to spell him here and there in 2016, he should be even better.

SLEEPERS

Jalen McCleskey: McCleskey caught 29 passes in 2015, but he is full of untapped potential. It will be fun to see how OSU uses him all over the field.

Derrick Moncrief: A fifth-year senior who hasn’t played a game at OSU, Moncrief did start one game at Auburn in 2014. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound safety gives the Cowboys some oomph at the back of the defense.

Dillon Stoner: The true freshman was the talk of the first week of camp, and he could be OSU’s most versatile player. The Cowboys will find ways to utilize him.


QUARTERBACKS

The scoop • In Oklahoma State history, only Brandon Weeden has had a more prolific passing season than Mason Rudolph, who could rise to as high as second all-time in passing yards with a big 2016.

The bottom line • Rudolph must stay healthy. The quarterbacks behind him — led by Taylor Cornelius, John Kolar and freshman Keondre Wudtee — have a total of five career pass attempts (all by Cornelius).

RUNNING BACKS

The scoop • OSU’s three returnees -- Chris Carson, Rennie Childs and Jeff Carr -- struggled last season. That leaves an opening for newcomers Barry J. Sanders and Justice Hill. As the season opener approaches, the dynamic freshman Hill is the back most are talking about.

The bottom line • Mike Gundy says five running backs will get a shot. But once OSU finds a hot hand, expect a pecking order to develop.

RECEIVERS

The scoop • James Washington could cement his status as the best receiver in the Big 12. Jhajuan Seales started 13 games in 2013, then seven in 2014, then none last year, but he has had a productive offseason and may be the fastest player on the team.

The bottom line • Without Marcell Ateman for the early part of the season, OSU needs Seales and Chris Lacy to step up their production. One player not listed on the chart will also be a factor — true freshman Dillon Stoner, who can play both inside and out.

COWBOY BACKS

The scoop • Blake Jarwin caught 17 passes last season, but could be a safety valve for Mason Rudolph in 2016 with the reliable slot receiver David Glidden gone. Zac Veatch will help as a blocker in the run game.

The bottom line • In year two with a full-time tight ends coach, Oklahoma State has a versatile group of players with distinct strengths and weaknesses. Two players who moved from receiver to Cowboy back could earn playing time: Keenen Brown and Cole Neph.

OFFENSIVE LINE

The scoop • Redshirt freshman Marcus Keyes has impressed coaches and has the potential to start for the next four years if all goes well. The other four projected starters return from the 2015 offensive line, but as many as eight players could see action.

The bottom line • The most-maligned position on the Cowboys has certainly heard the criticism, but also feels it’s improving under second-year coach Greg Adkins. The left side of the line, with Victor Salako and Keyes, has potential to be a real strength.

DEFENSIVE LINE

The scoop • How do you replace Emmanuel Ogbah? With a cavalcade of eager youngsters, led by the athletic Jarrell Owens. Inside, OSU is as strong as ever, bringing back 13-game starters Vincent Taylor and Motekiai Maile.

The bottom line • The line is still a young unit that will be even better in 2017, but there are a number of players to get excited about, including Taylor, Owens and new tackle DeQuinton Osborne. For the first time in the Mike Gundy era, OSU goes six-deep at defensive tackle.

LINEBACKERS

The scoop • Jordan Burton and Chad Whitener combined for 191 tackles last season, and as long as they stay healthy, OSU will be solid at linebacker. Devante Averette is likely to replace Seth Jacobs on the weakside.

The bottom line • The starting LBs look good on paper, but OSU needs depth at the position to avoid late-season struggles like those of a year ago. Justin Phillips, Kirk Tucker and Gyasi Akem all enter their third season in the program, but have yet to make a big splash. Kevin Henry could factor in, too.

SECONDARY

The scoop • The Cowboys lose veteran Kevin Peterson, a reliable cornerback, but are as deep at safety as anywhere on the defense. Jordan Sterns (108 tackles in 2015), Tre Flowers and Ashton Lampkin are all veterans who must become leaders.

The bottom line • At safety, Oklahoma State is very deep. Derrick Moncrief and Kenneth Edison-McGruder are big hitters who could start on quite a few teams. At cornerback, the addition of Lenzy Pipkins as a graduate transfer from Louisiana-Monroe was critical. Youngsters like redshirt freshman Bryce Balous and true freshman A.J. Green could also eventually add depth at corner.

SPECIAL TEAMS

The scoop • Zach Sinor was perhaps the Big 12’s best directional punter in 2015 and was the most valuable player in the win over West Virginia. Ben Grogan’s back for one more year, set to complete a career as a four-year starter.

The bottom line • OSU has struggled to achieve touchbacks on kickoffs the past few seasons, something Mike Gundy turned to walk-on tryouts to try and solve. The Cowboys also did not have a kick-return touchdown last season, but Barry J. Sanders and Justice Hill bring explosiveness.

Mark Cooper 918-581-8387

mark.cooper@tulsaworld.com