Three takeaways from Pro Football Focus analytics for Oklahoma State: Cooper played at an elite level in the trenches, OSU was very good at blocking kicks, and when pass protection was lacking, the Cowboys lost.
Oklahoma State’s unheralded class of transfers was critical in the 2023 season.
Obviously quarterback Alan Bowman, a two-year backup at Michigan, helped a lot. So did receivers Leon Johnson III, who came from Division III George Fox University, and De’Zhaun Stribling from Washington State.
Despite that, it’s quite possible Dalton Cooper, a senior tackle from Texas State, was OSU’s best addition. He played left tackle for the Bobcats, came into OSU as a right tackle and moved back to left tackle midseason.
Cooper earned a 75.7 overall season grade from Pro Football Focus. He was ranked as the fourth-best player on OSU’s offense and the only offensive lineman in the top ten. He was a stalwart for the group offensive coordinator Kasey Dunn said was a big reason for making the Big 12 Championship Game.
“(Running back Ollie Gordon) got us here,” Dunn said. “The offensive line got us here. They did a great job.”
Cooper is eligible to return for a sixth year of college football. He played all 13 games this season and trailed only center Joe Michalski and safeties Trey Rucker and Kendal Daniels in total snaps.
“We’ve had a number of guys that were not real hard for us to get to come to this level to play for us, that have played really good football,” coach Mike Gundy said. “Most of our guys came from a lower level and moved their way up and I think when they got here they really liked it.
OSU was elite in blocking kicks.
You might not know the name Xavier Ross, but special teams coaches who have played against OSU probably do.
PFF gave Ross, a 6-foot-4, 290-pound redshirt senior defensive end, a 92.8 grade. It is the second highest special teams grade in the country.
He blocked an extra point against Kansas and is one of four Cowboys to block a kick or extra point this season. He played in ten games.
For ultra-specific stats such as kick blocking, PFF’s grades best serve as a guide rather than a definitive authority. It’s unwise to proclaim Ross as the second best special team player in college football, but the analytics do point to him being a significant disruptive force in the middle of a kick block formation.
Cornerback Korie Black received a grade of 91.0, good for No. 19 in the country. He blocked two field goal attempts against Central Arkansas. The Cowboys were the only team with multiple players to receive a top-20 special teams grade.
Protecting Bowman correlated with winning
There was a common thread in two of OSU’s most humbling losses.
The Cowboys struggled to protect their quarterback in their 33-7 home defeat against South Alabama and the 49-21 thumping against Texas in the Big 12 Championship Game.
PFF gave OSU a 54.4 pass blocking grade against Texas. The only time OSU got a lower grade was against South Alabama, when the Cowboys got a 49.4 and were sacked four times.
In OSU’s nine wins, the average PFF pass blocking grade was 73.6. In the four losses, OSU averaged a 59.0.