ARLINGTON, Texas — Sometimes it feels like it doesn’t matter how well Oklahoma State did the season before.
They are never expected to win the Big 12.
OSU was, in the words of receiver Brennan Presley, a couple feet from going undefeated last season. Presley was referring to OSU’s week seven loss to Iowa State when he was tackled short of a first down on a critical fourth down conversion late in the game and infamous inches-short finish at the Big 12 Championship.
Some imagination might have to be used, but the Cowboys could have realistically finished the 2021 season unblemished and earned a trip to the College Football Playoff. Still, OSU was picked to finish third in the preseason conference poll, behind Baylor and Oklahoma, both teams that OSU defeated last season.
There are solid reasons OSU was picked third. The Cowboys lost their starting linebackers, two starting cornerbacks, three prominent safeties and two defensive linemen. Oh yeah, and the mastermind of it all, defensive coordinator Jim Knowles.
Wednesday at Big 12 Media Days, the Cowboys weren’t asking how they would possibly fill the gaps. They were asking why not get to the Big 12 Championship again.
“Just keep believing,” Presley said. “I mean, you did it once you can do it again.”
Coach Mike Gundy outlined things he needs out of the 2022 team to return to the Big 12 championship game. Staying healthy, getting good quarterback play, protecting the quarterback and rushing the ball were at the top of the list.
Gundy didn’t seem too concerned with filling the roster.
“We got a lot of sacks with four-man rush, allowed us to play coverage, allowed us to play a little man in the back end,” Gundy said. “We lost two fantastic college football linebackers last year. We've got guys that have to replace them. We like where they're at. They just haven't played in big games. We don't know much about them. We have the same situation at corner. They've played some but haven't been out there in big games.”
Gundy said the Cowboys will be stronger on special teams this season than they were last season.
The Cowboys believe they will make another trip to Arlington. Presley said his confidence is formed in the summer heat running stadiums and “gassers” under the watchful eye of strength coach Rob Glass.
“We know it's not easy, but we know at the end goal, like how coach Glass preaches us every single day, doing something hard for two hours and being able to put in extra work that will serve dividends when you get in the game and you're able to last longer than this guy or you were able to beat him on this press move and stuff like that,” Presley said.