There are a number of different unknowns as we approach the start of college football. Most of the questions are personnel or schedule-driven, but there are a number of strategic questions left unanswered. Here are Chalk Talk’s top four questions for both fall camp and the upcoming season:
1. How will the Cowboy Back be Used?
With the departure of Blake Jarwin and Zach Veatch, the Pokes now have relative inexperience at cowboy back. Additionally, OSU enters 2017 with arguably the best receiving corps in the nation. How, and how often, will the cowboy back be used in 2017? Will a player like Keenen Brown be frequently flexed out or placed in the slot as well as on the line? Will Britton Abbott take over the “buck” role in the backfield? It will be interesting to watch how the position is sprinkled into the Cowboys’ drives this season.
2. Will OSU Take More End-of-Half Shots?
The Cowboys sat on the ball in a handful of end-of-half situations in 2016, but that decision was often justified by the context of the game, e.g. Kansas State (field position) and Oklahoma (conditions). The only time that the Cowboys attempted a drive at the end of the first half was against Central Michigan, where the Cowboys had a four-play drive that went nine yards and ended on a third down. Considering the offense’s receiving talent and a senior quarterback, will they be aggressive this year? More importantly, will they find success with it?
3. How Big of a Role will the Cowboys’ Three-Down Personnel Have?
Mike Gundy said early in the offseason that the Pokes would be using more three-down personnel in 2017. Additionally, he hired former defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder, who ran the 3-3-5 at Notre Dame, to be a defensive analyst. The specifics of the package are yet to be determined, whether it’s a true 3-3-5, three-down nickel package, etc. The bigger question, however, is how much that package will be used. Will it be exclusive to passing-down or third-down situations? Will they incorporate it more into the game plan against certain teams? Will they use it to be aggressive, as Charlie Strong intended it to be when he was at Florida, or will they use it to funnel everything underneath to prevent the big play like they did in 2016?
4. Will Rudolph Get Better at Short Throws?
This is not necessarily a strategy question, but it does affect execution. Mason Rudolph has a tendency to throw high on short passes, specifically on timing-based routes that are tagged to run plays like here.
It’s one of Rudolph’s biggest, if not his biggest weakness as a quarterback. These attachments are thrown to when the receivers are open and/or in favorable coverage, so they can often make for easy yardage when properly executed. There were times last season when Rudolph impeded a drive or missed an opportunity by either missing an easy throw or throwing too high for the receiver. If he can make the short throws automatic, the offense will become more consistent.
What’s your biggest question for the upcoming season? Leave your answer below in the comments!