The top 10 Oklahoma State football players you need to know for the 2016 season.
1. WR James Washington
Extremely promising as a freshman, with six touchdowns and averaging over 16 yards per grab, Washington blew up into a big-time performer who stood out in a conference full of receiving superstars. The Second Team All-Big 12 performer turned into a dominant force with a team-leading 53 catches for 1,087 yards and 10 scores, averaging 20.5 yards per pop. He hit Texas Tech for 200 yards and two scores on just four catches, and followed it up with 184 yards and three scores on only five grabs.
At 6-0 and 205 pounds, he’s built like a running back with more quickness than true deep speed, but he’s dangerous whenever he gets the ball in his hands on the move. With nice hands and a flair for the dramatic, he should be the Big 12’s signature receiving star.
2. QB Mason Rudolph
Get ready for the statistics to blow up. Last year, he had to rotate a bit with J.W. Walsh, especially in the red-zone and around the goal line. Even so, Rudolph was able to complete 62% of his throws for 3,770 yards and 21 touchdowns with just nine picks. However, he’s not a runner like Walsh, scoring just once. At 6-5 and 235 pounds, he’s a big bomber with a next-level arm and the All-Big 12 smarts to handle the position.
This was the big-get quarterback for the program, and he’s living up to the potential throwing for 290 yards or more in a stretch of six of the eight Big 12 games he played in before missing the Oklahoma game with a foot injury. He threw for 430 yards and three scores in the loss to Baylor, and threw for 437 yards and three touchdowns against Kansas State. Now that he knows what he’s doing, the numbers should go through the roof.
3. S Jordan Sterns
The team’s leading tackler, Sterns finished his all-star season with 108 tackles and two picks, making 16 tackles against Baylor and 25 stops in a two-game stretch against UTSA and Texas. He’s the unquestioned leader of the defense with 6-0, 200-pound size and great range. He wasn’t an elite recruit, but he quickly grew into a playmaker with a solid sophomore campaign with 103 tackles and a great year as a special teamer. And then it all came together last season as the man in the secondary. With another 100-stop season, he should deserve All-America consideration.
4. LB Chad Whitener
The team’s third-leading tackler, he came up with 93 tackles with two sacks and two picks – both against TCU, taking one for a score. At 6-0 and 248 pounds, he’s a big-body in the middle who brings enough pop to be the run-stopper to allow quicker, smaller defenders to work around him. An All-Big 12 playmaker, he’s a very smart, very solid leader who didn’t even start until midway through the season, and then came the big-time production. He was dominant against Baylor with 19 stops, came up with ten against Oklahoma, and ate up everything that came his way time and again. Double-digit tackle games will be the norm now.
5. LB Jordan Burton
While he’s not all that big at 6-2 and 215 pounds, he’s a solid strong side defender who came in from the JUCO ranks and took over a stop right away. He started out his career at Stephen F. Austin, went to Kilgore College where he was a tackling machine in the secondary, and moved to linebacker last year in an all-star season making 98 stops and 3.5 sacks.
While he might be too small for the position, but he runs like a defensive back and provides a pop, making 15 stops against Baylor and 25 total tackles in back-to-back games against Texas Tech and TCU. With bulk around him, he’ll be even more of a force.
6. DT Vincent Taylor
With all the tools, he looks and plays the part of the dream defensive tackle in the Big 12 world. At 6-3 and 310 pounds, he’s got the size and the bulk to hold up well against the run, and he can move. With 48 tackles and five sacks, he did his part all season long in a relatively underappreciated campaign. That’s not going to come this year – he’ll be an all-star and a leader for the Cowboy front four. Can he handle life dealing with double-teams as a rising star? He’s got the talent and the upside to do it – there’s next-level potential if he come up with another year like 2015.
7. S Tre Flowers
The team’s fourth-leading tackler, Flowers has the right 6-3, 190-pound build to be a dangerous free safety. A rock in the open-field when he has to make a stop, he came up with 66 tackles with seven broken up passes and two interceptions, making 22 tackles over of a two-game stretch against Texas Tech and TCU, and 13 against West Virginia. An all-star in the classroom, he’s what the defense needs in the secondary to go along with Jordan Sterns to give the Cowboys a phenomenal safety tandem.
8. WR Marcell Ateman
With 6-4, 215-pound size, he’s got the right look to go along with the speed and athleticism to be exactly what the NFL types are looking for. It took a few years for the light to go on, but he was hardly bad in his first two seasons catching 42 passes for 544 yards. Last season he caught 45 balls for 766 yards and five touchdowns, averaging 17 yards per grab. With all the attention paid to James Washington, Ateman should dominate in single coverage and should be a deep ball terror. He’s a matchup nightmare.
9. WR Jalen McCleskey
While he might have been a mid-range receiver, the athleticism is there to be far, far more explosion. He’s only 5-10 and 170 pounds, but he can absolutely fly with warp wheels – he needs the ball in his hands in a variety of ways again. Thrown to the wolves as a true freshman, he only averaged 5.05 yards per punt return, but he came up with a score. He caught 29 passes for 253 yards and three scores, but he only averaged 8.7 yards per try. That’s going to change.
10. TE Blake Jarwin
In the Cowboy position – a tight end for everyone else – he earned All-Big 12 honors both on the field and in the classroom. While he only caught 17 passes for 200 yards and two touchdowns, there weren’t a whole lot of options for tight ends in post-season Big 12 awards circuit, but he’s a strong blocker with 6-5, 248-pound size and good power. Can he become more of a receiver? He has the talent to do far more.