With the 2022 college football season just around the corner, the Oklahoma State Cowboys are looking for redemption. The Cowboys were on the doorstep of the College Football Playoff after a stellar 11-1 regular season. With a win in the Big 12 Championship Game, Oklahoma State likely would have clinched its first CFP berth.
Unfortunately for the Cowboys, they fell just short against Baylor and missed out on the Big 12 title. Oklahoma State ended the season on a high note by beating Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl, but the team had bigger aspirations. The Cowboys will be looking to right last year's wrongs this season.
Oklahoma State's road to the playoff won't be easy. The Cowboys lost significant talent from its 2021 roster, especially on defense. To achieve their goals for the season, the Cowboys will need new players to step up as key contributors.
3 Oklahoma State football breakout stars set for monster 2022 seasons in Big 12
3. Mason Cobb
Of all the losses Oklahoma State suffered on defense, none are bigger than All-American linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez. Now a Detroit Lion, Rodriguez was the anchor of the defense with 129 tackles, 14 for loss, on the season. He also excelled in other areas on defense with three sacks and four passes defended.
With Rodriguez now in the NFL, the Cowboys have a massive hole in the center of their defense. Cobb, the lone returning linebacker, is presumably set to take over, and he will have a big weight on his shoulders. The junior had just 11 tackles last season and was primarily a special teams player.
Cobb has leadership pedigree with the team, as he served as a captain against Texas last year. The team has faith in him to take on a greater role, and his development may be the key to a successful season.
2. Jabbar Muhammad
Two more key losses for the Cowboys were cornerbacks Jarrick Bernard-Converse and Christian Holmes. Both players led the team in passes defended, with 11 and 7 respectively. Bernard-Converse transferred to LSU while Holmes jumped to the NFL level, leaving Oklahoma State in need of corners.
Luckily for the Cowboys, they already had a breakout candidate on their roster in Muhammad. The junior played in every game last season, but only started in the Fiesta Bowl. He impressed in his starting debut with eight tackles and two pass break-ups on the day.
Oklahoma State finished with a top 10 passing defense last season with 184.4 yards allowed per game. The Cowboys have an uphill battle to get back to there after losing their top two corners. However, Muhammad stepping into a starting role will go a long way towards repeating their performance.
1. Jaden Bray
Rather than joining his hometown Sooners, Bray joined the rival Cowboys to play college ball. He showed potential in his freshman season, with 250 yards and two scores on just 13 catches. His 19.2 yards per catch were most of the team among players with multiple receptions.
Bray will have a much larger role in Oklahoma State's offense in his sophomore season. The Cowboys lost star receiver Tay Martin, who led the team with 1,046 yards and 10 scores, to the NFL this offseason. A new wide receiver needs to step up, and Bray is a prime candidate to do so.
He will likely be the second receiver behind Brennan Presley, who had 619 yards and five scores in 2021. Alternatively, he could be a good fit as a deep threat in the slot with his speed. Oklahoma State has consistently developed strong receivers such as Dez Bryant, and Bray could join that club with a breakout season in 2022.