These are the positions OSU should prioritize in the transfer portal

These are the positions OSU should prioritize in the transfer portal

The Cowboys are losing plenty of production at tight end and on the defensive line, and need experience at quarterback and depth at linebacker.

Ben Hutchens

By Ben Hutchens

| Dec 8, 2023, 12:00pm CST

Ben Hutchens

By Ben Hutchens

Dec 8, 2023, 12:00pm CST

OSU head coach Mike Gundy reminded everyone how little rest his staff gets in December.

“Most of them will be out of here tomorrow morning, and the rest will be out Monday afternoon or Tuesday,” Gundy said Saturday after the Big 12 Championship game. “Everybody’s gone, hitting it, and back at it. We get 12 hours off. It’s awesome.”

The NCAA’s transfer portal opened Monday, and Cowboy coaches scattered to meet high school and portal recruits and build the roster for next season. Here are OSU’s greatest needs for 2024 that can be addressed with acquisitions through the portal.

Tight ends

After the Texas Bowl, the Cowboys will be left with just three tight ends on the roster, and only Quinton Stewart played more than three snaps on offense this season.

Josiah Johnson, Ian Edenfield and Braden Cassity are out of eligibility. Johnson was the primary receiving threat out of the bunch. He played 603 snaps, ninth-most on OSU’s offense, and caught 21 passes for 163 yards and a touchdown. OSU listed the tight end position on the roster this season for the first time since 2018 after using the portal successfully to find Johnson, a UMass transfer.

Tight end became an important aspect of OSU’s rushing offense. After the Cowboys’ week five bye, Johnson averaged 23.8 run-blocking assignments per game, up from 15, per Pro Football Focus. Cassity was listed as a fullback, but filled the role of a blocking tight end, averaging 13.6 run-blocking assignments after the bye. It is a position important to the success of OSU’s rushing offense

“We’re getting some good play out of our tight ends we’ve involved considerably in the running game over the last month,” Gundy said in October.

Pass rushers

OSU’s Nathan Latu (three sacks) and Anthony Goodlow (two) are out of eligibility after this season. They lead the defensive line in sacks. 

Defensive coordinator Bryan Nardo’s 3-3-5 defense (three linemen, three linebackers and five in the secondary) has shifted sacks from the defensive linemen to OSU’s linebackers. Adding some dynamic pass-rushers would add another threat to the Cowboy defense.

Nardo said after the Big 12 Championship Game it would be great to add players who have spent time in a 3-3-5, but the experience isn’t required.

“I think you look for good players and you match them up to what we do and who we are,” Nardo said. “At the end of the day, playing in our scheme is great, but if you can play football and you’re a good football player, we can teach you how to line up and be in our shell.” 

An experienced quarterback

This one depends on whether OSU gets another year of Alan Bowman, though the Cowboys may not want to wait and see if the NCAA grants Bowman a medical hardship waiver.

Sophomore Gunnar Gundy, the coach’s son, has entered the transfer portal. Freshman Garret Rangel’s three-game, three-way audition wasn’t enough to win the job (17-of-19 passing, 172 yards). In September, Mike Gundy pronounced Zane Flores, who some view as OSU’s quarterback of the future, “not ready to play right now.” 

Having a veteran in the quarterback room, whether it’s Bowman or someone else, to tutor Rangel or Flores might be beneficial.

Depth at linebacker

OSU relied heavily on three players this season at linebacker, and it worked.

Sophomore Nick Martin led the Big 12 with 133 tackles as a sophomore, and junior Collin Oliver led OSU with seven sacks. Senior Xavier Benson anchored the third other linebacker spot. Martin, Oliver and Benson each played more than 800 snaps. 

Behind them, there weren’t many players who played consistently. Junior Jeff Roberson played 99 snaps and sophomore Donovan Stephens played 60.

Benson is out of eligibility after this season. Senior Justin Wright, who transferred in from Tulsa, is an obvious candidate to fill the void. Wright injured his knee in practice after the Iowa State game, but could return for a seventh season of college football based on a medical hardship waiver, which he said he will apply for.

“He’s been very good to us and I’m very thankful he gets another year,” Gundy said. “He’s been great and it’s been difficult when you’re his age, mature, and you get hurt. That’s a setback. You got to really bow up, you got to look for the best side of life in his situation and he’s been great.”

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Ben Hutchens and his twin brother Sam cover Oklahoma State for the Sellout Crowd. After a decade of living in the state, Ben finally feels justified in calling himself an Oklahoman. It is in Oklahoma where he turned an obsession with sports into a career. He collected bylines on all 16 Oklahoma State varsity sports during his time as a student writing for The O’Colly. He interned at the Stillwater News Press and covered high school football for the Tulsa World. Ben has won some storytelling awards but doesn’t remember them nearly as well as the people who have been impacted by his stories. You can reach him at [email protected] and continue the dialogue @Ben Hutchens_ on social media.

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