2004 O-State Cowboys Football Season Preview

TE Billy Bajema (Getty Images)

<b>Head Coach:</b> Les Miles (21-16)<br><br><b>Last Season's Record:</b> 9-4 (3rd place in Big 12 South Division)<br><br><b>Last Bowl Appearance:</b> 2003 Cotton Bowl (31-28 loss to <A HREF=http://mississippi.TheInsiders.com>Ole Miss</A>)<br><br><b>Key matchup(s):</b> Sept. 4 @UCLA (ABC TV), Oct. 30 Oklahoma, Nov. 6 @Texas, Nov. 27 @Texas Tech (Fox Sports Net).

Star Power: Sam Mayes OG 6-3 330 Sr, D'Juan Woods WR 6-1 195 So, Billy Bajema TE 6-5 265 Sr, Shawn Willis FB 6-1 260 Jr, Vernand Morency TB 5-10 215 Jr, Clay Coe DT 6-2 295 Sr, Lawrence Pinson LB 6-1 240 Jr, Paul Duren LB 6-1 240 Jr, Darrent Williams CB 5-9 175 Sr, Robert Jones CB 5-11 190 Sr, Cole Farden K/P 5-11 200 Sr.

Notable Additions: Robert Reid QB 6-3 225 Galena Park (North Shore) TX, Prentiss Elliott WR 6-0 175 Tulsa (TSST) OK, Roderick Johnson LB 6-3 255 Galveston (Ball) TX, Walter Thomas DT 6-5 340 Galveston (Ball) TX.

Notable Subtractions: Rashaun Woods WR 1st Round Draft-San Francisco 49ers, Tatum Bell RB 2nd Round Draft-Denver Broncos, Antonio Smith DE 4th Round Draft-Arizona Cardinals, Greg Richmond DE Free Agent-Philadelphia Eagles, Josh Fields QB 1st Round Baseball Draft-Chicago White Sox.

Notable Returnees: Corey Hilliard OL 6-5 300 So, Chris Akin OL 6-2 300 Sr, Charlie Johnson TE 6-4 270 Jr, Donovan Woods QB 6-2 215 RS Fr, Marque Fountain DE 6-1 260 So, Vernon Grant SS 5-9 180 Jr.

Team Overview: The Oklahoma State Cowboys will be a mixture of old and new this season. The offense will be missing the triplet attack of quarterback Josh Fields, tailback Tatum Bell, and All America wide receiver Rashaun Woods. Fields is hitting baseballs in the White Sox organization after being a number one selection in the draft. Bell is in Denver after the Broncos picked him in the second round, while Woods was the top pick of the 49ers in the first round of the NFL Draft. That is a lot of offense to replace for head coach Les Miles and company.

The defense is more veteran as the entire linebacker corps and most of the secondary return along with some young, but somewhat experienced defensive linemen. The defense is projected to be the best it's been since Miles and his staff arrived in Stillwater for the 2001 season. The offense will be a little bit of a throwback to Miles' days as offensive coordinator at OSU backs in the mid 90's.

2004 FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
09/04/04@UCLA
09/11/04Tulsa
09/18/04Southern Methodist
10/02/04Iowa State
10/09/04@Colorado
10/16/04Texas A&M
10/23/04@Missouri
10/30/04Oklahoma
11/06/04@Texas
11/13/04Baylor
11/27/04@Texas Tech
Offensive Overview: New faces and a little bit of an X and O makeover will highlight the Coiwboys on offense this fall. Following the spring it looked like freshman star Robert Reid would battle redshirt freshman Donovan Woods for the quarterback duty, but a shoulder injury to Reid looks like it will sideline him much, if not all, of the season and youngest of the Woods brothers should be the quarterback. At 6-2, 220 pounds and with 4.5 speed, Woods will re-open a chapter in the Miles' playbook that hasn't ben used since the head coach was the Cowboy offensive coordinator and had Tony Lindsay at quarterback on the way to the 1997 Alamo Bowl. Woods is an excellent runner with speed and power, but is also an underrated passer that just needs some game experience. The key according to Miles and current offensive coordinator Mike Gundy is to do the things that Woods is comfortable with and avoid mistakes. Woods did lead his high school team, Oklahoma City Millwood, to three straight Class 3A State Championships.

Woods will have plenty of talent around him as tailback Vernand Morency nearly rushed for 1,000-yards last season while filling in for the injured Tatum Bell. Seymore Shaw and Greg Jones are veterans at tailback too. Shawn Willis may be one of the best fullbacks in the country, just ask Big 12 linebackers. Willis is a 6-3, 260 pounder that runs a 4.6 and benches 400 pounds plus. The offensive line returns all of it's starters including All Big 12 guard Sam Mayes. Tight ends Billy Bajema and Charlie Johnson are both very experienced and can catch and block. Wide receiver may be a mystery as another Woods brother D'Juan is the leader and top talent. There is more talent there, but consistency is a question going into the season.

The offense willl be successful if Woods makes a smooth transition from watching and learning to executing and if a couple of other receivers emerge. The running game will be there and Woods just adds to the weaponry in that phase of the offense. Opposing pass rushers will need to tread more carefully for fear of letting Woods loose on the scramble.

Defensive Overview: Defensively, start with the best pair of cornerbacks Oklahoma State may have ever had in Darrent Williams, who has returned four interceptions for touchdowns in his career, and Robert Jones. They have great speed and cover ability. Add in the secondary an aggressive Vernon Grant, Jon Holland, Jamie Thompson, Thomas Wright, and Jamar Ransom as veteran safeties in the 4-2-5 alignment and you have a recipe for defensive coordinator Bill Clay to get aggressive up front. The linebackers run from the steady Paul Duren, who has led the team in tackles the past two seasons, to the physical Lawrence Pinson, to the spectacular Victor DeGrate. A new freshman that reported early in the spring in Roderick Johnson will also see some playing time.

The defensive line is young with senior Clay Coe, a returning starter, as the only old man in the group. However, defensive tackles Xavier Lawson-Kennedy and Brad Girtman played a lot last season with junior college product Efe Mowarin. At defensive end sophomore Marque Fountain is getting All Conference mention in the preseason. He is joined by 6-4, 265 pound Jerry Don Bray and a host of other young defensive ends that have been waiting for their chance.

The defense will be a success, and may carry a heavy share of the load early if the corners stay healthy and play like they have in the past. The defensive line needs to hold up their end of the bargain.

Special Teams Overview: Special teams, especially Darrent Williams on punt returns and returning punter and kickoff specialist Cole Farden, will be a contributor to success. The majority of the coverage units are back with plenty of young players eager to get out there and join special teams coordinator Joe DeForest's "one play and out" crew. The one lingering problem to solve going into the preseason is who will replace Luke Phillips on extra points an field goals. Farden is competing for that duty along with redshirt freshman Luke Roberts and true freshman Jason Ricks.

The Cowboys should be on their way to a third bowl game in as many years... despite the changes on offense. The talent level has imporved greatly through recruiting efforts. They will debut a new and improved Boone Pickens Stadium that has seen phase I of a three-year expansion completed. Key games include the opener at UCLA. OSU has not won an opener yet under Miles. Other big games include a trip to Missouri, a home date with conference favorite Oklahoma, who OSU has beaten two of the past three seasons, and a finale on the road at Texas Tech.

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