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Oklahoma State 2023 Preview: Can Gundy's Magic Mullet Save Cowboys This Season?

It was a thing of wonder to behold. The beautiful quaft locks waved in the winds, rivaling a model on a photoshoot. The small curls brushed against the neck. The ever-present visor sat atop, a perfect crown to the perfect hairstyle.

The mullet was legendary on its own, but even more so was the coach it was attached to. Ask anyone during 2016-2021 who had the best hair in college football, and they would give you one name: Mike Gundy.

During those magic mullet years, Oklahoma State posted the following records:

2016: 10-3, 2nd in the Big 12

2017: 10-3 3rd in the Big 12

2018: 7-6, tied for 7th in the Big 12

2019: 8-5, 4th in the Big 12

2020: 8-3, 3rd in the Big 12

At the beginning of the 2021 season, Mike Gundy surprised everyone when he showed up to Big 12 media days sans mullet. That year, Oklahoma State had its best season since 2011, and posted a 12-2 record, losing to Baylor in the Big 12 Championship.

It's safe to say that Mike Gundy is the figurehead for Oklahoma State. He has been the head coach since 2005 and, during that time, has posted a 156-75 record. He has one Big 12 Championship under his belt and was literally inches from a second as recently as 2021. While there have been ups and downs during his tenure, it has mostly been positive, with 17 years of a record of over .500.

And then we come to this year - 2023.

picking up the pieces

The off-season for Oklahoma State was a whirlwind. They lost a total of 18 players to the transfer portal, including eight starters for the team. The talent they lost were big names, such as quarterback Spencer Sanders and defensive lineman Trace Ford. Several offensive pieces moved on to different schools, citing wanting to play closer to home. But many Oklahoma State fans began to wonder: has Gundy lost his magic?

Key Departures:

QB Spencer Sanders

RB Dominic Richardson

WR Braylin Presley

WR John Paul Richardson

LB Mason Cobb

EDGE Trace Ford

CB Thomas Harper

Impact Transfers:

QB Alan Bowman

RB Elijah Collins

OT Dalton Cooper

DL Justin Kirkland

Fall Camp Breakdown - Offense

With fall camp underway, Gundy has yet to name a starting quarterback. Alan Bowman is the new kid on the block, transferring to Oklahoma State after playing for Texas Tech and Michigan. During his tenure at Texas Tech, he went 1-1 vs the Cowboys, throwing for 781 yards, five touchdowns, and three interceptions. While at Michigan, he was a backup and played in only four games during that time. He brings a new kind of swagger to the offense. That is - if he is named the starter.

Gundy also has redshirt freshman Garret Rangel, redshirt sophomore Gunnar Gundy, and incoming true freshman Zane Flores on his quarterback roster. The two former quarterbacks saw playing time this season, throwing for a total of 958 yards, seven touchdowns, and nine interceptions. Zane Flores enters the season as the number 21 quarterback in 2023, according to Rivals.

As for the other offensive pieces, sophomore running back Ollie Gordon and Jaden Nixon are the next men up. Most expect Gordon to be the starter to begin the season. In 2022 behind Dominic Richardson and Jaden Nixon, Gordon was still able to make explosive plays when it counted. He had 62 carries for 308 yards, averaging five yards per attempt. Oklahoma State has a fantastic 1-2 punch, and an offensive line by committee that can help protect and block for these explosive backs.

And of course, we can't leave out the wide receivers. Senior Brennan Presley leads this group. He has already been named to the 2023 Biletnikoff Award List, previously won three times by Oklahoma State wide receivers since 2010. Presley had a total of 813 yards and two touchdowns last season. He's joined by fellow starters, whose 2022 season was lost to injury - Jaden Bray, Talyn Shettron, and Blaine Green. Look for some explosiveness in this wide receiver room for the Cowboys.

Fall Camp Breakdown - Defense

The biggest change this offseason was a change in defensive coordinator. After a one-year stint, Derek Mason left Oklahoma State, and Gundy scoured the nation looking for a replacement. He landed on Bryan Nardo.

Nardo most recently coached as the defensive coordinator for Division II Gannon University. He helped to turn that defense around in a single year, and Gundy hopes he can be the answer the Cowboys' defense needs in 2023.

The 2021 season for the Cowboys had them as the third-best defense in the nation, with accolades like the number-one defense in sacks and tackles for loss. Defensive coordinator Jim Knowles was highly sought after and left for Ohio State. Gundy then hired Derek Mason, who turned the defense in the other direction, landing at 115 overall for 2022.

Nardo brings a different type of defensive play to the Cowboys, implementing a 3-3-5 defense compared to the 4-2-5 from Mason. After losing several key players to the portal, Gundy is relying on his starters to compete - redshirt sophomore safety Kendal Daniels and junior Collin Oliver.

Oliver has already been named to the Bronko Nagurski Trophy Watch List for the best defensive player in the nation. After racking up 28 tackles and five sacks in 2022, he looks to lead the defense to a better position in 2023. Maybe a few more tackles like the one to win Bedlam would help.

With the up-and-down year of 2022, Gundy hopes Nardo will be the answer to bring the Cowboys back to the forefront of defenses.

Can the Mullet Save the Cowboys?

While there has been chatter on the Internet about the projected wins for the Cowboys this season, this team may surprise many people. With the talent Gundy has on the offense, as well as some standouts and a new coach for the defense, they could end up being in the top five of the Big 12. While currently unranked in the newest AP poll, that would give this team more motivation to come out in their first game against Central Arkansas on September 2nd with something to prove.

There could be more magic in the mullet, and only time will tell this season on whether Gundy deserved the extension on his contract he received in 2021. Maybe a petition is in order to get Gundy to grow it out one more time and bring back the magic of those first few seasons. And snip it to get the Cowboys to another Big 12 championship, one where they take the reins and come out with the win.

Gundy's time may be running out, as all good things do. Until then, Cowboys fans, enjoy the rollercoaster of a ride and hope that 2023 is his best year yet.



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