Oklahoma State football from A to Z: Everything you need to know about the 2022 Cowboys

STILLWATER — With multiple personnel changes in key positions since Oklahoma State concluded the 2021 football season, the upcoming year brings questions.

Many will be answered before the No. 11 Cowboys kick off the season against Central Michigan at 6 p.m. on Sept. 1 at Boone Pickens Stadium.

Here’s your A-to-Z guide to the OSU football season:

A is for Aggressive defense

One key congruence between the Cowboys’ defensive success last year and new coordinator Derek Mason’s personal style is aggression. Mason has been at his best when he can use pressure up front and on the edges with his cornerbacks, so expect that approach to mesh well with what the Cowboy defenders are capable of.

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Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Kasey Dunn and receiver Jaden Bray (85) have high expectations for the offense, and in particular the receiver group, this season.
Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Kasey Dunn and receiver Jaden Bray (85) have high expectations for the offense, and in particular the receiver group, this season.

B is for Brotherly love

The Cowboys are suddenly loaded with pass-catching brothers, and while not all of them are guaranteed a shot to play this season, it’s still fun to think about the impact the brothers could have over their careers. Brennan Presley is the Cowboys’ top returning receiver and is joined by younger brother Braylin this season. The Green twins, Blaine and Bryson, are entering their sophomore seasons. And the Shettron brothers, Talyn and Tabry, are both true freshmen.

C is for Chasing a Big 12 Championship

After coming up inches short of a conference title last December, the Cowboys are out to prove they can be a regular contender for the Big 12 crown.

D is for Derek and Dunn

OSU holds a unique distinction as the only Big 12 football program with two Black coordinators. Kasey Dunn enters his third year as the offensive coordinator with the most firepower he’s had at his disposal, while Derek Mason is in his first season, taking over the defense that Jim Knowles led to elite status last fall.

E is for Etienne

The Pokes had high hopes for 6-foot-7, 325-pound Caleb Etienne when he arrived from junior college a year ago, but had to be patient as Etienne trimmed down from 370 pounds. Now, he appears set to be the blindside blocker for quarterback Spencer Sanders at left tackle.

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Oklahoma State junior Caleb Etienne (76) is likely to start at left tackle for the Cowboys this season.
Oklahoma State junior Caleb Etienne (76) is likely to start at left tackle for the Cowboys this season.

F is for Fenimore

The Blond Bomber, Bob Fenimore, who starred on the Cowboy teams of the mid-1940s, will be inducted into the OSU Ring of Honor at Boone Pickens Stadium on Oct. 8. A two-time All-American, Fenimore is the third player — and third running back — to go into the ring along with Thurman Thomas and Barry Sanders.

G is for Gundy’s glee

Head coach Mike Gundy has had an increased air of happiness around him over the last year or more. Going 12-2 last season certainly helped, but so too has his working environment with the university’s new leadership of president Kayse Shrum and athletic director Chad Weiberg. That duo has worked well with Gundy to increase the school’s investment in football from personnel to facilities and everything in between.

H is for Harper

Safety Thomas Harper is entering his fourth season as a Cowboy, and though he’s played in 35 games during that span, he has started just one. But like his older brother, Devin, before him, Thomas has waited his turn. Devin didn’t become a regular starter until his super-senior season — his sixth year on campus. Thomas’ patience will pay off with a starting job this fall.

I is for Intimidation

Looking to set the tone on defense? The best way is with a strong front line. And the Cowboys return one of the most dangerous defensive lines in the country. After leading the nation with 55 sacks last fall, nearly every player from the primary rotation is back, and the group added additional firepower with defensive end Trace Ford, who was injured last season.

J is for Jaden Bray

As a true freshman last season, Jaden Bray led the Cowboys in yards per catch at 19.2, and a big reason for that was his knack for running the fade route. His speed, length and ability to adjust to the ball in the air made him a dangerous weapon in single coverage.

K is for Kendal Daniels

Nearly every starter on the defense will be a junior or older, with the exception of Daniels, the 6-foot-4, 205-pound safety from Beggs. Once a four-star recruit, the redshirt freshman appears to have fought his way into the lineup at safety, where he’ll join seniors Jason Taylor II and Thomas Harper.

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Redshirt freshman Kendal Daniels appears in line to start at safety for Oklahoma State this season.
Redshirt freshman Kendal Daniels appears in line to start at safety for Oklahoma State this season.

L is for Leos

“Leo” is the name given to the edge rusher position played by Brock Martin, Collin Oliver, Trace Ford and others — and based on those names alone, that position is once again expected to have a significant impact. Derek Mason understands the talent stacked up at the Leo position, so expect him to maneuver his defense in ways to get more than one of them on the field at a time, particularly on passing downs.

M is for Mason Cobb

The inside linebacker spot that has been played by the likes of Devin Harper and Amen Ogbongbemiga over the last few years likely will be in the hands of Mason Cobb, a 6-foot, 230-pound junior from Provo, Utah. Cobb has played in 19 games during his career, making one start last season against Tulsa, though most of his action has come on special teams.

N is for New-look offensive line

The offensive line will have at least a couple new starters, with Caleb Etienne and Taylor Miterko looking like the favorites to step in at left tackle and guard, respectively. Some familiar names will be manning spots on the rest of the line, but only one player — redshirt senior right guard Hunter Woodard — will be starting in the position he was playing at the end of last season.

O is for Orange turf

The new artificial turf that was put down over the summer at Boone Pickens Stadium can officially claim the title of America’s brightest orange with its end zones and OSU logo at midfield. Fans will be taken aback when they first see it in person.

P is for Presley

Brennan Presley is the top returning receiver with 50 catches for 619 yards and five scores. As the most seasoned player in the deep and talented receiving group, what could Presley’s numbers look like this season?

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Oklahoma State junior Brennan Presley is the team's top returning receiver this season.
Oklahoma State junior Brennan Presley is the team's top returning receiver this season.

Q is for Queso

Jason “Queso” Brooks Jr., the redshirt sophomore offensive line transfer from Vanderbilt, might not win a starting job out of camp, but his experience and versatility will make him a valuable backup capable of filling in at multiple positions. And as the Cowboys have learned the last couple of seasons, offensive line injuries are going to happen, so it’s best to be prepared.

R is for Running back depth

Junior Dominic Richardson has solidified himself as the go-to guy in the backfield, but he can’t do it all alone. At least a couple of the backups out of Jaden Nixon, Deondre Jackson, Ollie Gordon and C.J. Brown are going to have to assert themselves into rotational roles. Whoever can best earn the trust of Mike Gundy will move up the depth chart.

S is for Spotlight on Spencer Sanders

Nothing new here, since Sanders is entering his fourth year as the starter. But after taking some significant steps forward in his level of consistency last year, more progress is anticipated. Sanders is the most accomplished Big 12 quarterback entering the season, and though he’s never gotten a ton of national attention, that could change this year with an elevated performance.

T is for Taylor

Name the five most important plays from the 2021 season and redshirt senior safety Jason Taylor II’s name is next to at least two of them — the blocked field goal at Boise State and his pick-six at Texas. His knack for being around the ball and making plays in big moments is evident, and the Cowboys need him to continue to be that kind of playmaker.

U is for Up-tempo

With the increased talent level at receiver, the experience on the offensive line and Spencer Sanders’ vast knowledge of the offense at quarterback, the Cowboys have the tools to speed things up offensively, the way coordinator Kasey Dunn would have liked to do the last two years. This is Dunn’s chance to show what he really wants the offense to be.

V is for Versatility

Derek Mason loves the pieces he has to work with on the defense, because they can fit together so many different ways. His safeties can play any of the three positions. He has defensive ends who can be a rush end, standup linebacker, or in the case of Tyler Lacy, a defensive tackle. All of those factors give Mason a variety of ways to attack an offense without major personnel changes, and that adaptability makes his defense more effective.

W is for Wideouts

OSU is nationally respected as a place that produces receivers, and this year’s group is as deep as any to come through Stillwater. Kasey Dunn expects to use eight receivers on a regular basis with little dropoff when the backups are in. Aside from the young players who gained valuable experience last year, the group returned two players, Braydon Johnson and Langston Anderson, who were out with injuries last year, only boosting the depth that much more.

X is for Xavier Benson

Filling the linebacker void remains the biggest question for the defense, but the Cowboys appear to have scored with the signing of junior-college transfer Xavier Benson, who started 10 games at Texas Tech as a freshman before heading to Tyler (Texas) Junior College. Benson is expected to fill the hole vacated by Malcolm Rodriguez at outside linebacker.

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Oklahoma State's Xavier Benson is one of the only newcomers with a chance to make an immediate impact this season.
Oklahoma State's Xavier Benson is one of the only newcomers with a chance to make an immediate impact this season.

Y is for Young backup QBs

Spencer Sanders has essentially missed seven games in his career, and at least one every season. So having a prepared backup quarterback is important. As of now, none of the Pokes’ reserves have thrown a pass in a college game, with Gunnar Gundy and Garret Rangel battling for the No. 2 job.

Z is for ‘Z’ receiver Braydon Johnson

We’ve already discussed the receiver depth and the fact that Brennan Presley is the most established player in the group. But who could be the breakout star, the way Tay Martin was last year? Start with Braydon Johnson. After missing last year with a medical issue, the sixth-year senior is back and playing with a rare level of desire. He has stepped into the “Z” receiver position, the one that was played by Dez Bryant, Justin Blackmon, James Washington, Tylan Wallace and many more throughout the years. So he’ll get his chances to succeed, and he appears to be ready for the opportunity.

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Oklahoma State football: 2022 OSU Cowboys season preview