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April 20, 2013

Oklahoma State finishes off spring practices in Boone Pickens Stadium

The boys are finally back on the field, or at least they will be soon.

Oklahoma State will hold their "Spring Game" this afternoon, which is open to the public and will give everyone their only look at the squad before the team kicks off their 2013 season this fall.

There are a few differences between the team we last saw in the Heart of Dallas Bowl a few months ago and the one that will take the field in a few hours, most notably being that both coordinators are new to the job.

What will they look like? Who will be the names we hear a lot of this season that we haven't heard before? Will the defense have more success?

All these questions, plus more, will be asked today. While we can't answer them (yet, at least), we can try to share what we'll be watching for during the team's scrimmage.

Number 1: Defensive play
2012 linebacker coach Glenn Spencer was promoted to the defensive coordinator position after Bill Young was let go this offseason. Young's conservative style didn't fare well in 2012 against a offensively high-powered Big 12, but Spencer brings a different attitude. He's hard as nails and full of intensity and aggression, and the defense has latched onto that attitude throughout the spring according to all sources. Will Justin Gilbert regain his swagger now that he can play aggressive? What kind of stunts will the unit run to get guys like Calvin Barnett and Shaun Lewis free in the backfield? We'll find out soon enough, but this unit is expected to look completely different from last season's version.

Number 2: Yurcich's development
Newly-hired offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich is a gunslinger. He likes moving the ball, and he likes to do it quickly, which is exactly what the orange nation wants. Every player has said that the offense has gotten faster and faster every day, and I'm interested in seeing if that tempo disrupts efficiency. Yurcich's schemes are built around finding holes in the defense and exposing weaknesses, and if his squad can do that quickly and efficiently tomorrow, it would be a great start and could foreshadow a long season for opposing defenses this fall.

Number 3: Skill positions
The quarterbacks seem to be settled with Clint Chelf expected to be the starter when the season begins, but that doesn't mean Wes Lunt or J.W. Walsh aren't pressing for his position. We've also heard that Daxx Garman has thrown the ball well this spring, so it will be interesting to see how all of those guys do on Saturday, and if their play changes anything at the top of the depth chart. The quarterbacks are just the beginning for the Pokes, though. They lost Joseph Randle, and now Jeremy Smith will try his hand as the starting running back. Deep-threat receiver Isaiah Anderson graduated, so we'll see who Gundy tries to use as the downfield threat tomorrow as his replacement. It's expected to be a mixture of Charlie Moore and Tracy Moore, but other names have been trending throughout the spring in press conferences. We'll see if those guys can put it together and have a good showing.

Number 4: The big uglies
The offensive line lost captain Lane Taylor and a worn-down Jonathan Rush, so they're trying to fill those holes. Parker Graham has emerged as a real leader on the O-line, and coach Joe Wickline is a mastermind when it comes to finding replacements. On the opposite side, it's rumored that James Castleman is out with a foot injury, but even without him, you can still get a decent gauge on the defensive line. We've heard quite a bit aboutJimmy Bean's development at defensive end, along with a few other guys. Defense starts up front, and their performance against one of the best offensive lines in the Big 12 could show us a lot about what we can expect from them this fall.

Oklahoma State's spring game is set to begin at 1:30 p.m. in Boone Pickens Stadium. Admission to the stadium is free for all fans.


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